Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Greetings to the Saints (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)

"… to the church of God which is at Corinth …" (1 Cor. 1:2).

Questions had been raised in Corinth concerning Paul’s right to exercise authority over the church. Realizing this, Paul prefaces his letter stating that he did not receive his apostleship by his own efforts but only by the choice and appointment of Christ. “In its strict official sense [apostle] is applied only to the immediate messengers of Christ, the infallible teachers of His religion and founders of His church,” Hodge wrote. “In calling himself an apostle, Paul claims divine authority derived immediately from Christ.”

The apostle addresses his letter to the “church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” With a simple phrase, Paul recognizes the Corinth congregation as a true church of God. He calls the people “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” which means they had been cleansed of the guilt of their sin not by their own righteousness but by the righteousness of Christ. This is the essence of a true church, that it consists of people whose guilt has been expiated, who are inwardly holy, and who are set apart, or consecrated to God, as His peculiar people. They are considered to be saints because they are “in Christ Jesus,” or in union with Him. “It is because we are in Him as our head and representative, that we are justified by His righteousness; and it is because we are in Him as a branch is in the vine, that we are purified by His Spirit,” Hodge wrote.

The saints of Corinth had been called by God, effectually called unto salvation, not merely invited. This general address does not mean that every person in the Corinthian church was actually saved. But, as in the rest of Scripture, those who profess to be saints are called saints, those who profess to be believers are called believers until proved otherwise. As Calvin remarks, this is a useful lesson “that a body may be very corrupt both as to doctrine and practice, as such corruptions undoubtedly prevailed even in Corinth, and yet it may be properly recognized as a church of God.”

The phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” recognizes that only Christians receive God’s favor and the fruit of peace that flows from His love, and only Christians regard God as their Father and Christ as their Lord.

Skim the opening verses of Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. What is Paul emphasizing about his office and the church in these greetings? From these passages, what attitude should you have toward Paul’s letters and toward the people of God?