1 Corinthians - Lesson 1

By Stafford North


Background Information for the Teacher


1. The student can explain the preeminence, the product, and the permanence of love as Paul presents these concepts in 1 Corinthians 13.

2. The student can show from verses in 1 Corinthians 16 that Paul makes “love” the key concept in the book of 1 Corinthians.


  1. Each student should have a Bible.
  2. Each student should have a copy of the Worksheet and a pen/pencil.

  3. Have ready a chalkboard or marker board on which to write key words and points.

  4. Have verses to be read written on slips of paper ready to hand out before class to those who will read when the verse is needed.


In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul presents love by telling of its preeminence, its product, and its permanence. In this way he contrasts love with spiritual gifts. In fact, Paul makes the love he describes in 1 Corinthians 13 to be the central theme of the entire book. Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 10 minutes)

  1. Call the roll or start a new one. It is important for students to know that you are interested in their attendance. Welcome all visitors by name.
  2. Make necessary announcements.
  3. Sing songs if you wish and have a prayer. Good song choices for the lesson would be “Love One Another,” “Give Me the Heart of a Servant,” “Take My Life.”
  4. Share with the students the topic for this quarter. Tell them that the text we will study is 1 Corinthians and that, in particular, the studies will be on practical lessons which Paul gives the Corinthian church which can help us both as individuals and as a congregation.
  5. Also share with the class the learning strategy-class time with questions and answers, completing the worksheet, studying the worksheet after class, reading scriptures for next week, taking the Review Quiz at the first of the next class period. This plan will enhance their learning about 1 Corinthians.
  6. Ask the students the following questions as a way to begin. Q: What do you know about the city of Corinth? A: It was located near the narrow point where the Peloponnesus connects with the main body of Greece. This location meant that many sailors came there as their ships were being transported over land between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. As is usually the case with such cities, the culture of Corinth was immoral. It was known especially for its worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The temple of Aphrodite is said, at one time, to have had a thousand prostitutes for the practice of immorality. Idolatry and fornication, then, are common practices of the Corinthians. The city was large with about 250,000 free persons and 400,000 slaves. Paul had established the church at Corinth on his second missionary tour and now, from Ephesus, on his third tour, he writes this first epistle to the Corinthians dealing with some of their problems he has learned about and with some issues they have asked him about.

Learning Experiences: (about 20 minutes)

  1. Q: What chapter in 1 Corinthians is the best known? A: Chapter 13. Q: And what is the theme of this chapter? A: Love. Read 1 Cor. 12:31b. Q: What does this sentence suggest about what will follow in chapter 13? A: That Paul is going to show them something better than the spiritual gifts he has discussed in chapter
  2. Q: How, then, might we state the thesis of chapter 13? A: Love is greater than spiritual gifts. It is better to love than to do miracles.
  3. Chapter 13 may be divided into three parts-verses 1-3, 4-7, and 8-13. Let’s look at each of these sections. Read verses 1-3. Q: What things does Paul say are of little value unless accompanied by love? A: Tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, generosity, and martyrdom. Q: Based on the theme for the chapter, how might we state Paul’s point in these verses? A: Love is more important than spiritual gifts or “The Preeminence of Love.” (Write this on the board.)
  4. Read verses 4-7. Q: How would you summarize Paul’s message in these verses? A: He tells how love acts and does not act. Q: How do these statements compare with what possessing spiritual gifts had done for the Corinthians? A: They had let the possessing of spiritual gifts to do the opposite-they became jealous, arrogant, rude, selfish, impatient, and divisive. Q: Summarize the purpose Paul has for these verses. A: To tell them that love does more to help one to become like Christ than spiritual gifts do. This section might be called “The Product of Love,” because it tells how people who love will treat each other. (Write this on the board.)
  5. Read verses 8-13. Q: In what way does Paul here suggest that love is superior to spiritual gifts? A: Love will outlast them. In fact love will outlast not only the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, and (supernatural) knowledge, but it will also outlast faith and hope. It is in this sense of duration that love is greater than faith and hope. Q: What does Paul say will bring an end to the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge? A: The coming of the “perfect.” The word translated “perfect” or “perfection” is a word that means “completion” or “finished.” What Paul says here, then, is that the gifts of supernatural knowledge and prophecy are “partial,” that is, they are making “parts” which will eventually constitute the “whole” or the “completed” or the “perfect.” These gifts were means of revelation and thus were providing the Corinthians with parts of what would ultimately be the completed revelation. Paul goes on to say that before the completed revelation, the church was in the childhood stage but after all the revelation was given, the church would be in maturity. While the revelation is still being given, one sees only a poor reflection of spiritual truth but after revelation is complete, one can see very clearly, as if in a mirror face to face-a perfect reflection. While the revelation is still being completed, one knows only certain parts, but when revelation is complete, then one knows all God wants him to know. Paul’s point here, then, is that since love will last even into eternity, it is permanent, while spiritual gifts are only temporary-“ceasing” or “passing away.” “The Permanence of Love.” (Write this on the board.)
  6. Q: What, then, are Paul’s three main points of contrast between love and spiritual gifts? A: (1) Love is preeminent, while spiritual gifts are of lesser value; (2) love provides a better product in Christian living than spiritual gifts, which have contributed to jealousy and pride; and (3) love is permanent, while spiritual gifts were intended only as temporary until the revelation to which they contributed is complete.
  7. Read 1 Corinthians 16:14, 22, and 24. Q: Why does Paul speak often and highly of love in the closing chapter of this letter? A: Because he wants the Corinthians to see how love can help with the problems they need to solve. As our study moves along, we will see how love is an essential in becoming all Paul wants the Corinthians to be.

Application: (about 15 minutes)

  1. Q: What is the special meaning of the Greek word “agape,” from which we get the word “love,” in this chapter? A: To treat others with kindness, respect, and unselfishness regardless of how they treat you. It does not referring to romantic attraction or even to the “affection” between friends. It speaks of how we treat others, even our enemies.
  2. Q: When a husband speaks unkindly to his wife, how does love respond? A: With kindness so as to defuse the situation (turning the other cheek).
  3. Q: When one person is chosen as an elder and his friend is not, what will love cause the friend to do? A: He will congratulate the other and continue willingly with work in the church and continue with the friendship.
  4. Q: When someone at work spreads unfounded rumors about a person, how does love respond? A: By going humbly to the person to clarify the situation and not by seeking to “get even.”
  5. Q: When someone criticizes a preacher about the content of one of his sermons, what does love do? A: It seeks to learn as much as possible from the criticism, even if it is unfounded, and thanks the person for the comment.
  6. Q: When an umpire calls a child out when he really was safe, how does love respond? A: Love does not show anger or malice and does not speak in such terms. It will, rather, accept even the mistake with grace.
  7. Q: When a driver passes and recklessly cuts in front of your car causing you to have to slow down, how does love respond? A: (But I don’t know the person or the person needs a lesson so he won’t treat someone else this way-sorry.) Love slows down and tries to think of good reasons why the person may be in a hurry.
  8. (Teacher: The point here is to help the class see specifically how “love acts” in everyday situations. Use as many of these situations as you have time for, even making up some of your own.)


  1. Read for next week, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; 3:1-2 and 12:13.
  2. Use your worksheet from today to prepare for a quick quiz at the first of the next lesson to lock in what we have studied today.

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