The church in Corinth was beset by problems — divided into rich and poor, sophisticated and simple, the talented and the average. Some members claimed to have special knowledge that Paul did not have. They began to look down on his simple message about a man who was killed by the Romans. They wrote him a letter asking for more information on several topics, and Paul learned even more about the church in Corinth from people who had been there.
Paul’s reply is now known as 1 Corinthians. He begins, as ancient letters normally did, by saying who he was and naming the people he was writing to: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth” (vv. 1-2, New Revised Standard Version).
He then reminds them of who they are: “To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (v. 2). They are called to be holy, but they are also called to be part of a larger group. That will be important later in the letter.
Greek letters usually began with chara, greetings, but Paul modifies this to charis (grace) and peace (the typical Jewish greeting): “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Greek orators would often begin a speech by praising the audience, but Paul modifies this to praise God for what he is doing in the readers: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you” (vv. 3-6).
The Corinthian Christians prided themselves on their speaking and their knowledge. Paul acknowledges these as blessings from God, and as evidence in support of the gospel of Christ. He will address the misuse of these gifts later in the letter.
Since God has been generous to them, he writes: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 7-8). Paul here subtly reminds them to stick firmly to their original faith, rather than accepting odd new doctrines. Don’t forget that salvation depends on Christ! “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 9).
Author: Michael Morrison