2023 Year Of Living In The Story


Study 1: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Study 1: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

  • How does Paul demonstrate in 1:1-9 that Christ is involved in the Corinthians’ past, present and future?
  • On what basis were the Corinthian Christians creating divisions, and why was this so destructive (1:10-17)?

‘Go to any church where two preachers have worked side by side or in quick succession, and you will find people comparing them. That’s natural, but how easily it can pass into factions and rivalry. It’s a sobering thought that the church faced such division in its very earliest years. People sometimes talk as if first-generation Christianity enjoyed a pure, untroubled honeymoon period, after which things became more difficult; but there’s no evidence for this in the New Testament. Right from the start Paul found himself not only announcing the gospel of Jesus but struggling to hols together in a single family those who had obeyed its summons.’ – NT Wright

  • What issues do churches divide over today, and with what negative results?
  • What is the way forward? How can we be united? What are we to agree on? 
Study 2: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Study 2: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

One of the themes of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is that the message of the cross is madness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is God’s power (1Corinthians 1:18).

  • Why might people in the first century have resisted the truth that a crucified Jewish Messiah is now Lord of the world?
  • Why is this message still a stumbling block to many today?
  • Talk about God’s folly that is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness that is stronger than human strength (1Corinthians 1:25). 
  • Where do you notice God continuing to choose the foolish and weak things of the world to shame the wise? (1Corinthians 1:27-28)
  • In what ways does this abolish the power of the ‘strong’?
  • How does it nullify anyone from boasting in God’s presence or saying, ‘I got here all on my own’
Study 3: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Study 3: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

  • How would you characterise Paul’s approach to the Corinthians in 2:1-5?
  • Think about those people who persuaded you or helped you to first put your faith in Christ. How did they (perhaps unknowingly) follow Paul’s example with the Corinthians?

Many try to penetrate to the deepest mysteries of the world. Paul declares that God’s hidden plan for the world has at last been unveiled in and through Jesus the Messiah.

  • Why did the rulers of Jesus’ time fail to understand who Jesus was (2:6-13)?
  • How would you identify a mature Christian?

Hearing Paul’s letter to this point, the Corinthians were perhaps glad that Paul seemed to have forgotten or left behind the issue he started with in verse 10, fighting among factions in the church. If so they were in for a shock, because the discussion about wisdom and maturity was preparing the way to come back to the point.

  • Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4. Why does strife among Christians reflect spiritual immaturity?
  • If freedom from jealousy and quarrelling (3:3) is a mark of Christian maturity, how would you evaluate your own maturity in Christ?
  • By the same standard, how mature is our church or GC?
Study 4: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Study 4: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

  • How does jealousy and quarreling evidence living in an ‘old way’, over against living as transformed people in whom God’s Spirit has come to dwell? In what way does discovering a new way to be human transform our thinking and behaviour? Share examples from your own life.
  • Talk about Paul’s metaphors for God’s people as his farm, building, and temple (1Corinthians 3:9, 16-17). What are some implications for church planting, evangelism, or teaching and preaching?
  • In 3:12-17 it is possible to build a church wisely and with the right materials. It is also possible to build badly or with the wrong materials. What makes the difference in the 2 of the test by fire? What are examples of this? In what ways might you need to take your leadership role more seriously?
  • Paul teaches, ‘If anyone of you assumes you are wise, let them become foolish so they can become wise’ (1Corinthians 3:18). How might this help us from deceiving ourselves in ministry? What does it mean to learn ‘God’s folly’ at the foot of the cross?
Study 5: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21

Study 5: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21

  • Describe what it means to be servants of the Messiah and household managers of God’s mysteries (4:1)? What is the main qualification? How does this impact your understanding of ministry or mission?
  • Why does Paul say (4:3) that he isn’t concerned with the judgment or criticism he might receive from people?
  • In 4:6-7, Paul warns against pride and getting puffed-up, phusioo—swollen with a sense of self-importance. Why is there no place for pride in Christian ministry? What are the dangers of becoming puffed-up? Talk about the relevance of Paul’s warning for the church today. What are some practical implications for your own life?
  • What does Paul mean when he says that, ‘God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession’ (1Corinthians 4:9). How is this an example of applying his theology of the cross to the ministry of the cross?
  • Offer your reflections on what it means to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’ (4:10). What are some of the practical examples Paul describes for living the ‘Messiah-way’ of life? Share some examples from your own life and ministry.
Study 7: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Study 7: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Read 1 Corinthians 5. This passage raises 2 issues that we’ll be looking at for the next few weeks, mostly involving sex. First where the lines are to be drawn and second, what kind of discipline is appropriate in cases of severe misbehaviour?

