Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 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: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
In the opening of this letter written to the people of Corinth, Paul establishes the position and role of himself and the people of Corinth in their relationship with God.
Called to be an apostle
He begins with his own position and role. Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God”. What is an apostle of Jesus Christ? The word translated as apostle here is the word apostolos. The meaning of the ancient Greek word “apostolos,” has the idea of “a special ambassador.” Paul was a “special ambassador” of Jesus Christ to the world and to the church.
Paul was not an apostle because he was appointed to a board position that no one else wanted. It was not as a result of a closely contended election. Paul was not an apostle through appointment of other apostles, or any other men for that matter. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God. He was placed in this role as a apostle by the will and the workings of God.
This role as an apostle was not something that Paul entered into lightly. He served God with the dedication and conviction that this role deserved. Paul made a great deal of sacrifice in his life as he served God in this calling. As a result of knowing his position and the responsibilities associated with this role, Paul was very successful in his ministry. Warren Wiersbe writes… “Ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God”. Paul’s life is a living example of what Wiersbe is describing.
Paul addresses this letter “to the church of God which is at Corinth”. Most people today associate the word church with a building where Christians meet. I believe this is very unfortunate as it leads to a distorted interpretation of the role of the Christian. The ancient Greek word for church (ekklesiai) is a non-religious word for an “assembly” of people, typically gathered together for a specific purpose. The word “church” used in the Bible speaks of the people gathering together, not the building where they gather. The translation could read “to the gathering of the people of God at Corinth”.
Paul identifies the people gathered at Corinth as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” The word “sanctified” means to “set apart” and often indicates that there is a special purpose. The title “Christ” comes from the Greek word “christos” which means “the anointed one”. The phrase “anointed one” or “the Lord’s anointed” was most often used to refer to a king. The words “to be” were added by the translators in this verse. The Bible portrays the church as the bride of Christ, with the wedding ceremony depicted in the book of Revelation. Paul is describing the position of the people of God gathering at Corinth as … those who are set apart for Jesus, the anointed King, called saints.
Like Paul, Christians should not enter into this role lightly. Every Christian should be dedicated to a life of serving the One who paid the price for our salvation. We have been set apart from this world, and therefore, we should not look like those of this world. Our convictions should guide us as we follow Christ and avoid temptations to join in the activities of “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).
Call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
Paul then expands the image of the church from just the Corinthian Christians to the body of believers that surrounds the earth: “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours”. Paul is drawing a focus here on the fact that all Christians follow the same Lord – Jesus Christ. This is the biblical picture of one church, a body of believers that is spread around the globe, known as the body of Christ.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to become focused on their own life, with it’s challenges and busy schedules, and lose sight of the bigger picture. Each Christian is one individual in a much larger body. If nothing else, what we all have in common is that we each “call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord”. We all serve the same Lord.
After establishing the position and role of himself and the Corinthian Christians, Paul delivers his greeting in the third verse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are experiencing a lack of peace in your life right now, may I suggest that you take inventory of the grace that God has extended toward you. Grace is demonstrated in the unconditional love that God has extended to you despite the fact that you are undeserving. Grace is all of the blessings in your life that you are unable to repay. When you begin to inventory God’s grace in your life, you begin to recognize the love that God has for you.
Paul tells us where the grace and peace come from… God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Just look at the meanings in the words “Lord Jesus Christ”.
Lord: A title designating not only master and boss, but also the Lord revealed in the Old Testament (known as Yahweh or Jehovah).
Jesus: The given name of the son of Mary, and adopted son of Joseph, which is the Greek pronunciation of Joshua. The name Joshua means, “Yahweh is salvation.”
Christ: This is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah, or “Anointed One.” This is the One prophesied by the Old Testament Scriptures, sent by the Father to save and deliver us.
Putting this all together, we have The Lord Jesus Christ… Our anointed Lord, sent by our Father, to provide for our salvation.
God calls us into a relationship with Him and into a role that He ordained. He provides everything that we need to be successful in filling that role. When we maintain a focus on Him and a dependence on Him, we will be successful in everything that we do in service to Him. You can expect challenges and difficulties as you navigate this world, this foreign land, serving God. You can also expect victory as you call on the name of the One who called you.
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29:32)