1 Corinthians 2

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These small group studies of 1 Corinthians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 Corinthians 2 Inductive Bible Study and Discussion Questions

Outline:

  1. The simple message: Christ crucified

    1. Paul didn’t use cleverness of speech or excessive wisdom (1)

    2. He stuck to the basics: Christ crucified (2)

    3. It wasn’t his power (3)

    4. It was the power of God (4)

    5. So that their faith would be in God alone (5)

  2. Spiritual Wisdom

    1. There is a place for deeper wisdom; it should be taught to believers (6)

    2. Now the wisdom of God, which was a mystery before, was revealed (7-10)

      1. This wisdom was not understood (8)

      2. The wisdom of God is unknowable without God’s special revelation (9)

      3. God revealed this wisdom to us through His Spirit (10)

    3. The Spirit of God knows everything about Him (11)

    4. The Spirit of God has come to us so that we can also know God (12)

    5. Once we know the things of God we must speak the things of God, but with spiritual, not human, wisdom (13)

    6. A person who doesn’t know God considers the things of God to be foolishness (14)

    7. The spiritual person can discern truth, but the natural person cannot understand the truth about spiritual people (15)

    8. We can know the thoughts of Christ (16)

Cross References-

Verse 1

Exodus 4:10, Jeremiah 1:6-7 – Moses and Jeremiah both didn’t know what to say and weren’t eloquent, but God used them.

Romans 16:18 – We need to be wary of people who rely on smooth talk and flattery. This often glosses over the fact that they have little of substance or value.

1John 5:11 – What is the testimony of God? It is that God has given us eternal life in His Son.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 10:10 – Paul wasn’t very impressive in person. The person is not important. The message is.

Verse 4

Colossians 2:4 – Paul didn’t want them to be deceived with fine-sounding arguments.

John 16:8-15 – The Holy Spirit is the one doing the work of conviction and revealing God’s message.

1 Corinthians 4:19-20 – The kingdom of God is not talk, but is power.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 – Came with power and the Holy Spirit.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 3:3 – Milk, solid food, etc. It seems there are different levels of wisdom appropriate to share with different people at different times.

Verse 9

Isaiah 64:4 – Quoted part from here.

Verse 10

Matthew 13:11, 16:17 – It is God that reveals these things to us. We cannot come to know it on our own.

Verse 12

Colossians 1:9, James 1:5 – It is God who gives this wisdom to us and we should keep asking Him for it.

Teaching Points

I.

How does this passage connect to what we learned last week?

Intro

The passage is closely related to last week’s. It continues on the topic about wisdom, the simple message of the cross, not needing clever speech or persuasive words, etc. It talks more deeply about spiritual wisdom and how we can have it. Everyone wants to be wise, but there are all kinds of wisdom or intelligence.

Some people are book smart. They are great at tests and exams and academics. They can recite off lists of facts on every possible topic. But book smart people sometimes cannot apply that knowledge to the world around them. In theory they know how to fix something or run a business, but when it comes down to it they aren’t very good at it.

Others are money smart. They are great at investing, great at making money, great at finding good deals, great at using it efficiently. But this kind of person might lack at social skills or might be consumed with their work and have no time for anything else.

Then there is street smart. This is the person that is savvy and knows the ways of the world. They know how things work. They know the shady aspects of human character and how to survive. They can swing deals and get along wherever they end up. But in the process they have to make a lot of compromises. They may be looked down upon by the more intellectually intelligent. Their status is never that high.

Worldly wisdom, in whatever form, is lacking. It helps people in some areas, but still leaves the deep and meaningful part of their lives a wasteland. But there is another kind of wisdom available. This wisdom can be applied to every part of our lives. It touches every part of us, both now and after death. Let’s start looking at this wisdom in verse 1.

This wisdom is not reliant on smooth speech. It doesn’t depend on clever arguments. In the business world you need smooth speech. You have to say just the right words to appeal to people’s egos and close the deals. There is business talk, book talk, and street talk. But here the cleverness or smoothness of the words is not important. See below verses and discuss.

Exodus 4:10, Jeremiah 1:6-7 – Moses and Jeremiah both didn’t know what to say and weren’t eloquent, but God used them.

Romans 16:18 – We need to be wary of people who rely on smooth talk and flattery. This often glosses over the fact that they have little of substance or value.

1John 5:11 – What is the testimony of God? It is that God has given us eternal life in His Son.

What is important? What did Paul focus on when he originally went to the Corinthian church?

The basis of all spiritual wisdom is the cross, the gospel. Because this is the foundation this is what Paul focused on when he went to the Corinthian church. He started with the basics, building up from a good foundation.