  • What was the sex scandal in the Corinthians church and why was it so outrageous (5:1)?
  • How had the church responded to this man? And why does this concern Paul even more (5:2)

Paul uses the phrase ‘the satan’ rarely. It’s a Jewish term for the devil meaning ‘the accuser.’ To put someone out of the community is to expel them from the sphere of the Messiah and send them back into the sphere in which satan holds sway.

  • Why do you think Paul urges the community to take such extreme disciplinary measures?
  • What harm is done to a church body when they tolerate open sin among their members?

In 1Corinthians 5:6 Paul says, ‘Your boasting is not good…a little leaven works its way through the whole lump of dough’. He uses Passover language and encourages them to be a ‘new lump’ as they are ‘unleavened’ (v7).

  • What does leaven metaphorically represent? What are the connections and conclusions Paul is drawing?
  • How on a human level, is sexual permissiveness often destructive to people and relationships?

Read Matthew 5:15-20.

  • How do these 2 passages (1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18:15-20) give us an approach to church discipline?
  • What changes of behaviour have you had to make because you belong to Christ? Have you experienced or applied church discipline? What was it like? What was outcome?
Study 8: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Study 8: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

  • What is Paul’s reasoning for forbidding Christians to take each other to court (6:1-8)?

Note: In the ancient world lawsuits within the family were rare because one’s family was understood as natural allies that were bound together.

From time to time in our own day it happens that church people, sometimes those in leadership, are taken to court by one another. It gets into the news media and the gossips have a field day at the church’s expense. A public dispute between Christians is a sign that Christians are really no different from everybody else. And 1 Corinthians is all about the fact that Christians are different from everybody else, and if they’re not, they might as well not bother calling themselves Christians in the first place. 

  • Where in church – even in our church – are we behaving in such a way that we are shaming the gospel in the eyes of the world?
  • What does it look like to be part of God’s kingdom people (6:9-11)?

Many in today’s world have drunk so deeply from the ‘anything goes’ culture that they find the mere suggestion of moral restrictions on sexual behaviour (such as mentioned in 6:9-11) surprising and even offensive. Paul is not suggesting that sexual error is worse than any other kind. Nor is he saying that God has an arbitrary list of rules and if you break them you won’t get in. Rather, he’s saying that if we believe in God’s kingdom, and buy into that vision (in other words, if we are truly people of faith), we will repent of behaviour that is contrary to God’s kingdom.

  • How, even on a human level, is sexual permissiveness destructive to people and relationships?
  • ‘This list (v9-10) shows us some of the boundary issues where church discipline will come into play.’ Comment on this idea. How does this help us when speaking to our friends?
  • What do you make of the idea that we are not to judge those outside the church on these things.

Read v11 again. How does the understanding in this verse help us to leave these listed practices behind?

Study 9: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Study 9: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul seems to be quoting a well-known slogan on permissibility: ‘All things are lawful for me.’ Paul then counters with his own statement that ‘not all things are helpful.’ The point is that the gospel does not give free permission to live in sin. Paul then gives a theologically rich vision of the body.

  • How does he describe the human body in terms of Jesus? The Spirit? The temple? (look at all of v12-20)
  • The resurrection also factors into Paul’s teaching. How?

In v16, Paul challenges the idea of sex with a prostitute (and by extension, all sexual immorality)

  • Explain his argument.

In v18, Paul teaches that—contrary to much popular teaching today—sexual sin is not just like any other sins.

  • How is it that sexual sin is ‘against’ the body while other sins are ‘outside’ the body?
  • Paul says, ‘Flee from sexual immorality.’ What form should this running away take?

RC Sproul says in his book, The Intimate Marriage –
The marriage state is an image of my relationship to God in a profound way. Both my relationship to God and my relationship to my wife involve a covenant structure in which mutual parties are bound to each other by commitment, sealed with oaths, both involve knowing intimacy, both create a place where I can be naked and unashamed. In marriage, I enter the most intimate of all human relationships. It involves risk. But if it’s to work, I must be naked. And if I expose myself utterly and discover that my wife is seeing all that I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically and understands who I am and still loves me, then I experience at the human level something of the most deep and profound love of all. God has seen all of me. In Christ he accepts me and gives himself to me.

  • How does this help us flee sexual immorality?
Study 10: 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

Study 10: 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

While some in the Corinthian church were all for casting off moral restraint altogether (1 Corinthians 6:12), others were all for moral severity. In line with some of the well-known philosophies of the time, they were urging people either to celibacy or to abstain from sexual relations within marriage as a way to new depths of personal holiness and spiritual maturity.

  • What is Paul’s response to this idea?
  • What are your reflections on the ‘mutuality of ownership’ between husband and wife according to 1Corinthians 7:1-6.
  • What could this mean practically?
  • How could this advice be misused?

