During his third missionary journey, Paul was laboring in Ephesus when he learned that problems had arisen in the Corinthian branch. The recently converted members in Corinth resided in a very worldly environment, and some struggled to live correct principles. Paul responded by instructing the Saints in a wide variety of doctrines in order to strengthen their gospel understanding. He reminded these members that they had been “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). As such, they were to eliminate divisions among themselves (see 1 Corinthians 1:10–16) and trust in the preaching of the gospel and the power of the Spirit in order to comprehend the things of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:16). Paul also exhorted them to live a morally clean life (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:9–20), to recognize the importance of marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7; 11:11–12), and to worthily partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; 11:20–34).
Have students imagine that they enter a room and find someone speaking on a telephone. Then ask:
How much of a telephone conversation can you understand when you hear only one person speaking?
Why are you likely to misunderstand the actual meaning of a conversation when you hear only one side?
Explain that it can be difficult to understand some of Paul’s counsel to the members of the Church in Corinth because he was responding to questions and situations that are not completely known to us today. In some parts of the epistle, the concern that prompted Paul’s response is clear, but in other passages the concerns are not as clear. Recognizing this challenge will help students be more prepared to study Paul’s teachings. Consider having a student read aloud from the section “To whom was 1 Corinthians written and why?” under “Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians” in chapter 38 of the student manual.
Ask students to briefly share what they think might happen within a Church congregation if contention existed among the members. (Students should not share details of actual problems.)
What problems had arisen among the Christians in Corinth? (They were dividing into factions based on who had baptized them or taught them the gospel.)
In what ways would jealousies, contentions, and divisions among the Saints make living the gospel difficult?
Explain that 1 Corinthians 4:1–7 and 1 Corinthians 6:1–8 also contain examples of lack of unity among Church members. Then give students time to read 1 Corinthians 3:8–11 and look for what Paul taught about Church unity.
What analogies did Paul use to encourage Church members to resolve their divisions?
What truths found in these verses can help Church members act with greater unity?
Explain that the analogy found in 1 Corinthians 3:9–11 continues in 1 Corinthians 3:16–17. In these verses, Paul described the members of the Church collectively. He taught that the congregations of the Saints functioned as temples where the Spirit of God can dwell. Explain that this analogy is different from the analogy found in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, where the physical body is called “the temple of the Holy Ghost.”
Have students read 1 Corinthians 3:16–17, and ask:
How could comparing a congregation of Church members to a temple motivate the Saints to seek for greater unity?
Consider writing student responses on the board. Encourage students to phrase their responses as gospel principles that include a cause and effect. For example, one possible principle found in these verses is the following: As Church members seek to eliminate contention and division among themselves, they invite the Spirit of the Lord to be among them.
Conclude this section of the lesson by asking the following questions:
When have your efforts to eliminate contention helped you in your family, your friendships, or your work?
What can you do to build greater unity in your ward or branch?
To prepare students to see the relevance and importance of the next group of verses, ask them to name several musical instruments and then several medical instruments. Explain that we would not take the temperature of a sick person using a piano or play a hymn on a thermometer. In the same way, we must use instruments and methods for teaching and understanding spiritual matters that are different from the instruments and methods used for teaching and understanding worldly matters.
Explain that Paul taught the importance of using the Lord’s way to understand spiritual matters. He emphasized that the wisdom of the world is inadequate to explain and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Invite the class to quietly read through 1 Corinthians 1:17–31, looking for phrases showing that the wisdom of the world cannot be used in preaching the gospel.
After giving students time to read, ask them to share the phrases they have found. Then ask:
Why is the wisdom of the world inadequate to explain and teach spiritual truth?
Why might people in Paul’s time have considered the gospel of Jesus Christ to be foolishness? (Students might benefit by reading the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 1:18–29.) Why might some people in our day consider the gospel to be foolishness?
Have a student read 1 Corinthians 2:1–6 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for the ways in which Paul taught the gospel so that others could understand spiritual truth. Ask:
What did Paul do to teach the gospel so that others could understand spiritual truth?
Why is the example of teaching found in these verses an effective way to share the gospel today?
When have you heard someone follow Paul’s example in teaching the gospel?
After the students have shared their answers to these questions, write the following principle on the board: Even though we may feel weak or inadequate, when we teach the gospel with the help of the Holy Ghost, our message is accompanied by spiritual power.
Ask students to silently read 1 Corinthians 2:9–16, looking for how spiritual truths should be learned. You might suggest that students highlight phrases that clarify the process of learning by the Spirit.
After students have had enough time to study those verses, ask:
What did you learn from these verses about how to increase your ability to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ?