How does this relate to what we share with unbelievers?

Is it useful to share with an unbeliever that they need to be pure, diligent, not greedy, etc?

If they don’t accept the gospel will other moral changes they make in their lives make a difference?

This is the same place we should start as well. When we share with unbelievers we have to start with the cross and repeat the same gospel message again and again and again. It does no good to preach moral reform or change unless they first accept the gospel. They cannot serve God unless they first believe in Him. Any changes they make will be incomplete, unsustainable, and come from wrong motives. So no matter how much an unbeliever knows or how many lessons you have shared with him keep going back to the gospel. Don’t think its enough if you can share some Biblical principles with your family or friends and make them into “good people”. We should also determine to know nothing among them except Christ crucified. This is the crux of the issue. Who is Jesus? Is He true? Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father.

Does that mean that pastors or teachers should teach every lesson/sermon on the cross/gospel? Why or why not?

Not at all. This is what pastors/teachers should do if their congregations are made up of all unbelievers. When Paul determined to know only Christ crucified it was referring to his preaching to unbelievers, not believers. I have been to some churches that seem to have a gospel message every single service. This is actually not very good because the teachers and pastors in the church are supposed to train up the body for the work of serving the Lord. Repeating the gospel is repeatedly giving milk to a congregation. At some point believers need to start eating meat. So for unbelievers, start there and stay there. And for believers, start there and build up from there.

2 Corinthians 10:10 – Paul wasn’t very impressive in person. The person is not important. The message is.

What does Paul mean in verse 3?

To be honest, I’m not completely sure of the specifics. Maybe it was because of illness or persecution or lack of confidence or trembling because of the message’s importance or his own inadequacy, or the thorn in his flesh, I don’t know. But the main point is that it wasn’t himself or his words (verse 4) that were important. The point is not how good or strong or bold or clever Paul was. He was weak. But God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses. The message was important. The message was powerful. Paul wasn’t.

Why did Paul not come to them with persuasive words or clever speech?

Colossians 2:4 – Paul didn’t want them to be deceived with fine-sounding arguments.

John 16:8-15 – The Holy Spirit is the one doing the work of conviction and revealing God’s message.

1 Corinthians 4:19-20 – The kingdom of God is not talk, but is power.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 – Came with power and the Holy Spirit.

Paul didn’t try to persuade them for two reasons. One, persuasion doesn’t work anyway since it is only God’s work in the heart that can change a person and let them accept God’s wisdom. We learned and discussed this last week. The other is seen in verse 5. Even if it did work, it wouldn’t work. What do I mean? Even if Paul, or we, persuade someone to believe through clever speech or words it is unsuccessful because their faith is in our arguments and our logics and our evidences rather than the Word and power of God. What is the problem with that? As humans our logics, evidences, and arguments are fallible. Perhaps someone even smarter than us comes along and “proves” to our students that the evidence or logic we gave them doesn’t make sense and isn’t applicable. What happens then? Then they don’t believe anymore. If we try to persuade through clever speech we are setting them up for failure.

There have been people who have believed and relied on certain preachers or Christian spokesmen. But sometimes these leaders fall. They disappoint us. And unfortunately when a leader falls it is very likely that some of their congregation will lose heart and give up as well. This is because people are following, believing, respecting PEOPLE too much. Now matter how great MacArthur’s, Piper’s, or Pastor Lamb’s sermons are, they are not infallible. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they sin. Let our faith be in God and Him alone. And when we teach let us teach our students faith to be in God and God alone. Let us always point them to the simple message of the cross and not rely on smooth speech or persuasive words. Remember, if a person can be persuaded into something, they can be persuaded out of it too.

II.

1 Corinthians 3:3 – Milk, solid food, etc. It seems there are different levels of wisdom appropriate to share with different people at different times.

Intro-

What does verse 11 tell us about how we can know the wisdom of God?

After we know the wisdom of God what should we “do with it”?

What does it mean “natural man”?

Why does this kind of person think that god’s wisdom is foolishness?

Explain verse 15.

What does it mean that we “have the mind of Christ”?

What does verse 6 mean? What “wisdom” is spoken to those who are mature? What kind of wisdom is this? Why is it only spoken to the mature?

This goes back to what we were discussing in verse 3. Once people believe in Christ and are ready for the meat, Paul shared it with them. At the beginning he only shared the gospel with unbelievers, but after they believed and grew mature he could build on that foundation to share more and more. He qualifies this to say that it is still not the wisdom of the world. That wisdom is passing away. It is temporary and not useful. The immature probably won’t understand, and even if they do it won’t help them until they accept the gospel.

