1 Corinthians 1:1-9
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Before we jump into this book, some quick info:
Corinth was a metropolis that thrived economically and was culturally and spiritually diverse. Sexual promiscuity was very common, especially among males. Corinth was also a city plagued with sin and even had a temple with 1000 sacred prostitutes. Much like modern America, it was a place of wealth, diversity and an "anything goes" attitude.
Paul had helped to start a Christian community there and writes them this letter to correct some behavioral and relational issues he'd been told about.
Let's cover some quick vocab that will help us with this chapter:
: Jesus chose to call his twelve close disciples apostles (Luke 6:13) which means "one sent" or "ambassador". It was a distinctive word not used much in the classical Greek language, and so it functioned well as an official title. This term was primarily reserved for those who actually encountered and were "sent out by" Christ after his resurrection. They represented him and spoke on his behalf, and so had a unique authority in the New Testament time period. (Paul encountered and was "sent out" by Jesus "post-resurrection" in Acts chapter 9.) Apostle
Sanctified:Set apart for the purposes of God. To be "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (verse 2) means to be set apart for God's purposes through Jesus. Specifically, through his death that paid for our sins and allows us to have a clean slate and restored relationship with God.
Saints:Those who have been "sanctified".
Grace: Although throughout the Bible this word has a variety of specific meanings, in general it means "undeserved favor". Grace is something good given without being earned. If we have anything good that we enjoy in life, whether or not we are Christians, it is ultimately because of the "grace" of God. We don't deserve it, but God has given it to us because he loves us.
Now, given our understanding of these somewhat "churchy" words, let's dig into this chapter a bit.
After identifying himself and his role (apostle), Paul identifies his audience in this letter, which first includes the Christian community in Corinth, but also includes all who "call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ". In the original language and culture of the day, to "call upon a name" would be to identify with and be dedicated to the person the name is attached to. So to call upon the name of Jesus Christ means to be identified with him and to depend on him. So this letter is also written to everyone who will ever put their trust in Christ.
In his greeting, Paul uses a phrase common to his letters: "Grace and peace to you."
In the Bible, grace can be used as broadly as its definition allows, but often refers specifically to the undeserved favor given to us by Christ's death and payment for our sins.
"Peace" refers to undisturbed and untroubled well-being. Having peace with God, through trusting in Jesus, instead of the natural conflict with him we create with our sin, is the real key to having peace regarding the other details of life. This one is especially good to understand the true definition of in the Christmas season. God will ultimately bring "peace on earth" to everyone. But in the meantime, as the carol says, he's offering peace to make "God and sinners reconciled" through the sacrifice of Jesus, who paid for our sins when he died on the cross.
In verse 3, Paul pairs Jesus with the Father under the title of "God", confirming his divine identity at the outset of the whole letter.
Jesus is the source of God's grace, as described here(verse 4). Because of Christ, the Corinthians were enriched in their ability to speak intelligently (translated "speech" in verse 5) and in their experiential knowledge (translated simply "knowledge" in verse 5).
Paul says that the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in them. In other words, everything Paul had been teaching about Christ was demonstrated to be truthful through the way the Corinthians were being changed by it. They were developing spiritual gifts of every variety (which we'll get into more in chapter 12) and were eagerly looking forward to Christ's return.
Although we shouldn't use these words to assume we can know the hearts of others, we can use these words to challenge ourselves. Is the truth really impacting me? Am I learning from good teachers and taking time to study the Bible on my own? Is Jesus just a nice idea to me, or does he find his way into my time? When people look at me, will they quickly see a reason to believe that Jesus is the real deal, or do I just "blend in" with a faith that no one sees?
The greatest grace that Jesus gives is found in verse 8. Jesus "confirms" genuine believers until Christ returns. The word for "confirm" here means "to make firm or reliable so as to warrant security and inspire confidence." From the moment a person genuinely chooses to trust in and follow Christ, until the day Christ returns, they will be considered blameless by God. Obviously, God is aware of our sin, but as far as his final judgment is concerned, those who trust in Christ have nothing to fear.
And God is "faithful" (or we would say "trustworthy") to carry out this promise. He's not going to change his mind! Christians have been called into "fellowship" with Jesus. The God of the universe has provided a way for us to have a really close relationship with him, without our sin getting in the way!
He didn't do this because we are good, or have earned it. This mind-blowing gift is another example of God's "amazing grace"!
Next Week: Believe it or not, you'll find division in a church... Coffee House Question What kind of Christmas traditions are you looking forward to this year?
Next Week: Believe it or not, you'll find division in a church...
Coffee House Question
What kind of Christmas traditions are you looking forward to this year?