1. Read the first two chapters of Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth
(1 Cor 1:1-31;
What is the background to this letter? What is Paul addressing up to chapter 3?
The city of Corinth was an important city of commerce between the
center of Roman power (Italy) and Asia. Its strategic geographical location and commercial
prominence gave rise to this multicultural city; however, its pagan culture and lewd
worship of the goddess Aphrodite gave rise to its renown sexual immorality.
Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth is a reply to two letters
that he received from Corinthian Christians. Most of 1 Corinthians is addressing the issues
brought up with the first letter from the household of Chloe, which is a report detailing
the divisions and immorality within the church and the failure to protect the church from
the the evil influences of the local culture.
In 1 Corinthians 1,
Paul begins with thanksgiving and praises God for His grace in working through the
Corinthian believer (despite their failings!). Then he acknowledges divisions within the
church and asks rhetorically, "Is Christ divided?" "Was Paul crucified for you?" "Were you
baptized in the name of Paul?"
Paul’s primary focus is examining the causes of division, and he
recognizes the root cause of the problem; the church misunderstood the gospel and did not
fully comprehend the implications of Christ’s death and atonement for mankind’s sin.
For those who are self centered and exhalt themselves, the gospel’s
message is "foolish." Christianity recognizes the grace provided by Jesus’ death for which
Christians bow humbly and exalt God.
For those who take pride in their knowledge and logic, the gospel’s
message is "foolish." Christianity recognizes that salvation cannot be achieved by any
For those who take pride in their achievments, the gospel’s message is
"foolish." Christianity recognizes that salvation is more important and valuable than
wealth and fame.
In 1 Corinthians 2,
Paul continues his discussion on the implications of the gospel by elaborating on the
power and strength of Christ’s atonement.
Paul’s effective witness is not by his eloquence and rhetoric but by
the power within the gospel message; the gospel has the power to call and touch the heart
of man. Faith in God is not founded on the wisdom of man but on the power of God Who
forgives sin through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Spiritual wisdom is only available for those in whom the Holy Spirit
dwells. The Holy Spirit teaches Christians the spiritual meaning of spiritual truths, and
applying the meaning to one’s life.
2. The Greek terms "sarkinos" and "sarkikos" are translated in English as "flesh" and
"fleshly" respectively. Grab a Bible dictionary and look up those two Greek terms. The
Greek terms can be seen in the passage as follows: "And I, bretheren, could not speak
to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh (sarkinos), as to infants in Christ.
I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed,
even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly (sarkikos). For since there is
jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly (sarkikos), and are you not walking like
mere men?" (1 Cor 3:1-3)
Both terms come from the root Greek term "sarks" which means "flesh".
The "inos" ending in "Sarkinos" places a material context to the root
term, and it means "made of flesh."
The "ikos" ending in "Sarkikos" places an ethical or moral context to
the root term; thus, with an implication of motive, the term means "controlled by the
When the Greek term "sarks" is translated into Latin, it becomes
"carne", which is where the term "carnal" comes from.
3. Examine 1 Corinthians 3:1-2.
What does Paul recognize here? Is Paul upset at this point?
In addressing his audience as "bretheren", Paul is reconizes his
audience as Believers, specifically as young Believers, who are unable to understand
deeper spiritual truths. They are "men of the flesh", which is the normal and expected
beginning for all Christians as they begin their journey of sanctification and develop
4. Examine 1 Corinthians 3:3.
What is Paul rebuking? What is "sanctification"? What does Paul’s rebuke tell you about
the process of sanctification?
Paul is rebuking the church of Corinth for their failure to grow in
faith and demonstrate a moral change as exemplified by the existence of jealousy and
Sanctification is the continuous process of God and man which makes
man sin less and be more Christ like. Both God and man play a role in this process, though
not equal, towards the same objective; thus, God and man work together cooperatively in
Sanctification is primarily the work of God which was earned through
the work of Christ
(1 Cor 1:30;
The first step in sanctification was a change in attitude caused by the
recognition of grace and its implications of freedom from sin
A moral change takes place because Believers become aware of a new moral standard and the
reason for it.
The process of sanctification can only continue by the efforts of a
Believer. Moral change only occurs when one’s motives changes, from selfishness to serving
God. There are two components to the Believer’s efforts:
Passive – Christians are dependent on God for sanctification. For
example, Paul tells the church of Philippi, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to
will and to work for His good pleasure."
Active – The biblical evidence is very clear that Christians actively
have a role in their sanctification. For example, Paul tells the Romans, "…; but if by the
Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’
While Christians are enabled by the Holy Spirit, they must still conciously choose to act.
Other examples of commands for intentional action can be found at
2 Corinthians 7:1;
1 Thessalonians 4:3;
1 John 3:3.
Paul was rebuking the Corinthian Christians because: a) they have not
been doing their part in the process of sanctification and b) they were living as
non-Believers motivated by selfish desires and living by worldly morals. This is what Paul
meant when he used the Greek term "sarkikos" as a reference to "controlled by the flesh"
or in the Roman translation as "carnal".
5. What is the difference between an "infant" Christian and the "carnal" Christian?
Both "infant" Christian and "carnal" Christian share similar motives
and morals namely selfish and worldly. However, while the "infant" has yet to learn of his
role in the process of sanctification, the "carnal" Christian has either forgotton,
willingly prefers ignorance, or willingly rejects his active and concious responsibility
towards holiness. From this perspective, the "carnal" condition is seen as a temporary
state until the Holy Spirit intercedes and impacts the wayward Christian’s immoral
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