After students share their findings, write the following truth on the board: We learn the things of God through His Spirit.
Consider asking the following questions to help the class understand and feel the importance of this truth:
When has the Spirit helped you to gain a greater understanding of a gospel truth?
Considering the doctrine taught in 1 Corinthians 2:9–16, what steps could you take to understand a difficult gospel subject or question? (Consider giving students an opportunity to write their response in a study journal.)
Consider reading the statement by Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy found in the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 2:6–16.
Summarize 1 Corinthians 4–5. You could do this by reading the chapter overviews of 1 Corinthians 4 and 5 found at the beginning of the lesson. Then explain that 1 Corinthians 6 contains Paul’s further teachings about the problem of sexual immorality, which was prevalent in the city of Corinth and even among some Church members. Paul explained the consequences of unrepented sin and taught about the sacredness of the physical body.
Explain that Paul had learned that some of his converts were beginning to return to their former sinful ways.
Have students silently read 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, and then ask:
According to Paul, what is the consequence of persisting in sinful behaviors such as those listed in these verses?
What hope did Paul extend to those who have been involved in serious sin?
Have students scan 1 Corinthians 6:12–18 and identify phrases that illustrate the proper attitude that Saints should have about their physical bodies. Ask a few students to share what they found. (Students might identify ideas such as the following: The body is not for fornication; the body is a member, or part, of Christ; fornication is a sin against the body.)
Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 aloud, and ask:
What did Paul compare our bodies to? How does this comparison help you have greater respect for your physical body?
How can the comparison of your body to a temple increase your desire to choose righteousness?
What does it mean that you “are not your own” and are “bought with a price”? (You might clarify how we have been redeemed or “bought with a price” by having students read 1 Peter 1:18–19.)
How should knowing that we are “bought with a price” affect the way we treat our physical bodies?
Ask students to write a principle that reflects Paul’s teachings from 1 Corinthians 6:19–20. Invite a few students to share their statements or write them on the board. After the students have shared their statements, share this truth: Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost; we should glorify God with our bodies, for we have been bought with the price of the Savior’s Atonement.
Invite students to briefly share how understanding the Atonement of Jesus Christ can increase someone’s desire to be spiritually clean.
Summarize 1 Corinthians 10:1–11 by explaining that in these verses, Paul likened the experiences of ancient Israel to the situation of the Saints in Corinth. The ancient Israelites had experienced a figurative baptism (verses 1–2). They had eaten manna in the wilderness and had drunk water miraculously provided from a rock—both the bread and water representing their reliance on the Savior (verses 3–4). But they had fallen into sinful ways, including lust, idolatry, fornication, and murmuring against God (verses 5–10). Similarly, the Corinthians had been baptized, had partaken of the bread and water of the sacrament, and had then fallen into sinful ways.
Ask a student to read 1 Corinthians 10:12–13 aloud, and ask the other students to follow along, looking for the lesson Paul said the Corinthians should learn from the errors of ancient Israel.
How would you summarize the lesson for the Corinthians in these verses? (All Saints should be careful to ensure that they do not succumb to temptation.)
What truth about dealing with temptation is taught in verse 13? (God will provide means for His followers to escape temptation.)
According to this verse, what is one way we can obtain greater communion with the Savior? (Through the sacrament.)
Explain that in 1 Corinthians 10–11, Paul built upon the imagery of the spiritual food and drink Christ provided to His people (see 1 Corinthians 10:4–5) and taught valuable truths about the ordinance of the sacrament. Ask students to select one of the following passages to read: (1) 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; (2) 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; (3) 1 Corinthians 11:27–29. (Write these verses on the board before class, under the heading “Paul’s Teachings about the Sacrament,” as shown below.) Ask students to find insights in the verses and in the student manual commentary that help them better understand the ordinance of the sacrament.
After students have had time to study, ask for a few volunteers to share their summaries of Paul’s teachings about the ordinance of the sacrament, and then write their findings on the board. Student responses might look like this:
After students share their summaries of Paul’s teachings, make sure they understand this principle: Worthily partaking of the sacrament brings us closer to God and to one another as members of the Church.
If students have questions about what to do when individuals who are not members of the Church attend sacrament meeting, read the following statement by President Russell M. Nelson:
“Because we invite all to come unto Christ, friends and neighbors are always welcome but not expected to take the sacrament. However, it is not forbidden. They choose for themselves. We hope that newcomers among us will always be made to feel wanted and comfortable” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 28).
Based on what you have learned about the sacrament, how could worthily partaking of the sacrament help a Latter-day Saint escape temptation? (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.)
You might conclude by asking students to ponder and write in a study journal what they could do to make partaking of the sacrament next week more meaningful.