Paul is clear that being celibate is a perfectly good state, providing we’re in control of our sexual impulses. Unlike many in our world, he doesn’t think life without active sexual relations is inferior or deficient. He doesn’t disagree with celibacy itself; he disagrees with the use to which he knows its being put in Corinth. To be married but to abstain from sexual relations is to ask for trouble.

In verses 8-16, Paul divides his comments into three areas: a message for people who have been married but now aren’t (v8-9), a message from married people (v10-11), and a message for people in a tricky situation of being married to someone who is not a Christian (v12-16).

  • What should determine an unmarried Christian’s choice about whether to marry (v8-9)?

In verses 8-9, it’s likely that Paul is referring to widows and widowers rather than to those who have never been married since he gives advice later in the chapter to those who have not been married (v25-38). He’s walking a tight rope here between the social pressures towards remarriage on the one hand and the pressures from some ‘spiritual’ teachers toward permanent celibacy on the other. He wants the Corinthians to be free from the pressure to get married again; there’s a lot to be said for being able to choose to remarry or not, without outside forces influencing their choice. This was quite a socially subversive, even shocking suggestion in Paul’s world, but equally he wants them to be comfortable and not ashamed in the face of those advocating abstinence, to admit to themselves that their sexual desires are still powerful and will be a nuisance and a temptation if they do not marry.

  • In verse 10, Paul refers to a specific command of Jesus himself, presumably the one we find in Mark 10:9 and similar passages. What sorts of behaviour by husbands and wives will help prevent the desire for divorce?

In the early church it must have often happened that one marriage partner would hear and believe the gospel while the other did not. While here permitting divorce if an unbelieving spouse wants to separate (v15), Paul will urge in verse 39 and in 2 Corinthians 6:14, that Christians should marry only other Christians.

  • What would be the potential value of a believer choosing to remain with an unbelieving spouse (v12-16)?
Study 12: 1 Corinthians 8-9

Study 12: 1 Corinthians 8-9 – Giving up Rights for the Gospel (covering 3 sermons, you could possibly use over 2 weeks)

  1. Why might the church in Corinth have been tempted to divide over the issue of meat sacrificed to idols? How does Paul’s theology of ‘creational monotheism’ outlined in 1 Corinthians 8:6 speak to this specific issue?
  2. The underlying issue regarding meat sacrificed to idols pertained to different understandings of what it meant to maintain loyalty to God within a pagan society. What are some examples of this in your own contemporary context? How does the Apostle Paul’s teaching relate to these concerns?
  3. Talk about the idea that we all ought to be prepared to give up our rights for the sake of the Gospel. How might an exercising our freedom in Christ causing others to stumble? Offer practical examples.
  4. Why can it be so easy to stand on our rights even at the expense of others? In 1 Corinthians 9:12, Paul says that he does not assert his rights, but instead puts up with everything so as to place no obstacle in the way of the Gospel. What rights did he relinquish? In what specific areas might you choose not to make use of your ‘rights’?
  5. Paul’s desire to meet others where they were at—or to locate common ground—might have been interpreted by some as being theologically inconsistent. Reflect on his teaching, ‘I am indeed free from everyone, but I have enslaved myself to everyone so that I can win all the more (1 Corinthians 9:19). How does this relate to meeting the needs of his mission?
  6. How is the realism of missionary work reflected in Paul’s statement, ‘I have become all things to all people, so that in all ways I might save some (1Cointhians 9:22). In the list of various people Paul describes, why doesn’t he say, ‘To the strong I became strong to win the strong’?
  7. What is the role of self-discipline in ‘becoming all things to all people’? Why is deep authenticity required to maintain this delicate balance? In what ways does the metaphor of training for an athletic competition relate to meeting the demands of the Gospel in your specific context?
Study 13: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1

Study 13: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1 – Do everything to God’s glory

1. In 1Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul teaches new converts in Corinth to think of themselves as part of the great story of Israel. What struck you most from this section? What ‘things’ happened to Israel as a pattern for our instruction? (1Corinthians 10:11) How is this relevant to your contemporary context?

2. In Paul’s theology, the promised land for the church is not heaven, the promised land is the new creation (see 1 Corinthians 15). What are the implications? How might this impact what we commonly think of as ‘sharing the Gospel’?

3. Talk about the ‘way of escape’ in 1Corinthians 10:13 understood primarily as being rescued from a particular pattern of life, over against a way out for every particular occasion of temptation. Offer your reflections on the idea those who ‘stand upright’ know how close they have come to falling and tipping over the edge.

4. How does Paul come full circle in 1Corinthians 10:14-11:1 to address the concern about food sacrificed to idols? What does it mean that this issue is a ‘question of venue and not menu’? Where do you see this pattern of concern in your contemporary context?

