1 Corinthians Bible Study
Weekly Recap – Tuesday, April 15, 2014
1 Corinthians 5-6
1 CORINTHIANS 5
This passage really presented a challenge to our group. After talking in great detail in earlier chapters about judging, unity and welcoming everyone into this growing community of faith, Paul seems to do a 180 and encourage judgment (and expulsion!).
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my earlier letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 10 But I wasn’t talking about the sexually immoral people in the outside world by any means—or the greedy, or the swindlers, or people who worship false gods—otherwise, you would have to leave the world entirely! 11 But now I’m writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls themselves “brother” or “sister” who is sexually immoral, greedy, someone who worships false gods, an abusive person, a drunk, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with anyone like this. 12 What do I care about judging outsiders? Isn’t it your job to judge insiders? 13 God will judge outsiders. Expel the evil one from among you!
- Doesn’t this contradict what Paul said earlier about being humble and NOT judging?
- 1 Corinthians 4:5 5 So don’t judge anything before the right time—wait until the Lord comes. He will bring things that are hidden in the dark to light, and he will make people’s motivations public. Then there will be recognition for each person from God.
- Even if Paul says that God will judge outsiders, he still seems to be implying that we have the right to judge the people within our own community.
- The contradiction is particularly stark because it is happening within the same letter. It is one thing to wrestle with contradictions within the bible, but it is much harder to wrestle with ones that are happening within the same letter – not even a full chapter apart!
- Do you see this chapter as a contradiction to what Paul said earlier in the letter?
- Is it the church’s job to judge “insiders”?
1 Corinthians 5:11
11 But now I’m writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls themselves “brother” or “sister” who is sexually immoral, greedy, someone who worships false gods, an abusive person, a drunk, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with anyone like this.
- Isn’t this exactly the type of person that we want in the church?
- Shouldn’t the church be a place where all people feel accepted, regardless of who they are and the mistakes they might have made?
- I’m reminded of the “Still Speaking” commercials that the UCC put out a few years ago. There was one where bouncers were at the door to the church only allowing “quintessential Christians” in and another where an ejector button threw certain people out of the church (single mom, person living in homelessness, person in a wheelchair, etc.). Shouldn’t everyone be welcome?
- Moving beyond the idea of radical hospitality – isn’t this an opportunity for evangelism in our church? If someone is truly seeking answers and we don’t let them in, they may never be able to see God working and hear God speaking in their life.
- Is there room for salvation?
- Do you find it hard to be welcoming to people who are different from you?
Adherence to the Gospel
- Didn’t Jesus tell us not to cast the first stone?
- John 8:7-9 7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
- Didn’t Jesus hang out with sinners?
- When you see contradictions within the bible (whether it be between the Old and New Testament, Gospel and Epistles, etc.), what moral/ethical/theological code to you use to decide what to do? Is it contextual?
Culture of Corinth
1 Corinthians 5:1
Everyone has heard that there is sexual immorality among you. This is a type of immorality that isn’t even heard of among the Gentiles—a man is having sex with his father’s wife!
- As we wrestled with Paul’s words, we tried to put ourselves in his shoes and remember what he was addressing. Paul wasn’t speaking vaguely about faith – he was addressing a very specific issue that had come up in the church, a man having sex with his stepmom. So Paul’s words about judgment and about sexual immorality were not random, they were in response to something happening in Corinth.
- This is awful and heart wrenching to think about, but if there was a sex scandal in a church or denomination, it would need to be addressed as succinctly as well.
- We are outsiders judging Paul’s words, not completely understanding what was happening in Corth. We don’t know how much the culture of sexual immorality and sinful behavior had escalated in the city of Corinth. Remember that Corinth was a port city – it was extremely diverse and there were a lot of people coming and going. Things could have just gotten out of control.
- Perhaps Paul’s message wasn’t that we have to be perfect and that our mistakes voided us of an opportunity for grace, rather that we have to take responsibility for our actions.
- How do you think issues of immorality and sin should be addressed in the church?
Commitment to Faith
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 Your bragging isn’t good! Don’t you know that a tiny grain of yeast makes a whole batch of dough rise? 7 Clean out the old yeast so you can be a new batch of dough, given that you’re supposed to be unleavened bread. Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, 8 so let’s celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of honesty and truth, not with old yeast or with the yeast of evil and wickedness.
- Even though Paul’s words were a bit harsh in some places, it is important for us to remember that living a Christian life DOES take commitment. It isn’t enough to just say that we are Christian – it needs to mean something thing in terms of how we live our lives.
- We have to take responsibility for the type of life we claim to lead.
- There is a difference between being open, welcoming and accepting and saying “anything goes!”
- The yeast metaphor reminds us that not only how we live matters, but how we live in community matters
- Do you find it difficult to maintain a certain level of commitment to your faith?
Importance of Confession
1 Corinthians 5:2-4
2 And you’re proud of yourselves instead of being so upset that the one who did this thing is expelled from your community. 3 Though I’m absent physically, I’m present in the spirit and I’ve already judged the man who did this as if I were present. 4 When you meet together in the name of our Lord Jesus, I’ll be present in spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus. 5 At that time we need to hand this man over to Satan to destroy his human weakness so that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord.
- We spent a lot of time trying to understand what the context and use of “expel” was. It appears later in the chapter as well (v. 13).
