Thursday, 6 March 2014
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2
After his introduction, Paul makes his addressees known by starting with, “To the church of God which is at Corinth.” Corinth is on an isthmus and its location was on a very narrow portion of it. Because of this, a “highway” was forged from one side of it to another and boats were literally dragged across it to save them the time of sailing all the way around the land. Because of this strategic location, Corinth became a well-known and valuable city in the Roman empire.
“The church of God” is a term which implies that this was an established church, founded on God’s working in and through the Person of Jesus Christ. It was Paul who established the church as is noted beginning in Acts 18:1. He preached his message and those who received it are “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” This means that they were set apart from those around them as holy. Being “sanctified” in this way means that they secure in Christ and have received their heavenly position. Ephesians 2:4-6 explains this –
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”
Regardless of our earthly walk after salvation, we have been set apart by God because of our simple and heartfelt faith in the work of Christ Jesus. Our heavenly position is settled. Because of this, we have been “called to be saints.” Being called “saints” is tied directly to “sanctified.” It is the work of Jesus Christ which grants sainthood; not a church or denomination. The abuse of using this title for some people within the church while not using it for all is certainly to be condemned. If a person is a true believer in Jesus Christ, they are a saint. The “litany of the saints” is a long and wonderful list which includes all who have called on Him, not a select portion who are then elevated above the rest. Paul explains this again many times, such as in these words in 2 Timothy 1:9 –
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
As Paul notes to Timothy, it is “not according to works.” Instead it is exactly as he states both to Timothy and to those in Corinth. It is an honor for “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” To “call on the name” means to invoke the name for the purpose of worship. One doesn’t “call on the name of Jesus” and then revert back to the name of “Jehovah” of the Old Testament (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other aberrant cults do). It is the recognition that Jesus is, in fact, the Lord Jehovah who was manifest in the flesh. It is His name alone by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12).
In finishing up this verse, the words “both theirs and ours” is given to imply that sainthood and acceptance of Jesus Christ isn’t limited to a location (such as Corinth) nor a denomination (such as Roman Catholicism). Nor is it limited in any other way except in the calling on of Jesus Christ as Lord. Anyone, of any race, place, culture, or individual church who calls on Him is a saint and his name is written in heaven – Jew or Gentile, male or female, all are one in Him.
Whether this letter was intended as an encyclical or not, it is a timeless letter. Because it is in the Bible, it wasn’t just intended to be read by one (or all) the churches in the area and then stored away. Rather God has used it to provide doctrine to all churches in all ages. However, the contents of the letter seem so targeted to Corinth and their many flaws that it would seem they wouldn’t want the letter circulated, thus embarrassing them. But when thoughtfully considered, the same problems arise again and again in all churches at one time or another. This is why reading and contemplating the words of Scripture are so very important.
Life application: The Bible and its books, especially Paul’s letters, give us direct guidance for the many issues which are bound to arise within the church. Church tradition, although welcoming and comforting to congregants, is never to be used as a substitute for adherence to the Bible. If your church has more tradition than Bible… time to move from your church. Stick to the Bible and be instructed by God.
Yes Lord God! How wonderful it is to know that when problems arise in our church, we don’t need to guess about what to do, nor do we need to seek out a fallible preacher, pastor, priest, bishop, or pope. Instead, we just need to turn to Your word and find the remedy there. You have addressed those things which are important to You in Your word and so we will stick to it like glue. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen!