1 Corinthians 1:1-9 – God is Faithful

Translation & sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 05 Oct. 2008

I. NAW Translation:


1. Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ

through the will of God,

and Sosthenes, the brother.


2.  To: the church of God

which exists in Corinth,

having been made holy by Christ Jesus,

the called saints

together with all those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord

 in every place

 – theirs and ours.

3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


4. I am thanking my God always concerning y’all,

on account of the grace of God which was given you by Jesus Christ,

5. so that in everything, y’all were enriched by Him

in every word

and in every [piece of] knowledge,

6. even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed by you,

7. so that y’all don’t miss out on any [spiritual] gift

as you are eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

8. Who will also make you firm until the end –

so as not to be called down in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9. God is faithful,

through whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.


II. The Faithfulness of God in GREETINGS

A)  The Sender: Paul

1.    Apostle = penny (one sent/cent)

2.    Paul was commissioned by Jesus “to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15)

3.    The church in Corinth was founded by Paul in his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). He had started preaching in the Jewish synagogue in Corinth, but when the Jews were unresponsive, Paul left them to preach to gentiles. Paul ministered there for a year and a half, but at one point the Jews from the synagogue tried to convict Paul in a Roman court of being a troublemaker. Gallio, the Roman proconsul, drove the Jews from the judgment-seat. The Greek mob, who disliked Jews, took the opportunity then of beating Sosthenes the president of the Jewish synagogue, while Gallio looked on and refused to interfere, being secretly pleased that the mob should second his own contempt for the Jews. Paul probably at this time had showed sympathy for an adversary in distress, which issued in the conversion of [Sosthenes, whose name stands with Paul’s in the introduction of I Cor.] “Thus, Saul the persecutor turned into Paul the apostle, and Sosthenes the leader in persecution against that apostle, were two trophies of divine grace that, side by side, would appeal with double power to the Church at Corinth.” (JFB)

4.    Since the church was planted, there had been a number of communications with the church in Corinth:

                                                          a.      Paul seems to have paid a second visit to Corinth before writing his epistle, For in 2 Cor. 12:4; 2Cor. 13:1-2, he speaks of his intention of paying them a third visit, implying he had already twice visited them. During his three years' stay at Ephesus he could have easily hired one of the many ships that travelled between Ephesus and Corinth and revisited his Corinthian converts. This second visit was probably a short one (compare 1 Cor. 16:7); and was probably painful and humiliating to Paul as he saw (2 Cor. 2:1; 2 Cor. 12:21), the scandalous conduct of so many of his own converts. (JFB)

                                                          b.      Apollos had gone to Corinth with letters of commendation from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:28-19:1), but apparently left because of factions in that church (1 Cor. 1:10-12) and returned to Ephesus. When Paul urged Apollos to go back, he declined (1 Cor. 16:12).

                                                           c.      Paul then sent Timothy over to Corinth to put an end to the factions (1 Cor. 4:17), though he was uneasy over the outcome (1 Cor. 16:10.)…

                                                          d.      Some of the household of Chloe had also brought word from Corinth with full details of the factions in the church (1 Cor. 16:5-7)

                                                          e.      The church in Corinth also had sent a committee (Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus) to Paul in Ephesus.

                                                             f.      And Paul had also already written a brief first letter to the Corinthians directing them "not to associate with fornicators." (1Cor. 5:9-12) That letter probably also mentioned the fund-raiser he was organizing for the poor in Jer­usalem (1Cor. 16:2) So 1st Cor. is actually Paul’s 2nd letter to them.

5.    Paul writes from Ephesus (1Cor. 16:8). He wrote that he intended to leave Ephesus after Pentecost of that year, his third year in Ephesus. He really did leave that spring when the uproar in Ephesus at the hands of the silversmith Demetrius caused his hasty departure (Acts 18:21-20:1; 2Cor. 2:12.) Vincent pegs this at A.D. 57; James Boyer at AD 55, and A.T. Robertson at AD 54 or 55.

