1 Corinthians 4

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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 4 Inductive Bible Study and Discussion Questions

Outline:

  1. Paul and Apollos were stewards for God (1-2)

  2. The final exam (3-5)

    1. Paul didn’t consider human opinions of himself important (3)

    2. Paul was innocent as far as he knew, but would finally be examined by God (4)

    3. The final judgment will come from God, so we should refrain from passing judgments now

  3. Paul sternly rebukes the Corinthians for their fleshly pride (6-13)

    1. Paul used these illustrations to teach them not to be prideful in their leaders (6)

    2. They shouldn’t be prideful because they are beneficiaries of God’s grace (7)

    3. They pridefully considered themselves to be kings (8)

    4. The apostles themselves were lowly (9)

    5. A contrast between the “greatness” of the Corinthians and “lowliness” of the apostles (10-13)

  4. They should correct their wrong behavior (14-21)

    1. Paul’s purpose is to correct their wrong behavior as a father (14)

    2. As their spiritual father, he has this right (15)

    3. They should follow his example (16-17)

    4. He did plan to go to them, speak face to face, and confront the sinners in their midst; therefore they should repent now (18-21)

Discussion Questions:

1-2

What does it mean to be a steward? Of the mysteries of God?

What is the requirement of stewards?

3-5

What does Paul mean in verse 3? It is a small thing to be examined by others?

Why does Paul not examine himself? Aren’t we supposed to examine ourselves?

What was the examination Paul cared about?

Whose examination should we be concerned about?

In verse 5 we learn the attitude we should have toward others. What is it?

We also learn that one day we will be judged by the Lord and all of our actions and thoughts, even the hidden ones, will come out. What response should we have to this?

6-13

What is the “these things” in verse 6?

What does it mean “not to exceed what is written”?

What is the key word in verse 6? (arrogant) Hint: It is what Paul keeps talking about the rest of the chapter.

In verse 7, what reason does Paul give for them to be humble?

In verse 8, what does it mean they are “filled”, “rich” and “kings”?

What contrast does Paul make in verses 9-13? Is he really serious? What is his point?

14-21

Why did Paul rebuke them so sternly?

Why did he talk about being their father and that they should follow his ways? Is Paul being prideful?

Why were some of them arrogant from verse 18?

Explain verses 19-20.

Cross-references

1 – Hebrews 13:17 – The leaders in the church keep watch over the flock and must give an account for it.

1 Timothy 1-11 – Paul was “entrusted” with the gospel.

2 – Luke 16: 10-12 – He who is trustworthy in a little thing will be in much and vice-versa.

4 – Galatians 6:4a – Each one should test his own actions.

5 – Hebrews 4:13, Romans 2:16 – Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. It will be brought out in the end.

6 – 3:6-9, 10-14, 4:1-5 – These things referring to the farmers, builders, and stewards.

Romans 12:3 – Each one should not think of themselves more than they ought

Isaiah 2:22- Stop trusting in man.

Psalms 146:3 – Do not put your trust in princes; man cannot save.

7 – James 1:17, Romans 12:6, Ephesians 1:3-10 – All the gifts and blessings we have are from God, not ourselves.

9 – 1 Thess 1:3-4 – The apostles were destined to face persecution.

14 – 1 Thess 2:11, 5:14 – Paul dealt with the Thessalonians as a father would his children. Those who do wrong need to be warned.

16 – 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17 – Paul asked others to follow him as he followed Christ.

Teaching Points:

1-2

Paul continues his discussion of why the Corinthians shouldn’t be divided over human leaders. They are only servants, stewards for God. A steward is a faithful servant given some responsibility for a time to look out for or watch over part of his master’s possessions. In this case, the church belongs to God. The Corinthian church wasn’t Paul’s church, just as Shamian is not Pastor Liang’s and “Samuel Lamb’s” is not actually his either. These are the churches of God. God puts leaders in place for a period of time to help build the flock, but they are not the owners.

For the apostles, they were not only stewards of the church, but they were the stewards of God’s revelation. It was by them that God taught the early church, both through their own sermons and through the inspiration of Scripture.

3-5

Although Paul was the subject of lots of scrutiny and criticism, he didn’t let it bother him. Frankly, he didn’t really care what other people thought because he didn’t answer to people, he answered to God. This isn’t to say that Paul thought himself to be above everybody else, not the case, but that in the end human opinions are only that, opinions. In the end, Paul, and every other person on the planet is answerable directly to God for their actions.

This has several implications for us.

  1. We shouldn’t give in to peer pressure. This is pressure trying to conform us to what they think we should be doing, normally based on culture norms. Since in the end we are answerable only to God for our actions we don’t need to try to impress people or fit in.

