Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

February 20th: “Temple Building”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 3:10-23

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

10a    The privilege of working with a congregation is indeed a divine grace!

10b We continually build atop what others have built. Even when an inferior work is cleared away, a trace remains. A weak stone left behind will damage what is built atop it. A structure aligned to solid stone can draw strength from that stone.

11 We do not lay a new foundation, but lay a foundation atop a foundation previously laid by Christ. Even a builder who scrapes the ground and drives poles through the soil seeks to build atop a bedrock foundation previously laid by the one through whom all things were and are made.

12-13 Sometimes we choose to build with wood or even straw, for this is the material God has made readily available for us. Although these materials will not last a conflagration, they may provide a framework for others to build alongside and shelter for the builders. How might we integrate this with Paul’s metaphor of the Church being the body of Christ with many members with different purposes essential for the health of the whole (c.f. 1 Cor. 12)?

14-15 First century masons must have erected scaffolding from which stone walls would have been build. Those who erected scaffolding were critical to the process and thus essential to the final product. While their work no longer shows, they benefit from it.

16-17 Can we be God’s temple individually, or only collectively?

18-20 c.f. Clowns for Christ!

21-23 While good preaching might draw people to a congregation, people stay with a congregation for the presence of Christ Jesus and the connections of the Holy Spirit, in spite of the weaknesses of their pastor.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The chapter begins with Paul belittling their spiritual maturity, noting their quarreling. Using an illustration of planting and watering crops, Paul offers a path to end the divisions between those who would follow him or Apollos.
  • The lectionary suggests skipping vv 11-16, omitting Paul’s architectural illustration and focusing on his cerebral illustration.
  • The next chapter rebukes against judging between or against Apollos and Paul.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Verses 16-17 the pronouns ‘you’ are plural. The pronouns in the next several verses are 3rd person singular, but translated as 2nd person plural for inclusivity.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • This is rhetorical preaching! Paul alternates creatively between excoriating the Corinthians for their miss behavior and encouraging them to build for God.

III. Question the text.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

What is the difference between ‘hay’ and ‘straw’ as building materials? Why not list cloth between wood and straw?

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?

  • Center of Gravity: We build God’s temple together atop what other’s have built.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • There is an implied conflict occurring at the Corinthian church regarding the teachings of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • I would have liked to seen more about making progress with materials that might not withstand the Day, so that more lasting materials can be incorporated into the structure. This concept is better handled in chapter 12.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Need to provide examples of how congregation members are building a temple for God that exists beyond the walls of this physical church.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Craig Blomberg (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Zondervan, 1995) citing David Prior (1985): “No doubt every Christian’s work is mixed in quality; no doubt we all shall have the awesome sadness of seeing much of our work burned up.” He cautions against allegorizing the six building materials in v. 13, but rather they intend to contrast three fire resistant materials with three combustible materials. He writes extensively about separating carnal Christians from other Christians, affirming both the impracticality of doing so and Paul’s admonition against carnal Christians. His debate on carnal Christians yields a recognition that Christians should be building graceful fellowships rather than physical (carnal) institutions.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians, John Knox Press, 1980) perceives this passages as directed towards assessing the work of ministers, leaders of God’s church, warning them that ministry demands responsible work.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”, Abingdon, 2002) comments that “all believers must build (or grow), and all will face a judgment day.” But that “the work of each person, what one builds, not one’s chosen material, is what will be tested by judgment’s fire.”

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?

The Spirit dwells within us and together we are building God’s Temple atop the works of other people and ultimately atop Christ.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Build carefully so the spiritual temple we build is lasting.

February 13th: “Love Changes Everything”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 13

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday in February 13

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 Speech without love is only noise.

2 Prophecies used without love fall on deaf ears. Consider Samuel’s use of the prophecy he received while sleeping in the Temple with Eli. He tells Eli only reluctantly, because of the love he has for Eli, yet if he did not love Eli he could have used the prophecy for Eli’s downfall..

3 Martyrdom without love is suicide. Contrast this with Father Kolbe (sp?), who chose death out of love for his fellow Concentration Camp prisoners.

