2 Corinthians 8:1-15 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, August 31, 2014, is from  2 Corinthians 8:1-15. NOTE: Some churches will only study 2 Corinthians 8:1-14Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
2 Corinthians 8:1-15

(2 Corinthians 8:1) We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia;

Paul wrote about Christian giving and the collection of money for the church in Jerusalem in 2 Corinthians 8:1 through 9:15; and in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, and a few years later in Romans 15:25-28 (these verses should all be read in their context). Paul wrote that the desire to give and the spirit of giving in the Christian’s life was the result of God’s grace in their life. Christian giving is a vital aspect of Christian living. The churches in Macedonia had the spirit of giving because of the grace of God in their lives.

(2 Corinthians 8:2) for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

The churches in Macedonia had not used their afflictions or their poverty as an excuse not to give to meet the needs of others. Their poverty was “extreme poverty;” therefore, they gave because of God’s grace and not because they had been commanded to give or because someone had told them that they needed to give if they wanted to be saved or go to heaven. Because they gave generously in spite of their poverty, Paul wrote that their offering “overflowed in a wealth of generosity,” not that they gave what those who were wealthy could easily give.

(2 Corinthians 8:3) For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means,

Paul wrote that what he was going to write about them he would be willing to say under oath in a court of law: he could testify to what they did because he saw them give with his own eyes. They gave voluntarily and without compulsion. They not only gave what they could afford to give; they gave sacrificially beyond what they could afford to give.

(2 Corinthians 8:4) begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints–

Because of the grace of God, the Christians in Macedonia had committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and they knew the joy of salvation that God had given them as a free gift. They knew that the Church of Jesus Christ had spread from the first church in Jerusalem and those who had sent the gospel to them were suffering. Therefore, they begged Paul to allow them to give: to them giving to help other Christians was a privilege not simply an obligation. They gave joyfully, not with resentment.

(2 Corinthians 8:5) and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,

Before they begged for the opportunity to serve others, they first gave themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: they first consecrated themselves to the service of Christ and this included service to the body of Christ wherever those in the body of Christ had need. The grace of God moved them to understand and seek to do the will of God, which included their commitment to follow the example of those who preached the gospel to them in giving to help the needy saints in Jerusalem.

(2 Corinthians 8:6) so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them how the Christian churches in Macedonia had responded when they learned of the believers’ needs in Jerusalem. Titus had been raising money in Macedonia, and with his letter Paul was sending Titus to the Corinthians in order to receive from them the rest of the offering for the church in Jerusalem. Paul encouraged them to be generous and trust Titus and him to take their gift to Jerusalem as they promised they would.

(2 Corinthians 8:7) Now as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you–so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

As Paul turned his attention directly to the Corinthians, he expressed some of the joy he felt because of Titus’ report to him about them. Though they were not perfect, from where they had been to where they had come, Paul could write that they excelled in faith (in right belief that led to right obedience to God) in speech (in their ability to share the gospel rightly) in knowledge (in their ability to know and do what was right as the Holy Spirit led them), in utmost eagerness (in the desire to do what they knew to be right immediately and without hesitation), and in possessing the love of Paul and Titus for them. Therefore, Paul wanted them to also excel in giving generously to the offering for the suffering church in Jerusalem.

(2 Corinthians 8:8) I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.

Though Paul could have commanded them to give because he was an apostle, Paul chose to teach them the principles of Christian giving and he used the Macedonians as an example of how consecrated believers in Jesus Christ give to help others. Genuine love will motivate generous giving. When someone genuinely loves another they will often give sacrificially to bless them, bring them happiness, or meet their perceived needs. When presented with the real needs of others and how others of like faith are giving to meet those needs, those with genuine love and understanding will want to join in the giving to help others. Therefore, no command to give was needed to move them to give.

(2 Corinthians 8:9) For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

After Paul wrote about the Macedonians who gave by the grace of God for the right reasons, he described the primary reason for genuine, loving, generous giving. Believers give primarily because the Lord Jesus Christ has given generously when, as the owner of everything, He came from heaven to earth. Because Christ has created all things and everything was created through Him, Christ possesses all of creation. Though possessing all things, Christ became poor when He came to earth (He was born in a stable and buried in a borrowed tomb) in order to give forgiveness and eternal life to all who would believe in Him. He rose from the dead so He could share His riches (all of creation) as an inheritance with all those He came to save from spiritual poverty, sin, and death. Because Christ has made believers spiritually rich and someday they will receive the inheritance Christ has prepared for them, believers give generously from all they possess on earth in order to bless others in need.

(2 Corinthians 8:10) And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something–

With Jesus as the primary example and others in the church as examples of what it means to show appreciation to Jesus by giving to help the body of Jesus Christ on earth, Paul gave advice and not a command to the Corinthians. He reviewed where they were: last year they had begun to do something; last year they had desired to do something, but Titus had reported that they had not yet completed what they had desired and begun to do. It was time for them to complete what they had begun so well.

(2 Corinthians 8:11) now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.

Based on Titus’ report, Paul advised them to finish what they had begun. Paul wanted them to do what they had eagerly desired to do a year earlier. Paul did not try to manipulate them to give a specific amount of money or give what they could not afford or give what would lead them into poverty. Paul advised them to consider their means or their ability to give and give accordingly. The Macedonians moved by love and the grace of God gave in spite of their poverty. The love of Jesus Christ often moves the impoverished to give what they can when they see the real needs of others.

(2 Corinthians 8:12) For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have.

Paul really wanted the Corinthians to be eager to give when they learned about the needs of others in the church. If a person is eager to give what he has to give that is acceptable, even though the amount may not be very much. Paul did not require, and the New Testament teaching does not require, that believers give what they do not have to give or that believers should feel guilty or inadequate because they do not have more to give.

(2 Corinthians 8:13) I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between

Paul wrote carefully not to put human pressure on the Corinthians to give; he wanted them to give as the grace of God and genuine love and the spirit of giving moved them to give. He did not want to pressure them to give and impoverish themselves so others would not be in poverty. He wanted them to reasonably consider what the church in Jerusalem lacked and compare their lack to what they themselves had to share.

(2 Corinthians 8:14) your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.

Paul knew that wealth and human life on earth can be fleeting. At the present time, the Corinthians had a measure of abundance so they could give out of their abundance to help others in need. They could give reasonably and generously and not impoverish themselves. Someday, the Corinthians might be in need, and if so, the church in Jerusalem or other churches may be able to give to help them. Paul did not write that every church should have the same amount of money; he did not write that what they all had should be divided among them equally; rather, Christians and churches should love one another and help one another so there is a balance in giving and receiving according to the grace of God and the example and gift of Jesus Christ himself.

(2 Corinthians 8:15) As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Once again, Paul referred his readers back to the Old Testament (see Exodus 16:18). All of the Israelites who went out to collect the manna in the wilderness had what they needed when they returned to their homes. Likewise, Paul indicated that those who followed Jesus Christ should have their real needs met by the grace of God. The Israelites went out to collect the manna that God had provided, so they worked to eat when they harvested the manna in the wilderness. Likewise, Paul wrote that those who would not work should not eat: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The Bible does not urge Christians to give so others can avoid work, or responsibility, or think they do not need to serve Christ and others with the abilities and gifts that God has given them.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why did Paul write about the Macedonians in his letter to the Corinthians?
2. Why did the Macedonians give?
3. What did the Macedonians give?
4. What did Paul want Titus to do when he visited the church in Corinth?
5. What did Paul say Jesus Christ had done for them? Why did he remind them of what Jesus Christ had done for them?

International Bible Lesson

How Jesus Was Rich

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9—KJV).

“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9—NRSV).

Why do Christians give generously to the needy? They give because the grace of God has been granted to them (2 Corinthians 8:1). But how did God grant grace to them? God granted grace through the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, since the Bible teaches that Jesus was a carpenter’s son, how could Jesus have once been rich? From where did Jesus come? Was He only from Bethlehem and Nazareth? Nathaniel wondered if anything good could come from Nazareth, and His hometown of Nazareth rejected Him (John 1:46; Mark 6:1-6). The Bible answers these questions: before Jesus was born, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:3). “It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus was rich in heaven, but for our sakes He became a poor shepherd on Earth. Jesus did not die sacrificially in poverty in order to make believers on Earth financially rich; however, He did go back to heaven to prepare a place for all who follow Him. Knowing these facts, the grace of God moves Christians to give generously to help those with real needs, even when they themselves may be living in poverty. For example, though in poverty themselves, the Macedonian Christians begged Paul for the opportunity to help the impoverished church in Jerusalem. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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2 Corinthians 6:1-18 & 7:1-4 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, August 24, 2014, is from  2 Corinthians 6:1-18 & 7:1-4. NOTE: Some churches will only study 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 & 7:2-4Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
2 Corinthians 6:1-18 & 7:1-4

(2 Corinthians 6:1) As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.

The Lord Jesus Christ, along with Paul, Timothy, Titus, and those Christians who faithfully followed Him as Lord and Savior worked together to achieve the goals of God in Christ; including the salvation of all who would accept the good news of Jesus. Salvation includes everlasting fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ rather than simply hearing the good news and not following Christ or not using God’s gifts, which would be accepting the grace of God in vain or to no effect or uselessly.

(2 Corinthians 6:2) For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

At various times in the past, the Israelites had called out to God to save them from their oppressors. In the books of Exodus, Joshua, and Judges, the Bible records many of God’s saving acts through His leaders. At the acceptable time, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save His people from their sins and free them from slavery to Satan, sin, sinful habits, and the fear of death. As Paul preached and wrote his letters, the acceptable time came for his listeners and readers to accept and act upon the good news they received; their day of salvation had come if they would rightly respond to the good news they heard.

(2 Corinthians 6:3) We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

False apostles and prophets accused Paul of falsely presenting a false gospel, but these false apostles and prophets were the ones putting obstacles in the way of Jews and Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. They were the ones who insisted that to be saved believers also had to conform to the Jewish ceremonial laws, such as some of their food laws, and do other works to earn salvation. Paul preached repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as the conditions of salvation; he did not add anything to what he had received or preach that salvation was earned by doing works.

(2 Corinthians 6:4) but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

Paul did not put any obstacle in anyone’s way to saving faith. Someone who would not believe could not justifiably blame his refusal to believe on something Paul had done or said. Rather, because of his moral and spiritual values and loving way of life, Paul lived and taught in a way that encouraged people to believe in Jesus Christ and His saving power no matter what the situation or trouble. They had the ability to see the power and presence of Jesus Christ in Paul’s life as he faced many challenges and great suffering; therefore, many began to trust in Jesus too.

(2 Corinthians 6:5) beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

Paul listed some of the physical ordeals that Jesus Christ had helped him through. Few believers could create a list as detailed and varied as Paul’s, but those who have faced some of these challenges can testify that the grace of Jesus Christ was more than sufficient for them. The Book of Acts recounts in more detail some of the hardships and persecutions that Paul merely lists here. Jesus said that if believers followed Him they would need to endure persecutions, and history shows how Jesus spoke the truth. Today, many believers receive encouragement and take heart from Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

(2 Corinthians 6:6) by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,

Rather than give up his faith or turn from following Jesus Christ as Lord after he suffered so much, Paul maintained his moral and spiritual purity. He increased his knowledge of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all situations and learned more about Jesus Christ personally so he could share his knowledge to encourage others. Paul’s patience was not only tried by imprisonments but also by false apostles and those in the church who turned from him and the gospel he preached when they followed false apostles. Paul’s letters and the Book of Acts show his continued kindness and expressions of genuine love when misunderstood or persecuted. He maintained an observable spirit of holiness that proved he was determined to serve God no matter what others said or did to him.

