I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …
C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday in January
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
18 God who created the heavens and the earth, God who brought Enoch, and Elijah directly to heaven, chose to let his own Son die a humiliating death on the cross. Do those perishing lament: “No wonder we suffer. God let his own son suffer!” But to us who are saved, we see that we are not alone, God suffers alongside each of us!
18 Bejeweled crosses obliterate the scandal of the cross. Cf cross made of nails.
19 So why then do Presbyterians and other mainline denominations insist on an educated clergy?
20 Are not these questions as valid today as they may have been in the first century? Where is the wise person TODAY? Has the legal profession [modern day scribes] lost much of its authority? Where is the philosopher of THIS AGE? Does not 20th century culture tear down its leaders finding fault in them?
20 And does not the “wisdom of this age” seek to make God seem foolish?
21b A WORD OF GRACE FOR US PREACHERS!!!
22 And what do those of this age demand? Is it instant rewards? Is it entertainment?
23 I recall a crossword puzzle clue for the third Sunday in January: “King preached this”. The word that fit was “nonviolence”, but MLKjr only advocated nonviolence, he preached Christ crucified.
24 Presbyterians Today had an article on Predestination. Whom has God called?
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Written by Paul to the church at Corinth, which was facing much division on several theological fronts. The letter is at least the second such letter (5:9) and in response to one received from Corinth (7:1). The letter is assumed to have been written AD 55, making it latter than Galatians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Isa 29:14 Points these words at those who worship with words only. But Paul seems to be focusing them at the wisdom of the secular world.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
- /sofia/ Wisdom. See Proverbs. 1:7 — The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. 1:20-22 — Wisdom calls out: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?”
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
CoG: Dialectic of the foolishness of the Almighty suffering and the wisdom of Christ dieing for us.
Aim: Acknowledge the misunderstanding of the purpose of the cross among non-believers.
Music: HB #404 “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me”
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Roy Harrisville, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Corinthians, notes that this is not written to non-Christians, but to Christians at Corinth. He also notes the “love affair” the Corinthians had with wisdom.
William Baird, Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians/2 Corinthians, reminds preachers “that what God accomplishes through preaching is not intellectual enlightenment, but human salvation.” He suggests that “Paul may be speaking autobiographically. The message to early Christians — that a man executed by the Romans was the messiah — appeared to be blasphemy to Paul. For him to accept the crucified one as messiah demanded a radical reinterpretation of God’s way of working — that God achieved his purposes not through might, but through weakness, that the messiah was not powerful king, but suffering servant.” He offers that a sermon could be developed on the “Scandal of Grace.”
Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, cites Jerome Murphy-O’Conner: “any attempt to make the gospel palatable by bringing it into line with the tastes of to whom it is preached distorts it, because in this case the criterion is made the expectation of fallen humanity.” Blomberg notes that the truth of the gospel “cannot be achieved through the best of human intellect and strength, but must be received as a gift in the humble submission of faith and trust.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?