Lesson Seven – Hermeneutical Principles

Hermeneutical Principles


This last lesson of Part III will be a summary of some of the principles of life we found in the first six chapters of I Corinthians.  The nature of the scriptures is that God has embedded the life principles of His kingdom in literature like the Corinthian letters.  This might be referred to as “working theology and ethics” because it has been presented in the context of solving a problem.   In this lesson we will list some of these principles and make a suggestive application to our present day circumstance.


First, we will want to look at Paul’s historical view of the people who inhabited the Roman Empire and their response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There were three groups:

  • The Jews, identified as “Israel of the flesh,” who looked for a physical sign from God (I Cor. 1:22; Rom. 11:7, 23).  They are still looking today; however, they need to develop faith in Jesus Christ because He came in a physical body, died on the cross and spent three days in the grave.  This was the sign of Jonah for physical Israel (Matt. 12:39).
  • The Greeks committed themselves to the “wisdom of men.”  I Cor. 1:21, 22.  They represented the general population.  Nothing has changed “even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many lords.”  I Cor. 8:5.  They have built on the Corinthian problem of rallying around a significant individual in their religious organizations.  There are those who claim the title of “Reverend.”  Reverend refers to God and God only, in the Bible.  Psalms 111:9 (KJV).  Some even claim to set, not in Moses seat, but in God’s temple where they claim to represent Christ for their followers (Matt. 23:2; II Thess. 2:4).  Others, seeking to be more humble, but still desiring a title, preface their names with such words as “pastor” and “preacher.”  Paul, an apostle, became the role model for all Christian leaders, when he said, “I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.”  II Cor. 12:5.  His letters were dedicated to eradicating “the boasting about men” because this was causing disagreements resulting in quarrels that brought about division in the Corinthian church (I Cor. 1:10-12).
    Christians do serve as pastors (feeders) and preachers (evangelists).  It is a function not a title.  The only offices in the church of God, after the demise of the apostles, are elders and deacons.  They may preach to the lost and administrate, feed and serve the flock (I Tim. 3:1-13; 5:17).
  • Some people from Satan’s kingdom accepted the wisdom and grace of God.  Paul preached Jesus Christ in the context of the kingdom of God.  The result was a third group of people who inhabited a realm separate from all the other people in the world.  They are the church of God “in Christ.”

Paul revealed the quality of life of some of the church members before they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor.  6:9-11). This scripture also describes what happened to them via their new birth and transfer into God’s kingdom (II Cor. 5:17-19).  This is how “fallen man” is reconciled to God.  The following are some of the principles embedded in chapters one through six by God’s Holy Spirit for Christians’ application to similar situations:

