Center Point Bible Study is excited to be back meeting in the Fellowship Hall from 6:46 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.. This study is open to anyone who would like to take part! We love you all dearly and look forward to the time when we can be together again!  Pastor Colin and Buck Mills facilitate this Life Group. The New Creations Children’s Life Group also meets during this time for children 2 years old through 5th grade. CDC protocols are in place and masks are required for the children and adults.

The notes for the Center Point Study will be posted every Wednesday below with a link to the archived notes here, Center Point Archive

We encourage everyone to dig into God’s Word together and share what the Lord is teaching them. 

We endeavor to journey chronologically through the Book of Acts and read Paul’s Epistles as they fit into the narrative. We are currently going through the Letter to the Galatians.

This study is open to anyone who would like to take part! We love you all dearly and look forward to the time when we can be together again!


NOTES FOR CENTER POINT BIBLE STUDY

September 22, 2021

Buck Mills, Teaching Team

A Letter for All

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (ESV)

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Opening Remarks:

Corinth was one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Roman empire. It was a double crossroads because it had a land route, going east to west, that allowed ships and cargo to escape the journey around the south of Greece and a major trade route going north to south that connected it with Macedonia. As a mercantile center, it boasted a wide variety of religious influence from all over the empire. This added to the previous Greek influence and made for an accelerated level of promiscuity.

The established cultural norms in Corinth were determined by social status. Those with wealth and power preferred religious, philosophical, and political ideologies and careers. Whereas those without wealth mainly pursued manual labor positions. There was a wide disparity between rich and poor. But what set Corinth apart was the opportunity for upward mobility created by the vast economy. 

Paul spent a prolonged amount of time in Corinth during his second missionary journey. This was granted by the Lord in a vision. It was here where he met Priscillas and Aquila and worked with them as a tentmaker. As one working in manual labor, Paul broke the mold of the cultural norm by also preaching the gospel, for free! It is important to note that Paul did not use the gospel to advance his personal agenda or bring about a sense of upward mobility. On the contrary, he calls himself a slave to Christ.

This is not the first letter written to the Corinthians, 1 Cor 5:9. However, the first letter was abundantly misunderstood by the assembly in Corinth as testified to by both their response to him and by issues brought into light by word of mouth. Writing from Ephesus, Paul takes no time diving first into the issues received by word of mouth and second into the questions about which they had written him.

The structure of the letter itself is interesting in that it covers a wide array of topics compared to his previous letters. Is the order of the topics important or were they placed in and written about haphazardly? In places, the jump from one topic to the next is abrupt, leaving some to think that the letter was written hastily. Among the views regarding the letter’s structure, some have noted that it looks to be composed of smaller letters or essays that are connected using asides and transitions. When reading this letter, it may prove beneficial to consider the topics within the natural segment of the letter in which it was written. 

Verses 1-3:  The word ‘call’ or ‘called’ is used 3 times in the opening 2 verses. Paul and the saints in Corinth have been called by God, whereas saints everywhere call to God. There is a distinct theme of unity that arises almost immediately. This unity applies to the church in Corinth but has greater implications. The unique situation there regarding the immense economy was a foreshadowing of our modern context. There was not enough land in and around Corinth to produce adequate food for all the people that lived and frequented this location. Sound familiar?

It is for this reason that 1 Corinthians holds a unique position amongst the letters written by Paul. It is by divine foreknowledge that God chose to write this letter to the Corinthians and all believers everywhere, non-temporal, through His servant Paul. In this sense, Paul is a slave to Christ, by the will of God, and is bound to the preaching of the gospel, which is his joy. This is truly the authority given him as an apostle- the authority of the King!

Why is Paul’s apostleship an important aspect of this greeting?

To many outside the church, religious leaders make claims to truth or to moral and ethical absolutes in order to dominate and manipulate others. This is in fact a tenet of critical theory, ala Nietzsche. How can this be refuted on the basis of Paul’s previous actions in Corinth and elsewhere? 

Paul includes Sosthenes in the greeting. Why is this important considering Acts 18:12-17?

Paul makes clear that to those sanctified, they are called to be saints. Believers are called to a lifestyle which reflects their already given status, Joshua 1:11-12. Their lifestyle should reflect the character of God because they call on His name. God’s name reflects His character, position, and reputation.