This wisdom was a mystery, a secret for generations.

Does verse 7 talk about some deep secret or puzzle? Does it mean God doesn’t want us to know His wisdom?

See:

Matthew 13:35 – Jesus used parables and uttered things hidden since the creation of the world.

Romans 16:25 – The gospel was hidden for long ages past, but revealed in Jesus.

Col 1:25-27 – Paul was a messenger to proclaim the word of God, in its fullness, part of which was a mystery for generations but now disclosed to the saints.

God’s revelation is progressive throughout history. He didn’t reveal everything at once. He told only what people in each time period (dispensation) needed to know. God reveals His plan step by step at His perfect time. Much of what Jesus did and much of the NT was a mystery before. The whole “church age” and God’s dealings with the Gentiles is not seen in the OT. It was hidden before, but revealed in Christ and as His teachings went out through the disciples.

What does it mean predestined “to our glory”?

1 Peter 5:1, 10 – We can share in the glory of God (not receiving the credit, but receiving the joy and pleasure, sanctification, salvation, eternal life, etc.)

So what is this “wisdom” that the rulers who crucified Jesus didn’t understand?

This mystery was not understood by the Jews and rulers. They didn’t understand why the Messiah had to die and suffer. They thought the Messiah would be a political ruler. If they had truly understood God then they would not have killed Jesus. But they looked at things through their own understanding and rationalization and to them it didn’t’ make any sense.

What is verse 9 talking about? Does it mean that God’s wisdom is unknowable?

Verse 9 is often mistaken for describing heaven, but that is taking it completely out of context. Actually it’s talking about the wisdom that God has prepared for believers. It is not seen or heard or understood. It was a mystery.

Verse 10:

How can we know the wisdom of God? Can it be discovered through meditation? Can it be discovered by rational thought? Can it be discovered by letting everything go? Can it be discovered through some pilgrimage or journey?

The wisdom of God is knowable, but it is not knowable on our own! We can’t sit back in our chair and simply through rational thought approach God. Philosophers try to this, but unsuccessfully. We can only know through God’s revelation to us. How does God reveal it to us? He reveals it to us through His Word, but this can only be understand when His Word is combined with the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word, His wisdom, will also appear foolish to us unless His Spirit works in our hearts and changes us. We only have this wisdom because God has given it to us. This tells us several things.

  1. We should be humble. It is not because we are smarter than others or reached a higher stage of enlightenment. It is not thanks to ourselves.

  2. We can not impart it to others on our own through persuasion or clever speech. When we share we must rely on God and pray for His Spirit to enlighten people’s hearts.

  3. We must ask God for this wisdom (James 1:5). It comes from Him. We must study the Bible not as an intellectual exercise, but combined with prayer and reliance on the Lord to show us the meaning.

11-12

How can one know God? The idea is that only a person himself truly knows what he himself is thinking. Only I know what is going in my heart. Only Paul knows what he is thinking. Only Stone knows what is going on in his heart. This is also true of God. Only God Himself knows His own thoughts and ideas. This is more evidence that the Holy Spirit is God. So we cannot know God unless He reveals Himself to us. How does He do this? He reveals Himself to us through the Holy Spirit. He want us to know about Himself, but we cannot come to know about Himself through our own intellectual exercises. We have to come to know Him through the Word and the Spirit’s enlightening work in our hearts.

John 16:8-15 – The Holy Spirit is the one doing the work of conviction and revealing God’s message.

What should we do with this wisdom? It is not to be kept to ourselves. After we have the wisdom from God then we start to speak the wisdom of God. We share it with others. Our words should be seasoned with salt and giving grace to those who hear. We have godly, spiritual thoughts and then we have godly, spiritual words.

What is a natural man?

As we have discussed many times in this chapter and last this kind of person cannot know God and cannot have God’s wisdom. It is foolishness to Him. He cannot know the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:4 – Satan is blinding the hearts of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel.

We are then contrasted again with this person. What does verse 15 means? It means that we can discern the truth in the world and in other’s lives, but the natural person cannot discern the truth in our lives. Many think we have some kind of secret motivation for believing or sharing. We have some kind of secret motivation for giving our money to God and for making various sacrifices to serve God. They cannot understand us.

It is amazing that anyone can ever know the mind of God. But God has graciously not only revealed Himself to us, but He has also given us the very mind of Christ!!! Praise the Lord for His great mercy and grace in our lives!

Study 1 Corinthians 3

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