(2 Corinthians 6:7) truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

God is genuine love. The love of God in Paul motivated him to speak the truth to others as he engaged the world and the worldly. God’s Spirit developed the moral and spiritual qualities in Paul that he listed previously. Now, with humility and boldness Paul spoke and wrote the truth in the power of God, and the power of the gospel led many to saving faith in Jesus. Paul used the sword of the Spirit and the sword of the Word of God in his right and left hands (or the shield of faith in his left hand) to fight for the truth of God, for living God’s way, the right way, so believers would believe and follow Christ for the sake of righteousness: “he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

(2 Corinthians 6:8) in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

Paul used the weapons God gave him to keep doing righteousness and to take the right actions no matter what his situation or the consequences that would follow his obedience. Sometimes, though it seems rarely, Paul was honored as an effective evangelist and pastor, apostle and prophet. At other times, Paul was dishonored by those who were liars and false apostles and by those in Corinth who believed the lies these false apostles spread about him. Paul’s opponents in Corinth and those enemies of his that followed him from place to place accused Paul of being an imposter and preaching a false gospel. Sometimes he had a good reputation; at other times his enemies spread lies that ruined his reputation. In actual fact, the false apostles were the impostors who preached a false gospel.

(2 Corinthians 6:9) as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;

Paul was a true apostle who was called and set apart by Jesus Christ personally. He was an apostle that the church leaders in Jerusalem commended. Paul was an apostle the church leaders in Jerusalem sent to be an apostle primarily to the Gentiles, while they sent Peter to the Jews. Paul was well known by many, some of whom were helping him collect an offering for the poor in Jerusalem. When he went to a city to be the first to preach the gospel, he was unknown, but the power of the gospel quickly made him known throughout the city. Though imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and left for dead, God raised Paul to life and continued to empower his ministry and his outreach so many came to believe.

(2 Corinthians 6:10) as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

In the most discouraging circumstances, Paul demonstrated by his life and words the power of the truth of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within the hearts of true Christians. Though sorrowful in his situation and when he considered the sad situations of some others, Paul had good reasons for always rejoicing in the Lord. He wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Paul was poor financially, as were the believers in Jerusalem who needed financial aid and others, but the gospel made many spiritually rich and so transformed some that they had the wisdom to achieve financial stability and even wealth. Paul owned nothing when he worked as a missionary, but he knew that God had planned an eternal inheritance for him and would meet all of his needs as he did the work of God on earth. Missionaries such as Hudson Taylor learned this lesson well, and Hudson Taylor inspired many of God’s servants with these words: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

(2 Corinthians 6:11) We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.

Paul loved the Corinthians. In spite of their sins and disrespect for him personally, Paul spoke and wrote openly and honestly to them without compromise or holding back from them the personally sensitive conflicts and sufferings he faced daily. He opened his heart to them and poured out his love for them with the hope and prayer that they would respond rightly to him and express their love for him in return.

(2 Corinthians 6:12) There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.

Even though the Corinthians had mistreated Paul by believing the lies of the false apostles and by turning from him and many of the truths he taught, Paul remained affectionate toward them and extended genuine love toward them as he spoke the truth to them. One problem he faced with them was the knowledge that they had lost their love and affection for him, and instead they trusted imposters they barely knew who claimed to be somebody important in the church.

(2 Corinthians 6:13) In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians as their spiritual father and mentor. He opened his heart to them as a loving father would open his heart to his children – wanting what was right and best for their total well-being and joy in the Lord. Paul had previously written them as infants in Christ, and he wanted to draw their attention to the fact that as loving children they should open wide their hearts to him also.

(2 Corinthians 6:14) Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?

As their spiritual father, Paul showed his loving concern for the Corinthians by giving them the advice a Christian father would give to his children in the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ enables believers to obey the moral law of God and live righteously as the work of the Holy Spirit (the work that the Bible calls “sanctification”) develops them spiritually. Unbelievers do not believe in God or obey the law of God: lawlessness or disregard for law and order characterizes their behavior. Believers walk in the light, but unbelievers prefer darkness which clouds their vision, but they think hides their deeds. Paul warned believers against uniting with unbelievers to form a family or business or to work together for agreed upon goals, because believers and unbelievers are building their lives on opposite foundations; an unbeliever will not be guided by the commands of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do what is right and best for all concerned.

(2 Corinthians 6:15) What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Beliar is another name for Satan. During Jesus’ temptation by Satan, Jesus made it clear that He would not come into agreement with Satan or work with Satan to do anything. Jesus cast out demons and defeated the power of Satan in many ways during His ministry. Paul made it clear in his writings that unbelievers are slaves of Satan whether they know it or not. Believers are slaves of Jesus Christ, willing slaves of their Lord and Savior to do God’s will. The slaves of masters who are at war with one another (especially when one master is God and the other master is Satan) cannot share the same life purposes or reach the same goals. At some point, the slave of Satan will turn on and try to destroy the slave of Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 6:16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In the days of Moses and later, God chose to dwell in the tabernacle to be present with His people. In the days of King Solomon, God descended into the temple in Jerusalem to be present with His people, but King Solomon set up high places for idols in the surrounding hills, which eventually led to the dilution and destruction of the people’s faith and the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. As believers in Jesus Christ, our bodies are now the temple of God; God now lives and walks among believers all around the world rather than reside in a man-made temple. Believers must not follow the evil example of King Solomon and have any relationship with Satan or idols that bring people into fellowship with demons.

(2 Corinthians 6:17) Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you,

As usual, Paul referred believers back to the Scriptures that he sometimes paraphrased, combining prophets and interpreting them, as he quoted them for people to understand. Paul wrote that the Corinthians, and anyone who read his letters, should not worship in the temples of idols or eat in temples that honored idols or do anything unclean or contrary to the law of God, especially those things that might mislead their families and others. Paul upheld the moral law of God, the law of love, as the way the believer should obey God with the guidance, help, and power of the Holy Spirit within them, Who would help them do God’s will.

(2 Corinthians 6:18) and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

God sent Jesus Christ into the world so He could adopt into the family of God all who would believe in Him and receive the free gift of eternal life though faith in Him. Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives welcome Jesus into their hearts, and God welcomes them into His family knowing the love and joy He can bring His children and they can bring Him and one another. God made this promise in the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ has made this promise possible for Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and those who are slaves or free so all can be members of the family of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1-4

(2 Corinthians 7:1) Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.

According to the promises of God, the children of God and their heavenly Father can rejoice together for eternity because His children will live rightly with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Even now, His children will prepare themselves to meet Jesus face-to-face by cleansing themselves from every defilement by the choices they make and by trusting that the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse them from all sin. They will seek daily to live for God because God has set them apart for His service. There can be no real or lasting agreement between those who live primarily for God and His glory and those who live primarily to fulfill their selfish needs. Someday, everyone will stand before Jesus as Lord of the universe: the believer will not want to feel ashamed of his behavior before Jesus. The unbeliever prefers darkness and does not want to live like Christians live, so he will go into the outer darkness (See John 3:19-21; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30). A healthy fear of God may move believers to seek holiness of life and unbelievers to seek salvation in Christ alone, He Who is the light of the world.

(2 Corinthians 7:2) Make room in your hearts for us; we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

The Corinthians had shut Paul out of their hearts probably because they believed the lies told about him by the false apostles who had quickly won their hearts and veiled their minds. They accused Paul of hurting people and turning people away from the true faith of Jesus Christ. They also accused Paul of taking money from them for the poor in Jerusalem while planning to keep the money for himself. In other words, they accused Paul of doing the very things that they were doing as false apostles.

(2 Corinthians 7:3) I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

Because he loved them, Paul graciously wrote that he did not condemn them for believing the lies told about him. Eventually the Corinthians did return to him and express their love for him. Paul encouraged them and wrote that because they were all united to Jesus Christ that they would die and live again together with Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 7:4) I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction.

In spite of their sins and the way they had treated him, Paul encouraged them as a father might encourage his children. Rather than focus on their missteps and sins, Paul wrote that he was proud of them and boasted about how far they had come as followers of Jesus Christ. When he thought about his afflictions, suffered for the sake of sharing the good news, Paul found comfort and reason to rejoice when he thought about believers coming to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of his labors.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. When should a person repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?

2. List some of the afflictions, hardships, and calamities that Paul suffered as an apostle.

3. What character traits did Paul develop through his sufferings or in spite of his sufferings? How did he develop them?

4. As an apostle, how was Paul sometimes misrepresented or mistreated?

5. Because Christians have the promises of God in Christ and the Bible, what does Paul say they should do?

International Bible Lesson

When Should You Fear God?

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1—KJV).

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1—NRSV).

God made promises that are always “yes” in Christ Jesus, because Jesus made them possible (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). God’s promises to believers include: the Lord God will be their God and they will be His people; God will be their Father and they will be His sons and daughters; God will live within and among them. In a mysterious way, because Jesus Christ died and rose again, He prepares believers for the indwelling presence of God by cleansing them from sin. Because the Spirit of God lives within them, Paul wrote that Christians must cleanse themselves morally and spiritually and not misuse their bodies. When Christians live worthy of Jesus Christ, God and His people can rejoice in each other’s presence. In addition, Christians need to stay clean by loving Jesus and expressing their love for Jesus by obeying His commands. Since God set Christians apart from the ways of this world to serve Him and others, they need to do His will completely and fully as the Holy Spirit helps them live according to His Word. Paul wrote that “the fear of God” can serve as a motive for Christians to obey God if their love and devotion to God fails them. Christians will stand before Christ face to face someday, and they will not want to feel ashamed before Him. When the Bible teaches about “the fear of God,” believers can remind themselves that if they persist in disobeying God then God as their Father will use appropriate discipline to inspire them to repent and return to faithful obedience to God.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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2 Corinthians 4:1-18 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, August 17, 2014, is from  2 Corinthians 4:1-18. NOTE: Some churches will only study 2 Corinthians 4:2-15Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
2 Corinthians 4:1-18

(2 Corinthians 4:1) Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul listed some of the afflictions he had suffered. Almost all of his afflictions were caused by people who opposed the gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached. In addition, Paul knew how much he too had persecuted the church before he became a Christian, and how much he deserved eternal punishment; therefore, he knew that God’s mercy was the only reason he was a minister, called to be an apostle, and was enabled by God to keep serving Jesus Christ. Because God’s mercy, the truth of the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit encouraged him every day, Paul did not lose heart but kept trusting in God.

(2 Corinthians 4:2) We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Paul did not write that he had hidden from others shameful things he had done. Rather, he refused to do shameful things. Unlike the false apostles who misrepresented him and misled the Corinthians, Paul refused to use lies or trickery as a minister to draw people into his sphere of influence. Paul preached and taught only the true Word of God, and he relied on the power of God’s word to work upon the conscience of his hearers. Paul ministered with the conscious understanding that God saw and heard everything he did and said, so he refused to do shameful things or falsify God’s word.

(2 Corinthians 4:3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

If a room is hidden behind a curtain or a face is hidden behind a veil, an observer cannot really know or understand what is hidden. The gospel is the power of God, so it is hidden only from those who are perishing. The apostle Paul taught the gospel truth openly. If someone did not understand, the cause was not the truth of the gospel but the fact that they belonged in the group of those who were perishing because they would not believe God.

(2 Corinthians 4:4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Those who are perishing are those who have turned away from the true God (see Romans 1:18-32). When they turned away from God, they perhaps unknowingly turned to the god of this world, to Satan. Because they have refused to believe the true God and His Word, Satan has kept their minds blinded to the truth. A blind man cannot see the blazing sun, and a person who is spiritually blind cannot see or understand the glory of Christ and the good news that Christ came, died, and rose again for their sake. The problem of not seeing the sun is not that the sun is not bright: the problem is with the person who is physically blind. The problem of not seeing the glory of Christ is not the glory of Christ: the problem is with the person who is spiritually blind. Those who are not spiritually blind see the image of God in Jesus Christ. To see Christ is to see the glory of God, but unbelievers prefer darkness because of their unbelief and the fact that they prefer their evil deeds to right living.

(2 Corinthians 4:5) For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

The false apostles that troubled the Corinthians proclaimed themselves as somebody to be listened to and obeyed, instead of proclaiming Christ. Paul and the other true apostles, along with all those who truly preached the gospel, did not proclaim themselves as being more important than mere slaves of Jesus Christ. They proclaimed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and they did whatever Christ wanted as slaves of Christ and for the sake of Christ – not for their own sake or well-being.

(2 Corinthians 4:6) For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

When God created the universe, God created light to reveal the universe and the manifestation of His glory. God’s light reveals the truth of what is, of reality that He created; likewise, God’s light, God’s truth, comes into our innermost being, the center of our spiritual and mental life, so we can understand the truth of God and Jesus Christ. When a believer learns about Jesus Christ, he learns about the glory (the nature and character) of God.

