New Testament Week 33: “We Have the Mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 1-6

The next three weeks we will take on the First Epistle to the Corinthians even though it wasn’t the “first” epistle to the Corinthians. It was likely the second written to them, but the original first epistle is lost to history and therefore we call 1 Corinthians the first. This letter is wonderful to study and it so applicable to our modern times. It focuses on church unity and answering questions that many of the church members had at that time.

Asking questions and seeking answers to questions is a key part of discipleship. I love Paul for spending the time and energy to answer the questions these people had, and I love Chloe for spending the time to compile the questions and ask. Defensiveness was the hallmark of the Pharisees when they were questioned and we must make sure to avoid defensiveness and fear in our times as we include asking and answering questions in our discipleship. We cannot be afraid of questions, even if there are no good answers, and even more importantly, we can be afraid to ask questions as they are the path to revelation.

The Corinthians were unlike the audience in the Epistle to the Romans, where the letter was written partially to people who followed the law closely and were rejecting the idea of bringing converts and ideas like grace into their belief system. The church in Corinth was mostly Gentile converts who were struggling to keep the commandments. Their entire lives were changing from long held tradition and there were many ways of life that were contrary to the laws of God slipping into their lives and to the church. Paul is much more forceful in this epistle about their need to keep the Law and separate themselves with those who influenced them to evil.

One final note about the study for this week and the next two. I changed the chapters to study to match the organization of the letter. The first 6 chapters are one section, 7-13 will be another section and chapters 14-16 are the final section.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 33 – 1 Corinthians 1-6

– The things of God may seem as foolishness to men, but can be known through the Spirit.

– We must be united as believers as it increases faith, brings strength and miracles.

– Avoid sin and try to be holy.

Context and Timeline:
– Chloe was a very influential and wealthy convert to Christianity that had a close relationship with Paul.

– When Paul mentions Chloe’s household he is meaning the church that gathered to meet in Chloe’s home.

– Apollos, Crispus, Chloe, and Gaius are all individuals mentioned in The Book of Acts.

– Called is synonymous with Believed in the Greek translation.

– Sanctification means the process of one being made holy.

– Perfect is the same word mentioned in Matthew 5:48 and it more closely is translated as mature or more progressed. In this context Paul is meaning closer to God and more accepting of Christ.

– Brothers in the Greek is more accurately translated brothers and sisters.

– Mature vs. Natural Believers

– Temple of God is meant in the translation as the group of people who believe in Christ.

– Mysteries of God was meant to include the ideas not obvious to outsiders and not disclosed to church members until received as part of ordinances and joining the Church fold.

– Paul is offended at being falsely accused of something and uses words like refuse and scum to describe his accusers.

– Chapter 5:5-7 seems to reference excommunicating people who are harmful to the church.

– Initiating legal action against a fellow saint was considered against the Laws of God and Paul is expressly asking the people to not do it.

– Immorality is from the word porneia which includes all sexual improprieties and other evil actions, not just adultery or fornication.

History around Epistle:
Paul visited Corinth during his second mission. He spent over 18 months building the church there and had very close relationships with the people and the leaders. This epistle would have been written between 53-54 AD. It appears from the epistle that Paul had previously written to the church in Corinth about avoiding company with people who would influence them to become unholy. His previous communication was not effective and so Chloe, an influential female convert, had written to Paul explaining the situation in Corinth and that prompted what we call 1 Corinthians.

The other sender of this epistle was Sosthenes and it was likely sent from Jerusalem before Paul returned to Macedonia. It is also important to note that many of the questions posed by Chloe did not have official church doctrine or policy for answers. Paul sought to find answers and use the scriptures to help answer the questions. Paul was likely received revelation while responding.

This epistle is of particular note to Latter-day Saints because it focuses on two ideas unique to their beliefs. Vicarious baptism for the dead, and different glories of resurrected bodies in the heavens. The epistle is also famous for describing the importance of charity, spiritual gifts, and the way the church, or Body of Christ, should work together in Christ.

Section 1: Chapters 1-6 – Discussion of the need for Unification and items of correction for the church members in Corinth.

Section 2 (Two weeks of Study): Chapters 7-16 – Answers to questions that were relayed to Paul.