6 Love does not rejoice at the downfall of one’s enemy.

8b These are the very gifts that Paul notes in the next chapter that are so sought after.

13 Does Paul mean that all other spiritual gifts will pass away, except these three? Has he expanded on faith and hope elsewhere?

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • 3 [ kauqhsomai | kauchswmai ] These words differ only in two letters which are similar in sound. This could have easily been a scribal error. Most translations favor ‘I may be burned’, but the NRSV favors ‘I may boast’. The former is more consistent with the theme of sacrifice in this sentence.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the context of the passage, and the book?

  • In the preceding Chapter, Paul explains the necessity of the variety of gifts. He compares the variety of gifts in a congregation to the variety of functions in a body. Thus each gift is essential for the life of the whole body.
  • The chapter is followed by an argument on the proper use of speaking in tongues and seeking after spiritual gifts. Set after the “Love Chapter,” Paul appears to use speaking in tongues as an example of how not using the gift of love minimizes the value of a spiritual gift and how to discern proper use of a spiritual gift with love for those present.

B. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • This letter is at least Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth (5:9). It was written in response to a letter from this church (7:1).
  • The city of Corinth is a busy Greek seaport and capital. It was famous for its prosperity, trade, and materialism, but infamous for its prostitutes. Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility, was their patron diety. The city set the standard for luxury and licentiousness.
  • The congregation contained a diverse cross-section of the population: rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and landowner, educated and not. The diversity may have driven the formation of factions within the congregation (11:17-34). The conduct of the members ranged from asceticism to licentiousness.
  • The letter may be considered in two sections: rical in style. However this text interrupts the rhetoric and is almost poetic. It is a breather from Paul’s assertive answers to the Corinthians answers.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • gegona is Perfect, Active, Indicative, First person, Singular in contrast to v. 4 where the verbs are Passive.
  • agape — the Latin translation of this word yields the word charity. This is not lust (eros), not sexuality, not romantic love, not courtly love; not friendship(filia), but concern WITH other children of God. Although the Greek words for “love” have significant overlap (see below under commentaries).

III. Question the text.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

The mirror/face-to-face and child/adult metaphors imply that we are incomplete in our understanding of love and of God.

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?

  • Paul explains that spiritual gifts should be used with charity, otherwise they are useless.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • The best of spiritual gifts are imperfect now and thus REQUIRE the use of charity with these gifts to compensate for the imperfections.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • As a reoccurring wedding text, it is probably selected as hope for what the love between the couple might be, as a description of love, and as a passing from childhood to adulthood. But really this text is a description of how to use other gifts.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy A. Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: I Corinthians). “If, for Paul, love is to the spiritual gifts what Christ is to the members of his body, and if love is the presence of Christ in his body, then “love,” that way beyond all this” spells “Christ.” He partitions the chapter in to three sections [perhaps a three point sermon]: 1-3: the uselessness/nothingness of gifts apart from love; 4-7: love’s nature and activity; and 8-13: love’s imperishibility.

Craig Blomberg (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians). “The verb agapaw can be used interchangeably with fileo (e.g. in John 21:15-17) [Perhaps the meanings overlap, but in the John 21 passage Jesus uses agapaw while Peter responds with fileo. Peter isn’t getting Jesus’ question.], while in the LXX agapaw can even refer to Amnon’s incestuous love/lust for his sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:1)!” “Agaph transcends jealousy without destroying it; it is right, for example, to be upset when someone runs off with your spouse! ‘Love does not move us to seek justice for ourselves,’ but it should ‘drive us to move heaven and earth when seeking justice for others.'” [quoting Lewis B. Smedes]. “The most loving thing to do for the repeatedly abusive, perennially alcoholic husband is not to cover-up for him or to believe his empty promises of reform, but to insist that he seek professional help and to refuse to carry on with “business as usual” if he does not.”

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians / 2 Corinthians). “Love is not a special charisma for a particular believer; love is essential to the exercise of every Christian.” “Agaph, in contrast to other Greek words for love, signifies unmotivated, spontaneous love.” Regarding v. 3: “Here Paul has stopped preaching to the charismatics and started meddling with us liberals!”

