Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bible Study - 1 Corinthians Part 2 - Divisions and God's Foolish Wisdom

When I started off our Bible study group last week I decided to read from N. T. Wright’s translation of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, a translation that really struck me the first time I read it.

Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of King Jesus, and Sosthenes our brother; to God’s assembly at Corinth, made holy in King Jesus, called to be holy, with everyone who calls on the name of our Lord, King Jesus, in every place—their Lord, indeed, as well as ours! Grace to you and peace from God our father and King Jesus the Lord.
I always thank my God for you, for the grace of God that was given to you in King Jesus. You were enriched in him in everything, in every kind of speech and knowledge, just as the messianic message was established among you, so that you aren’t missing out on any spiritual gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord, King Jesus, to be revealed. He will establish you right through to the end, so that you are blameless on the day of our Lord, King Jesus. God is faithful! And it is through God that you have been called into the fellowship of his son, King Jesus, our Lord.
(N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004)

Wright translates the Greek word ‘Christos’ as King instead of just turning it into the English word Christ as we normally do. The effect for me was powerful and I still get chills when I read it. The original Greek and Roman hearers of 1 Corinthians would have heard it more or less in this way, since the Jewish idea of the Messiah meant nothing to them, but the world of anointed (which is what Christos means) kings and rulers was very familiar. To hear Jesus called King eight times in just nine verses hits home the radical message of Paul’s Gospel. Jesus is the world’s true king and not any human power (from the Roman Emperors down through the powers and principalities of today).

It’s worth keeping this central part of Paul’s message in mind as we come to this next part of the letter. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-4:21 Paul starts to deal with the conflicts in the Corinthian church and the core issue that stands behind all of the squabbling – God’s strange wisdom verses the wisdom of this world. This week we get into the first part of Paul’s argument.

  • Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Paul talks about divisions and conflict in the church at Corinth. Have you experienced conflict in the church? How does it make you feel to hear about this in the New Testament? 
  • Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Is the Gospel (or Good News) of Jesus the crucified King foolish? What do you think is the biggest obstacle keeping people from accepting the Gospel today? 
  • Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Are you often impressed by those who speak well, are well educated, wealthy, wise and powerful? Is this something you would like to be? Is it something we should strive for or does God call on us to have a different set of values? 
  • Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. What do you think Paul means when he says that he delivered his message “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power”? How do you think this differs from the more common experience of hearing someone who is a persuasive or powerful speaker? Have you experienced God’s Spirit and power in your life? What was that like?

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