  1. Mankind cannot know God by his or her own wisdom (I Cor. 1:21).
    a.  Eternal life is the quality of knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ.”  John 17:3.
    b.  This is the life of our spirit that came from God and now resides in our bodies (Heb. 12:9).  It is our “self.”  Physical life (psuche) without knowing God is death.  Christians have passed out of death and into life by the wisdom of God (John 5:24; I Cor. 1:30).  The spirit of man is compatible and consequently, comfortable with knowing God because our spirits came from God and were originally designed in His likeness (I Cor. 8:6; Jas. 3:9).  Our spirits abide in our brains and they are composed of our minds, hearts and consciences.  We have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16; Heb. 1:3).  No other god, or religion, can give life to mankind’s spirit except the living God from whence all people came (Acts 17:24-31).
  2. The church of God is “perfectly united together in mind and thought.”  I Cor. 1:10.  Division is unacceptable to Jesus.  Division is the result of the wisdom of men decisions.  The reasons are as follows:
    a.  The church of God in Christ functions as the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:14-16).
    b.  The power of the kingdom of God is manifested where the will of God is the goal of the will of the members of the church (I Cor. 4:20; 6:9).
    c.  God dwells in each member by His Holy Spirit; therefore, faithful Christians are His temple on earth (I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16).
  3. The foregoing theology is the wisdom of God.  The process of being the church of God is the spiritual growth of the soul of each member.  The subjecting of ourselves to the will and wisdom of God becomes the church’s spiritual goal.  All other goals and processes for the development of a group of people are non-spiritual.  They use “mere men” wisdom (I Cor. 3:1-9).
  4. The teachings of Jesus Christ, His way of life and His sacrifice on the cross is the foundation for God’s church (I Cor. 3:10-15).  The cross is “of first importance” because it is the grace of God to let people in the world escape the power of sin and death through their faith, repentance and obedience to their faith in the gospel.  If their faith is that they will die to their sins with Jesus in water baptism, they will happily obey their faith (Rom. 6:3-10).
  5. The next first most important thing is spiritual growth (I Cor. 2:4, 5; 15:1-5).  The assembled church for a worship service may stimulate spiritual growth but it is not spiritual growth.  It is worship to God.  Spiritual growth is the results of service to the saints and the lost who seek to be saved (I Cor. 16:15).  Growth is the results of extending oneself in the act of love (I Cor. 13:3).  Christians who serve are role models for the church.  “I urge you brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.”  I Cor. 16:16.  Physical muscle growth is the results of stretching the muscles one possesses.  Getting paid to serve God does not count.  The service over and above what a Christian might be supported to do is for their own growth (I Cor. 9:17, 18, 23).
  6. “What is written” in the Bible came from the mind of God; therefore, teachers and preachers:
    a.  “Do not go beyond what is written.”  I Cor. 4:6.
    b.  Do not boast about our own talents in the manner by which we present the word of God (I Cor. 2:2-4; 3:21-23; 4:7).  We practice the “towel and wash basin” type leadership Jesus role modeled (John 13:5).
  7. Jesus Christ and His apostles were the only people who had power over a multitude of churches (I Cor. 4:14-21).  God’s church has no earthly headquarters.  Preachers such as Timothy and Titus attained their power to serve different churches by Paul’s apostleship – not because they preached the gospel (I Cor. 4:17; II Cor. 7:6, 7; 8:16, 17).
  8. Judgment of another person’s conscience and the motives of their hearts belong to Deity.  It does not belong to another member of the church; no, not even the leaders (I Cor. 4:3-5).  However, the members of the church have the responsibility to make judgment about the behavior of members of the church (I Cor. 5:3-5).
  9. There is a distinctive spiritual border drawn by God between the church of God and the world (I Cor. 5:12, 13).  The church is in the world “in Christ” but the “world people” must not be in the church.  Every housewife who bakes knows that “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I Cor. 5:6.  Those who make curd understand the same principle.
  10. The members of the church are identified as saints (holy).  However, it is not because we have become holy in our spiritual growth; albeit, we are moving in that direction (II Cor. 3:18).  We are looked at by God as saints because of His wisdom in grace (I Cor. 1:30; 6:11).  These graces come to us by faith in “our Passover lamb.”  I Cor. 5:7.  They give us peace with God so we can let His will become our will and serve His righteousness (I Cor. 16:13; Eph 2:8-10; Rom 6:16).
  11. The principles we found in our last lesson are the laws of life in God’s new covenant.  We are free from the Law of Moses in order to fulfill it by our spiritual development; therefore, “’Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial.”  I Cor. 6:12.
  12. Sin reigns in death; therefore, Christians have been washed and are sanctified and justified in Christ.  We flee from sins such as sexual immorality.  It would be a sin against our bodies that have been purchased by the blood of Jesus.  Our body is our tool to serve God’s righteousness.

These are some of the principles we can learn, have faith in and put into practice in the church and in our personal lives.  We leave the Corinthians and their specific problems in the first century (exegesis).  We bring the principles to the here and now (hermeneutics) and apply them to the similar situations in which we learned them from our study of the Bible.  Our next series of lessons will be called Part IV.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Explain what is meant by “working theology and ethics,” as this phrase has been used in the   Introduction of this lesson.
  2. Identify the new group of people in the Roman Empire after the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached.
  3. List one aspect in which the Greek or Gentile people have continued to use the “wisdom of man” in the development of their religious organizations.
  4. Why is it hopeless to think a nation, university or any group of people can ever be “Christian” in the way the church members were identified as “Christians?”
  5. List three reasons why the acceptance of division in God’s church is not plausible.
  6. Which was first inaugurated after God’s creation of mankind, the grace of God or the program of God for His people?
  7. How is the worship of God different from a Christian’s spiritual growth program?
  8. What is the first error a Christian teacher or preacher can make that will lead them to boasting of a title?
  9. What type of leadership did Jesus teach and “role model for Christians?”
  10. What gave Timothy and Titus the right to organize and implement programs for the churches?
  11. Give one principle about nature that Paul used to teach the church the need for discipline.
  12. God has always created a border between His people and the mature people that are not His people.  Explain how He created this border in the “last days.”
  13. Although the grace of the cross is never mentioned in connection with the Day of Judgment, how does this grace function for Christians so that we can be prepared for our Judgment?
  14. Even though the law of life is that “everything is permissible,” what determines the boundaries of what is permissible?
  15. Explain how sexual immorality is a sin against the body of the participants.

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