Studies in 1 Corinthians
1 Paul opens with the words "Paul, called apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God " This is a larger an expansion of the shorter "called apostle" found in Romans 1.1. In both cases the words "to be" are added to the English to capture the meaning. However, this dulls the sharp words of Paul somewhat, for the text has a double meaning. 1) Paul is a called apostle (as opposed to those self-appointed apostles who opposed him; 2) Apostle is his divine position in the Kingdom of God. The expansion allows Paul to establish the authority for his teaching in the letter.
It is not certain whether this is the same Sosthenes of Acts 18.17, who was a leader of the Synagogue in Corinth and was beaten by angry Jews after prosecution of Paul was rejected by Gallio. As the Synagogue leader, it would have been he who allowed Paul to speak in the local Synagogue. This might explain the mobs' reaction; in that they blamed Sosthenes for Paul's success in Corinth.
|It is essential in Christian theology to understand the precedence of God's action in Christ to our actions in faith. Our holiness comes only after we "have been made holy" by God, in Christ.|
2 Paul wants the Corinthians to understand whose church it really was. It was not the church of Apollos, or Paul, or Cephas, but the church of God. The "church of God" included all factions of believers in Corinth; something for which the church needed reminding.
Having been made holy in Christ Jesus, the Corinthians are now called to be holy (Gk., a(/gioj). It is unfortunate that the word 'saint' remains the most common English translation for the Greek word. The expanded translation "holy ones" or "those set apart for God" would be more helpful to the modern reader.
Paul reiterates the unity of the church. He points out the essential unity that binds Christians together - "all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is easy in church life to become factious and even sectarian when the focus is solely upon the local church. All churches need a theology of the church which takes in this large-view set before us by Paul. This will expand our theological horizons and help us to be less divisive over non-essential items.
3. The words: "grace to you and peace " This is a "characteristically Christian greeting" (F. F. Bruce, 1& 2 Corinthians, p.30). The traditional Greek greeting was cairein, which could mean either 'rejoice!' or 'greetings!'. Paul transformed the traditional opening of letters - cairein, became caris (grace) and addition of the standard Hebrew greeting -- shalom into a form that came to express Paul's theology in nutshell -- the grace and peace of God in Jesus Christ.
4. It is common for Paul to offer a word of thanksgiving for his readers. (cf. Rom 1 8; Phil. 1.3; Col. 1.3; 1 Th. 1.2; 2 Th. 1.3; Phm 4). It is interesting that Paul qualifies his statement; he is not thankful for everything about them, but he is for thankful for the "grace of God" which was given to them in Christ.
5. Paul indicates the reason he knows the Corinthians have received this 'grace' (Gk., xa/rij). They have been 'enriched' (Gk., plouti/zw) with "all speech and all knowledge." The for 'speech' (Gk., lo/goj) may mean 'eloquence' in this context; particularly the proclamation of the special knowledge (Gk., gnw~sij) they have received. The Corinthian Christians seem to have emphasized this knowledge greatly. It is interesting that Paul did not oppose the concept of special knowledge, he rather claims this as a gift of the Spirit (cf., 12.8).
6-7. Paul speaks of the gospel being confirmed in the life of believers. While some groups try to make only tongues an evidentiary gift; Paul does not do this. He does, however, teach that faith in Christ is confirmed (Gk., bebaiow) by the gifts of the Spirit (cf., Heb. 2.3b-4).
Paul speaks about the 'revelation' (Gk., a)poka/luyij) of Jesus at the end of the age as a significant focus in the early church.
Think about it!
|We often focus on strategies for growth in our churches and our private lives. We look for interesting Bible studies and yearn for solid teaching. This is a extreme good. But God called us to more than Bible study (the Pharisees studied the Bible!). God has called us to more than the belief in doctrine (the demons believe doctrine-- and tremble). God has called us fellowship with His Son, Jesus.|
8. The phrase: "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" is a significant christological statement. In the Old Testament this appears as the 'day of the LORD.' Paul replaces the name of Jesus for the God of Israel. Paul taught the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.
9. Paul offers hope to the Corinthians with the words "God is faithful." While we strive for perfect holiness in this life (cf., 2Cor 7.1) Paul's confidence is in God faithfulness not ours. God has called, saved, sanctified, and ultimately sustain us until the day of Christ (cf. Phil. 1.6). Even so, we are called to live our lives in 'fellowship' (Gk., koinwni/a) with Christ.