June 18, 2009: 1 Corinthians 1

Notes

  • (1) Authors identified as Paul, the apostle, and Sosthenes, possibly the synagogue ruler of Acts 18:17 (Ryrie).
  • (1) Notice that Paul doesn’t say that he is an apostle because he chose to be, or because people elected him, etc., but because Jesus called him by the will of God. Thus, his authority to preach, teach, correct, and rebuke comes directly from God. It is not dependent on the church at Corinth, its members, or anyone else recognizing him.
  • (1) Notice also the intimate title “our brother” used of Sosthenes. Whereas Paul claims a title of authority for himself, Sosthenes adopts a familiar relationship, showing that this letter is not just an apostle’s edict, but a strong and loving exhortation.
  • (2) Destination identified as the church of Corinth, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, and all those everywhere who call on Jesus.
  • (2) By limiting the audience of the letter to the church, et al., the authors are acknowledging that the teachings, while applicable to all believers, can’t be imposed on unbelievers. Indeed, we should expect the world to behave as the world, and the church to behave as the people of God.
  • (2) In the end, all three identified audiences are really one and the same. All believers, be they in Corinth ca. CE 55 or Des Moines, ca CE 2009, are sanctified – set apart or designated – in Christ Jesus and called to holiness as long as they call on Jesus as Lord.
  • (3) The opening benediction offers grace, that they would be forgiven and willing to forgive, freely; and peace, that they would be still, resting in the hope and promise of Jesus, even as they took the imminent words of rebuke and faced the scrutiny of a skeptical world.
  • (4-9) Paul and Sosthenes open with a word of encouragement, contrary to what many may be tempted to do. The church at Corinth had serious problems, and those problems were about to be confronted. But they wanted the church to also know that things were not all bad. Indeed, they were thankful for Jesus’ grace shed on the church there. They recognized that the church had been blessed tremendously financially, in word and deed, and in spiritual gifts. They claimed the promise that those who would follow Jesus will be kept strong for the purpose of holiness. And they exulted in the truth that God, who called them, is faithful and won’t abandon them as long as they are pursuing Him.
  • (10) How unfortunate, that churches often descend into cliques and segments, each with their own agenda and priorities. Paul (and Sosthenes) demand that the church reflect the perfectly unified nature of God by standing together. This is not to say that there may not be differences of opinion or even healthy debate on the direction in which God is calling them. Rather, it is to say that, once God’s will has been determined and a decision has been made to pursue it, all debate should cease, and they must work together in unity. Remember, unity is not the same as conformity, in which all things are the same. Rather, it is the area of overlap between things that are not entirely identical. The church must be comprised of different people, each with different strengths, weaknesses, ideas, and tasks, but each of these must come together into one unified whole.
  • (11-12) The indictment here is shocking. There are fights going on in the Corinthian church, and over petty things! How horrified Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Simon Peter), and Christ himself would be if they knew that people were arguing over which of them to follow. Their messages were not competitive, but complimentary, intended and designed to work hand-in-hand with one another.
  • (13-17) The priority here is identified in clear and certain terms. Jesus – and His bride – are not to be divided. The focus was to be on the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether you were a disciple of Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Jesus. And that gospel had nothing to do with human wisdom and ideas. Rather, it was all about the cross of Christ, which alone has the power to save from sin to holiness.
  • (18-21) Indeed, the message of the cross is completely contrary to what we would do. We would have tried to build a bridge or make up excuses or redefine truth, etc. Anything to spare that cost. And our efforts would have come short. God alone knew what needed to be done, had the resources to do it, and actually did.
  • (22-25) How often do we look for these things? We want powerful miracles, and then we’ll believe. We look for neat little arguments, and then we’ll accept. But the cross is neither of these, at least to those on the outside looking in. For those of us who fo all in, however, it is the one and only perfect solution to the problem of our sin. Truly God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom, and His weakness is far stronger than our strength.
  • (26-31) Truly, our own credentials are pretty weak. Jesus chose a band of fishermen, tax collectors, thieves and pseudo-terrorists as his disciples, those who would be entrusted with the fate of His Church. He then added a no-name (Matthias), a murderous persecutor of Christians (Saul), Gentiles, and us. In and of ourselves, we have nothing, are nothing. We have a tendency to forget that as we grow in Christ and get ourselves cleaned up, but it remains true always. Jesus is the source of our righteousness, the enabler of our holiness, the supplier of our redemption. He is the only thing we have to boast in.

Comments

There are a lot of things going on in 1 Corinthians 1. Paul and Sosthenes wanted the church to know that they were valued and still called, but they could not afford to be ambiguous about the issues that they faced. The church at Corinth, and every congregation since, must unite – even in our own diversity – to bring glory to Jesus because, as crazy as it seems, He is the one way, the only truth and the real life.

God values even problem churches and believers. They are important to Him, and He will never give up the hope that they will once again renew their commitment to holiness. So we must not give up that hope, either.

And at the same time, God does not tolerate divisions. He knows we’re diverse; He created us that way. But He wants us to realize that all that diversity is intended to help us accomplish our singular purpose of bringing glory to Him and making more disciples to do the same.

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