Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother…1 Corinthians 1:1
1 Corinthians is comprised of 437 verses in 16 chapters. This makes it four verses longer than the epistle to the Romans. A few things should be noted about the letter: Its composition is dated at AD59. It is generally directed toward proper Christian conduct and the avoidance of heresy and division within the church. Paul established the church in Corinth during his missionary travels, but it continued to have many problems with adjusting to proper conduct, especially because of being in a pagan environment. This letter is then written to address these problems and to give guidance in these and other church-related issues.
Paul begins with an introduction to confirm the letters authenticity. In it, he identifies himself and his position, and from whence his authority arises – “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.” As Paul established the church, they would know him and hopefully take heed to whatever issues he would address. To ensure they hadn’t forgotten, he identifies his title. He was “called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
The title “apostle” is something which is incorrectly applied in the church today. The apostles were only those who personally witnessed the work of Jesus Christ. Paul was called as an exception to this because he only came to know Christ after His ascension. He will specifically note this calling in 1 Corinthians 15:8. The apostolic age ended with the completion of the Bible and the death of the last apostle. Being an apostle then had a special significance and only came about by a specific calling by Christ himself (see 1 Corinthians 15:7).
Next he identifies from where his calling was derived. It was “through the will of God.” The story of Paul’s conversion is recorded in the book of Acts and it would have been widely known among the churches that he established. His authority was obvious, but he is calling it again to mind in order to establish the basis for the bold statements and directions that he would make throughout the letter.
God’s will is something that occurs in His eternal state, outside of time itself. Paul was specifically chosen to carry the message of Christ to the gentile people of the world. It is his letters which establish church-age doctrine and they are prescriptive in nature. Ignoring, diminishing the importance of, or mishandling Paul’s letters will inevitably lead to unsound doctrine and even heresy. Paul is such an important figure that hidden pictures of him and his ministry are actually seen in the book of Genesis. God’s calling upon his life and ministry carry the authority of God; what Paul writes is divinely inspired.
Finally in this first verse, Paul states that the letter is from him “and Sosthenes our brother.” Sosthenes is mentioned in Acts 18:17 – “Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.” Once the “ruler of the synagogue” in Corinth, he became a disciple of Christ through Paul’s ministry. Paul mentions him to add weight to the letter. He would have been one of the first converts in Corinth and being the synagogue’s ruler, he would have been well-versed in Old Testament theology. For this reason, he was an excellent person to cite in the introduction.
It is also possible that Sosthenes was acting as Paul’s scribe. Just as in Romans with Tertius, who is mentioned in Romans 16:22, Paul probably had a scribe write as he dictated the letter. As a synagogue ruler, Sosthenes would have certainly been a competent person to act as a scribe. He would be familiar with how to carefully handle the pen in important matters such as this.
Life application: In the church, we have things that we “feel” are right or wrong and we often speak out or act on those issues in a prescriptive manner. But what we “feel” is irrelevant. The only thing that matters in the conduct of the church is what God has prescribed for us. And the doctrine of the church during this dispensation is what Paul has laid out in his epistles. The book of 1 Corinthians is a carefully detailed letter which addresses many important issues. Make sure to study, contemplate, and apply his directives to your church and personal life.
Heavenly Father, You called your apostles to carry Your message to the church. They have important instructions that show us the marvelous things You have done for us in the Person and work of Your Son, Jesus. Help us to study, contemplate, and apply Your word, as brought to us through them, so that we will be competent in our Christian walk. Thank You, O God. Amen.