Paul Says It All in Two Verses: How 1 Corinthians 1:2-3 Expresses Who We Are As Christ Followers

Posted: June 10, 2015 in 46-1 Corinthians
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1 Corinthians 1:2-3 — This letter is written to God’s church in Corinth but that is mere location. It is could be written to God’s church anywhere. It is to you who have been called by God to be His own people. That certainly makes it applicable to all believers. It is like reading a letter out loud to a friend but a room full of people are listening who can learn from it as well.

Paul begins all of his letters in the ancient style where the greeting took up a good deal of space. The greeting reaffirms the relationship between the writer and the recipient. It is the nicety before the meat of or the reason for the letter. Certainly, in this letter, Paul pulls no punches with the church at Corinth, but in this first passage and the second one as well, he is establishing the good news, the common bond, that they share. It is kind of like your professor’s comments on the cover page of your research paper which gives you the positive overall view of your paper before you start turning the pages to see how he ripped your paper apart. Not necessarily the same thing, but it kind of helps you understand how Paul is setting up this letter. I usually like to give Paul a hard time for his very lengthy sentences in many of his writings. I often call him “The Master of the Run-On Sentence.” However, In these two short verses, Paul very succinctly states the basis of our faith.

Paul reminds them that they are God’s church. It is key for us to remind ourselves of that today as well. We may pay for the bricks and mortar or the steel and vinyl. We may pay for the glass and the wood. We may pay for the electricity and water but the church is God’s. Both the physical location and structure and the people who make up the church belong to God not to us. The structure is given to the Lord and dedicated to His service. It is not mine. It is not yours and we should treat our church as it is His and not hours. It should be treated with honor and respect. It should be maintained with the best that we have. The metaphorical church, the collection of people, also belong to God. There is no one of us better than another. The church is not our private political power trip. It is God’s church. He is the reason we are there not for you nor I to get some power trip that satisfies something that we are not getting in our life outside the physical building of the church. We are all there to serve not to rule. Yes, there are leaders in a church body, but leaders must lead in humble service to the God who called us to this body.

Paul reminds them that they are called by God to be His holy people. Remember, as we discussed day before yesterday, Corinth was a wide-open, morally loose, anything goes kind of city. It was the Sin City of its day. Paul is reminding them that they are to be set apart from the moral degradation of their surroundings. This message is applicable to God’s church in any century not just the first one. In our day, many churches are compromising the truths of the Bible just so they can attract people. We see this often as expressed in ways like the Ten Suggestions rather than Ten Commandments. We see it expressed in ways such as the Bible being rewritten, edited, and simply ignored on certain sexual issues that confront our society today. We see the church watering down the gospel by not talking about judgment and the justice of God but only of His love. I am certain the church at Corinth was trying to rationalize dabbling in the sins of its city while maintaining their appearance of being God’s church. Paul reminds them that we are to be a holy people, concerned with obeying God rather than our fleshly desires. He is reminding them that when we start compromising God’s Word we are no longer holy and set apart. We are called to be in the world making a difference but we are not to be of it. If we are not striving for holiness, if we are trying to fit into the world around us, how can they tell us apart from the rest of the world. It is like going to visit a local church where the opening sequence is a medley of 1990s secular hits because it is “We love the 90s” week at that church. Nope not the theme of the sermon series. They just wanted to play secular music in church to be seen as cool to the visitors to the church. Is that where we want to take our church? Ice Ice Baby? We are to be set apart. We are to be different. We are to be God’s holy people. We are to engage culture, yes, and we are to meet people where they are at but never at the expense of gospel truth and never at the expense of ascribing holiness to that which is not holy just so we can appear to be cool!

He reminds that we are made holy through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can now exist in God’s presence through the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are made holy through Jesus Christ. This fact is important for all of us to remember. We are not made holy through our own efforts. We are saved through grace by faith. We are made holy. We do not earn holy. Holiness is bestowed is not a series of merit badges earned on the way to being an Eagle Scout. We are made holy through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is His covering over us that allows to be in the presence of a holy and perfect God. Jesus is of the same essence of the Father and thus is perfect. It is through Christ’s perfection that we are made holy. We are saved from our sin through Him. We cannot earn grace. Thus, there is no past so horrible that it cannot be redeemed by God through Jesus Christ. Let no one tell you that you do not deserve being a Christ follower! Your salvation is a gift given us by God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that makes even the foulest clean. It is through believing in Jesus as the Son of God that died for your sins that we are forgiven and it allows the Holy Spirit to come and abide in us to make us more and more like Jesus as each day progresses toward our reunion with Him in heaven. This is the wonder of the gospel. No merit badges. Just a gift of holiness through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Paul reminds them that though they are holy because they are now a part of the body of Christ that Jesus did what He did “for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” Paul reminds us that grace is for everyone. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of everyone. The work is done already. All we must do is accept Jesus gift. Jesus has done the hard work already. The acceptance of the wrath of God for sin has already been done. All we must do is either accept Jesus as our Savior and live in His holiness or reject Him as your Savior and live in the results of that rejection at eternity’s door. The gospel therefore is not ours to keep wrapped tightly and kept to ourselves. It is for everyone. There is no one excluded from the gospel. It is for the murderer. It is for the thief. It is for the prostitute. It is for the liar. It is for the adulterer. It is for the homosexual. It is for greedy. It is for the covetous. It is for those who dishonor their parents. It is for all those who sin against our perfect and righteous God. It is for all of us who are condemned by our sin in the absence of Jesus Christ. The good news is that when we repent of our sins and beg Jesus Christ to be our Savior, He will send the Holy Spirit to live in us. In His covering, the Holy Spirit can dwell in us and convict us and make us more holy like our Father in heaven daily. No one is too far gone for Jesus’ sacrifice to make them clean before God. That’s the good news. Jesus has done the work. All can come before God as holy through accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. No one’s excluded. We as Christ followers must not claim this right as our own exclusive membership. It is for everyone and we must share it and celebrate each new person in the faith. We must see those new in the faith as equal to us through the fact that we are no different than they – sinners saved by grace. Share the gospel. It is for everyone. It is ours to give away not ours to keep.

Wow, Paul in a short opening to his letter pretty much wraps up our faith in a few sentences. The church belongs to God and we should do well to remember that the next time we get the big ego and say this is MY church. We are His servants. We are God’s holy people and we should remember that we are to be of the world and for the world but we must stand on biblical truth as the basis for our lives. Finally, we must realize that our grace is a gift that we cannot earn and that very fact is the thing that we must share with the world around us. The gospel of grace is available to everyone who calls on Jesus’ name no matter what you’ve done, no matter your nationality, no matter your past, no matter your race. Jesus died for each and everyone of us. All we must do is accept His grace and be reconciled to God. Jesus did the work of accepting the wrath for your sins. Call on His name!

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