(2 Corinthians 4:7) But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

The knowledge and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can dwell in the bodies of believers; which are the temple of God. God made human bodies from the dust of the earth, as clay jars to contain His Spirit. When a person truly believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord, he receives this treasure immediately – the actual, objective presence of God in his life through the Holy Spirit. Whenever a believer does work for Jesus’ sake, the extraordinary power to do that work comes from the power and presence of God within them, which is far beyond mere human strength – mentally and spiritually.

(2 Corinthians 4:8) We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

Paul knew the ways of suffering he described from his personal experience. Jesus said that those who followed him would suffer, and those who follow Jesus will suffer in a variety of ways – some apparently more or less than other followers of Jesus. Paul’s letter shows that Christians can be afflicted and perplexed and not truly understand what and why something is happening to them. Some afflictions, especially the suffering brought upon them by others, are beyond human understanding; however, the presence of Christ within them and the truth of the gospel keeps them from being crushed or driven to despair and hopelessness.

(2 Corinthians 4:9) persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

Many times Christians will be perplexed about why they are persecuted, especially when other religious leaders are persecuting them, but Jesus said this would happen even though we might not understand why. Both Jesus and Paul were persecuted by religious leaders who claimed to be godlier than they were. Yet, God did not forsake them, and God empowered them to complete their missions before they died for God and for the sake of those they came to serve. Christians can be struck down, but not destroyed or their testimony destroyed: neither Jesus nor Paul’s testimony were destroyed.

(2 Corinthians 4:10) always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

Jesus died on a cross after suffering in every way the religious leaders and Roman soldiers could think of at that time, but God raised Jesus from the dead. When believers suffer persecution for their faith and for the sake of Jesus Christ they carry in their body outwardly and inwardly the death of Christ, because they are the body of Christ. However, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead and His Spirit lives in the bodies of believers, His life, presence, and power are also visible to those with eyes to see as Christ shines forth in the life and the body of believers.

(2 Corinthians 4:11) For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.

As long as Paul and the apostles lived, these things could be said of them. In some way, all Christians who live for the sake of Jesus Christ and His kingdom are persecuted or given over to death. It may be someone telling lies about them or their losing a job or promotion, but in many places it may be imprisonments, beatings, with the killing of the body (because they cannot kill the spirit). However, the life of Jesus may be made visible in the life of the believer who is living for Jesus in spite of rejection and suffering from the worldly minded, from those enslaved by Satan.

(2 Corinthians 4:12) So death is at work in us, but life in you.

When Paul spoke of his ministry personally, which was actually seldom in his letters because he sought to keep the focus of attention on Jesus Christ, he wrote of his suffering for Christ. Just as Jesus Christ came and suffered to give God’s people eternal life, so Paul traveled and suffered to teach people about Jesus so they could receive eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

(2 Corinthians 4:13) But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture–”I believed, and so I spoke”–we also believe, and so we speak,

Paul quoted Psalm 116:10, and the entire context of Psalm 116 fits what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in this passage. [Note: the words “I believed” are translated “I kept my faith” in the NRSV, so you may want to compare this verse with other translations.] Paul believed in and taught the Scriptures. The gospel he preached about Jesus Christ was according to the Scriptures (see especially 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). The Corinthians and Paul had the same biblical faith, bestowed on them by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit using the truth of the Scriptures. Paul taught according to the truth and the true faith of those who truly follow Jesus Christ. He wanted his readers to remain true to the gospel and not be misled by the false teachings of those who claimed to be Christians but were not.

(2 Corinthians 4:14) because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Paul wrote in detail about the resurrection of Jesus Christ when he wrote his first letter to them (see 1 Corinthians 15). God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In ways that we cannot understand, but in a real objective way, we are united with Christ spiritually, so when we die our spirits will go to be with Jesus and someday in the future Jesus will raise our new bodies from the grave. All Christians will rejoice when they stand in the presence of Jesus in heaven and later stand with Him on the earth.

(2 Corinthians 4:15) Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

For the sake of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to save His people from their sins, Paul did what Jesus wanted and he preached the good news for Jesus’ sake and the sake of those who came to faith. Paul also wanted the Corinthians to conform their lives to the way of Jesus who lived in them and led them according to the Scriptures. Through Paul’s efforts, more would come to faith in Jesus, and more thanksgiving would be given to God, and God would receive more glory, honor, and praise from His people. For almost two thousand years, through Paul’s letters in the Bible, thanksgiving to God has increased to the glory of God as millions have been led to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 4:16) So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

Because Paul saw the gospel he preached changing people’s lives and leading them to trust in Jesus, he did not become discouraged to the point of giving up or quitting his apostolic office. He kept serving Christ and others for the sake of Christ and others. Even though his outer body was suffering and dying because of his many tortures and his thorn in the flesh, his spirit was being renewed every day by the Holy Spirit within him and his trust in Jesus Christ. The same is true for all who trust in Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 4:17) For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,

If Paul looked up and out upon the universe and the vastness that he could see with his unaided human eyes, the weight of God’s created universe seen and unseen would “weigh” less than the “eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” “Beyond all measure” might be considered as “infinite” in modern terms. When Paul compared an eternity of exploring the infinite along with knowing more personally the infinite and personal God in Jesus Christ to what he was suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ, he knew that his suffering was a “slight momentary affliction” that was preparing him for infinity and eternity with God and His vast creation.

(2 Corinthians 4:18) because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

When we see all around us what people have created, we know it is temporary and we in our physical bodies are physically even more temporary than many things created by human beings. So, consider where Paul kept his focus; where should people keep their focus? Obviously, we need to center our attention on Jesus Christ, whom God sent as the only way to eternal life. We cannot see what Jesus Christ has prepared for us until we first see Him.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why has the god of this world blinded the minds of unbelievers?
2. What can unbelievers do in order to see the glory of Christ with their minds?
3. Since Paul did not teach about himself to draw people to himself, who did he teach about and why did he teach about someone other than himself?
4. How can someone learn more about God?
5. Paul suffered in many ways; how did his afflictions have an effect on his faith in Jesus and his daily life?

International Bible Lesson

The Weight of Our Afflictions

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18—KJV).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18—NRSV).

Some scientists at Caltech have reported that Earth weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. Perhaps astronomers have also tried to measure the weight of the universe, even though we have not reached its outer limits. Even if the universe could be weighed, mathematicians might not have a large enough number to record its weight. God is not a physical being who can be weighed in terms of pounds. God’s weight is His infinite value to the universe and every created being, which has little to do with physical dimensions. Whereas things in the created universe are temporary, God, who cannot be seen because He is Spirit, is not temporary. The eternal God created and keeps the whole universe in being moment-by-moment, so God is greater than all He has created. However, even though God created everything, everyone has rebelled against God in unbelief; so, God sent His only begotten Son to Earth to prepare an eternal future and inheritance for everyone who would trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Someday, everyone who follows Jesus Christ will have the opportunity to explore and value their inheritance throughout God’s vast created universe. Of even greater value, they will be able to see the unseen God and praise Him for His loving character and infinite value. As Paul did, Christians thank God for the afflictions and persecutions that prepare them for the future, and when compared to God’s weight are slight, momentary, and weigh very little. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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2 Corinthians 1:21-2:11 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, August 10, 2014, is from  2 Corinthians 1:21-2:11. NOTE: Some churches will only study 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
2 Corinthians 1:21-2:11

(2 Corinthians 1:21) But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us,

Paul wrote about and for all Christians, and he identified Timothy and himself with the Christians in the church in Corinth. God had established them in Christ. God had placed them on the same foundation, and the Church that God had established He would continue to build until it was built according to His plan. The Church includes all Christians everywhere, and God has anointed Christians with the Holy Spirit, as He anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit when John baptized Jesus.

(2 Corinthians 1:22) by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

God has anointed Christians to empower them to serve Him in the name of Jesus Christ. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is a seal or guarantee that God the Father and Christ the King have set apart the Christian for their service. The seal of the Holy Spirit can be seen as others see the character of Christ shining forth from the life of the Christian in their daily service of God (though some may never recognize the Spirit of Christ in a sincere believer). The Holy Spirit can be known, or He makes himself known, in the heart or in the commitment and experience of the believer in Jesus Christ. Paul compared the giving of the Holy Spirit by God to an earnest payment, or the first blessing with more blessings to follow, or the first fruit of many fruits that He will give to the believer, or the “down payment” that assures every Christian that God will pay the balance in full throughout all eternity. The first installment is given so a Christian can know with certainty that the good work God has begun within them He will bring to completion now and forever. The first installment assures the Christian that he is a child of God and he will receive the inheritance God has planned for him.

(2 Corinthians 1:23) But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth.

False apostles or others had accused Paul of dishonesty and lying for saying he would return again to Corinth when he had not returned as he said. After being delayed by an unnamed affliction and for other good reasons, Paul decided it would not be best to return at the time he had planned. His primary reason was to spare the church the harsh discipline and strong reprimands they deserved for disobeying the law of God. His love for them inspired him to withhold a little longer the discipline they needed so he would have extra time to pray that what he had already written them would be heeded and no further discipline would be needed. He had delayed his coming for their benefit, not because he made plans in ordinary human ways.

(2 Corinthians 1:24) I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith.

Jesus Christ is the only Lord, and the Christian recognizes Jesus Christ as his only Lord. No human being, not even an apostle or other church leader, can stand in the place of Jesus Christ over someone’s faith in Jesus Christ. The Corinthian Christians had been disobedient to Christ, but they stood firm in the faith with respect to believing the basic facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their problem was their disobeying Christ, not their disbelieving the “true facts” about Christ. As a church leader, Paul could bring discipline to the church according to the Word of God and according to the moral law of God as revealed in the Scriptures. But as a church leader, he would not do so as “the lord” over their lives and faith. He would not take the rightful place of Jesus Christ over them. As a church leader, Christ had appointed him to bring the joy of knowing Christ to those who placed their faith in Christ. His purpose was to help the Corinthian Christians find and maintain the joy that an obedient faith and the Holy Spirit should give them.

(2 Corinthians 2:1) So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.

We do not know how many visits Paul made or how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He did write that in addition to his first visit (when he led many to faith in Jesus Christ) that he had later paid them a painful visit. Some teach that his painful visit was between his writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Others teach that his painful visit occurred before he wrote either letter. Paul did not receive the leading of the Holy Spirit or see the benefit of making another painful visit to them. At that time, he believed his prayers and letters would need to suffice instead of another painful visit in person.

(2 Corinthians 2:2) For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?

Paul gave another reason for not wanting to make another painful visit: he did not want to cause them pain. If Paul visited them again, he would need to correct, reprimand, or discipline them for serious sins to move them to repent and return to obeying Jesus Christ as Lord. He prayed they would return to the Lord without needing further punishment or strong words of warning from him in person. Since they were Paul’s spiritual children, he wanted to be glad about them and not cause them pain as a disciplinarian, so he prayed they would begin doing right before he visited them again. In his letter, Paul did not say what type of discipline he would give them or how he would punish them. If he did need to punish them, he would not punish them as their lord; rather, he would punish them because Christ was their Lord to be obeyed.

(2 Corinthians 2:3) And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.

Some commentators have taught that Paul referred to 1 Corinthians as the letter he wrote that he described here. He wrote them using a proper method of church discipline: his letter would allow them time for prayerful reflection on what he wrote and discussion on what to do in obedience to Christ. If they repented and reformed after reading his letter, he could rejoice with them when he visited again. He encouraged them by writing that he felt confident they would repent, do what was right, and he and they would find joy in their fellowship when they met again.

(2 Corinthians 2:4) For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul wrote them because he had an abundant love for them. He did not write as he did with the ultimate intention of causing them pain. Paul loved them so much that he wept as he wrote. He hoped they would see his tearful concern and love for them as they read his letter—the tearful concern of a parent for a prodigal child when they know how much their child is hurting themselves and others by their behavior.

(2 Corinthians 2:5) But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent–not to exaggerate it–to all of you.

