Paul covers a variety of topics ranging from pastoral compensation, to how to properly hold the Lord’s Supper,
Verses 1-14. Paul considers himself to be an apostle in the same way that Jesus’ first followers, like Peter, were an apostles. That role in the faith community comes with certain rights and benefits. Among those rights was the ability to be supported financially by those with whom they ministered. He gives three examples of similar roles who benefit from their positions: soldiers, vineyard keepers, and shepherds. Paul is very forthright in verse 14 in saying that those who proclaim the gospel should also make their living from the gospel.
What is fair pastoral compensation?
What salary is too much? Too little?
Verses 15-23. Despite having the right to compensation based on his work in spreading the gospel, Paul did not take advantage of this right. Rather, Paul chose to earn his own living. In other words, he was a bivocational pastor, except that he only got paid for doing one of his jobs. The reason he did this is that he did not want in anything to hinder the spread of the gospel, including the accusation that he was exploiting people for money.
Paul tells us that he has “become all things to all people” so that they will be saved. Here’s what he may have meant: even though he was not obligated to keep that law, he kept it so that his Jewish friends would not automatically reject his message. Even though he did not have to keep the law, he did so that his Jewish friends would come to salvation.
How might paying the pastor in today’s church slow down the spread of the gospel?
How might a pastor’s extravagant lifestyle discredit his or her ministry?
What do you sacrifice in order to increase your witness for Christ?
Verses 24-27. Paul uses a sports analogy to describe the Christian life. He first describes the Christian life a foot race. He does not mean that only the first place Christian will get to heaven—this is an analogy. What he does mean is that we are to run with similar focus and vigor. Training for the Christian life requires self-discipline and self-control, just as running or boxing. He ends the chapter by talking about his desire to finish the race.
How focused are you on your growth as a disciple? What evidence do you point to to demonstrate that you are disciplining yourself for spiritual growth?
What disciplines, or holy habits, do you engage in that position you to receive the grace of God?
Verses 1-13. In the first few verses of the chapter Paul may have had in mind what we typically call communion or the Lord’s Supper (since he returns to this topic explicitly in chapter 11). Just as God provided for the Hebrews leaving Egypt, God has provided Christ for us. However, Paul warns us that even though God provided for the Hebrew people, not all of them reached the Promised Land. He gives three examples of what prevented them from achieving the goal toward which they traveled: idolatry, immorality, and grumbling. Remember that Paul had already warned them about eating meat sacrificed to idols, so Paul was likely reinforcing his previous teaching. Idolatry is placing anything or anyone else in the place that only God deserves. Paul has already addressed several forms of gross sexual immorality that were common in Corinth, so he, again, is reinforcing his teaching on this point. Just like the Israelites in the desert grumbled against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:41), people were questioning Paul’s authority. The end result of these three sins is that we, like the Israelites who did not arrive at the Promised Land, will not arrive at our heavenly destination.
Have you placed anything or anyone in the place that only God rightfully deserves?
Are you engaged in any immoral activity? (sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves, so it may be helpful to ask a trusted friend
Are you questioning God’s leadership? Are you unfairly questioning the leaders God has placed in your life?
Verses 14-33 (and 11:1). Paul continues his theme of fleeing from idolatry and loops his discussion back to the discussion of whether or not one should eat meat sacrificed to idols. He says that sharing in the body and blood of Christ in communion is irreconcilable with idolatry. In verse 23, Paul returns to the slogans we also saw in 6:12, “all things are profitable for me.” Now , as previously, Paul says that the goal of our behavior is to edify others. His teaching is summed in verse 24, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” He tells the Corinthians not to eat meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of conscience—not their own consciences, but for others’ consciences. The goal is that we seek to live our lives in a way that benefits others. We don’t live for ourselves. We don’t look out for number one. We look out for the best interests of others.
Paul is so confident of the transforming work of Christ in his life, that he holds himself up as an example to follow in 11:1.
In what ways have you placed your own freedom above the well-being of others in your life? (For instance, I once had a friend who was a recovering alcoholic. I have no problem with the occasional adult beverage; however, I did not drink when I was in his presence because I did not want to cause him to stumble.)
What is the boundary for being too selfless? (Remember, Jesus gave His life for us; self-sacrificing to the point of death.)
Are you as confident in God’s transforming work through Christ in your life as Paul was? If not, why not? What do you need to do to get that confident?
Verses 2-16. This is one of the most complex and difficult to understand passages in all of Paul’s writings. I feel somewhat negligent in addressing in such a cursory fashion because I cannot do it full justice. Nevertheless, one purpose of the section is ensure that Christians are sending sexual signals consistent with a biblical understanding of males and females. Men with long hair in Paul’s culture may have been seen as effeminate and sending sexual mixed signals.
We in the modern US are also uncomfortable with this passage because Paul clearly teaching a hierarchical structure between husbands and wives. Perhaps, our visceral reaction to this passage is that we cannot conceive of mutual submission and/or submission and egalitarianism at the same time. Too often, spousal abuse is justified in the name of submission, but there is no indication that Paul would take such a position. Whatever Paul may mean in this passage, one must look to all the relevant teachings of Paul and the rest of the Scriptures to fully understand the will of God concerning relationships between husbands and wives.
What does it mean for wives to submit to their husbands?
How do we interpret Paul in light of our current cultural context which values more egalitarian relationships between husbands in wives.
Read Ephesians 5:22-33. How does this contribute to your understanding of the structure of the Christian family??
Verses 17-34. Corinth was a divided church, and this passage highlights yet another way they were divided. While we have just a cracker and juice at communion, in the early church the Lord’s Supper was a full meal. There were apparently some of the wealthier members of the Corinthian fellowship who were not eating with the poorer members of the fellowship. Hence, Paul says they are not having the Lord’s supper; they are just having another meal.
The meal is an important component of the church’s witness in the world. In participating we are proclaiming the gospel. Some Christians worry about eating the Lord’s Supper in a manner that is unworthy of it. There are many ideas about what that means. At a most basic level, to participate in a way that honors Christ is to love God by obedience and love people through service. Some of the Corinthians were doing neither.
In your church, are there groups of people who tend to look down on others? Are there cliques who do not treat others fairly?
Is there anything that you are concerned may disqualify you from taking the Lord’s Supper in a way that pleases God?
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