6.    Paul probably sent the letter to Corinth by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, whom he mentions (1 Cor. 16:17-18, 24) as with him then, but who he implies are about to return back to Corinth; and therefore he commends them to the regard of the Corinthians. (JFB)

B)  The Recipient: “the Church of God in Corinth”

1.    Hand out map / point to map (http://www.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Corinth,+Greece&ie=UTF8&ll=37.958816,22.931213&spn=0.266363,0.571976&t=h&z=11)

2.    Corinth was situated on the isthmus which divided Northern Greece from the Peloponnesus. It had three harbors, Cenchreae and Schoenus on the east, and Lechaeumn on the west. At its narrowest part the isthmus was crossed by a level track called the diolcus, over which vessels were dragged on rollers from one port to the other. (You can see on the map the canal that has since been dug.) This was in constant use, because it was easier than sailing around the dangerous promontory of Malea, the southern extremity of the Peloponnesus. Poets called the city bimaris, “the city of the two seas.”

3.    Corinth was a center of trade, a bridge between the eastern and the western world, with the north and the south. In Paul's time it was distinctively a commercial center, marked by wealth and luxury. “It was the 'Vanity Fair' or the “Las Vegas” of the Roman Empire.

4.    Because of its strategic position, Corinth was destroyed in a war in 146 BC, but Julius Caesar rebuilt it a hundred years later and peopled it with a colony of veterans and freedmen… both Greek and Jewish merchants settled in Corinth in such numbers as probably to outnumber the Romans. (Vincent)

5.    Corinth was notorious for debauchery, even in the profligate heathen world... The temple of Aphrodite (Venus) employed a thousand ministers. This was the goddess of love. What kind of services you think those thousand male and female “ministers” provided? Sexual sin was bad, but Drunkenness was even worse in Corinth. In the Greek plays, usually if a character was from Corinth he was represented as drunk.

6.    There were many problems in Corinth which Paul addresses in the letter:

                                                          a.      Lawsuits brought by Christians against Christians in secular law courts

                                                          b.      The doctrine of the resurrection

                                                           c.      Abuse of spiritual gifts as occasions of display and fanaticism

                                                          d.      The interruption of public worship by disorderly conduct

                                                          e.      Decorum violated by women…,

                                                             f.      Even the holy communion desecrated by gluttony and drunkenness.

                                                          g.      Controversy about meats offered to idols;

                                                          h.      Disputes about celibacy and marriage;

                                                              i.      Unhealthy interest in Greek philosophy and rhetoric in contrast to Paul's simple preaching of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:1),

                                                              j.      and the opposition of false teachers - Emissaries from the Judaizers of Palestine attacked the apostolic authority of Paul and boasted of "letters of commendation" from Jerusalem (1 Cor. 9:1-2; 2Cor. 10:1-8)…

C)  Paul filled a customary greeting with Christian meaning

1.    According to Thistleton, letters of Paul’s day and age were very brief in the introduction, usually containing no more than the proper name and title of the sender and recipient and often followed by some giving of thanks. (You can see an example of this in Acts 23:26.)

2.    Customary greetings can become meaningless:

                                                          a.      English “good-bye” is a contraction of “God be with ye.”

                                                          b.      My friend in college made fun of the “How are you doing? Fine.” saw by giving nonsense answers to the question, “How are you doing?” “A truckload of midgets in green leisure suits.” People would still reply “Fine” to that!

3.    Paul takes this customary form and fills it with meaning

                                                          a.      Instead of a worldly title, he uses a church role for himself – apostle – and  points to Christ and teaches the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

                                                          b.      Paul also encourages Christian community:

i.        Instead of mentioning only his name, as was customary in Greek letter-writing, he actually mentions the name of his associate, Sosthenes, who probably wrote the letter.

ii.      He also fosters community by connecting the church in Corinth in v.2 with “all in every place who call upon the name of the Lord” to show the universality of the “fellowship of … Jesus Christ” (v.9)

iii.    and also by the little phrase at the end of v.2 “theirs and ours.” In the Greek text, the phrase “our Lord Jesus Christ” comes before the phrase “in every place” and then comes the phrase “theirs and ours” so it appears in Greek to read “their [place] and our [place]” but it also makes sense as an expansion from calling Jesus “our Lord” (as though Jesus did not belong to a world-wide church community) to the more expanded “their [Lord] and ours,” to show that the Corinthians are part of a much bigger community of God.

