Lesson 19: "Ye Were Called Unto the Fellowship of. . .Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:9)
I Corinthians 1:1-17
This is lesson #19. Welcome again! Please turn to First Corinthians and we'll read. As you read, try to keep in front of you a strong mental picture of what we have said by way of introduction to this book. Since leaving that little band of disciples at Corinth, Paul had been back to Jerusalem and visited the church in Antioch of Syria from which all three missionary journeys began. Paul had gone over all of the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order (Acts 18:22-23) and Paul had undoubtedly been back in Ephesus for some time when he wrote this epistle to Corinth. He said, "the churches of Asia salute you" and Aquila and Priscilla sent greets to the Corinthians by this epistle (16:19). This is not the first correspondence with that church, we have already said. Paul had kept tab on the church at Corinth (1) through the house of Chloe, see ch. 1:11, he had no doubt learned much through Apollos (Acts 18:27-28,1 Cor. 16:12) and more recently had learned of their affairs by Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus which were probably there visiting with Paul as he wrote this letter (see 16:17).
Let's read! We'll read Paul's salutation or beginning remarks, ch. l,v. 1-9. Have you got it? The first nine verses, let's read. "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
Alright, back up and let's analyze verse by verse. As was their style in those days, the person writing the letter placed his name at the beginning and then stated to whom he was writing, so to shorten down v.1-2, it says, simply: Paul unto the church at Corinth. After Paul's name he emphasized he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. Those of you studying this lesson have, supposedly, already been through Acts c. 9 and you know that Paul became an apostle of Jesus Christ there and that Paul was sent forth by the Holy spirit at the beginning of Acts ch. 13; so that's we'll say here. However, it would seem that the reason Paul emphasized that fact here (in v. 1) is that further over in this epistle (ch.9), Paul restated the arguments that proved his apostleship; I would assume for the very reason that some at Corinth had undoubtedly questioned Paul's apostleship and that information had some to Paul's ears. Thus, that is probably the reason Paul attached his title, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, to his name here at the very beginning. This is not the only epistle in which Paul included the fact that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, but, if you take in inventory of those books where he did make this statement; it's pretty obvious that it was where the Judaising teachers had been a problem. This tells us a little about Corinth. We've been over the Judaising doctrines before and we'll go over them again in much more detail in some future books; so, if you don't comprehend the thought here, you'll get it later.
Then, in the last of v.l, Paul mentioned another brother with him. Who was that? Sosthenes! Who was Sosthenes? The only other Sosthenes mentioned in the Bible is the Sosthenes in Acts. 18:17. Do you remember the ruler of the Corinthians Synagogue that took Paul to court, before Gallio and the Greeks beat him up? Well, now I'm not going to argue this is the same Sosthenes. It seems very improbable to me; although, some of the commentators think it was the same man. It's possible that during Sosthenes' recuperation he was taught and baptized into Christ, I suppose. He had quite a story to tell, if that was him. I would prefer to think this was probably another brother by that same name that helped Paul write this letter, possible because of his scribal skills; in the same way Silas and Timothy probably helped in writing letters to the Thessalonicans. A scribe by the name of Tertius helped Paul write the Roman letter in some similar way, that's just across the page in Romans 16:22. However, it does seem logical that Sosthenes must have had some connection with Corinth for his name to be included here in the very first verse of First Corinthians. I'll let you decide that.
Verse 2-3 are typical salutation remarks from Paul, very much like the beginning of the "Thessalonian letters, you recognize. I'm not going to comment further, except to say: you understand from what Paul said here that Paul acknowledged the church of Corinth to be a legitimate church; in spite of the fact that there were many problems as we have already noted in our introduction. Thus, they WERE children of God, i.e. Christians; although, some were erring Christians, you see, so, before Paul got into their problems; Paul recognized the church at Corinth as a church of God or a church of Christ (the same thing). Paul did not speak of the church of God in some denominational sense. There were no such things as denominational churches in that day and there shouldn't be today. Either one is in Christ or out of Christ. There are no in-betweens. Notice that Paul called them saints, Paul called them sanctified and Paul put them in a class :with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..,"(v.2). So, the Christians at Corinth were simply another congregation of the Lord's church.
In v.4, Paul said he praised God for these brethren all of the time, and that thought is continued in v.5, they had received many blessings in Christ. The testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, v.6, i.e. by miraculous manifestations they had received great evidence. We do not know what miracles they had seen at the hands of Paul, like for example; the negative miracle of Paul in dealing with Elymus the sorcerer in Cyprus. (Acts 13:10) or the miracle of healing like Pal had done with the crippled man at Lystra (Acts 14:8-10). We talked about the word "confirm" as used in Mark 16:20 and Heb. 2:3 before. This is not something that every Christian did, or every Christian possessed, as many believe today. These signs and wonders followed the apostles and that's the idea in Mark 16:20 and you cannot find an exception to that. Several in the Corinthian church had received spiritual gifts; Paul indicates as bountifully as in any church, i.e. any congregation that Paul had worked with. Spiritual gifts included prophesying as we talked about at Thessalonica, i.e. preaching or bring a lesson in an inspired way. Other miraculous gifts, just like prophecy, were passed on by the laying on of the apostles hands, we have talked about before, i.g. tongues or the ability to speak a foreign language without learning that language in any conventional way; interpretation of tongues or the ability to understand foreign languages without having studied that language. There were many other spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts enabled the early church to operate before the Bible was written, that was the purpose of spiritual gifts. We have the Bible today in written form and such spiritual gifts have ceased. In ch. 12-13-14 of this book. Paul discussed spiritual gifts and their purpose; we'll get to that later, but, Paul makes the point in v.7 that the church of Corinth had been sufficiently blessed in this way. Then in v.8, Paul assured them that such confirmation and spiritual gifts would continue to the extent they were needed to enable that church to operate in an acceptable way. The point in v.9 is that the Lord will provide; they could depend upon what the Lord had promised. Then, having made THESE points and having assured them they were a legitimate church and thus capable of correcting their problems and living a faithful life; the apostle quickly sprung into a pleading appeal to correct their errors. The rest of this book, with the exception of a few verses at the very end; is a discussion of those errors and what needed to be done in correcting the same. It goes without saying the Holy Spirit has preserved this book for our benefit. Let's read v.10-17. Have you got your eyes on it? Chapter 1:10, let's read. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the came thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the coss of Christ should be made of none effect."