  2. We shouldn’t bow to our unbelieving parent’s/teacher’s pressures to follow money instead of God. We are answerable to God for our actions. He will be the judge. He will be sitting in the chair looking over our lives , not our parents or teachers.

  3. We should follow God’s will even if we know it is unpopular. In many cases Paul did the unpopular thing to serve God. Sometimes even other believers thought he was nuts (going back to Jerusalem). While we shouldn’t discount the counsel of other believers, we must be willing to do God’s will no matter what the cost.

Even Paul’s own judgments were not really important. He himself didn’t know of any habitual sins or serious problems in his life, but it was God’s “final exam” that was important, not Paul’s own conclusions about his life.

All of us will have to go through a final exam. This is truly the final exam and there are no retakes. How long did you guys prepare for the college entrance exam? Which is more important? Obviously the final exam of our lives when the ultimate examiner is scrutinizing our lives is the most important. Students spend day after day after month after month preparing for “finals” and other exams that frankly have a very temporary impact. How will we do in the final exam?

It’s a bit different than the one’s we have now. Some of our “answers” are already marked down. Every minute we are filling in more and more of the circles of the final exam. By the time exam day comes, all of our answers will already be marked down. You can not change anything. You can not add and you can not subtract. So? So we had better redeem the time because the days are evil. Make use of the time you have to serve the Lord. One day it will be too late.

Also, because each person will face this judgment individually, we don’t need to pass around our opinions on what people should be doing. If Scripture says it, fine. But we should be tolerant in the areas of Christian freedom and preference.

6-13

In these verses Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their pride. Their pride was manifested in a lot of ways, notably in their arrogance thinking they belonged to Paul, Apollos, Peter. Paul makes abundant use of rhetorical questions and sarcastic comparisons to show them that they truly having nothing to be prideful in. Paul is attempting to help them see their foolish pride, repent, and humbly see themselves as they are. It is not tearing them down, but rather an important, all be it a stinging, lesson on humility.

Verse 7 is the key point of the section. They had no reason to be prideful because everything they had was from the Lord. They were beneficiaries of God’s grace. They didn’t deserve it. They didn’t earn it. Neither have we. Read cross-references. We are what we are because of God’s grace. Never forget that.

They weren’t the kings or rulers or people of high position. They hadn’t attained greatness. The later contrast is of the Corinthians as noble and wise and strong and honorable while the apostles were low and despised and reviled and persecuted. The Corinthians were falsely prideful, while the apostles were truly humble. Humility and persecution are not a bad thing, but the right thing.

14-21

Here Paul appeals to them to change their behavior. His purpose isn’t to crush them, shame them, or make them feel bad. Some fathers punish like this. They may hate their kids and just lash out at them telling them how worthless they are. That is not even remotely close to what Paul was doing. Paul was reminding them of their true position in Christ for their own benefit, to correct them, to change them, to help them grow. We’ve discussed before the importance of Christians rebuking each other. It is not to show how good we are or to crush others down. Rather it is a necessary tool to bring them back to the Lord, to correct their sin before it grows more serious. It’s a safety net.

Paul reminds them that he is their spiritual father. It has already been made clear Paul didn’t want or need their intense loyalty that was causing factions. He reminds them that he is their spiritual father to remind them that he has the right and responsibility to correct them. As their father he cares for them and wants what is best for them. Many fathers in this world have forgotten this aspect of parenthood. They never discipline or rebuke and let their kids run free. This is clearly not God’s way. Good fathers, physical and spiritual, must teach their children, and even rebuke their children when necessary. Read cross-references on fatherhood and following Paul’s example.

Paul also instructs them to follow his example. Again, he is not being prideful, but he is giving them a physical model they can look at to see how to live. Imagine there is this really fancy meal. It is a 10 course meal and everything is decorated beautifully and extremely formal. You are invited. When you get there, you have 4 plates, 3 spoons, 3 knives, and 5 forks as well as two glasses and a bowl. Each one has its own way to be used. This group is in love with etiquette. You don’t even know how to begin and are afraid to embarrass yourself by eating the wrong way. But your friend has this experience and is sitting next to you and says “just watch me and do what I do.” He’s not claiming to be perfect, but he is claiming to be a good model to follow. You can learn from your friend’s experience and example. It’s the same way with Paul. He wasn’t claiming to be perfect, but the Corinthians could learn much from following his example.

Some of the Corinthians were arrogant and prideful in themselves. They thought Paul would never come and they could keep doing what they wanted and sinning unchecked. Paul says, “no way jose.” He is planning on coming and then he will see how tough they really are. They talked a big talk, but they knew they were wrong and guilty and they would not be able to stand up to Paul in person and defend themselves. Sometimes guilty people talk a lot to defend themselves, but when they actually face Scripture they will not be able to stand up.

Study 1 Corinthians 5

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