                                                           c.      The blessing in v.3 is filled with meaning:

i.        GRACE/ χάρις - Thayer Definition: “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness
good will, loving-kindness, favour - of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith…”

ii.      PEACE/ εἰρήνη - Thayer Definition: “a state of national tranquility - exemption from the rage and havoc of war
peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
of the Messiah’s peace - the way that leads to peace (salvation)
of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is”

iii.    Both grace and peace involve drawing closer to God. Grace is the self-giving of God’s son freely offered to us as a gift, and peace – at least in Paul’s mind – is harmony with God and salvation. These are rich words of blessing which seek that the hearer be saved and put into right relationship with God!

                                                          d.      Although it was customary to say “I give thanks” at the opening of a letter (Thistleton), Paul infuses this with real meaning and a real prayer.

i.        “This pattern is instructive for us.  Sometimes we get fixated on problems in the church or on people that annoy us and it never occurs to us to be thankful for the grace of God that has been given us in Christ Jesus.  Regardless of any problems you see in the church – whether perceived or real – we should be overflowing with thanksgiving to God for His grace in Christ Jesus.  It’s an insult to God to think that everything has to be perfect before we give thanks.  This would be a great discipline for us as a church: every single day we can thank God for the grace He’s given us.  I look around and see God’s grace toward people who have recently come to faith in Christ; I see God giving grace to people who are suffering in various ways; I see God’s grace in teaching people deep, substantive things that will bear fruit for eternity.  God’s grace is everywhere if we care to notice and give thanks.”  ~Steve Ratliffe

D)  How can we infuse our greetings with Christian meaning to fulfill God’s purposes?

1.    How do you introduce yourself in emails, phone conversations, facebook, etc? Is it to impress people with prestigious attainments, or to advance God’s kingdom?

2.    Sincerity – Ask “How are you doing” with a genuine interest.

3.    Create community by including other people.

4.    Speak personal blessings rather than being impersonal or standoffish.

5.    Express thanks.

III. The Faithfulness of God in CALLING

A)  What you are called has a powerful impact on your life: ILLUSTRATIONS

1.    Girl at pic-nic “I am ADHD, and that makes me aggressive and anti-social, so you’d better watch out!”

2.    Chris’ birthday celebration: “This is what a Zachary man does…”

3.    Paul uses a form of the Greek word kalew “to call” 6 times in these 9 verses:

B)   v.1 “a called apostle”

1.    noun used as an adjective for what kind of apostle.

2.    Gal 1:1-20  Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),  2  and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:  3  Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,  4  who gave himself for our sins … 15  And when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,  16  to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:  17  neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus. (ASV)

C)  v.2 “the church” – (ek-klay-sia) lit. “called-out ones”

1.    The church consists of those whom God has chosen out of the world to be His people.

2.    “Look at the [believers] around you… You are looking at people who have been set apart by God for His purposes!  Whether they understand it or not, whether they are living it or not, God is staking His reputation and His purposes in this world on them and on you.” ~ Steve Ratliffe

3.    Note only one “church” in Corinth, although there were probably multiple groups of people meeting with all their divisions.