- A lot of the footnotes indicated that when Paul talks about expelling someone from a community, he wasn’t talking necessarily about kicking them out – he was talking about excluding them so that the person could repent and the Holy Spirit could remove the sin from them.
- Depending on what translation you look at, there are variations of “destroy human weakness” – some translations say “destroy human flesh,” indicating that the person be removed, while others indicate that Paul really was talking about destroying the sin itself.
- This actually is not that far off from the Gospel. Jesus, himself, went to the wilderness and spent time in isolation.
- This is why CONFESSION is so important in church. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up, but we should humbly acknowledge the times when we have fallen short (no matter what degree of “sin” it was).
- Nadia Bolz-Weber was talking in the session I attended last weekend about how much her church community craves the confession liturgy every week. It isn’t something that holds people back, it’s something that frees people.
- I have been part of a lot of discussions about confession at RCC – some people wonder why we say a unison prayer when they didn’t “do” those particular sins, per say. In reality, the act of confession is really the important part.
- We NEED to repent; we need to turn away from our sins and proclaim the power of Christ in our lives.
- How do you feel about confession liturgy in the church?
- We have to be careful of proof texting: This chapter gives a LOT of justification looking to judge others and push people out of the church.
- V. 10-13 is a very, very dangerous passage. Someone could read this passage without understanding the context Paul was writing in (about a specific situation, in the city of Corinth) and use it as a foundation to build a church or community that judges and excludes.
- Reading this passage within the context of the rest of the letter reminds us that we need to try to understand the context of the entirety of scripture when we are reading it and using it in our lives.
- Do you every find yourself looking to scripture to justify something in your life?
- Do you think that using scripture to justify something in your life is necessarily a bad thing?
Wrestling With Human Imperfection
As we wrestle with Paul’s imperfections and contradictions, I think that it is important to remember that Paul was wrestling with the Corinthian’s imperfections and contradictions. It is blatant in this letter – he says one thing in one chapter and then something different in another. But ministry is contextual – different people are going to need to hear different messages and Paul – as a Christian leader – was trying to adjust his ministry and his message to the people he was meeting, in ministry with and writing to.
- How is this chapter relevant today?
- What challenges does this chapter present to our churches and our society today?
- What values does this chapter offer us?
1 CORINTHIANS 6:1-11
1 Corinthians 6:1-6
When someone in your assembly has a legal case against another member, do they dare to take it to court to be judged by people who aren’t just, instead of by God’s people? 2 Or don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to judge trivial cases? 3 Don’t you know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary things? 4 So then if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint people as judges who aren’t respected by the church? 5 I’m saying this because you should be ashamed of yourselves! Isn’t there one person among you who is wise enough to pass judgment between believers? 6 But instead, does a brother or sister have a lawsuit against another brother or sister, and do they do this in front of unbelievers?
- Paul seems to be talking about the small stuff here, saying we shouldn’t get caught up on the trivial things in life and in our community of faith
- Is Paul telling us that we should be able to work these things out by ourselves?
- In v. 7, Paul actually eludes to the fact that we should just let things go – if we are cheated out of something, is it really worth the fight to try to get it back?
- Have you ever seen conflict in a church because people got caught up on the trivial things?
1 Corinthians 6:7
7 The fact that you have lawsuits against each other means that you’ve already lost your case.
- There shouldn’t be divisions.
- What do we “win” when something goes our way in the church? Is it worth the price of what we lost?
- Are there certain battles worth fighting in the church?
Have Things Changed?
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
9 Don’t you know that people who are unjust won’t inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom.
- Have things changed in the world today? Paul’s description of Corinth sounds similar to how some cities still exist today.
- If things haven’t changed – should we lose hope in these places? What is the role of salvation in all of this?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Don’t you know that people who are unjust won’t inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom. 11 That is what some of you used to be! But you were washed clean, you were made holy to God, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
- This kind of contradicts what Paul said in chapter 5. Here he says that at one point these people WERE the sinners and that they were made right with God.
- So there is a chance for people who are living immorally to be right with God and in community.
God’s Work, Not Our Work
1 Corinthians 6:11
But you were washed clean, you were made holy to God, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
- In the end, salvation comes from God and not from us.
- Letting go of things we cannot control – like salvation – and letting God take over is easier said than done. Is there something we can do to enable us to relinquish control and trust God?
1 CORINTHIANS 6:12-20
Book About Morality
- This passage reminds us that we need to just seek to live a moral life – none of us are perfect and we shouldn’t try to be, but we should always at least try to do the right thing.
Maintain Control Of Your Life
1 Corinthians 6:12
12 I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful. I have the freedom to do anything, but I won’t be controlled by anything.
- There is a difference between having a vice and letting that vice control your life. There is a difference between having a drink and being an alcoholic. There is a difference between having sex in marriage and engaging in practices of prostitution. There is a difference between treating yourself from time to time and compulsively and excessively shopping. The list could go on and on.
- We just need to be in control of our lives. When we feel ourselves starting to slip, this is when we need to turn to God (another great reason to attend church and bible study!).
- Do you ever find yourself losing control of something in your life?
Churches As Temples
1 Corinthians 6:19
19 Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves?
- This isn’t the first time in this letter Paul talked about temples – refer to 3:16 (16 Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?)
- In the context of this chapter (where Paul was talking about individuals within a community), I don’t think that Paul was just talking about individuals being temples – I think he was referring to the church as well. The church is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we need to care for it as well.
- How can we better care for our churches (not the physical plant)