First Corinthians 1:1-9
To The Sanctified
To The Church Of God At Corinth
1. Effective today we are reading from The Epistle To The Corinthian Disciples. In the epistle there is a sender and a destination, but it is Paul as the sender which is written first. He is both an apostle and a missionary. In the self introduction of "Paul who was chosen according to the will of God and became an apostle of Christ Jesus" we find the assertion that the right of apostleship was given to him by God.
2. The interesting thing is what comes after that. The words of "from Sosthenes, our brother" are added. Actually, the name "Sosthenes" doesn't appear in the epistle after this. Not a word of Sosthenes' own is even found in it. Through out the whole book the first person plural of "we" is not even written. Instead, there are a lot of sentences, like verse four, with "I" written in them. When we look at the whole book, this is Paul's letter after all. By doing that, wasn't it a discourtesy to Sosthenes?
3. Still, having Sosthenes' name in it does have great significance. Sosthenes is called a brother. Other people are with him who can call him brother. [That would be] the church who is there with him. The name of Sosthenes shows that this epistle was sent from the church, a place where the brethren are together in such a manner.
4. Also, it was sent to a church. "To the church of God in Corinth," (verse two). Thus, later in verse ten, they will be addressed as "o brothers." It is from one church to another. It is from one group of brothers to another. That is the nature of this epistle.
5. The nature of the letter is related to understanding its contents. The letter is specially marked by its treatment of many different specific issues. Besides the issues of fighting within the church and church order, it goes on to even marriage, the home or sexual issues. In a certain sense, it takes up very individual and personal concerns. How should we hear the messages that were spoken for such [individualized] problems? We should not hear these messages simply as if the personal opinions of Paul had been spoken. Because what was spoken here are at the same time the words of the church, even though they were spoken as the words of Paul. Sosthenes, too, was there in them.
6. Furthermore, we shouldn't think that the various different problems taken up in this book are problems of just individual mentalities and moralities. Because the message given in this book was one that was addressed to the church. We more than likely tend to take the problems of the home, of sexuality, and of marriage as personal issues. But, these are issues that have to do with the Church.
7. Any way, for the believers at Corinth, and even for us who are here in this place, as we read this epistle, as we think about the different specific problems that we see in it, the main thing is that we read it keeping firmly in mind the thing called "church." From here on we will be studying how to conscientiously live in this way.
8. Therefore, Paul didn't just write "to the church of God, which is at Corinth," but states further what kind of church they are. We want to remember two things in particular.
9. First, they are called, "persons who have become holy ones in Christ Jesus, persons who have been called and made into saints." In saying a saint he is not saying that a person is what you might call a holy man [or of guru status]. In saying "persons who have become holy ones in Christ Jesus" it means "those who have been made God's." He is not stating their natural quality, but stating to whom they belong. It is important to tell first to whom they belong.
10. In regard to being made God's, we need to accurately apprehend what Paul was intending to say. It's not that individual persons only had the mentality of "I belong to God." Paul was a Jew. In cases where Paul the Jew said "those who have been made holy," what he had in mind was first of all the people of God, that is, the Israelites.
11. The Lord once said the following to Moses at Mt. Sinai, "Speak this way to the house of Jacob and tell the people of Israel. You have seen what I have done to the Egyptians and that I brought you to me making you ride upon eagle wings. Now, if you follow my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my treasure among all my peoples. All the world is mine. You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy people," (Exodus 19:3-6). The word "holy" appears here in this passage. The world originally was God's. In order to show forth his ownership as a treasure, God first separated one people unto himself. Under the plan of God for the world, one people was made God's own. That is how we are to define the word "holy."
12. Now, Paul is using this same word for the Corinthians. "Persons who have become holy ones in Christ Jesus, persons who have been called and made into saints." They were originally Gentiles who lived in the Greek harbor town of Corinth. But, they as Gentiles were included into the people of God. The Gentiles, who were redeemed by Christ, became God's and were added to the people of God redeemed by the blood of the same Christ. Therefore, they were called "the church of God at Corinth." It is the same for the church of God which is not at Corinth, but in Japan. We, who have by nature been Gentiles, are added into the people of God.
13. And secondly, it meant that they were made into people who would gather together and call upon the name of the Lord. It says in the text, "That is, with those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ wherever they might be." This also does not vaguely mean some individual persons out there calling upon the Lord. It is believed there was for Paul one clear image in his mind. It was the image of a Jewish society which even though it had lost its kingdom and was scattered into all different places it had formed communities all over the place and they gathered in various places and worshipped. They weren't separated every where. They gathered together. They were assembled. Thus, now there were persons every where gathering together, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and worshipping. In the same way as these people were doing, the people of Corinth also became a people who gathered together, worshipped the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. That's the church.
14. The faith life takes on a specific form visible to the eye. The text literally calls them, "the church of God, 'which is in Corinth.'" Being added into the people of God wasn't a conceptual thing. Neither was it an emotional thing. Neither did it mean to be individually connected into Christ in the heart. We are to live connected to a community which calls upon the name of the Lord in worship together. It means we are to be made "persons who have been called and made into saints." It means that we are Christians.
God Is Faithful
15. Paul offers thanks to God for them in such a light. It is easy to say "I thank God" in a vague way not looking at the actual situation. With the real situation before one's eyes and still saying thanks to God is often very hard to do. In that sense, Paul seemed to be doing a very tough thing. In the Corinthian church that actually existed in the world there were many actual problems as we find them in this epistle. And Paul's relationship with them was not what you could call always great either. With this church in his mind, Paul still says "I always give thanks to God for it."
16. The reason Paul could offer thanks like he did was not because he turned his eyes from the real world visible to him, but because he turned his eyes on the grace of God at work and alive right there in the real world visible to him. Because he knew the God who had sent his son into this world and who was crucified right in this world and the God who sent his Holy Spirit into this world, and who formed the church in this world, and who is completely concerned for this world. And also he was looking at the grace of God, how that it truly made the Corinthians prosper. They were made rich on all points by whatever way you say it or see it. As we see later, this means that they have received many gifts of the Spirit. They were rich.
17. Of course, abundance does not necessarily result in happiness. In truth, the many problems and much of the confusion at the church of Corinth originated not from their poverty, but rather was something that originated from their wealth. Their wealth also caused the problem of highmindedness. Later it will say this in this epistle, "Who is the one who made you excel more than the others? Where are the things that you have, which are things that you did not receive [from above]? If you received them so, why are you so highminded making a face like you hadn't received them? You are already satisfied, you have already become so rich, setting us aside, you have become so selfishly enlarged ...," (4:7-8). Surely those who had been given abundance would be held accountable for their responsibility as to what they have received. There are a number of times when wealth produces misfortune. But, their wealth in and of itself was not bad. It was through and through the grace of God. It came from God. Therefore, Paul first looked at the grace of God and rejoiced. He gave thanks.
18. And so if God has begun something by his grace, he will see it through. Right now we might look like we're on our way, but he will surely finish it. That was Paul's conviction. Paul says that Christ would firmly support them to the very end and make them blameless on the day Jesus returns. He isn't speaking abstract theory. He is speaking with the Corinthian church on his mind, a church with loads of problems that really existed in this world. Why could he speak like he did? He says this, "God is faithful."
19. It all has to do with this one thing. The source of our true hope is but one thing. It is God's faithfulness to us. The source of our courage to wrestle against our very real problems in this world and not run from them is but one thing. It is God's faithfulness. Because of God's faithfulness to us, we don't turn the faith life into something conceptual but can call ourselves the church and can go on living as the people of God in the world now in a real and specific way.