One of the features that shows up later in 1 Corinthians is the abuse of the Lord’s Supper among the believers. Those of influence exercised power on the basis of ‘wisdom’ or social status and behaved as if they ‘owned’ the church. How does Paul address this in the greeting to set up his further discussion?

Grace and peace are common words in Paul’s greetings, yet they represent profound elements of his and our faith. Grace, understood to refer to the saving acts of God throughout history, is made perfect in Christ. The word ‘grace’ also resembles a common Greek greeting. 

Peace, understood to represent the harmonious relationship with God, is more than a feeling but a state of being for those indwelt by God Himself through the Holy Spirit. Christians are saved by grace through faith and true salvation produces fruit, one of which being peace. The word ‘peace’ also represents a common Jewish greeting.

Verses 4-9:  The thanksgiving, a common part of Paul’s letter, brings encouragement for the areas in which the assembly of believers are living as those sanctified and called to be saints. Let’s compare 1:4 to the thanksgiving of some of Paul’s other letters: Rom 1:8, Phil 1:5, Col 1:4, 1 Thess 1:3. What we may notice is that rather than pointing to any lack in their lifestyle, Paul finds encouragement in the fact that they received grace through Jesus Christ. How hard is it to look past one’s faults to Christ who is in them?

After reading the other thanksgivings, what seems to be lacking in the lifestyle of the Corinthians?

Grace is a great starting point for the Corinthians because it is a gift from God, not earned. The topic of gifts looms large on the horizon. Paul mentions in the next verse what gifts are important to them, but it is also important to notice what Paul doesn’t mention. Speech and knowledge are the areas that the wealthy choose to be employed. Orators were just as highly regarded as philosophers. To many it was more about the performance than the content. Do we still subject ourselves to sacrilegious language and sexually explicit scenes for the sake of entertainment?

Gifts, speech, and knowledge are the very areas that were creating chaos and divisiveness. To counterbalance these, Paul in Chapter 13 talks about faith, hope and love. The absence of love from the greeting and thanksgiving speaks for itself and requires Paul to spend an entire chapter to unpack. What does 1 John 4:7-21 have to say on the issue of love? 

With the understanding that knowledge and speech are sources of pride for the Corinthian believers, Paul places his source of authority firmly in Jesus Christ. This is evidenced by the number of times Paul references Jesus 9 times in the first 9 verses. At first it may seem overly repetitive, but there is a reason.

The grace that was given is in Christ, v4. This free gift is drawn against the future revealing of Jesus where they will be found guiltless. The key to this is in the tension of the word sustained. To be in Christ is to experience this tension whereby God has already redeemed them from bondage, 6:20) and yet they still sin, still die, and still need a savior. They are being transformed into the image of Christ- in whom dwells the fullness of God.

Paul knows that the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them because he spent almost 2 years there teaching them and discerning the Spirit in them. He set forth traditions that he later refers to in his teaching on worship, the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. These traditions sprout forth from the prophets, are watered by Christ, and then become nourishment for the believers- who are God’s field, 3:9. 

The testimony that was confirmed is a communal act. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of their identity in Christ as they live out their faith in community with one another. Central to this identity is the cross of Christ as it calls them and us into a sacrificial love. It is also the means by which God made known His glory by raising Christ from the dead. 

The resurrection of Jesus brings victory for God’s people. However, the temporal war rages on in each one’s heart as to whether they will glorify God or themselves. Waiting for Jesus to be revealed is both active and purposeful. Although, it is Christ in them that brings right action and right thought which is the sustaining power needed to make it to the end. In what ways do you feel the power of God sustaining you through His Son Jesus Christ?

The idea of guiltless brings to mind a courtroom and a judge. Paul is both giving insight into the Day of the Lord and establishing a precedent upon which to discuss the Corinthians behavior. They were taking each other to court so they could use their influence to get over those less fortunate. As the righteous judge God puts all things right. Their justification precedes the verdict but will be made complete on that Day.

Rather than the Corinthians being praised for their faith, it is God who is faithful. Even in the midst of their flaws, Paul reminds them of their participation in Christ’s sonship. How many people have lost their lives over arguments in the church because people decide to take God’s judgment upon themselves?

The Corinthians, with all believers, are called to realize the fellowship into which they have been called by God. How has your fellowship with God and others been made real?

Notes/ Application(s)

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Praises & Prayers

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