4.    Calvin notes that what makes a church is that there is a body of believers who have “the gospel, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper — tokens by which a Church ought to be judged of. For although some had begun to have doubts as to the resurrection, the error not having spread over the entire body, the name of the Church and its reality are not thereby affected. Some faults had crept in among them in the administration of the Supper, discipline and propriety of conduct had very much declined: despising the simplicity of the gospel, they had given themselves up to show and pomp; and in consequence of the ambition of their ministers, they were split into various parties. Notwithstanding of this, however, inasmuch as they retained fundamental doctrine: as the one God was adored among them, and was invoked in the name of Christ: as they placed their dependence for salvation upon Christ, and, had a ministry not altogether corrupted: there was, on these accounts, a Church still existing among them.”

D)  v.2b the church in Corinth are the “called saints”

1.    just like Paul was the “called apostle”

2.     “you were made holy by/in Christ”

                                                          a.      “made holy” (Perfect) and therefore called saints

                                                          b.      “made holy” (Passive)

i.        by Christ (through His death on the cross),

ii.      in Christ (by trusting in Him and being in relationship with Him)

3.    Centrality of Christ – referred to in every verse here

                                                          a.      Commissioned Paul (v.1)

                                                          b.      sanctified the believers (v.2)

                                                           c.      gives grace and peace (v.3-4)

                                                          d.      enriches us in word and knowledge (v.5)

                                                          e.      We are to bear testimony of Him (v.6)

                                                             f.      He is coming (v.7)

                                                          g.      will confirm us to the end (v.8)

                                                          h.      our fellowship is organized around him (v.9)

4.    “holy” means “set apart.” NIV = “God’s people” in Eph., but not here.

5.    Applies to every believer – not some super Christians

6.    1 Pet. 1:1-15  “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect… 15 just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do”

7.    Called to a lifestyle of holiness that matches your status as holy/saint

E)   v.2c “together with all of those who call upon the name of our Lord”

1.    ἐπι-καλέομαι Thayer Definition:

                                                          a.       to put a name upon, to surname – or to permit one’s self to be surnamed

                                                          b.      to be named after someone

                                                           c.      to call something to one

                                                          d.      to invoke - to call upon for one’s self, in one’s behalf as a helper, witness, or judge

                                                          e.      to call upon by pronouncing the name of Jehovah. Prayers addressed to God ordinarily began with an invocation of the divine name

2.    The phrase “Call upon the name” is used throughout the O.T. to describe worship:

                                                          a.      Gen. 4:26  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

                                                          b.      Elijah at the altar on Mt. Carmel: 1Kings 18:24  And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God."

                                                           c.      David speaking of world evangelism: Psalm 105:1  Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! (cf. 1 Chron. 16:8, quoted in Isa 12:4)

                                                          d.      David at the Passover feast: Psalm 116:13  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…17  I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

                                                          e.      Joel 2:32  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved… the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (Quoted in Acts 2:21 and Rom 10:13)

                                                             f.      Zeph. 3:9 combines it with spiritual service: "For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.

                                                          g.      Zech. 13:9 speaks of a covenant-making ceremony with God: …They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"

3.    Every time this phrase is used in the Old Testament the “name” is the name Jehovah, or LORD in all caps. Paul copies the phrase into the New Testament and identifies the LORD God as our Lord Jesus Christ! This is teaching that Jesus is the same LORD as the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

4.    Thistleton notes that to call Him “Lord” means you are taking the position of His slave, so it is not just saying the words but committing your life to His lordship.

F)   The next time the word “call” appears is in v.8  – translated blameless/guiltless in the English versions.

1.    Greek (a-neg-klay-tous) Literally “not called down” there will be no re-call.

2.    ILLUSTRATION: Ever seen those recall notices in the customer service area at Wal-Mart? The ones with pictures of children’s toys that had little parts that broke off and caused little kids to choke so the manufacturer had to recall the product?

3.    If God has called us to be worshippers of Him, we will not come before him because we want to but because He wants us to. Therefore we have no need to fear that He will reject us when we stand before Him on the last day.

4.    Romans 11:29 says God’s “gifts and calling are irrevocable” – there will be no recall.

5.    As we saw in Ephesians 5, Jesus is working to present His church spotless and blameless before God as a perfect bride on His day. You will be so perfect that there’s no possibility of being rejected.