So, as Paul sprung into action in v.10, he began by pleading for the Corinthian brethren to do three things: (#1) "all speak the same thing." (#2) "that there be no divisions among you." And, (#3) "that ye be perfectly joined together." Paul put this right up front. Thus, mis is first and foremost in correcting congregational problems. As we read this, undoubtedly the first thought that comes to your mind is all the denominational division in our world today. I trust, you have no trouble seeing this is 180 degrees from modern day denominational philosophy. Some say, it doesn't matter what doctrine you espouse as long as you are sincere. In other words, speak anything you want to speak in the name of religion as long as you speak something. Have you heard that? I don't believe Paul would have bought that! Some say, I'll worship God my way, you worship your way, go to the church of your choice and worship God as YOU choose; we're all going to the same place. All roads lead to the same place. Have you heard that? Some have called it Christianity in diversity. Paul wouldn't have bought that one either. That is encouraging division! Paul said there should be no divisions among us. Please notice that hi the very areas that some encourage division; Paul forbids it. Some say our difference are merely a state of mind and a matter of judgment; and they imply, THAT'S all right. These are the very explicit areas Paul said (in the end of v. 10) that we MUST NOT be divided, but, my friend, Paul was not preaching on denominational division. No denominations were know in Paul's day. Paul was preaching to the church at Corinth. They didn't even know (nor had they ever heard of) all the wild excesses we have been talking about in our day. Paul condemned division within the church. Can you imagine what he would say about denominationalism today? I.e. organizations professing to be branches of the church? Then, notice in v.ll, Paul didn't hesitate to tell them his source of information. Today its: I've HEARD you preached so-and-so. If you ask them who said that; they way: well I won't call any names...but, that's what I heard. However, Paul put his source right up front. Jesus said, "let your communication be, Yea" or Nay (Matt. 5:37), i.e. say yes or say no; don't make vague accusations. That's just not the Christian way. If you have been accused; you need to know who made the accusation. That's the Christian way. Again we know nothing else about the man Chloe (in v.ll) this is the only time he is mentioned in the Bible. Obviously the Corinthians knew Chloe. Now, what was the accusation that came through the house of Chloe? "That there are contentions among you," i.e. parties, strifes, struggles, quarrels, and wrangling arguments. Do you get the picture? That might be the denominationalism way; but, that is NOT acceptable in the church.
In v. 12, Paul stated some of those contentions more precisely. The problem at Corinth was largely what I would call preach-itis. The preacher leaves and everybody stops attending. Have you see that? The Christians in Corinth had gone into preacher politics. Some claimed to be Peter-ites, some were Paul-ites, some were Apollos-ites. Undoubtedly some were teaching correctly; that one must follow Christ and not contract that disease called preach-itis. Some were saying I am of Christ. You recognize Paul and Apollos as former preachers at Corinth, of course. Cephas was undoubtedly a reference to the apostle Peter. That's the nick-name Jesus gave to Peter back hi John 1:42, that meant a stone, you'll recall. We have no record of Peter's visit to Corinth; but, this is pretty strong evidence that Peter was there. In the first verse of the book of I Peter, that apostle addressed his writing to brethren scattered several places in Asia. I get the impression in I Cor. 9:5 that Mrs. Peter traveled with her apostle husband, at least at tunes. And just like airline flights today go through Atlanta, Houston or Chicago; most of the sailing ships back then sooner or later anchored at the Isthmus of Corinth. All roads may have lead to Rome; but all ships sailed to or from Corinth, so, where ever Peter traveled it's very logical that he would have passed either through or near to Corinth. You might notice; to Paul, Paul-ites were just as disgusting as Apollos-ites or Peter-ites. Then, look at Paul's rhetorical questions in v.13. Is Christ divided?" "Was Paul crucified for you?" "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?:
These is so much thought hi those questions, it make me wish I could have heard one of Paul's good hot sermons. Those questions are just as meaningful today as they were 2000 years ago. When Paul picked up on the preacher-choosing and the preacher-it is, it made him wish he had not personally baptized any of them and he was thankful the numbers were as small as they were. All he could remember baptizing at Corinth were Crispus (the converted synagogue leader), Gaius and the family of Stephanas. Paul referred to the house of Stephanas as the "first fruits of Achaia" in I Cor. 16:15: so, they were undoubtedly the first Paul baptized when he came into the region of Corinth. Notice hi v.17, Paul said his commission was to preach the gospel, not to baptize. This tells us that Paul usually left the actual immersing to someone else very much like Jesus did back in John 4:2. We'll pick up here in our next lesson. Have a good day.