Paul showed great concern and respect for others by not gossiping; therefore, we do not know the person Paul referred to in these verses. Most early commentators suppose Paul referred to the person he described in 1 Corinthians 5. As a general principle, when someone sins in the church, they cause pain to some extent to everyone in the church. It pained Paul to tell the church that they must discipline a member of the church. He knew it would pain the church to exercise discipline, but he also knew it would pain the church even more if they refused to exercise the proper discipline. Without discipline in the church, the church would eventually cease to be a church of Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 2:6) This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person;

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians revealed how divided the church had become since he had founded the church. The majority, however, had agreed to discipline the offender, and without any discipline many church members might have followed the offender into even worse immoral behavior. It may be that a minority of the church members saw nothing wrong in the immoral behavior of their fellow church member or they saw no need to discipline the church member. Because the offender had responded rightly to church discipline and repented, he reformed his life with the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul then wrote that he had been disciplined enough and it was time for the church to restore him to fellowship in the church.

(2 Corinthians 2:7) so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

Because the offender had repented sorrowfully, the proper response of the church should now be to help the offender lead a reformed life, to forgive him as Christ had forgiven him (and them) and to comfort him as the Holy Spirit comforted him (and them). The church needed to assure him that because he had come back to Jesus and had returned to obeying Jesus as his Lord and Savior that God had truly forgiven him and he could once again have loving fellowship with Jesus Christ and others in the church. Paul knew that if the church did not restore the repentant sinner after he had returned to obedience to Christ that it would bring great spiritual damage to the repentant sinner and to the church.

(2 Corinthians 2:8) So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

Paul did not command them to restore the repentant offender, but he urged them to do so. He told them what they should do as a Christian church, and he urged and encouraged them to do the right thing. The word Paul used for love (agape) is the same word for love that the Bible uses to express the love God the Father and Jesus Christ have for us, the type of love that motivates all they have done for and continue to do for us, the type of sacrificial love that led Jesus Christ to die on the cross so our loving God could with justice and mercy restore our relationship with God and grant us eternal life, the selfless love that sometimes makes it necessary for God to discipline His children. Paul urged the church to show the repentant sinner the love of Christ in the way they treated him and welcomed him back into church fellowship. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” and “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9).

(2 Corinthians 2:9) I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.

Paul gave yet another reason for writing a previous letter to them. He wanted to learn if they would obey the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord or not. Would they obey Jesus Christ as Lord and bring discipline to someone in the church who was breaking the moral law of God? Would they obey Jesus Christ and restore to fellowship someone in the church who had repented and returned to obedience to Jesus Christ?

(2 Corinthians 2:10) Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.

The Corinthian church and the one who had sinned passed the test. Paul did not need to forgive the man for a sin that he had committed against him personally, but he wanted to forgive the man who had repented for his sins against the church, other Christians, his own family and himself. Through his prayers to Christ, Paul stood spiritually before Christ and forgave the man. Paul indicated tactfully that they had already forgiven the man first, and for their sake he also forgave the man. Paul’s letter would encourage them to forgive the man again if any spirit of unforgiveness remained in their hearts.

(2 Corinthians 2:11) And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Satan tempts people to disobey God and remain disobedient. He tempts people to distrust God and trust in him. He tempts people to trust in mere human ideas and plans instead of God’s revealed Word, the Word made flesh and the Word written. Paul wrote that if anyone in the church failed to forgive the repentant sinner and restore fellowship that would open the door to Satan, who might try to convince someone that they did not need to obey Christ and forgive others when they repented and returned to faith. The spirit of unforgiveness can open the door for Satan to destroy a believer’s relationship with God, his loving spirit, his inner peace, and his mental and physical health. Likewise, if the truly sorrowful repentant sinner seeks forgiveness and restoration in the church, and if he is not forgiven and restored, then Satan can find an open door in his heart and mind and perhaps lead him back into sin.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What are some of the reasons that Paul gave the Corinthian Christians for not going again to Corinth as he had planned?
2. What are some of the reasons that Paul gave for having written to them?
3. Why do you think Paul wrote to them and gave them reasons for the choices he had made?
4. What are some of the dangers of allowing a person to “lord it over your faith”?
5. What should a Christian church or a Christian do when someone tearfully or sorrowfully repents and returns to obeying Jesus Christ as Lord of their life?

International Bible Lesson

The Lords to Avoid

“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24—KJV).

“I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24—NRSV).

From Paul’s letters we learn that the church in Corinth had many problems, including open immorality among some in the church and the unwillingness of the church to bring corrective discipline. Therefore, Paul had to write them a strong letter of rebuke that caused him much anguish of heart. He told them how they should discipline the one who was breaking God’s moral law in ways that even pagans avoid. After Paul wrote the letter than caused both the church and him much pain, he wrote again to explain that he was not trying to be the lord over their faith. Paul wanted them to remember that Jesus Christ was and should be recognized as the only Lord over their faith. If any person or spirit other than Jesus Christ became the Lord over their faith, they could be easily misled into a false religion or by a false apostle. If Jesus Christ were not their only Lord, then over time they could be misled by false lords and christs. Jesus warned: “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In spite of their failures, Paul affirmed their faith and the fact that they stood firm in believing the basic facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. Later in his letter, Paul commended them for obeying Jesus Christ and exercising the discipline that led the offender to repent; thus, they all began working together again for the joy of the church. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off

2 Corinthians 1:1-12 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, August 3, 2014, is from  2 Corinthians 1:1-12. NOTE: Some churches will only study 2 Corinthians 1:3-11Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
2 Corinthians 1:1-12

 (2 Corinthians 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:

As an apostle, Paul spoke for and represented Jesus Christ personally; therefore, his writings are included in the Bible as the Word of God. God chose and appointed Paul as an apostle when Jesus Christ appeared to him. He did not simply decide one day to become an apostle; nor was he selected by a church or church council to be an apostle. Paul had led Timothy to faith in Jesus Christ, and Timothy ministered with Paul, but he was not an apostle. Paul wrote letters, many of which he intended for all Christians, and all of his letters in the Bible will help all Christians. Notice that Paul addressed his letter to the “church of God” (not the church of Paul, or the church of Apollos, or the church of Peter), and he addressed some issues that particularly related to the church of God in Corinth that might apply to others. Most particularly, we can learn more about God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit from his letters.

(2 Corinthians 1:2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his greeting, Paul asked God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to bestow grace (undeserved favor, power, and other gifts) to the church. Particularly, he wanted Christians to continue to know by experience the forgiveness, the cleansing from sin, and the peace with God that believers in Jesus Christ can enjoy and also share with others as they represent Jesus Christ in the world. The Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are Persons in the being of God (along with the Holy Spirit, Who is also a gift of God’s grace to His people).

(2 Corinthians 1:3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation,

Believers bless God the Father and God the Son by their obedience to and worship of them. When God the Son came to earth, sent by His Father, He humbly submitted himself to God the Father and obeyed His Father in all things, just as all people should obey God. When Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene, He said, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). With Jesus’ approval, Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Mercy, consolation, comfort, encouragement, and deliverance come from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus came into the world to save us from our sins because God is the Father of mercies, and Jesus brought (and the Holy Spirit now brings) consolation directly to all believers. In his Letter to the Colossians, Paul revealed “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). And he wrote to Titus that “we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

(2 Corinthians 1:4) who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not an insurance policy against suffering or a guarantee that the believer will live a trouble-free life, quite the contrary. Sometimes, the followers of Christ will suffer “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ” (2 Corinthians 12:10). God will comfort Christians no matter what they suffer for Jesus Christ, and God will do this constantly. Paul did not write that God would continually comfort those who are suffering the consequences of continuing to live in sin; however, when they repent and turn to faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, they will receive the comfort of God in Christ. Christians can turn their suffering and the comfort God gives them into a learning experience that will prepare them to comfort others “who are in any affliction.” To comfort someone includes standing beside them and helping them when possible. From His throne in heaven, Jesus prays for and comforts believers. The Holy Spirit prays from within believers; and from within them He gives them comfort, empowerment and counsel. Christians can extend the comfort of God to others in a variety of ways as they pray for those in afflictions and for God’s guidance in how to console and help them in practical ways.

(2 Corinthians 1:5) For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.

Jesus Christ suffered abundantly for us when He died on the cross in our behalf to make God’s forgiveness of us just and merciful. As we suffer afflictions or persecutions, our abundant consolation also comes to us through Christ. Those who repent of their sins and receive Christ as Savior receive these abundant blessings. His abundant grace, mercy, and comfort will always exceed our sufferings, and knowing this by experience will help us comfort others as the consolation of Christ flows through us to them.

(2 Corinthians 1:6) If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering.

As Paul preached the gospel, he was often persecuted and afflicted, but his preaching the gospel had the power to lead many to saving faith in Jesus Christ. When they listened to Paul and received Christ as their Savior and Lord, they also received the abundant consolation of Christ. Those who follow Jesus Christ must “patiently endure” when they suffer affliction and persecution just as Jesus said they would suffer: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). When Christians suffer, they have the comfort of God and the truth of the Bible to help them; therefore, they have many good reasons to patiently endure until God delivers them.

(2 Corinthians 1:7) Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

The church in Corinth had believed the gospel of Jesus Christ because the gospel is the power of God for those who believe: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, Paul’s hope for them rested on God and his hope for them had not been shaken by any of their experiences, good and bad, or by the disrespect they had shown for him or by their temporarily being misled by false apostles. Because they were all united to Christ, they all suffered; however, because they were all united to Christ they also shared in the comfort God gave them and in the comfort they could give each other as Christ worked within them and through them.

(2 Corinthians 1:8) We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.

The Bible does not tell us the specific affliction that Paul suffered. We can only speculate; perhaps it was a severe persecution or illness that so crushed Paul that he felt he was going to die. The fact that Paul wrote “we” may mean that he along with Timothy and others were close to being killed for being Christians, we do not know. Paul sometimes used “I” and “we” interchangeably in his letters; perhaps sometimes to better identify himself with his fellow Christians. Perhaps Paul was in prison at the very time he had planned to visit the church in Corinth, and knew he would need to delay his trip, before deciding not to go and bring them another painful visit. Even though he was an apostle, or perhaps because he was an apostle, Paul felt so crushed that he knew he could not do anything in his own strength to live. In spite of being crushed, Paul did experience the comfort of Christ and he entrusted his life, his ministry, and his future to Christ alone.

(2 Corinthians 1:9) Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Paul did not say that he had received a sentence of death, but that his afflictions were so severe that he felt as though he had received a death sentence. He was so helpless that he could not rely upon himself for a moment. He rested on the truths he knew: he knew he could rely on Jesus Christ day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment. Furthermore, he knew that if he did die that God would raise him from the dead; Paul wrote them: “Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:8-9).

(2 Corinthians 1:10) He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again,

Paul thought they would die unless God intervened; God did intervene and saved them. Paul also affirmed that God would continue to rescue them; and he placed his hope fully and only on God. Paul knew that when his apostolic ministry was completed that Jesus would come and take him to the place that He had prepared for him. Jesus promised all who follow him: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

(2 Corinthians 1:11) as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Paul always stressed the importance of prayer! Paul thanked the Corinthian Christians for their prayers and acknowledged to them that their prayers had made a difference. When many pray, many will give thanks when they see how God answered their prayers. Prayer bound the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth and prayer bound them to Paul as members of the body of Christ. Prayer binds people to God and each other.

(2 Corinthians 1:12) Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God–and all the more toward you.

This verse provides a meaningful transition between the verses that precede and follow it. Paul had revealed that they had suffered severe afflictions and thought they would die. This verse shows that their afflictions were because they were faithfully following Christ and preaching the gospel openly and honestly about the need for sinners to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ (the crucified One that God had raised from the dead). They had not suffered because they had disobeyed God or had done something foolish; rather, their conscience (their ability to examine themselves according to the law of God) testified (as in a court of law and under oath) that they had done right and had demonstrated the grace of God to everyone. They had not preached worldly wisdom or philosophy but they had demonstrated the power of the gospel to save those who were lost in sin and wandering apart from God. They had also done everything in the midst of the Corinthians with “frankness and godly sincerity”—that also characterized Paul’s letters to them. Paul “boasted” that as an apostle of God he could be trusted.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. How can you bless God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you want to?
2. In 2 Corinthians 1:1-12, what does Paul say God does?
3. How did Paul describe his affliction?
4. What might you say to someone who was wondering why they were suffering after they had come to believe in Jesus Christ instead of having life easier?
5. When, how often, and why should we rely on God and not on ourselves?