5. In 1Corinthians 10:23-33, how does Paul sum up the whole of his argument he has been making regarding the issues and concerns within the Corinthian church? How does he outline what it means to imitate the pattern of true Israel, and live as ‘temple people’?

6. Describe what it might look like to copy Paul’s example in the way that he copies Christ? Reflect on the idea that Paul’s aim was not only to tell people about Jesus, but to model a way of life which they otherwise might not have believed was possible. What does this teach us about living wisely in a contested environment today?

7. What does it mean to do all things to God’s glory (1Corinthians 10:31) How might this relate to giving up our rights to please others so that some might be saved? In what way is this an aspect of copying the Messiah?

Bonus Question: Summarize what you have learned from 1Corinthians 1-10. What new insights have you gained? Where might you concentrate further areas of study? Name one thing you might share with someone else.

Preaching Program

Jan 8 – The Temple in the Story (Overview)
Jan 15 – Vulnerable Mission – Mark 6:7-13 

Jan 22 – Genesis 1-11 – The Human ProjectJan 29 – Genesis 12-15 – Childless Nomads: Abram and Sarai
Feb 5 – Genesis 16 – Family Problems: Isaac and Ismael
Feb 12 – Vision Sunday
Feb 19 – Genesis 27:18-29 – Sibling Rivalry: Jacob and Esau
Feb 26 – Genesis 35:1-5, 9-15 – Jacob’s Ladder
Mar 5 – Genesis 40:1-15 – Joseph’s Dreams 
Mar 12 – Genesis 44:18-34, 50:15-26 – Joseph’s Tears and Forgiveness
Mar 19 – Camp
Mar 26 – Colossians 1:15-20 – From Creation to New Creation
April 2 – Luke 19:40 – The stones cry out 
April 7 – Good Friday – Matthew 27:51 – The earth shook, the rocks split
April 9 – Easter – Matthew 28:2 – The stone rolled away
April 16 – Rhythms 2

April 23 – Isaiah 40:1-11 – The God of all comfort – Dave
April 30 – Isaiah 40:12-31 – The Incomparable God reigns – Dave
May 7 – Isaiah 41-42 – God’s chosen servant brings justice – Dave
May 14 – Isaiah 43-44 – God’s deliverer brings a new exodus – Dave
May 21 – Isaiah 45-47 – God as sovereign brings ultimate victory – Tim
May 28 – Isaiah 48-49 – God’s servant will bring salvation to all the earth – Dave
June 4 – Isaiah 50:1-52:6 – God’s servant is the perfect disciple – Dave
(Soma School – June 8-12)
June 11 – Ben Connelly
June 18 – Isaiah 52:7-12 – God’s servant will bring the good news – Chris
June 25 – Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The death of the servant – Dave
July 2 – Rhythms 3 – Toby
July 9 – Isaiah 54 – The renewal of the covenant – Stuart
July 16 – Isaiah 55 – The radical invitation – Toby
July 23 – Songs and reflections on Isaiah series


Maintaining the unity of God’s new family
July 30 – 1 Cor 1:1-17 – Unity in God’s new family – Dave

Learning the Folly of God’s Strange wisdom
Aug 6 – 1 Cor 1:18-31 – God’s folly – Dave
Aug 13 – 1 Cor 2:1-16 – The powerful message of the cross – Dave
Aug 20 – 1 Cor 3:1-23 – God’s farm, God’s building – Dave
Aug 27 – 1 Cor 4:1-21 – Countercultural Leadership – Dave

Sexual ethics
Sept 3 – Rhythms 4 – Toby
Sept 10 – 1 Cor 5:1-13 – Scandal & judgment – Dave
Sept 17 – 1 Cor 6:1-11 – Lawsuits & sexual Ethics – Dave
Sept 24 – 1 Cor 6:12-20 – What is the body for? – Dave
Oct 1 – 1 Cor 7:1-16 – Sex within marriage – Dave

Oct 8 – Rhythms 5 – Toby
Oct 15 (Dave in Melbourne) – 1 Cor 7:17-40 – Singleness, divorce and remarriage – Tim Foskett
Oct 22 – Chris Synesael from Canada

Giving up rights for the gospel –
Oct 29 – 1 Cor 8:1-13 – Respecting weak consciences – Tim Small
Nov 5 – 1 Cor 9:1-18 – Giving up rights for the gospel – Dave
Nov 12 – 1 Cor 9:19-27 – All things to all men – Chris McEwan
Nov 19 – Julie-Anne Laird from City To City
Nov 26 – 1 Cor 10:1-11:1 – Do everything to God’s glory – Dave

Dec 3 – Rhythms 6 – Toby