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1 Corinthians 16:1-24 Study Guide: Growing up in Christ

Community Group Study Guide — Growing up in Christ
1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Main idea:
Paul closes out his letter to the Corinthians by giving them a picture of what maturity in Christ looks like. The central verse is “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).” God matures us in Christ so that we are rooted in the gospel and motivated by love in all we do. To illustrate this, Paul gives us a series of actions and examples of Christian maturity to close out the letter. 

Study Information:
Often we can approach the final chapter of a letter in the New Testament and default to thinking of it is a random collection of “good byes” and plans. However that is far from Paul’s intention, surely he is closing out the letter, but he touches on a variety of topics as examples and actions that go back to helping them fight their core sins of pride, division and selfishness. 

All of these actions and examples relate to being a mature follower of Jesus. We get that from Paul’s statement “act like men.” This is not a mens ministry coffee mug verse, though it would be a beautiful thing if every Christian man was marked by 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Our culture can shout “be a man!” so we can easily misread this verse. Rather, Paul is telling them to be mature, which is similar to what he told us 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 and 13:11 where he contrasted being a child and being an adult in the Lord. It is possible for people to be followers of Jesus and yet spiritual children making childish mistakes like creating arbitrary division, walking in pride and not being concerned about how your actions impact others; all of which are issues that Paul addressed throughout this letter. Paul is telling us that there is a pathway towards maturity in Christ and that is grounded in knowing the gospel and living the gospel or as he says it, standing firm in the faith and doing all you do in love.  

The gospel is the story of God’s love for broken sinners; people who are unworthy, who have real sin and cause real harm, who without God intervening will fall short of God’s glory and God’s standard. God’s love is displayed in sending his son. God the son, took on flesh, and loved us to the end taking our place on a Roman cross to take your sin and because he died, Jesus also rose from the dead to break the power of death and to give us a real hope. Paul appeals to the gospel all throughout the letter but also makes it explicit in 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 as he recounted Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and marked it as of “first importance.” Standing firm in the faith means knowing and believing the gospel and areas of theology that are of first importance, stuff that we’d detail out in a statement of faith document. However, it goes beyond just knowing the gospel, maturity is also living out the gospel. Paul desires that we’d no longer be people who live for ourselves and act with graceless indifference but that we’d do everything that we do in love. To help us fight pride, division and selfishness, Paul highlights three things in this final letter: sharing generously, living like a family and being devoted to serving one another. 

Sharing Generously:
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Paul follows up his long discourse on the resurrection and the defeat of death with, “now concerning the collection for the saints…” Why does he turn to giving financially? This is called the Macedonian offering and was a passion for Paul. The Christians in Rome, Corinth and Galatia were asked for their financial support to help the struggling Jerusalem church which was suffering under a famine and persecution from the Jewish community there. Many of those Jerusalem Christians came to faith in Jesus as Messiah and were kicked out of their synagogues, families and jobs because of their faith. Paul directs the Corinthians to participate in the gospel by giving to their brothers and sisters in Christ, whom they would likely never meet in person or know by name. They get an opportunity to fight personal pride by giving in secret to people across the world to them. Paul follows up on this offering in 2 Corinthians explicitly connecting it to the gospel saying, that Jesus though he was rich, became poor for our sakes (2 Corinthians 8:8-9). The instructions he gives the Corinthian church is to be consistent and generous. They are to store up their gift week by week on the first day, presumably when they’d gather for worship and they are to give generously as each one prospered. This meant that those who were able to give more were to give more and those who could not afford to sacrifice should give as they are able. 

Maturity in Christ connects the gospel truth of Jesus’ sacrifice to our finances and that we now have this tool that we can use to partner with God’s work and to bless others. Living the gospel and doing all in love means that we look outward with our resources. 

Living Like a Family
1 Corinthians 16:5-14
Throughout the letter we’ve read Paul challenging their division and disordered worship as a church. You would think that he’d be angry or avoidant of them but instead we read the opposite heart attitude. The remedy in Paul’s mind is to draw near to them as Christ Jesus drew near to us. Verse 5 tells us that he plans on visiting the church in person and we learn that he needs their help and that he hopes to spend a lot of time with them, maybe even the entire winter. Likewise, he is sending them Timothy and has reached out to Apollos and encouraged him to go visit Corinth as well. In regards to Apollos, if you remember back to the beginning of the letter, the Corinthians were dividing into factions around Paul, Apollos and Cephas. This is Paul’s way of cluing the Corinthians into his attitude towards Apollos; they are not divided and are fellow workers! When it comes to Timothy, Paul is directly challenging the Corinthian’s attitude around prestige and having the right credentials. Notice in verse 10-11 that Paul tell them that Timothy is doing the Lord’s work and that they should not despise him. Why would they despise Timothy? We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 and we get to witness a father/son relationship develop between Paul and Timothy; likewise, there are two letters written to Timothy, from Paul, around what it means to be a pastor. It seems really odd to us that someone would despise Timothy, but remember that the Corinthians did not look at the person and what God was doing in that person, they rather wanted powerful speakers, people with the right credentials and influence. Paul had a powerful conversion experience where he saw Jesus, he was an academic elite and had planted numerous churches. Timothy had none of that. Paul is challenging them to move beyond ranking one another and instead to look at how the Lord was at work in that person. We see Paul’s heart here to want to spend time with them and to resource them with people dear to him because the church is a family. Many of the issues and divisions we have with others can be reconciled by spending time with them and sharing life. You will not get along with every person in the church just as you do not get along with all of your family, but shared time and shared experience grows love for one another. There ought to be relationships in every believer’s life that looks strange to the watching world because we are both connected to Jesus and are growing in unity and fellowship. 

Maturity in Christ connects God’s love for those who are different to their own relationships. Living the gospel and doing all in love means spending time together with the church family, giving and receiving help and pursuing unity. 

Being Devoted to Serving One Another
1 Corinthians 16:15-24
Finally, we see Paul lift up one household in the church as an example for them to all follow. We first heard of Stephanas as someone that Paul baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16). The point he makes is that Stephanas was among the first to place faith in Jesus and he is an example now of Christian maturity. Look at the character qualities Paul calls out specifically, this household is known for being devoted to serving the saints and that they were refreshing people to be around (1 Corinthians 16:15, 18). 

Maturity in Christ connects how Christ has served us and in turn seeks to serve others (John 13:12-20). Living the gospel and doing all in love means looking for opportunities to serve and love others rather than seeking people to serve us. 

If you’re not yet a follower of Christ, our hope is that you’d see this type of life that Paul details and the grace of God and put your faith in Christ. Followers of Jesus who are living out the gospel model the beauty of God in a unique and wonderful way. If you’re a new believer or struggling to live out your faith, look for those who are mature in Christ as examples and seek opportunity’s to give, share and serve. If you’re a mature follower of Jesus, keep investing in others and pray that God will help you to know and live out the gospel. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-24

How does standing firm in the faith connect to doing everything in love? What are some reasons Paul frames it as being watchful, mature and strong? Think about how this connects back to some of the unique challenges the Corinthians experienced. 

Paul discusses giving generously, sharing life together and serving one another. How do these examples demonstrate love? What are a few things you learned from this chapter, the study guide and sermon around these actions?

What are some characteristics of being a spiritual child? What are some other marks of a mature Christian faith that Paul did not comment on in 1 Corinthians 16? 

Which area do you feel the Lord growing you? Share a bit about how and why you think this.