In the next weeks we want to explore God’s Word for us in the correspondence of the Apostle Paul with the church of God at Corinth. For sure, we cannot endeavor to have a full blown commentary on every single verse, yet we are trying to walk through these letters to see what God had to say to the Corinthian church and what He wants us to know today.
Having said this, let us look at the first nine (9) verses of 1 Corinthians. We read right from the beginning of his letter who this Paul is – “apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God.” His identity is rooted in his divine calling and commission. Without this call (usually linked to the Damascus road experience) Paul would still be the persecutor of the church (cf. Gal 1:13).
Paul writes “to the church of God which resides in Corinth.” That it is a church of God is of utter significance since it affirms and exhorts that the Corinthian church belongs to God and that He has authority over them. This church is “sanctified in Christ Jesus” despite all their sins and failures – sanctified because they believe in God.
This has positional as well as behavioral connotations. The church of God is “to be different from the world in ethical character and behavior” writes Witherington (Conflict and Community in Corinth; 1995) “and in that sense set apart” (80). And because the Corinthian believers are the church of God, there is reason for thanksgiving.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” With that formulation Paul sums up the Gospel. It is by God’s grace that peace is restored (peace not being the absence of war but the harmony of relationship as it has been intended from the beginning – cf. Hebrew shalom).
In the thanksgiving section (vv.4-9) the apostle already foreshadows some of the content he is going to write about in the remaining pages (and which we will explore in the upcoming weeks). He is thankful for there wisdom, knowledge, and charismatic gifts. All of these are causing troubles in the church of God at Corinth as we will see later on.
Points of Application for the Church Today:
As Paul is called through the will of God as apostle, so is every believer called to be renewed in the image of Christ to a certain task (cf. Eph 2:10). Let us therefore be diligent and eager to pursue our God-given task and be faithful to Him who calls us. Gifts are given by God and we should be grateful; yet those gifts can be misused and we better are reminded for what purpose/s these gifts are given (cf. Eph 4:11-12).
The church of God has to be distinct in her life from the world; belonging to Christ does not only bear positional emphasis, but has definitely ethical ramifications. In recent conversations this has been seen as a matter of utter importance. If we as Christians do not live distinctly different from those around us, do we really follow our Master? Or have we succumbed to the culture we live in and its ethical norms? This was the struggle of the church of God in Corinth and will be the struggle of any church, at any time, and in any place.
Though not common in most “low-church” context; the liturgical salutations of Pauline letters via “grace and peace to you” should be implemented in the life of the church. Further thoughts on liturgy can be read in earlier posts.
We hope and pray that through the effort of this upcoming study of the Corinthian correspondence we will not only gain further insight into a church who lived nearly 2000 years ago, but that we all will be challenged and encouraged by the head of the church – that is Christ – and that he will use these words for his glory and the edification of his church.