Greetings to the Corinthian Church

Yo, what up, Corinth?” What if Paul had writ­ten such a brief let­ter to the Corinthi­an church? At least one thing is for cer­tain: We would view Corinth much dif­fer­ent­ly than we do. The actu­al First Epis­tle to the Corinthi­ans paints a very inter­est­ing pic­ture of the Corinthi­an believers.

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What sort of pic­ture does Paul paint? I won’t reveal the whole paint­ing just yet — if you’re dying of curios­i­ty, read 1 Corinthi­ans — but our first look at the Corinthi­an church comes from Paul’s intro­duc­to­ry text, his greet­ing to his brethren in Corinth. 

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apos­tle of Christ Jesus, and our broth­er Sos­thenes, 2To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanc­ti­fied in Christ Jesus, called to be saints togeth­er with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The First Epis­tle of Paul the Apos­tle to the Corinthi­ans 1:1–3

Verse 1 — From Whom?

Of Sos­thenes we do not know much, except that he may be the same Sos­thenes record­ed as being the ruler of the Corinthi­an syn­a­gogue dur­ing Paul’s first vis­it to Corinth. ((Acts 18:1–17)) Who­ev­er this man was, he was a broth­er to both Paul and the Corinthi­an believ­ers. It may be rea­son­able to assume that the Corinthi­an believ­ers were per­haps more famil­iar with Sos­thenes than they were with Paul, and so in includ­ing Sos­thenes as he did, Paul’s epis­tle may have ben­e­fit­ed from what­ev­er sway and rep­u­ta­tion Sos­thenes had among the Corinthians.

Of Paul, we are told pre­cise­ly who he is: an apos­tle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

That’s a lofty title, for an apos­tle was a direct rep­re­sen­ta­tive and mes­sen­ger of Jesus Christ. They gov­erned the church on Christ’s behalf, act­ing in a sense as a viceroy of the King.

When we read 1 Corinthi­ans or any oth­er of Paul’s writ­ings, we must­n’t allow our­selves to treat the words as being of Paul only. On the con­trary, we must treat the text as though we are receiv­ing word from Jesus Christ, the apos­tle Paul act­ing as a mid­dle­man to deliv­er the mes­sage exact­ly as Jesus intends.

We must also take note that Paul’s apos­tle­ship is not one of his own will but instead is of God. Paul there­fore asserts that God is not a bystander in the affairs of man, but is active, enact­ing His sov­er­eign will upon mor­tal man so that all His good plea­sure is per­formed. ((Philip­pi­ans 2:13))

Verse 2 — To Whom?

It’s cer­tain­ly easy to say that this is Paul’s epis­tle to the Corinthi­ans; that would be incor­rect, how­ev­er. Corinth, like mod­ern cities, was inhab­it­ed by a diverse lot of peo­ple — the pop­u­la­tion of Chris­t­ian believ­ers was but one part of the whole.

It is to that select group that Paul is writ­ing, “to the church of God that is in Corinth.” We com­mon­ly think of church­es as indi­vid­ual build­ings or small bod­ies of believ­ers which meet in indi­vid­ual build­ings, but the church is more broad than that.

The “church of God that is in Corinth” refers to all the gath­er­ings of believ­ers which may be with­in Corinth.

In oth­er words, Paul is writ­ing to the Chris­tians of Corinth, and this he spec­i­fies as he con­tin­ues: “to those sanc­ti­fied in Christ Jesus.”

Who com­prise the church? The church is com­prised of those who are sanc­ti­fied in Christ Jesus.

Sanc­ti­fied. What on Earth does that even mean? In short, to be made sanc­ti­fied is to be made holy, pure, right­eous, and sin­less. This is the very real state that believ­ers in Christ Jesus find them­selves in, ((1 Corinthi­ans 6:11)), yet we often fall short of liv­ing out that real­i­ty in our worka­day lives.

The Corinthi­an believ­ers failed to live up to the sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion which they had already received, and so Christ through Paul sends them words of admon­ish­ment or “build­ing up” that they may live in a way which reflects their new state before God.

Their foibles, fal­ters, and fail­ures are ours, are mine. We as believ­ers today get tripped up just as did our First Cen­tu­ry brethren, and the pas­toral care and instruc­tion giv­en by Paul is ours to heed.

It is on that point Paul con­cludes the greet­ing by empha­siz­ing the Corinthi­an believ­ers’ con­nect­ed­ness with believ­ers every­where: “called to be saints togeth­er with all those who in every place togeth­er with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

Hav­ing been sanc­ti­fied, the Corinthi­ans were called to be saints (lit­er­al­ly, “holy ones”), but not the Corinthi­ans only — all those who call upon Jesus’ name.

Do you call your­self a Chris­t­ian? You are called to be a saint. No believ­er is called to be any­thing less than that. In that, we are one with the Corinthi­an believ­ers. Their vic­to­ries are our vic­to­ries, their fail­ures are our failures.

Their Lord is our Lord, for there is only one, ((Eph­esians 4:5)) and He is the same yes­ter­day, today, and for­ev­er. ((Hebrews 13:8))

Verse 3 — A Benediction

It would be insult­ing to call Paul a softy or a pushover — he once was assault­ed by a rather large crowd, was dragged out of a city, and was left for dead… but he got right back up, went back into the city, and went on about his busi­ness preach­ing the gospel. ((Acts 14:19–23)) Despite being so hard­core, the apos­tle has an immense­ly ten­der heart for his brethren.

He knows the Corinthi­ans, that they deserve harsh rebuke and a stern hand in guid­ing them back to the truth, yet Paul is no tyrant and has no desire to crack the whip against the Corinthi­ans’ backs until they rec­ti­fy their errors; rather, Paul’s cor­rec­tions are admin­is­tered in love and patience — the patience of a saint, actually.

Paul wish­es upon the Corinthi­ans both grace and peace.

Grace, that they would receive bless­ings of which they, like us, are utter­ly undeserving.

Peace, that they may live in har­mo­ny not only with each oth­er but with our Father and His Christ.

In receiv­ing those bless­ings, the Corinthi­ans were rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Even today they enjoy grace & peace in Heav­en, await­ing the resurrection.

I wish for you to have received grace and peace from God and the Lord Jesus Christ so that one day, like the Corinthi­an believ­ers, you may be ush­ered into the pres­ence of the Father, pure and holy by the wash­ing of Christ’s pre­cious blood.






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Rick Beckman