1 Corinthians 4:1-21 Study Guide


1 Corinthians 4:1-21

Opening: Last week one of the things we talked about was Christian immaturity. Do you remember what the fix was? Immaturity in the older believer is “fixed” by repentance. Immaturity is often demonstrated by things like “jealousy and quarreling.” It is a sin that needs to be confessed, forgiven and moved beyond. So how’d you do at recognizing and “fixing” areas of immaturity in your own life this week?

Transition:  In this chapter Paul closed his instructions on divisions within the church. He did so by affirming his authority as an apostle. The Corinthians may have had loyalties to other Christian leaders, but they should have listened to Paul with even greater regard because he was their spiritual father.[1]

Objective: Today’s objective is to work through Chapter 4 and see what Paul has to say about being faithful to the Gospel. The goal is to align our thinking, loving, and living with faithfulness to God, which will always lead to putting others’ needs ahead of our own in practical, actionable ways.

Discussion 1: Read verses 1-5.

  • How do these verses rebuke those who took pride in their own knowledge?
  • What was Paul’s view of himself and the other apostles?
  • What do we learn about judging others? In what ways do Paul’s thoughts about others’ judgment differ from those of the Corinthians?
  • How much of what we do is determined by whether we are currently thinking much or little of ourselves?
  • The Corinthians who were passing judgment on Paul were actually “playing God” and assuming for themselves the privileges that only God has. Have you made this mistake?
  • Paul’s conclusion can be summed up as, “I’ll leave the judgment to God…and I’ll pursue faithfulness.” How is Paul’s conclusion freeing?

Discussion 2: Read verses 6-7.

  • What does Paul mean when he says “don’t go beyond what’s written.”
  • What does this passage say to us about boasting?

Discussion 3: Read verses 8-13.

Note: As you read this passage, understand that Paul is using the literary device of “irony” to make his point.

  • What point was Paul making by using irony?
  • Is this passage humbling for you? Please share why.
  • What does it teach/show us about faithfulness today?

Discussion 4: Read verses 14-17.

  • What did Paul mean when he said, “…I became your father.…”?
  • What was the difference between a guardian and a father in this passage?
  • Why does Paul want them to “imitate him?” How does it differ from making a hero out of himself?
  • Paul wants them to imitate him in his imitation of Christ. What did that look like?

Discussion 5: Read verses 18-21.

  • This passage serves as a warning. Paul says the kingdom of God is to be lived, not just discussed. We’re to let our lives show that God’s power is really working in us. How can you faithfully live in the power of God?

Application: Beliefs/Values/Behavior

Our beliefs, values, and behavior can be combined in a single verse:
1 Cor. 4:2 “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

  • Believe you have been given a trust and all that God requires of you is faithfulness
  • Value in your heart of hearts…being found faithful
  • Do today what faithfulness requires you to do.

The goal is to align our thinking, loving, and living with faithfulness to God, which will always lead to putting others’ needs ahead of our own in practical and actionable ways.


[1] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 58). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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