International Bible Lesson

How You May Rely on God

“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9—KJV).

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9—NRSV).

People can experience a sentence of death in many different ways: during the first few moments in an accident, learning you have an incurable disease, hearing a judge pronounce your death sentence in a courtroom. Though Paul did not describe his sentence of death, there were times he felt as though he had been sentenced to death. Yet Paul knew the good news that Jesus Christ can help anyone who has received the sentence of death. He knew the answer was to turn from relying on one’s own self and turn to relying on God who raises the dead.

Someday everyone will receive the sentence of death, but God is the Father of mercies, and God gave the ultimate expression of His mercy when He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save from death those who believe in Him. Jesus died on the cross so God could save His people from practicing sin and from the eternal consequences people deserve for having sinned. Jesus Christ came to free people from their slavery to destructive habits, from Satan’s power, and from the fear of death. By His words and works, Jesus demonstrated that God is the God of abundant comfort and consolation, and God rescues people from many perils. After Jesus rose from the dead, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within every Christian so the Holy Spirit could comfort, counsel, empower, guide, and pray for every person He indwells. With these truths in mind, surely Paul was right to rely on God who raises the dead and not on himself. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 14:12-26 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 27, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 14:12-26Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 14:12-26

(1 Corinthians 14:12) So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.

Our Creator has given people many natural gifts and many good desires; for example, a mind and a desire to learn. Christians may desire spiritual gifts from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and some may pray for and seek specific spiritual gifts. Some may desire spiritual gifts for the power they give or for the excitement some gifts seem to offer. Some may want spiritual gifts to make them feel good or meaningful or equal to others who have them. Paul wrote that our motive for seeking spiritual gifts needs to be “for building up the church” (not just numerically, as Paul will indicate in his letter).

(1 Corinthians 14:13) Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.

After Paul wrote that God gives Christians different spiritual gifts, he wrote that if a person had the gift of speaking in tongues that he should also pray for God to give him the gift of interpreting what he prayed in tongues. He should pray for this additional gift and give God the reason that he wants this additional gift “for building up the church.” Otherwise, no one (including the person speaking in tongues) will know what was said or meant except God alone. No one may know the source of the tongues either because they may be uttered by demons who can talk through people (see Mark 5).

(1 Corinthians 14:14) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive.

Paul revealed in his letter that if someone prays in a tongue his mind (or his reason and understanding) is unproductive (perhaps bypassed or not involved in the speaking). The spirit of the person moves their mouths rather than their minds moving their mouths. If they prayed with their minds, they would speak words and sentences that could be understood by them and those who speak the same language. Paul did not write that in praying in a tongue that the Holy Spirit always spoke or prayed through someone, which the Holy Spirit can do. Demons can also bypass a person’s mind and speak through someone, as in some of the cases when Jesus and Paul cast out demons that spoke words of understanding (see Mark 5 and Acts 16). Paul wrote that the person’s spirit (a part of their psychological being as a person?) can pray using their tongue separate from the involvement of their reason and thinking processes. Those who speak in tongues should pray for the power to interpret so they and others can know if they are speaking words consistent with the teachings of the Bible or words that a demon has placed in their mouths. Words given by demons will not build up anyone, least of all the church.

(1 Corinthians 14:15) What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also.

God had given Paul the gift of speaking in tongues. Others had received that gift and other gifts too. Some of those in the Corinthian church may have been tempted to pray only with their spirit in tongues without also engaging their minds and without any understanding of what they were actually praying to God. Therefore, Paul wanted those who prayed and praised God only with their spirit to pray and praise God with their mind as well, which would build up the church and also give meaning and purpose to them in their praying.

(1 Corinthians 14:16) Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying?

An outsider might be someone who is not a Christian or a Christian without the gift of tongues and without the gift of interpreting tongues. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts as He wills and He gives a variety of gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12). When any person cannot know or understand what another is saying, and especially when praying, they should not say, “Amen;” which means, “May it be so,” because they may be saying “May it be so” about something that would do harm or destroy someone or the church or be contrary to the Bible rather than build up someone or the church. Paul never wrote that everyone should have the gift of speaking in tongues or the gift of interpreting tongues.

(1 Corinthians 14:17) For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up.

With tongues that no one can interpret, a person might thank God for something wonderful that God has done or he might praise God for Who He is, and God would appreciate their thanks and praises. But, Christians can also thank God and praise God in ways that will also build up someone or build up the church. Christians can pray for God to help everyone understand and give thanks to God for what God has done and for Who He is. A person and the church are best built up by engaging our minds as well as our spirits according to the Scriptures.

(1 Corinthians 14:18) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you;

Paul had reason to thank God because his gift of speaking in tongues was a gift from God. He did not write this because he was arrogant or felt superior to others. He sincerely wanted to thank God. Some people are not better than other people or more favored by God than others because of the gifts God has given them. God gives gifts to benefit many people and for purposes that God alone may know until He reveals them.

(1 Corinthians 14:19) nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Paul wanted Christians to use their gifts properly. It would do little good in a church worship service for Christians to pray and praise God in words that no one could interpret or understand but God alone. True prayer and praise in tongues could be made by believers at home. Paul emphasized that in church a few understandable words of instruction given with a mind actively committed to God for building up people in the church would be better than thousands of words that no one could understand.

(1 Corinthians 14:20) Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults.

Paul continued to encourage and teach believers how to mature as Christians. They had divided into groups and argued among themselves. Perhaps some felt superior to others because they spoke in tongues and others did not. Perhaps some thought that true Christians spoke in tongues or tongue speaking was the sign that someone was saved. Paul wanted them to grow up and be adults, but that did not include learning more about evil and evil practices that might tempt them or desensitize them to evil behavior.

(1 Corinthians 14:21) In the law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.

Paul consistently referred people back to the law of God and the prophets (see Isaiah 28:11-12). God placed the rebellious people of Judah in Babylon where they would hear a foreign language they could not understand; still, some remained rebellious and would not listen to God. By analogy, Paul used Isaiah to teach that in a similar way some people would speak God’s message in a foreign tongue and their listeners would remain rebellious against God. In general, Paul wrote that God will use foreign people and foreign languages to speak to people and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 14:22) Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.

Paul wrote that the gift of speaking in tongues or in a foreign language was a sign for unbelievers that Christianity was from God, a gift of God, that the good news of Jesus Christ was a gift from God for all people and not just for the Jews. Earlier, Paul may have taught the Corinthians about the Day of Pentecost and how the disciples in Jerusalem spoke in foreign languages as a sign from God for unbelievers that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had sent the Holy Spirit to fill them. Prophecy or teaching the truth might not mean anything to unbelievers, it may seem foolishness to some, but it should mean something to believers and build them up.

(1 Corinthians 14:23) If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

In Paul’s day, if the whole church spoke in tongues and unbelievers could not understand a word they said, they would think the whole church was crazy. On the day of Pentecost, many people could actually understand the different languages that the disciples spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speaking foreign languages. Even on the day of Pentecost, however, some thought that the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:15).

(1 Corinthians 14:24) But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all.

Preaching and teaching is the result of thinking with the mind, so an outsider or unbeliever may be able to understand the teaching in their own language, especially with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Who can reprove the unbeliever through the truth. In Corinth, Greek and Latin would have been the only languages that needed to be spoken in daily life, and if everyone in the church was speaking the truth about God in Greek or Latin then the unbeliever might be called to account for his disobedience to God and encouraged to repent and come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

(1 Corinthians 14:25) After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”

Paul did not mean “reading people’s thoughts or minds,” which can be a trick to trap people. Rather, unbelievers would hear about particular sins that concerned them personally, and they would hear the call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and their conscience would speak to them. The truth would convict them of sin and show them their need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit would further convince them of the truth they had heard, and they would come to faith, believe the gospel, and worship the true God.

(1 Corinthians 14:26) What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Paul did not condemn all speaking in tongues in the church. He did suggest that the home may be the best place for praying and praising God by speaking in tongues. He did suggest a proper order of worship, and the order of worship in this verse would not lead an unbeliever to think that the whole church was out of their minds, especially when the tongue would be followed by an interpretation (which followed a hymn and a lesson from the mind at the first part of the service of worship). Whatever believers do in Christian worship, “Let all things be done for building up” the church spiritually and in other ways so believers can give reasons why they believe and live holy to the Lord.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why does Paul say Christians should be eager for spiritual gifts? What are we to strive to do with our gifts?
2. What did Paul say about how he would pray and praise God?
3. What can happen when someone does not understand what we say? What should we do when someone does not understand us?
4. What did Paul prefer to do in the church?
5. When Christians gather to worship God, what should they do according to Paul?

International Bible Lesson

When You Use Your Spiritual Gifts

“Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12—KJV).

“So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12—NRSV).

Paul wrote, “Love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Love for God and others motivates Christians to seek spiritual gifts eagerly “for building up the church.” Christians strive to excel in spiritual gifts, and they know that using some spiritual gifts in their private devotions will build them up spiritually; however, using these same gifts in public worship might not build up the church. So, when Christians think about when to use some of their spiritual gifts in the church, they put love first and remember that “not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23). For example, the Apostle Paul wrote that in the church he would rather speak five words with his mind to instruct others than ten thousand words in tongues that no one could understand (1 Corinthians 14:19). Paul wrote that if someone said things in worship that others could not understand then he needed to pray for the wisdom to interpret what he said so others would be built up in church (1 Corinthians 14:13). When the church gathered for worship, Paul encouraged singing hymns, preaching the gospel, and teaching the lessons of Jesus. As Jesus foretold, the time had come for the true worshipers to “worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him;” therefore, Paul encouraged Christians to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Jesus and Paul wanted believers to worship God in spirit and truth because they wanted believers to be adult in their thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). Christians with mature thinking will “let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 10:9-22 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 20, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 10:9-22Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 10:9-22

(1 Corinthians 10:9) We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.

Before and during the wilderness wandering of the Israelites (after Moses led them out of Egypt), the Israelites tried the patience, justice, love, and integrity of God by complaining against both God and Moses and by disobeying God’s laws. In the previous verses, Paul listed some of the many spiritual advantages the Israelites had enjoyed, but in spite of these many blessings they continued to rebel against God; therefore, God disciplined them and refused many of them an entrance into the Promised Land. Likewise, those who claim to be Christians should not test the patience, justice, love, and integrity of Jesus by complaining and disobeying Him. To continue in rebellion against Jesus Christ can lead to the destruction of those who claim to follow Him, but do not.

(1 Corinthians 10:10) And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

God used nature, creatures that He created, serpents, to destroy those who persistently complained, disobeyed, and rebelled against God and Moses (see Numbers 21). Satan appeared to Eve as a serpent and tested her, and she failed the test. Eve tested Adam, and he also failed the test. Satan tested Job and Jesus, but neither of them failed their tests. God rewards His people for their faithfulness, as He rewarded Job and Jesus. Jesus Christ bestows many blessings upon those who remain loyal to Him as their Lord and Savior. By analogy, those who claim to be Christians put Jesus Christ to the test when they persist in disobeying God’s commands. If they do not repent and turn back to Jesus in faith, they can suffer the discipline of the Lord. If they will not truly follow Jesus Christ as their Lord, they will inevitably run into the arms of the destroyer and be destroyed. Jesus saves those who truly know He is their Lord.

(1 Corinthians 10:11) These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

Paul knew that we need to learn from the historical mistakes of others so we do not make similar mistakes. Paul sometimes referred back to the Old Testament laws of God and the experiences of those who disobeyed God as examples so Christians would not do likewise. From Paul’s letters we learn how important and authoritative the whole Bible is for Christians. Paul also wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). With the first coming of Jesus Christ “the ends of the ages have come,” and we now await His second coming.

(1 Corinthians 10:12) So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

The Corinthians thought they were standing because of their knowledge, but “knowledge puffs up,” so they needed to be careful that they did not fall back into sin and away from Christ (see 1 Corinthians 8:1-3). People can become proud of their biblical and theological knowledge, and lose their contact with God. Pride can lead people to think that they are so smart they can disobey God and escape the harmful consequences. As Paul will state later in his letter, Christians should not think that they can sin with impunity because they have been baptized or participate in the Lord’s Supper.