January 30th: “Illogical”

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?

January 16: “Called to Be Saints”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday within January

1. Psalm 40:1-11
2. Isaiah 49:1-7
3. John 1:29-42

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the opening salutation and thanksgiving.
  • May be worth considering the cost of writing a letter in the first century, including composition process and delivery.
  • Verse 10 launches into the purpose of this letter.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

In verse 4, some manuscripts read “I give thanks to [the] God always for your …” rather than “to my God”. It is more likely that an editor/copyist changed the “my God,” to “the God”, as the latter is theologically consistent. Thus this is likely Paul’s short hand for saying something like: “It give thanks to the God whom I validate” recognizing that other gods were worshiped.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Apostle – That which is officially sent forth, with emphasis on the authority of the sender. The message and the one sent are of interest only as they embody the sender. Used over 700 times in the LXX to emphasize the authoritative element behind the message. For Paul being an apostle meant being “set apart for the gospel” (Rom 1:1). “before he was born” (Gal 1:15). The apostolate is a sign of God’s grace leading to obedient subjection (1 Cor 15:10), thus linking Paul to the OT prophets, especially Jeremiah.
  • Sanctified – That which is made suitable for ritual purposes. Rare in Greek other that the Bible.
  • Grace – a free gift, goodwill, unmerited gift, divine favor, blessing, thanks, gratitude.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

This is the flowery opening statement of a letter.

III. Question the text

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

The testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – This phrase seems to imply that the actions and ministry of the Corinthians reflects the testimony of Christ, rather than their testimony about how Christ has changed their lives.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

Conflict comes next in this letter. Paul praises them before chastising them.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

An example of how “the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among” the Corinthians. On the other hand, if Paul had mentioned one example, this fractious group might have objected to examples he did not list or focused on that item to the exclusion of their other gifts.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

This prelude is often skipped in a letter. In modern letters the salutation has been condensed to “Dear Sirs:”

IV. What do the Commentaries have to say?

Roy Harrisville (Lutheran) (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: I Corinthians, 1987) notes that Paul “strained” the usual form of a letter by adding modifiers to the superscription, address, and salutation. “He was called to be an apostle, and his readers were called be saints –and let none ignore the difference! But what they were depended on what he was.” Harrisville opines that by claiming to be an apostle of Christ by the will of God makes Paul both possessed by God and free. Paul has packed a “welter of prepositions” into the thanksgiving most of the topics of the letter, especially those topic which the Corinthians would challenge. Harrisville notes that in Greek the phrase “the day of the Lord” can also mean a court, a usage he finds in Latin and Middle High German.

J. Paul Sampley (United Methodist) (“First Letter to the Corinthians”, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon, 2002) notes that Paul used similar opening structure in all of his letters, expanding on the usual Greek custom. In this letter Paul has claimed the title of apostle to reaffirm is authority as leverage of what he is about to write. Paul has also reshaped the greeting into a blessing, a foundational statement of Christian life. He reflects that Paul uses saints to designate those seat apart for God, and thus modern readers are also saints, who “should live a life appropriate to our God who has called us.” Looking into the body of this letter Sampley contrasts Paul’s thanksgiving for the spiritual gifts given to the Corinthians with their misuse of these gifts to form cliques. “Our lives in Christ are never just our own but always also involve how we are relating to those around us.”

Craig Blomberg (Southern Baptist) (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Zondervan, 1995) cautions against milking “relatively peripheral parts for more than they are worth.” He is struck “by how positive Paul can be about a church torn with strive and abuses of the very gifts he thanks God for having given its members.” He encourages praising both privately and publicly to build up the body of Christ without abdicating responsibility to gently correct one another.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians, JKP, 1980) writes: “In view of what he has learned from Chloe’s people (1:11), it appears to us preposterous that Paul could call the Corinthians saints; their halos were tarnished at best. Yet this reminds us of an important truth and useful homiletical theme: holiness is not a human achievement, but a response to God’s call (see Rom. 8:30).”