posted on Sep, 16 2013 @ 05:02 PM
Among the writings of Paul, 1 Corinthians is the letter which teaches the church what it means to be a Christian community.
The opening verses have the effect of defining where the church comes from and what it’s based on, and I will want to show how the rest of the
teaching follows on from that.
But the starting-point is the definition itself (ch1 vv1-9).
In this opening passage, Paul is greeting the church in Corinth.
But in greeting the church, he’s also describing the church, and the description adds up to a working definition of what it means to be “the
v1 He begins by announcing himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus “called by the will of God”.
Which makes the word “called” (KLETOS) the second word in the Greek text.
I mention that, because we’re going to find different forms of the same word running through this passage like a thread.
It will be one of the key themes.
v2 Then he describes his readers in Corinth as the local EKKLESIA.
This is another version of “called”, because the root meaning of that word is that a group has been “called out”.
In secular Greek, in fact, it was one of the normal words for an assembly.
In that warmer climate (I’m writing in England) political meetings were held in the open air.
The image would be that people had been “called out” of their homes in order to attend them.
That makes it a natural word to use for a “gathering”.
But this is the gathering which “belongs to God”.
In the Christian case there’s also the sense that Christians have been “called out” of the world to become part of the new community.
He calls them “sanctified”.
That is, they’ve been set apart as God’s property, like the vessels in the Temple.
He also says they were “called to be saints” (KLETOIS HAGIOIS), which means the same thing.
He says they were called in company with everybody else who “calls upon” the name of the Lord Jesus.
That is, they are part of a larger community which accepts him as Lord.
In other words, the calling is reciprocal, moving in both directions.
God “calls them out” of the world and they “call upon” Christ.
It’s also worth noting that they were sanctified “in Christ Jesus”.
One of my commentators maintains that the “in” should be taken as “instrumental”; it means they were sanctified as the effect of what Christ
did for them.
But since the basic thought is “set apart”, I don’t think we can exclude the idea that Christ is the location where they are sanctified; they
were brought into Christ, and by that means taken away from the world.
v4 He wishes them grace and peace- a very important combination, a Pauline theme in itself.
Then he gives thanks for what God has given them, which involves describing what God has given them.
It’s all summed up in the word CHARIS- or “grace”.
The grace has been given to them “in Christ Jesus”, which opens up the same question as before, namely-; is this “means” or “location”?
The two options are that the grace was “in Christ Jesus” when it was given to them, or that they were “in Christ” when they received it.
It might be best to use both understandings of the phrase; either way, the “grace” (the gift of God) is what they receive through the connection
v5 This verse explains what Paul meant by “grace” in the previous verse.
It means that they are “enriched with all speech and all knowledge.”
Once again, they are enriched “in him”, with the same two possibilities.
I still think there’s a good case for “you are in Christ and therefore enriched”.
v6 The evidence(“even as”) for the enrichment is the way that the testimony about Christ was “established” amongst them.
What does he mean by “among you”?
If he means “in your hearts”, then the point will be that the “grace” has given strength to their own faith.
If he means “in the place where you are”, then the point would be the spread of the gospel message in Corinth.
At least that would follow on from and explain the reference to “speech and knowledge”, because “all knowledge” would be the knowledge of the
gospel, and “all speech” would be the ability to proclaim the gospel.
v7 In short, they are not lacking in any of the “gifts”, and these gifts are what they have while they are waiting “for the revealing of our
Lord Jesus Christ”.
So the gifts are meeting a need which exists during the waiting period, because the “revealing” of Christ would bring about a different set of
v8 What Paul means by the “revealing” of Christ is that he expects Christ to come as a judge for the world at large.
He uses the phrase “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”, as an equivalent of the Old Testament phrase “the day of the Lord”.
As this verse shows, the popular theory that the God of the New Testament is not a God of judgement is simply untrue.
But the key difference between Old Testament judgement and New Testament judgement is that Christ is brought into the scene.
He gives the assurance that Christ will “establish” them, keep them firm in the faith, to the very end of the waiting period.
Therefore when the judgement arrives, they will be found “guiltless”- which evidently follows from being firmly “established”.
Although it’s not obvious in English, the word “guiltless” is yet another variant on the word “call”.
The Greek word is ANEGKLETOUS, which means “not-to-be-called-to-account”.
v9 As a final assurance on this point, he adds that God is “faithful”, in the sense of “someone who can be trusted”.
This is relevant, because it was God who called them (that word again) into fellowship with Christ (and therefore brought them into that state of
waiting for Christ to be revealed).
If God is faithful, that means he will not cause them to wait in vain.
I promised that we would find in this passage a definition of the church.
It seems to me that the church has been defined in three ways;
by their experience in the past
by their condition in the present
by their expectation for the future.
They are defined by their experience in the past.
That is, God called them into fellowship with Christ, called them to be saints, and sanctified them.
They are defined by their condition in the present.
That is, they are in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ, calling upon his name, and they enjoy the grace and spiritual gifts which God has
They are defined by their expectation for the future.
That is, they are the ones who are waiting and hoping for Christ to be revealed.
They are also defined by three different relationships.
We’ve already seen how the Father relates to them, because he called them and sanctified them.
We’ve already seen how the Son relates to them, because they are “in Christ Jesus”, in fellowship with him, and being sustained by him while
they’re waiting for him to be revealed.
A third relationship is not explicit in this passage, but implied by the word “gifts”- CHARISMATA.
For these “gifts”, in the rest of the letter, are associated with the Holy Spirit.
So if we want a very brief definition of the church, it can be summed up as follows;
The church is the body of those(in any denomination) who are
Called by the Father
Gathered by the Son, and also (while waiting for him)
Gifted by the Spirit.