(1 Corinthians 10:13) No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Any tests we experience others have experienced in similar ways. No one can pass a test by declaring that what the Bible declares to be wrong is right. No one can pass a test by declaring that the sins the Bible condemns can now be ignored; that sinful practices can now be celebrated by a changing culture without destructive consequences. Because God is faithful, those who follow Jesus Christ can pass every test with the strength and wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives them. God is faithful; those who follow Jesus Christ will be shown the way out so they can endure the test (not escape the test). Those who follow Jesus Christ know that Jesus Christ himself is the Way out: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

(1 Corinthians 10:14) Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.

In spite of their sins and problems in the church, Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth as his dear friends or beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Because they knew he loved them, he could speak strongly to them in ways that might seem harsh to readers today. Paul wrote as he did because “love builds up,” and he delivered all of his warnings with that understanding. “Flee” is good advice whenever we are tempted to sin. If we flee the place of temptation, God will give us the strength we need and show us the way out. Rather than the Corinthian Christians in any way showing that they might be worshiping idols in a temple, they needed to flee from their places of worship and from worshiping them to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

(1 Corinthians 10:15) I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

Paul appealed to their commonsense (the ability to reason that people have because they are created in the image of God); to their commonsense as enlightened by the Holy Spirit and His teachings about Jesus Christ through the Scriptures, the Apostles’ teachings, and Paul’s letters. Paul addressed them reasonably and told them to carefully consider what he was writing. Paul did not simply forbid them to do something and give the reason, “Because I said so. I am an Apostle.” Paul reasoned with them from God’s laws and examples in the Old Testament (the New Testament was still being written and would later include Paul’s letters). Paul expected them to judge for themselves and conclude that what he wrote to them was right.

(1 Corinthians 10:16) The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?

Paul now turned to a consideration of the Lord’s Supper and began to warn them against any association with idol worship because participation in idol worship involved an association with demons. In the Lord’s Supper, the cup of blessing was a cup of wine that represented the blood of Christ shed for them for the forgiveness of their sins. They were not to think that they could persist in committing sins or return to worshiping idols and then come to the Lord’s Supper and receive forgiveness and escape the discipline of the Lord or their eventual destruction by the demonic powers they actually worshiped when worshiping idols. Paul wrote the same truth about the bread. He wrote about the bread last, because he wanted to warn Christians against worshiping idols and sharing food with other idolaters as they worshiped in a pagan temple, with pagans who worshiped idols as they ate. Their eating might leave the impression that it makes no difference to God and others for Christians to worship idols and also worship God in Christ, but such worship showed disloyalty to God in Christ and could mislead others.

(1 Corinthians 10:17) Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Physical bread or food is necessary for physical life; spiritual bread or food is necessary for spiritual life. Jesus Christ is the spiritual food that is necessary for spiritual life. Jesus said he was the bread of life, the living bread, and whoever eats this bread will live forever (see John 6:23; 6:35; 6:48; 6:51). All those who follow Jesus Christ partake of Him, partake of the one bread. All those who eat of the bread of life are also one body: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). All those who eat of the bread of life are also one spirit with Jesus Christ; because “Anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). The members of the body of Christ are partners with Christ and one another; they learn from and bless one another. All true Christians are connected to Christ and to one another spiritually, just as a body has many parts that are all connected to the body in some way.

(1 Corinthians 10:18) Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?

In some of the Old Testament sacrifices the Israelites feasted together. Eating together made them partners as they sacrificed according to the law of God and shared the food that they had sacrificed. Those who follow Jesus Christ become partners as they eat the Lord’s Supper together and share the cup of blessing and the bread. Just as every body part is a partner that helps the rest of the body, so every Christian is in some way a partner that helps others in the church.

(1 Corinthians 10:19) What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

What the Israelites did at their altar to God affirmed their partnership with the true God according to God’s law. When Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper it is something, because they affirm their partnership with the Lord Jesus Christ and one another according to His command; furthermore, Jesus reigns as King of kings from heaven. Paul did not want to imply by what he had written up to this point that when pagans become partners in their sacrifices to idols that their idols have the reality and value that the pagans suppose they have. An idol cannot and does not represent the true God.

(1 Corinthians 10:20) No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.

The Bible forbids making an image of God: “You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars, and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them; for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 26:1). Paul gave a reason for that command: those who worship idols become partners with demons. Idol worship can lead to a person being destroyed by a demon. Idols can exist in a person’s mind, without a physical representation, and all demons are destructive (see Mark 5:1-19). The gospels show many of the destructive consequences for people who have partnerships with demons; Jesus cast them out (and so did Paul).

(1 Corinthians 10:21) You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Paul insisted that people will receive no benefit from participating in the Lord’s Supper while at the same time they are participating with demons in worshiping idols. Indeed, they actually endanger themselves spiritually and in other ways. If a person associates with demons they cannot at the same time associate with Jesus Christ no matter what they may think or say. People need to choose between following Jesus and following demons, though they may not know they are following demons when they worship physical or mental idols or adopt a false theology that allows or promotes immorality.

(1 Corinthians 10:22) Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

“Provoking the Lord to jealousy” means disrespecting, disobeying, insulting, and offending God by your thoughts and actions so He may need to discipline or punish you to lead you to repentance. His discipline may lead to your repentance and return to an undivided loyalty to Jesus Christ. If not, His punishment of you may influence others not to do as you have done, and you will become an example (as the Israelites who were bitten by serpents in the wilderness became an example of what not to do). Placing an attachment on a friend or possession or goal or money or success or any other thing that is greater than your attachment to God can make an idol out of that friend or possession or other things. No one is so strong that they can defeat God’s purposes when He must discipline or punish them for idolatry; that may include removing the friend or the possession or other things from a person’s life.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. How might some people put Christ to the test today?
2. Why do Christians believe that they should study the Old Testament as well as the New Testament?
3. What would Paul want us to especially remember when we are tested?
4. What are Christians doing when they participate in the Lord’s Supper?
5. What are people really doing when they are worshiping idols?

International Bible Lesson

When You Face Temptation or Testing

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13—KJV).

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13—NRSV).

Trials and tests can reveal how much practical knowledge we have of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Tests can also reveal the depth of His love for us. Whatever our temptation or trial, someone has faced the same thing, even though the circumstances may have been different. When we are tested, we may feel that the pressures to doubt and sin are greater than we can endure. As we call upon all of our strength to endure and seek a solution to our sufferings, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the truths we know, facts from the Bible upon which we have staked our future. We need to remind ourselves that God is faithful. If we feel pressures beyond our personal strength to endure, God is faithful. If we use all of our personal strength, He will stop the test before our strength fails. God is faithful, so Jesus Christ will pray for us from heaven and the Holy Spirit will pray for us from within us. As we keep believing and praying, God will give us the guidance, wisdom, and strength to take the way out that Jesus Christ provides. The way out begins by going to Jesus Christ, Who is the Way. The way out means acting based on the truths we know, Jesus Christ is the Truth. The way out will continue by immediately doing what will help us achieve God’s plans for us, Jesus Christ is the Life. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 8:1-13 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 13, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 8:1-13

(1 Corinthians 8:1) Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the words translated from the Greek text within quotation marks seem to be Paul’s quotation from portions of the questions in the letter from the Corinthians to him (there are no quotation marks in the original Greek text: quotation marks were added by translators to help people understand the text). We do not have their complete question. The quotations were to help them remember the question they asked so they could apply Paul’s answers to the right question.

The Old Testament has a variety of food laws and restrictions that we often categorize as ceremonial laws. Neither Jewish nor Gentile Christians need to follow or obey the Old Testament ceremonial laws, but the moral law of God (expressed as love for God and others and in the Ten Commandments is still required of everyone). The moral laws revealed in the Old and New Testaments forbid the worship of idols and permit only the worship of the one true God revealed in the Bible. Among some of the Christians in Corinth, knowing these facts was puffing them up, making them feel superior to others in the church, and leading them to do things that bothered the conscience of some in the church that did not fully understand these facts. Therefore, Paul wrote that love builds up. Christians with superior knowledge need love so they will use their knowledge to seek what was best for those without understanding, perhaps even pray about how to teach them deeper spiritual truths from the Bible with loving kindness toward others.

(1 Corinthians 8:2) Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;

Some seek to learn more and more for the love of learning only, instead of for the love of God supremely. Some seek to learn more and more, because they believe knowledge is power and knowledge will give them power over others, instead of seeking to learn more so God can trust them to use His power wisely according to His will in helping others. Some people claim to know more than others and expect them to do what they command. The scribes and Pharisees serve as examples of some who claimed to know something, far more than others, so much in fact that Jesus could not teach them anything. Such people as these do not have the necessary knowledge.

(1 Corinthians 8:3) but anyone who loves God is known by him.

To be known by God is the most necessary knowledge. Those God knows, and those who know God, love God. Their love of God leads them to love the truth of God: Jesus is the truth, the truth of God. Jesus preached about the importance of being known by God: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23). Those who do the will of the Father will love God and others, and they will use their knowledge to build up others.

(1 Corinthians 8:4) Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”

Though some places today do not have banquets to honor idols, such banquets were common in Corinth and other places in the days of Jesus and Paul. Such banquets are still common in many countries today, and many people have honored places for their idols in their dining rooms. Christians and Jews who believe the Bible know that idols do not really exist (Paul will later explain that demons and idols are related). Some in the Corinthian church said that it did not matter whether they ate food that had been offered to an idol or ate in a temple where the food had been offered to an idol, because they knew that idols did not really exist; however, their behavior bothered some in the church, so the church wrote for Paul’s opinion. Knowing the truth about the true God, however, was no reason for someone to eat food that had been offered to idols in a temple, and such behavior could actually mislead others. An idol can be formed from physical materials, but an idol can also exist as an idea in the mind. People have also made money, movie stars, politicians, and religious leaders into idols. Those who believe the Bible know that there is only one God: Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 8:5) Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–

What Paul wrote to the Corinthians is still true today. In some places shrines to various gods (idols) can be seen on street corners and in public parks, in public buildings and restaurants, and throughout some people’s homes. Places of pilgrimage that honor gods (though perhaps not in a physical form or in a possible physical form hidden from the eyes of people other than the priests) still attract millions of people. Some false religions or philosophies have no god visible to human eyes, but their teachings lead people away from the true God. Some people follow the ideas of religious, philosophical, and political leaders with the unswerving devotion that should be given only to the true God; thus making these leaders into their “lords,” who lead them away from the moral law of God.

(1 Corinthians 8:6) yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The Bible teaches the truth about the true God. The Holy Spirit indwells Christians. The Holy Spirit will help Christians understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit will help teachers teach the Bible rightly. The Holy Spirit helps Christians love God and others wisely. The one true God includes the Person of the Father, and all things were created by the Father and we exist for the Father. The one true God includes the Person of the “one Lord, Jesus Christ;” the Father created all that exists through Jesus Christ, and we exist through Jesus Christ. Jesus was not created; He always existed as the Son of God, but He was later conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, deserve our love, loyalty, praise, and worship. Jesus and the Apostles used descriptions such as these in this verse to describe the nature, character, and personhood of the one true God; therefore, we need whole Bible to learn about God.

(1 Corinthians 8:7) It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Even today, some Christians do not understand these truths about idols and the true God; therefore, those with love for them who have this knowledge will try to build them up. Some of the new Christians in Corinth had not been freed from their fear of and their slavery to the worship of idols for very long, and when they ate some foods they felt guilty (though they really did not need to feel condemned), because they thought of these foods as having first been offered to an idol, which involved them in false worship and disloyalty to God. Paul wanted all sides to understand one another, and he especially wanted those with knowledge to consider the conscience of those with less understanding before they did something that was permitted but unnecessary.

(1 Corinthians 8:8) “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

The pagans believed that they would derive blessings and power from eating food that had been offered to an idol. Paul and the Corinthian church knew that no physical food would bring anyone closer to God. Rather, in the New Testament church, believers prayed and fasted to draw closer to God and receive His guidance and power.

(1 Corinthians 8:9) But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Christians have the liberty to ignore the Old Testament food restrictions, but that does not mean that all substances are good for food. Christians can eat meat that has been offered to an idol; but seeing Christians do so can mislead some who are spiritually weak back into the fear of and worship of idols. Therefore, out of love for those who were spiritually weak, Paul wanted mature Christians to consider how they used their freedoms because they might mislead others by doing what they wanted without consideration of others. This principle can be applied to other freedoms too.

(1 Corinthians 8:10) For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?

For the mature Christian in Corinth or for the Christian who had studied more, eating food in a pagan temple might mean no more than eating food in a local cafe today. But, an immature Christian or infant in Christ might see a mature Christian eating food that had been offered to an idol and without understanding think it is appropriate to participate in the worship of idols as they eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. They would probably be misled into thinking that Christians can worship the God of the Bible, follow Jesus, and also worship idols without sin or any other problems. Their weak conscience was not yet strong enough to tell them that a believer should not worship the true God and also worship idols. Their weak conscience might even encourage them to do wrong and worship idols.

(1 Corinthians 8:11) So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.

The knowledge of a mature Christian might lead them to behave without sin when eating food offered to an idol. However, their behavior and example might lead a weak believer into sin; so that a believer for whom Christ died is destroyed—destroyed by once again falling into slavery to sin and Satan. The weak believer does not know that the mature believer is not worshiping an idol when they see them eating food that has been offered to an idol, so they might think that they can grow in Christ if they sacrifice to idols too. The demons associated with the idols can mislead them and destroy them, one for whom Christ died.

(1 Corinthians 8:12) But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul said misleading others into sin was a sin. Though we may not be doing something wrong according to our conscience or understanding of the Christian faith, we can wound the conscience of those who are spiritually weak and lead them into sin. When we sin against others, we sin against Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 8:13) Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Because Paul loved God and people more than food, he resolved to put God and people first and not eat foods that might lead someone to worship idols or into other sins. He would not do what might cause them to fall away from Christ and into sin. This was part of the necessary knowledge that Paul wanted all believers to possess. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians can rightly use their knowledge and love of God in the service of others inside and outside the church.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What are some of the characteristics of those who are puffed up by knowledge?
2. How might someone use their knowledge in love to build up others?
3. Why would you say that it is more important to be known by God than to know a lot of facts about God?
4. What beings exist in the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us?
5. How serious can it be if we use our freedom and sin against other Christians?

International Bible Lesson

When You Have the Necessary Knowledge

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him(1 Corinthians 8:2-3—KJV).

Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him(1 Corinthians 8:2-3—NRSV).

Which is more important: to know something or know God? Which is more important: to know something or be known by God? Which is more important: to know something or love God and others? Which is more important: to know something or “have the necessary knowledge”? The lack of “necessary knowledge” can influence someone to manifest a spirit of superiority, especially among the less informed, and lead them into an unloving disregard for the needs and rights of others. We can see the lack of “necessary knowledge” in people from all walks of life and even among some in the church (as Paul discussed in his first letter to the Corinthians). “Necessary knowledge” comes from God and God knowing us. Unfortunately, in spite of their calling Jesus Christ “Lord, Lord,” some who claim to be Christians may be unknown by Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). “Necessary knowledge” comes from being known by God and will manifest itself by Christians loving God and others. The Apostle John wrote: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Being known by God and being filled with God’s love is more important than knowing many things. People who claim to know God but disregard the needs of others do not have the love of God in their heart or the “necessary knowledge.” Christians with the “necessary knowledge” know and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; they study the Bible for the “necessary knowledge” to do the will of God when they help meet the real needs of others as the Holy Spirit teaches, empowers, and leads them. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 6:11-20 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 6, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 6:11-20Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 6:11-20

(1 Corinthians 6:11) And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul wrote that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God, and he listed some examples of wrongdoers. Some, but not all, of those in the church in Corinth had at one time practiced the wrongdoing Paul named. After they came to faith in Jesus Christ, they repented of (turned from practicing) their sins. Because Jesus Christ had died on the cross for them and had filled them with the Holy Spirit, they were cleansed from sin, set apart by God for His holy use, and could be forgiven by God. Consider also: Acts 22:16 — “And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.” Acts 26:18 — “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Romans 5:-8-9 — “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.”

(1 Corinthians 6:12) “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

Paul quoted the beliefs of some who claimed to be wise in the church, and who may have misunderstood Paul’s message. Some believed that because they did not need to obey the Jewish ceremonial laws to be saved, and because they were saved, they did not need to obey any of God’s laws. Some thought that because Jesus had died for their sins and had forgiven them for all of their sins (past, present, and future) that they did not need to obey God’s moral law (summed up by love for God and others and the Ten Commandments). Some thought that because of their spiritual privileges as Christians that they could do whatever they wanted with their physical bodies and it would not make any significant difference. Paul began to show how foolish these beliefs were by saying that even though something may seem lawful, not everything people do or want to do is helpful, expedient, or beneficial to themselves and others. Obeying God’s moral laws are always the most helpful, expedient, and beneficial way to live. Paul warned believers that they could become enslaved again to sin and wrongdoing. Consider also: Romans 6:6 — “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Galatians 4:9 — “Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?”

[NOTE: As a lawyer and Christian evangelist, Charles Finney defined “moral law” – “Moral law is a rule of moral action with sanctions. It is that rule to which moral agents ought to conform all their voluntary actions, and is enforced by sanctions equal to the value of the precept.” A sanction is a threatened penalty or punishment for disobeying a law or rule that should serve as a deterrent to disobedience. The threatened penalty shows how important the lawgiver or legislature considers the law. For example, the penalty for stealing is serious, but the penalty for committing murder is more serious. Whenever a lawgiver breaks a law or does not enforce a law, he shows his disregard for the law and that disregard often leads others to disregard the law too. Many people suffer when a lawgiver or leader breaks any of God’s moral laws. Jesus Christ obeyed all of the moral laws of God, and when He died on the cross He suffered the penalty we deserve for breaking God’s moral laws; by doing so, He showed that God highly regarded the keeping of all of His moral laws. The only begotten Son of God did not die on the cross so those who believe in Him could feel free to break God’s moral laws and do whatever they felt like doing. The fact that Jesus Christ died for us should inspire a deeper desire within us to obey Him.]

(1 Corinthians 6:13) “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

Some in the church thought that since our body parts were made for different purposes that it did not matter how we used these body parts as long as we used them for their intended physical purpose. They did whatever their natural human desires or emotions led them to do however and whenever they wanted without consideration for God’s moral laws. They believed that whatever they did with their bodies was morally equivalent to their eating food. Paul replied that someday God will destroy both the food and the stomach, both will eventually physically die. Based on what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12, we know that it is not beneficial to be dominated by food or any other physical desire. Paul argued that God did not design the body as He did for people to practice fornication or to break His moral or physical laws. God created our bodies “for the Lord,” and Christians should obey God’s laws because the Spirit of Christ indwells them.

(1 Corinthians 6:14) And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Our bodies are meant for the Lord, and God the Father raised the Lord from the dead so His Spirit can indwell our bodies. God will also raise our bodies from the dead, so our bodies are important to God and we should not use our bodies to violate any of God’s moral laws. It matters to God and should matter to us how we use our bodies in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ now and forever.

(1 Corinthians 6:15) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul elaborated more fully on how our bodies are members of the Body of Christ and how we should serve different functions in the church. When Jesus Christ walked physically upon the earth, He was at one place at a time. Now, because He spiritually indwells the physical bodies of His followers, He is many places all around the world and He serves others directly through the physical bodies of His followers. Every physical body part belongs to Jesus Christ; therefore, we should never use any of our body parts in violation of the moral laws of God.

(1 Corinthians 6:16) Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

To show his readers the importance of obeying God’s law, Paul referred them back to the teachings of the Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures, and to the teachings of Jesus when He quoted the Bible: “Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5). As Paul demonstrated, the Word of God written remains the ultimate authority for what we should believe and do. In the marriage union, a man and a woman become united at the deepest levels of their physical, mental, and spiritual being – something happens that only the Lord can fully explain. The Bible teaches that no one should do or try to do physically what God meant only for a married man and woman to do physically. In a Christian marriage, a Christian man and a Christian woman are united spiritually with one another and with the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 6:17) But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord, Jesus unites with them spiritually so that Paul can teach by analogy that the two become one spirit (similar to a man and a woman becoming one flesh, but on the spiritual level, because Jesus’ resurrected and glorified human body remains seated at the right hand of God). Every part of our being becomes united with Christ; just as we fill our bodies, His Spirit fills our bodies.

(1 Corinthians 6:18) Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.

Once again, Paul commanded Christians to shun fornication. Paul knew about the horrible consequences of sexually transmitted diseases (when there were no antibiotics), and he knew God’s law and the consequences of disobeying God. In Exodus 15:26, we read: “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.” For these reasons, Paul wrote that a “fornicator sins against the body itself.” At a deeper level, Paul also knew about the mental and spiritual damage that the fornicator can suffer within themselves.

(1 Corinthians 6:19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

As Paul concluded his arguments, he wrote that the physical body of believers is the temple or shrine of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within them. Our bodies have been created and given to us by God, so we do not belong only to ourselves. Jesus told His disciples that He would send them the Spirit of truth: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14:15-17). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus had promised that the gift of the Holy Spirit was intended for everyone who followed Him: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Paul also affirmed this fact: “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

(1 Corinthians 6:20) For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Before Christians come to faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins, they are slaves of sin and elemental spirits (Romans 6:6; Galatians 4:3). Before they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, people have committed themselves to self-centered, self-directed, and self-opinionated behaviors, which are manifestations of their slavery to sin and Satan (see Acts 5:3; Acts 26:18). By the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God made freedom from sin and Satan possible for all who believe in Him. Faith, love, appreciation, thankfulness, and good sound reasons, motivate Christians to glorify God by the way they use their bodies and obey God. In addition, Paul wrote to the Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What might Paul say to an unbeliever who continually disregarded the law of God?
2. What might Paul say to a believer who continually disregarded the law of God?
3. Why is it important to Christians today that God raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead?
4. How does knowing that your body is a member of Christ help you overcome temptations to sin?
5. What was the price that God paid so you could be forgiven for your sins, be cleansed from sin, and be filled with the Holy Spirit? What can you do in response?

International Bible Lesson

When Your Body Is A Temple

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20—KJV).

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20—NRSV).

Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments; and then He promised them that He would ask the Father to give them the Spirit of truth, who was abiding with them and who would soon abide within them (John 14:15-17). Perhaps so His disciples would recognize the Holy Spirit when He filled them on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus kept His promise and “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). After Jesus’ death and resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached that Jesus’ promise was for “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” (see Acts 2:38-39). In his letters, Paul explained more about the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit. He stated clearly that the bodies of the Christians in Corinth (and indeed the bodies of all Christians) are temples of the Holy Spirit; therefore, Christians should be glorifying God with their bodies. Unfortunately, some of the Christians in Corinth (just as some Christians today) had fallen into the sinful ways of their predominant culture. Paul warned that because Christians are united to the Lord and have become one spirit with Jesus, they should not be using their bodies contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures and the commandments of Jesus. God gave bodies to His people so He could fill them with the Holy Spirit; by suffering and dying upon the cross, Jesus paid the price to make that possible. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off

1 Corinthians 1:9-18 & 3:1-9 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 29, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 1:9-18 & 3:1-9Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 1:9-18

(1 Corinthians 1:9) God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Before Paul dealt with the problems of disorder in the church in Corinth, he emphasized that God is faithful; that is, God is dependable, honest, truthful, and trustworthy; God will complete whatever He has promised or begun. Through the preaching of the truth by Paul and others, God had called them into the church; that is, into “the fellowship of His Son,” which included fellowship with other believers in Christ. By the power of the truth and the Holy Spirit, God brought them into fellowship with Jesus Christ as their Lord; that is, into union, into communion, and into a relationship with Jesus Christ, Who they had committed themselves to obey as their Lord. Before Paul appealed to them to change their behavior, he pointed them to Jesus Christ their Lord, Who as their Lord required them to conform lives to His will and purposes.