G)  Finally we have v.9 “you were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ”

1.    Fellowship is a reciprocal giving and taking.

2.    I John 1:3 “What we have seen and heard, we are proclaiming also to you, that you also may be having fellowship with us. Moreover the fellowship which is ours is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (NAW)


1.    What God has started He will finish, so do not give up.

                                                          a.      This is illustrated in the history of the Corinthian church as Paul recounts it in vs. 4-8:

i.        Paul recalls in v.6 how the Corinthians had believed “the testimony of Christ” (the Gospel)

ii.      when they were “enriched” with the “word” and “knowledge” that Paul had brought them through his preaching (v.5 – most English translations render the Greek word which literally means “word” as “speech” but either way, the “all speech/every word and all knowledge/every [piece of] knowledge” is an explanation of the earlier phrase “you were enriched in everything”) By the way, the word “your” in the NIV “your speech” is not in the Greek text.

iii.    “God’s grace was given” (v.4) to them so that they were regenerated and could repent of their rebellion against God and believe the message of salvation through Jesus.

iv.   and in v.7, God gave spiritual gifts to the people of Corinth so that they would not “miss out/lack” on any grace as a means to salvation. However, these graces are not perfected yet in them, so they must keep waiting until Christ’s return for that perfection.

                                                          b.      This is also true in our lives and in the lives of people in the church around us: “When the Scripture speaks of God as ‘faithful,’ (v.9) the meaning in many cases is… what he begins he prosecutes to the end… God is steadfast in what he purposes… He consequently does not make sport as to his calling, but will unceasingly take care of his work. From God’s past benefits we ought always to hope well as to the future… It is the part of Christian candor to hope well of all who have entered on the right way of salvation, and are still persevering in that course, notwithstanding that they are at the same time still beset with real distempers… ~J. Calvin

2.    What God has given you is enough for what He has called you to do now. “If we don’t understand that we ‘are not lacking in any spiritual gift’ we might look around and think, ‘Let’s not try anything too ambitious here. We’ve got limited resources.  Let’s play it safe.’  But God says, ‘You are not lacking in any gift!  I will give you everything you need to thrive as a church and to fulfill the things I call you to do.’” ~Steve Ratliffe

3.    Do not expect perfection; embrace the church with all its shortcomings: “This is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, that we may not require that the Church, while in this world, should be free from every wrinkle and stain, or forthwith pronounce unworthy of such a title every society in which everything is not as we would wish it. For it is a dangerous temptation to think that there is no Church at all where perfect purity is not to be seen. For the man that is prepossessed with this notion, must necessarily in the end withdraw from all others, and look upon himself as the only saint in the world, or set up a peculiar sect in company with a few hypocrites.” ~J. Calvin

4.    Grow in the knowledge of God:

                                                          a.      Col. 1:5-10 “the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, ye heard of before in the word of the truth of the gospel,  6  which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth;  7  even as ye learned of Epaphras…  9  For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  10  to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God”

                                                          b.      2 Pet. 1:2-3  “Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  3  seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue”

5.    God will confirm you/sustain you/keep you strong until the end:

                                                          a.      Story of backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where Amos completed a grueling hike up to 13,500ft Horn Peak, then took on a 5-mile hike with a backpack on. The rest of us made sure he reached the destination: we slowed down and walked with him, we encouraged him with our words, we even carried his pack for him, and he made it to the campsite. Two days later, I made a grueling 10-mile fast-hike to get up the side of Mt. Marble with J&B and back to a trailhead, then had to put on a pack and hike a mile or two to the car. I didn’t think I could make it. What a relief when I rounded the bend utterly exhausted and found my friend’s car waiting for me to drive us and our packs those last two miles back to our car! Jesus is there with us, encouraging us, and helping us, even carrying us to make sure we reach the goal of glory.

                                                          b.      Jesus promised in Matt. 28 - “Going into all the world, make disciples of every nation… and I am with you always, even until the end of the age!”


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