Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.
Week One, beginning Sunday 15 April: 1 Corinthians 1.1-17
- Corinth is in central Greece. Sacked and destroyed by Romans in 146BC; rebuilt and repopulated by Julius Caesar in 44BC. Wealthy outpost of Roman civilisation; a seaport; cosmopolitan; an 'international crossroads'; looked down on surrounding area. What might this tell us about who Paul was talking to? Any parallels/contrasts with Mersea? What might Paul need to be aware of if he was talking to the people of Mersea today, in terms of cultural assumptions and processes?
- Paul founded the church in Corinth, 50/51 AD (Acts 18.1-7); the letter is written from Ephesus a few years later, before 55 AD.
- Paul mentions Jesus in almost every verse - what conclusions can be drawn from this?
- Paul's principal concern is for unity, and the avoidance of faction. What are the criteria for unity in a church? Consider:
- verse 2 of this passage ('all who call on the name of the Lord...')
- Romans 10.9
- Matthew 7.21
- What is the origin of the factions? Culturally the Corinthians were accustomed to 'choosing' amongst different philosophical debaters - a sort of classical 'pop idol' contest. What does it say about their understanding of the gospel that it was incorporated within those cultural assumptions? Are there ways in which we do the same today?
- Who is Apollos for us today? (Or Paul, or Peter, or whomever) Does the success of certain teachers (eg Rick Warren) or certain models of church ("mega churches") raise any dangers for a church community? What are the divisions within the church on Mersea? Across churches (CTIM itself isn't comprehensive); by worship style or time of worship - compare 8am congregation to 9:30am; by belief? How can these divisions be minimised or overcome? A useful word: adiaphora: 'things indifferent', or 'this is not worth dividing a church over'; Richard Baxter: "In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity" - adiaphora is that which is not necessary for salvation.
- What does it mean to be 'sanctified' in Christ Jesus (v2)? or 'called to be holy'? Consider:
- Matthew 5.13-16
- the 'pure church heresy' (technically called 'Donatism'), that only the morally pure could be ministers or members of a church
- how far should Christians be involved in a local community; how far should they (we) be a separate society?
- many of these questions will recur throughout this letter
- What does Paul mean (v6) about his testimony being confirmed in the Corinthians? Can the same be said of our church?
- Whose faith is emphasised? (v9) Does faith achieve salvation (Rom 10 again) or is it the faith of Christ which achieves salvation? (Gal 2:16 in KJV, in Greek 'pistis Christou' - a genitive; NB this is a highly debated question. You might like to compare the verse from Galatians as presented in the KJV and NIV)
- What does Paul mean in saying 'Christ did not send me to baptise'? Compare with the Great Commission at the end of Matthew's gospel.
- What does this passage say to the present crisis in the Anglican Communion? Can we use Paul's analysis helpfully? Again, this issue will recur as we work our way through the Epistle.