Doctrinal Teachings:

  • Division Within the Church (Chapter 1)
    • After giving thanks for his relationship and fellowship with the church in Corinth, Paul directly addresses a division that has happened within the church there.
      • There seems to have been a competition surrounding who was baptized by who, or whose teachings they most closely follow.
      • This is not unlike early saints feeling like they needed to be sealed to Joseph Smith after his death.
      • Paul brings it back to the simple truth, we are all Christ’s and the baptism makes us His.
    • Believing in Christ and His resurrection will always be foolishness to others.
      • To the Jews it is a scandal because Jesus died and did not save them from their captivity.
      • To the Greeks it is foolishness because of the resurrection and that Jesus was a criminal.
      • But to those who believe Jesus is Power and Wisdom.
  • The Spirit and Wisdom of God (Chapter 2)
    • Teaching, Studying, and Focusing on Jesus Christ and the Gospel is the foundation that brings true spiritual knowledge.
      • The foundation must be built and strengthened. Then pursuit of other knowledge will be combined with the spiritual wisdom of God.
    • Understanding God and His ways is foolish in the framework of worldly reasoning and learning. We do not see what God sees.
    • Spiritual Knowledge includes worldly knowledge, but worldly knowledge may not leave room for spiritual.
      • The mind of Christ is the unification of our spiritual souls and the Spirit of God.
  • Other Causes for Division Within the Church (Chapter 3)
    • Jealousy, Greed, Desires of the Flesh, and Pride have crept into the church in Corinth
      • Focus on Christ, building others in Christ, and do not boast or focus on the status that comes from the world in relation to the building of the church.
  • Apostles (Chapter 4)
    • The people were over emphasizing the apostles and worshiping them to some extent. Paul sought to clarify the situation.
      • Apostles are servants to Christ and His sheep.
      • Apostles are stewards of the Mysteries (ordinances, and teachings)
      • Apostles are not meant to be above any other person, but examples of how to love and treat each other.
      • Apostles will take the brunt of the ridicule of the world and be the center for their attacks.
      • Apostles will forsake worldly success and seek to bring goodness to the outcast and the poor.
  • Seek Separation from Sin (Chapter 5-6)
    • Sexual Impropriety has entered the church, along with the practice of church members suing other church members. These practices are causing a lot of conflict and division.
      • Paul not only condemns sexual impropriety, but states emphatically that the church should not associate with people that will bring them all down that path.
      • Paul also states that the church should avoid being in league with others who are practicing evil doing. It is clear that Paul is not talking of those who are weak, but those who revel in evil doing.
      • Paul asks people to resolve their differences within and not by suing each other.
    • Our bodies, and the group of us making the church, are the Body of Christ and are temples. We must seek to make them holy. Our desires must be to bring them closer to the Lord. If we make mistakes, Christ will cleanse us, but our desire to have our Body and Spirit connected to Christ and the Spirit is what will bring glory upon us.

Key Moment or Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:10-16
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

I love Paul’s thinking so much in these verses. He is a very smart and intellectual person, who would not likely believe in Jesus Christ had he not had the experience he did. This puts him in a unique position to explain that while our logic and reasoning is good, something the Greeks would believe that there is spiritual knowledge that can be found through connecting with God through the Spirit.

This kind of knowledge, Paul teaches, can often appear as foolishness to the rest of the world, but it is the source of God’s greatest wisdom. So seeking spiritual knowledge is a different process than seeking worldly knowledge. I can think of very few things that are more important in our spiritual lives than to figure out the way we find spiritual knowledge, how we connect with the Spirit, and how we increase faith for ourselves. I think it would be a very important discussion to have with your families and friends. These kinds of discussion can bring the Spirit in and bring insight into how to find this spiritual knowledge.

I have found that Paul’s insight into how the world views this knowledge is the biggest roadblock to us gaining the spiritual knowledge. When we think that our logic and reasoning is more powerful that the Spirit, that we probably know better what God should do, or that our confusion about why God does things is a knock against belief in God then we are hindered from actually feeling the Spirit. We have to admit in our hearts that there is spiritual knowledge in the Universe that we gain access to through the Spirit. Then we have separate processes to gain and cultivate knowledge, both worldly and spiritual.

It is also essential to know that with greater and greater spiritual perspective, these separate, and seemingly contradictory sets of knowledge, will merge into one set of wisdom. Spiritual wisdom includes worldly, but sometimes because of it’s purpose and framework, worldly knowledge may not make room for spiritual wisdom. I have struggled with this concept more than almost anything in regards to my faith. I often question God or why God would and wouldn’t do things. However, I have found peace and reconciliation in my life as I have tried to cultivate more spiritual knowledge in conjunction with worldly.

Final Thoughts:
Next week we will jump into the questions of the Corinthians. There are so many interesting doctrinal lessons next week.