Friday, September 14, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 11

Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.

Week eleven, beginning Sunday 16 September: 1 Corinthians 9.24 - 10.13

Main themes: the discipline that becomes a Christian

Questions to prompt discussion

1.What is the 'crown that will last for ever' - and how do we train ourselves to achieve it? Can we 'achieve' it? And if we can't - what place does training, ie discipleship, have in the Christian life?
2.What is the relationship of the Christian community to the Hebrews in the time of Moses?
3.Why is grumbling so bad as to be included with idolatry, sexual immorality and putting the Lord to the test?
4.Is it true that God 'will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear'? What has gone wrong in a situation where a person is shattered and broken by events?

Supplementary thoughts:
In the Corinthian context the treatment of athletes bore some similarities with that given today - the best athletes were raised up as figures to emulate and admire. Corinth itself hosted the biennial 'Isthmian Games' which drew competitors from throughout the Roman Empire. Clearly Paul is drawing upon this well-understood image to describe something essential to the Christian life. NB Paul does not have a negative understanding of the body as such, see 6.20.

Moses was overwhelmingly the most important Old Testament figure for the Hebrew community - hence Paul's provocative description of their being 'baptised into Moses'. Note the way in which Paul is retelling the story of the Exodus to bring out parallels with both baptism and the Lord's Supper (the underlying theme of these chapters). Once more Paul is trying to get the Corinthian church to step back from an arrogant assurance that they have 'achieved' salvation and have nothing left to learn, and can therefore indulge in 'freedom' (ie licence): 'if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!' The Corinthian church should expect to have the same consequences happen to them as happened to the Hebrews, if they continue to indulge in pagan revelry etc.

Notes on verses
v27 - 'I beat my body', literally 'I treat it roughly' - no sense of 'punishment'.
v4 - a Jewish tradition referred to the rock from which water sprang as accompanying the Israelites in the wilderness (see Exodus 17.6, Numbers 20.11)
v8 - see Numbers 25 (and compare numbers!)
v10 - see Numbers 14 & 16 in particular, but there are many others.

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