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1 Corinthians: The Church the World Needs | Just the Help
October 24, 2021
1 Corinthians 3:5-15
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
One of the primary issues Paul has been addressing in a variety of ways to this point in his letter is how Christians ought to be relating to one another as they seek to expand the mis- sion of the church. Paul had started this church in Corinth, but others had come after him to lead and expand the ministry. Unfortunately, instead of partnership and unity among the leaders of the church, there was competition and division. Paul resumes his theme of unity by redirecting the ambition and hopes of the Corinthian church away from the results of their own labors and toward the promise that God is at work in building his church. While we all have a role to play in the church, ultimately the growth and health of the church rests on God’s work. After all, as Paul says, you are God’s field and God’s building.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
Bless your servants, O God, and favor us with your steadfast love. May your love flow through us like springs of living water, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days of our lives. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 34:1-8
1I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
3Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
1. Looking at the Bible: What does the text say?
- Read each text twice. Each time listen carefully and notice what grabs your attention.
- In your reading and hearing of this passage, does it remind you of any other part of Scripture?
- How does Paul use the image of a field and a building to clarify his main point?
- What or who specifically is God's field and God's building?
- In what ways are these metaphors the same and in what ways are they different?
2. Looking at Jesus: In v.11 Paul is modeling for us what ambition looks like when viewed through the cross of Christ. The foundation of which Paul speaks is the cross. Paul refers to himself as the "master builder" who built a foundation on top of an even greater foundation: Jesus.
- How does Paul view his own gifts and work in light of Jesus, Apollos and others?
- How does seeing himself as a fellow servant reshape his ambition and model it for the Corinthians?
- How did Jesus' own ministry model this for Paul and for us?
3. Looking at our Hearts: The Corinthians wanted desperately to pick a side, or a person for that matter, to place their hopes for the future of the church. Some wanted to follow Paul, others Apollos, some wanted to follow Peter and others would come later who would captivate the hearts and minds of the Christians in Corinth. But Paul wants them not only to redirect their ambition but also their allegiance away from any one person and onto Jesus.
- What was driving the Corinthians to need to back Paul, Apollos, or others?
- How does Paul's opening statement in v.15 recast their understanding of leadership?
- How do our own ambitions oftentimes blind us from the work that God is doing in our lives?
Application question: Ambition and pride are the enemy of community. How do these presiding metaphors that Paul uses help us live together within our church as a family, but also work alongside other Christians and other churches? What are some times, in big or small ways, where this common unity and hope that God is the builder who gives growth has been modeled for you?
4. Looking at our World: What are we to hope for?
- What do you think Paul's hope was for the Corinthians? How might his hope have allowed him to continue on in his ministry even when things were a mess?'
- How did Paul's hope shape his relationships with other leaders, both those he knew and those he didn't?
- Share a story of hope from your own experience where someone planted a seed of the gospel in your life, and someone else watered maybe without even realizing it.
May the God who hears our needs and answers the cries of our hearts be with you today and always, a sure and certain strength, throughout all the ages. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1: Exploring these metaphors of the church as God’s field and God’s building helps resituate the relationship of our own gifts and labors within the church with the work God is doing. Paul sees himself and Apollos as servants, doing the important work of planting and building God’s church, but ultimately God is the one who grows it. Not only does this address our relationship with our labors and God’s work but it also addresses how we relate to one another. Paul and Apollos were both gifted preachers and while the Corinthians wanted to pick their favorite and divide among those groups, Paul reminds them that it’s not about what he and Apollos are doing, but the work God is doing through them. Paul picks up this theme in 1 Corinthians 12:4-13.
Question 2: Paul is redirecting the attention and desire of the Corinthians away from himself, Apollos, and any other leader toward Jesus. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and it was on the cross that he was ‘lifted up’. Paul has kept the cross in front of us in these early chapters of 1 Corinthians and even here as he talks about the foundation that has been laid by Jesus, he is referring to the cross. Seeing Jesus as the cornerstone of the church helps us find our place and our hope within our church family.
Question 3: Paul is modeling for us how we balance our own desires and ambitions to be part of God’s kingdom with the call for humility to take up our cross to follow Jesus. When we look at our hearts we often find ambition and pride driving much of what we do, which then leads to division and broken relationships. The gospel frees us to serve others and find our place in God’s kingdom with hope, joy and rest because God is the builder and he is the one who will make all things grow
Question 4: This passage is filled with hope because Paul wants us to rest on the promise that God is growing his church. He is building us up on the foundation of Christ and because of that, we can enjoy the work set before us. It will at times be difficult and certainly messy, but it’s not about our expertise or perfection but God’s power and promise to bring his kingdom to earth. Take hope even as you lead your group this week. God is at work! Have fun and thanks for leading!