(1 Corinthians 1:10) Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Paul did not appeal to them on the basis that he was an apostle or that he had been the first to preach the gospel in Corinth. He could have done so, but one of the problems in the church was people focusing their primary attention on the servants of Christ (almost making them into idols) instead of on their Lord Jesus Christ as truly their Supreme Authority and for whose sake they should change their behavior. Paul appealed to them as equal members of the family of God. If each person in the church put Jesus Christ first, if each person put knowing more of Jesus Christ first, if each person put the commands and purposes of Jesus Christ first so they could do the will of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit would help them come to agreement and overcome their divisions. If they all had the same mind and goals (that is, actively sought to understand the primary ideas, teachings, and leadings of Jesus Christ) and if they all sought to learn and fulfill the purpose of Jesus Christ, they could be united in single-mindedness as the Holy Spirit healed their divisions.

(1 Corinthians 1:11) For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

Paul had received a letter with various questions from the church in Corinth, but before he began to answer their questions he wanted to deal with the more serious problems of jealousy and quarreling in the church. We know nothing about Chloe or her people (Chloe is a female name). However, quarrels in the church had become so serious that Paul received a report about them. Quarrels indicate more than a difference of opinion. Church members were involved in ongoing disputes with an unloving spirit. Their disagreements were causing people in the church to split into groups and break fellowship with each other (the opposite of having been called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ as loving brothers and sisters of God’s Son).

(1 Corinthians 1:12) What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

The same gospel was proclaimed by all of the leaders Paul named (Cephas was the Aramaic name for Peter). Different people in the church may have formed groups based on the different emphases they believed different leaders taught as of vital importance. One group may have claimed that they alone understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and all the others were mistaken. Paul did not accuse any group of heresy, so their disputes may have centered on less important ideas that honest believers may disagree about without causing division in the church or breaking fellowship with one another.

(1 Corinthians 1:13) Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Since Jesus Christ by His Spirit indwelt each believer in the church in Corinth, their differences could not be the result of Christ being divided or from Christ teaching contradictory ideas. Some of them were not humbly seeking to know the mind and purpose of Christ regarding the issues that divided them. Paul emphasized that Jesus Christ had died on the cross so God could forgive them and cleanse them from sin; therefore, Jesus Christ was more important than any of His servants. Moreover, they had not been baptized in the name of any of Christ’s servants; they had been baptized at the command of Christ by Christ’s servants.

(1 Corinthians 1:14) I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

John the Baptist was so well-known for baptizing that the church calls him John the Baptist. Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize, but in the Bible none of His disciples were known as baptizers. Egotistic disputes over who baptized whom may have led some believers to think they were better than others. Paul did not think that he should be included in these controversies because he had baptized very few people. It is doubtful that Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas had created a separate group based on the fact that Paul had baptized them.

(1 Corinthians 1:15) so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

Paul could not remember all of the names of those he baptized; baptizing was not his primary calling, nor the primary calling of any of the apostles. Jesus had called Paul to preach about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The apostles taught that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and fellowship with Jesus Christ is far more important than focusing on the person who baptized someone.

(1 Corinthians 1:16) (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Believers through the centuries have sometimes turned their eyes from Jesus Christ to the person they admire as a great preacher, an inspirational teacher, or the founder of a theological system. In some cases they find it much easier to learn a system of theology from scholarly books than try to understand, study, and apply the mind and purpose of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. The study and prayerful application of the Bible is far more important than who baptized you. Paul did not think it was important for him to try to remember or keep a record of all the names of the people he baptized.

(1 Corinthians 1:17) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Eloquent words of wisdom, skillful presentations, logical arguments, and inspirational stories can all be used by the Holy Spirit to call believers into fellowship with Jesus Christ when the true gospel is also presented, but Paul did not use any of these methods when he brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the city of Corinth. Christ sent him to proclaim the gospel: the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the atonement for their sins and rose from the dead, and that those who believed in Him would receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. When Paul proclaimed the truth of the gospel, the Holy Spirit empowered the truth to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. No one could claim they were saved because of Paul’s eloquent wisdom or because Paul had baptized them.

(1 Corinthians 1:18) For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

If Jesus Christ had only died as a martyr, the message about the cross may not have seemed so foolish to those who are perishing. Those who are perishing think it is foolish to think that their behavior and sins are important to God; that justice, mercy, and love are so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross in their behalf so He could forgive them and cleanse them from sin and grant them life eternal if they would repent and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. They will continue to perish if they continue to believe the message about the cross is foolishness. The message about the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved: believers know by experience the peace and joy that comes from God’s forgiveness of their sins; they have freedom from the power of a sinful life; they honor Jesus Christ as their Lord; they know He has a place in heaven for them.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

(1 Corinthians 3:1) And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

When Paul spoke and wrote to the church in Corinth, he could not speak or write to them as though all of them were spiritual people or spiritually mature. He had to write to them as infants in Christ, as “people of the flesh,” as people who were spiritually immature, as people who remained self-centered and self-directed instead of Christ-centered and Christ-directed. Though believers in Christ receive the Holy Spirit, many in the church had remained spiritual babies because they centered their attention on themselves and on having their needs met just like babies. They allowed their desires, emotions, and ideas to rule their lives instead of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and their focus on having their selfish needs met had led some of them into the most despicable sins (as Paul wrote about later in his letter). Paul could not write the church as though everyone had the right priorities; that is, the priorities of Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:2) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,

The milk Paul had fed them was the basic, elementary, introductory truths of the Christian faith that had called them believe in Jesus Christ. At first, he had to feed them, because as infants they could not feed themselves. Unhappily, they did not mature to the level of wanting to learn how to feed themselves the truth of God from the Scriptures and mature Christian leaders. They did not want to make the effort to chew solid spiritual food; that is, to think on and apply the deeper truths of God that Paul, Apollos, Peter, and others could have fed them with the Holy Spirit’s help from the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:3) for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

Paul had evidence that they were still spiritual babies: they were jealous of one another and they quarreled among themselves. They followed their feelings. They behaved according to their inclinations instead of according to the will of Jesus Christ their Lord. They had no interest in the deeper realities of God that can only be learned from doing the will of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. If they became involved in Christian endeavors or worship, they did so because these efforts made them feel good, not for the sake of Jesus Christ and to glorify God. Therefore, their Christian gatherings became occasions for jealousy, quarreling, and choosing up sides as they battled one another. They made themselves and others in their groups more important than Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:4) For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

Some people who claim to be Christians focus on becoming specialists in a theology or teaching that leads them to quarreling with others. They sometimes try to give indisputable reasons why their favorite person and their ideas are better than others; and in addition, that those who differ with them are wrong and may not even be Christians. Paul had to grapple with this problem in Corinth, and Paul declared that such people were thinking from a mere human point of view instead of seeking God’s point of view as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and the teaching of Jesus as they had been taught by Paul, Apollos, and others.

(1 Corinthians 3:5) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

No doubt those who help us see the truth of the Christian faith for the first time or who help us return to faith in Jesus Christ have a special place in our hearts and minds. They are important servants of Christ to us, but Paul does not want anyone to place a servant of Christ in the place of honor that only Christ deserves. Fighting and quarreling and worse can result from putting a person, group, party, idol, or set of ideas in the place of honor that only Christ deserves. As an Apostle, Paul could have truly said, “Believe what I teach because I am an Apostle of Christ,” but that could have made the problems in Corinth worse. Instead, Paul humbly said he and others were servants of Christ and the Lord had assigned who would come to faith through each of them. They should glorify the Lord, not a servant of the Lord, who called them to saving faith.

(1 Corinthians 3:6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Paul went to Corinth first to preach the gospel and Apollos followed Paul. Both did the work of evangelism, and both taught the truth in ways that would help new believers grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul and Apollos were of the same mind and had the same purpose. BUT, God gave the growth! Compare Paul’s letter about the problems in Corinth with Jesus’ parable about the gospel, the word of God, being similar to a seed that is sowed and the different results (Matthew 13:18-23; Luke 8:4-15). Paul wrote that he and Apollos fulfilled different tasks as God had assigned these tasks to them, but they both had the same purpose of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then helping them mature in their faith. God is the only One Who can make a seed grow or the gospel bear fruit in the believer’s life. And as Jesus said, people are responsible for what they do when the seed of the gospel is sowed in their minds: “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14). To grow to spiritual maturity, believers need to look to God in Christ and go His way instead of their way. In general, Paul wrote that after all he and Apollos had said and done, and after so much time had passed since he had been to Corinth, that the infants in Christ should have become spiritually mature.

(1 Corinthians 3:7) So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

As servants of Christ, Paul, Apollos, and others actively obeyed Jesus Christ when they shared the truth of the gospel. As they obeyed Christ, Christ determined many of the eventual consequences of their obedience. Paul humbly declared that in comparison to God they were not anything, for God did everything through them; however, they were still significant, because God continued to work through them as they obeyed Him. God gave them their gifts for ministry, and they used their gifts as the Holy Spirit directed them. If the seed they sowed took root, God made the truths they had shared grow in the believer’s life. The spiritually mature would praise God in Christ and rely on the Holy Spirit to help them understand the Word of God in order to live closer to God. In the Christian life, believers are aware of the struggles and difficult decisions they make to learn more of Christ and remain loyal to Him under great temptations and trials. They know what activities have helped them obey Christ and mature as Christians. At the same time, when looking back over the progress they have made spiritually, they see the hand of God on their lives and working within them to give them the spiritual growth and maturity they enjoy; so, they give God all the glory for what they have achieved. God gives the growth, but no one can blame God if they remain spiritually immature.

(1 Corinthians 3:8) The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

Bible teachers such as Paul, Apollos, and Peter wanted to express their love for God and glorify Jesus Christ by sharing with others what He taught them. They wanted others to love Jesus too, as Jesus deserved. They wanted to show and teach how to serve God and others in the power of the Holy Spirit. There common purpose was serving Jesus Christ by doing exactly what He said. Paul did not describe the wages he would receive. In other letters, he talked about the inheritance of Christians (see Colossians 3:23-24).

(1 Corinthians 3:9) For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

As God’s servants, they followed and obeyed Jesus Christ as their Lord. They worked together and not in competition for groups of followers to be loyal to them personally. They did not think they were better than other servants of the Lord, because the Lord had given them whatever gifts for service they had. The church was similar to a field and also similar to a building, but the field and the building belonged to God and not to God’s servants. If the church in Corinth understood the truths in Paul’s letter, they would dissolve their little groups and come together with a common faith in Jesus Christ and a common desire to know and do His will.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. In this Bible lesson, name all of the persons and groups that Paul discusses. Some may be listed more than once.

2. How did Paul know that some in the church of God in Corinth were still of the flesh?

3. What did Christ send Paul to do primarily? What did Paul do that he probably considered of secondary importance that he left to others to do?

4, What is foolishness to some but the power of God to others? Who are those who think this is foolishness and who are those who think this is the power of God?

5. How can someone leave the group of those who are perishing?

International Bible Lesson

Why Some People Become Christians

“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9—KJV).

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9—NRSV).

Why do some people become Christians? The shortest single answer might be: “God is faithful.” After God’s people began to disobey Him, God promised to send a Savior into the world—and He did. Why did God keep His promise? The Bible answers: because God loves the world and God is faithful (John 3:16). Paul explained that God has called Christians into a relationship with His Son. Christians enjoy communion, union, and loving fellowship with Jesus Christ as their Lord. People become Christians because the good news of Jesus Christ is the power of God that saves them from the power of sin, Satan, and eternal separation from God. The good news of Jesus Christ reveals that the power of Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to save His people, will save them forever; therefore, their fellowship with God through His Son will never end. Christians know that Jesus is the Messiah that God promised to send and they obey Him as their Lord. Paul called new believers “infants in Christ,” who must drink milk. Infants in Christ follow their feelings and behave “according to human inclinations,” but too many believers remain infants in Christ; therefore, many of their problems and many disputes in the church are the result of their childishness (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul wrote many letters to help believers mature. Paul also imparted many truths that only spiritual people can understand because they are able to eat spiritual food; they have trained themselves to follow Jesus Christ faithfully as their Lord instead of being misled by their emotions and desires into jealousy, quarreling, and other self-centered behaviors. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off