Monday, May 21, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 4

Catching up...
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.

Week four, beginning Sunday 5 May: 1 Corinthians 3.1 - 4.5

Main theme: Divisions in the church
The nature of leadership
All things come from God
Party 'faction' is absurd - Christ is the sole foundation

Questions to prompt discussion

1.What is the nature of Paul's distinction between milk and solid food?
2.Why is division seen as a sign of spiritual infancy?
3.What is leadership? What is specifically Christian leadership?
4.What place does obedience play in your understanding of discipleship?
5.How is leadership judged, and by whom?
6.What builds a church? What are the good materials to use? Are they present in Mersea?
7.What is God's temple? How is this linked with the new temple of Christ's body?

Some background thoughts

The first part of this section is springing the rhetorical trap laid in the last chapter (remember the shift from 'I' language to 'we' language). Paul is very opposed to the idea of being aligned with a human leader or authority, as opposed to Christ - it a) places leaders on a pedestal, where they don't belong; b) causes faction and rivalry; and c) encourages them to consider human praise rather than divine judgement.

There are three metaphors here, discussing leadership: agriculture (v 3.5-9); building (v 3.9-17); and slavery (household servants) (4.1-5); in each of them Paul undercuts the importance of human leadership: The leader is a) the servant of the community, 'belonging' to the community (v 21-23); b) agents or instruments of Christ (no intrinsic merit - growth comes from God alone); and c) judged by God alone. In elevating human leadership the church is actually diminishing itself.

You might like to look at Hebrews 13.17!

Notes on verses
v 3.1 - infants in Christ are 'fleshly', vulnerable to sin; this isn't flesh vs spirit, but flesh governed by sin rather than flesh governed by spirit
v 4&5 - there is no indication that Paul disagrees doctrinally with Apollos - he wouldn't keep quiet about it if he did!
v 11 - the foundation in Christ, link with 1.23 (scandal)
v 13 - the day, cf 1.8
v 16 - the 'you' is plural, not singular (ie the congregation is the temple); possible parallel between Spirit dwelling in church and 'shekinah' presence in Jerusalem temple
v 4.1 - secret things of God = 'sacred mysteries' (link with Learning Church talk)

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