We’ve made it to Corinthians; first Corinthians anyway. It has been more than two years on our journey so far. Kudos to us all for staying with it. I know we have been going slow and sometimes I skip a day (or two), but I believe we are right where we are supposed to be.
Paul, as usual, starts off with a wonderful introduction. Because my bible breaks it down into two sections, I’m addressing it that way too.
In our reading today Paul focuses first on who he is and by what authority he is writing. Then he specifies to whom this letter is addressed. This section ends with the thing that this group needs most desperately; “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).
Paul begins with a very short version of his credentials; “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (verse 1). Paul planted the church in Corinth so there is no need of a lengthy introduction. Paul proclaimed Jesus to this town for about two years. They knew his testimony intimately.
Paul also introduces another brother here; brother Sosthenes. I was wondering who this was so I Googled him and found my favorite answer site; Got Questions. There is controversy on whether this is the same man who was brought Paul before Gallio to have him beaten for “persuading people to worship God contrary to the Law” (Acts 18:13). His case was thrown out and Sosthenes, who was the ruler of the synagogue, was beaten instead. Could this be the same man? Could he have come to Paul after becoming a believer with his concerns about the church? Or is it another man bearing the same name who was Paul’s companion and scribe for this letter? I guess we will have to ask that question when we meet Paul face to face.
I’m contemplating the idea that this is the same Sosthenes as previously mentioned. It would be quite a “name drop” for Paul. It would be like saying “I and your principal have been conferring about your behavior.” Gulp! They would know that ALL their behavior had been brought to light. And not just to light but to the attention of the man responsible for beginning the church there in the first place.
Paul next goes on to identify his audience. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (verse 2).
This pointed introduction was also crafted to get their attention. He starts with the general term of “the church of God that is in Corinth” but then he points at their issue immediately, though politely. This church is divided. Paul calls ALL the factions to attend to his instructions no matter which side of the fence they are on. If they “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” they are included in his audience. That foundational piece is present in EVERY believer, and if absent, that person is still in need of salvation and doesn’t belong to Christ. That is the very thing that sets us apart from all other religions. Our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God incarnate. THOSE are the people Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians. Both then AND now.
The end of our reading for today brings us to what this group needed immediately. They needed God’s grace because their behavior was sinful. They needed an attitude adjustment and spiritual refinement. They also needed God’s peace. Not just in their own lives but in their relationships with their fellow believers.
Father God, thank You that You directed Paul to deal with the issues that arose in the church. I’m sorry to say that they still exist today and I still need redirecting too. I feel some “woodshed” or, as my dad used to do first, lecture time in my future. I’m going to hold onto verse three just like Paul’s original listeners did and thank You that You do still provide Your grace and peace for me when I listen to Your instructions. Help me read Your word honestly and apply it to my life correctly. Don’t let me run from the hard parts. Thank You for Your love in all of Your corrections. Your purpose is to build up and not tear down. I will hold onto that through the tough times too.