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3. The First Corinthians Letter

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Lesson 1 covered Romans. In Romans, you learned that Christ is our righteousness. Every believer is equally right with God and has equal righteousness from God. In this lesson, we will cover Christ as the wisdom of God as portrayed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24 NET)

The Key Question

Are people only considered smart if they did very well in school making top grades, or can they be considered smart in other ways? Do you know some really smart people who make bad decisions about how to behave, how to choose friends, or how to treat other people? When we learn information from books, we gain knowledge about the world around us.

When we take knowledge we have learned and make good decisions about how to use that in our lives, we gain what is called wisdom. Wisdom is applying what you know to make good decisions for your life.

The key word for our lesson today is wisdom. The question to ask is, “Where do we get wisdom?” Some of Paul’s friends needed to know the answer to that question.

The People and Their Need

On his second missionary journey, Paul spent a lot of time in Corinth, a big city in southern Greece. At least 500,000 Corinthians lived there. Many of them were very wealthy and thought they were smart because their businesses prospered so much. The Corinthians were Greeks who thought their Greek writings and philosophy were the best in the world—the wisest stuff. They loved listening to traveling teachers and great thinkers so they could learn the latest ideas. They thought that their great education could save them. Oh, they could talk Greek philosophy that made them sound very smart. But, they weren’t very smart in how they behaved. The Corinthians worshiped idols and were an immoral people, doing some very bad things and not caring who got hurt in the process.

Paul spent about 18 months teaching in Corinth, but not discussing philosophy like the other traveling teachers. Paul taught them that believing God’s plan for Jesus to die on the cross and to be raised to life again was true wisdom and the way to be saved. Many Corinthians believed and started a church there.

1. Read Acts 18:1-17. Describe some of Paul’s experiences in Corinth.

A couple of years later while Paul was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, he learned that the Corinthians were having some problems living as God’s people. They were fighting with each other and were bragging about how much knowledge they had. They were just not behaving as they should. So, Paul wrote them a letter, discussing the truth about wisdom.

We have that letter called First Corinthians. It is a gift of God to us. Paul reminded them (and us) that God’s wisdom was better than human education, and Christ is the wisdom of God. Look to Him to find out how to live the best kind of life. Let’s see what Paul said.

The Answer: Christ Is the Wisdom of God

2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

  • What was the focus of Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians? [Note: “fear and trembling” was a common phrase describing humility.]
  • What reason did he give for not using the cleverest words to influence them (verse 5)?

In our world, we can be impressed with our own ideas. The Greeks were also impressed with their own ideas. But, God wisely planned that the world would not know Him through its own ideas or its own wisdom (Romans 1:20). It’s not education that separates someone from God. Sin separates humans from a holy God. We needed something to take away our sin problem so we could have a relationship with God. God’s plan was that His Son Jesus would die for our sins, rise again from the dead, and through faith in Him we would have forgiveness & a relationship with God. Christ is the wisdom of God. Paul stressed this in chapter 1.

3. Read 1 Corinthians 1:24-25.

  • What is wiser than human wisdom?
  • What is stronger than human strength?

Paul was referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Greeks thought that a savior letting himself get killed was a foolish idea and a sign of weakness. Paul wrote a whole chapter (chapter 15) describing how the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was true and absolutely necessary for our faith.

Paul told the Corinthians that God’s plan was wiser and stronger than anything they could get from their own learning. Their learning could not make their sin go away. They needed to trust in Jesus who died for their sins and then became alive again by the power of God. In 1 Corinthians, Christ is the wisdom of God.

4. Read 1 Corinthians 1:26. Of what does Paul remind the Corinthians about themselves and their own situation in life?

5. Read 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. What makes us right with God—our faith in Jesus or how smart we are?

Later in his letter (8:1), Paul tells the Corinthians that knowledge can make people proud. Someone who has had a lot of education, who has advanced in her career, or who is very talented can tend to brag about herself.

6. What should we brag about if we must brag (verse 31)?

7. Read 1 Corinthians 1:30 again. What does Christ do for us?

Holiness means set apart from sin. Redemption means we are longer under the power of sin. Christ gives us everything we need to live our lives the way that God desires for us. We learn the wisdom of God in the Bible. With this knowledge, we must choose to want God’s wisdom and to apply it to our lives.

Remember that our definition of true wisdom is “applying what you know to make good decisions for your life.”

True wisdom means taking knowledge we have learned from Christ in the Bible about how to be holy and making good decisions about how to use that in our lives, while trusting in Christ’s power to help us do it.

Let’s see how this works in one area of our lives—choosing people to follow as friends or leaders.

8. Read 1 Corinthians 15:33. What advice is Paul giving?

Hanging out with the wrong people can lead to being influenced to sin by them. The Corinthians had a tendency to follow the wrong kind of leaders.

9. Who are the people with the most influence on you?

10. Considering each one who has influence on you…

  • Are they being led by Christ’s wisdom given to us in the Bible or by the world’s ideas of what is right?
  • Do they mostly brag about Christ’s work in their lives or themselves and their own effort?

Christ is the wisdom of God, greater than your human wisdom or strength. He will give you the wisdom to make good choices of friends who will not influence you to sin.

11. Do you have confidence in Christ as the wisdom and power of God?

Living Dependently on Christ

1) Bible verse to learn:

“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24 NET)

2) Response in prayer & praise:

Thank God for His wisdom and plan to send Jesus to meet your need for wisdom in your life. Desire to please God with your life and choice of friends or influencers to follow. Ask Jesus to help you do this.

3) Getting to know Him more:

Spend a few minutes each day reading parts of this wonderful letter and reflecting on how God’s marvelous grace offers you a life of freedom and joy.

  • Read 1 Corinthians 1. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 2. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 12. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 15. Reflect on what you read.

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