Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian church in the mid-50s A.D. At that time was well on the way to becoming not only the largest but also the most prosperous city in Greece.
The city had been destroyed in 146 B.C., but rebuilt by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony before 44 B.C.
The Romans rewarded soldiers, free citizens, and freed slaves by granting them land in this new city.
According to Ben Witherington, “The Corinthian people thus lived within an honor-shame cultural orientation, where public recognition was often more important than facts and where the worst thing that could happen was for one’s reputation to be publicly tarnished.”
— 1 Corinthians 1.1-3 – 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, 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:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Key Words in Paul’s Greeting
— Apostle – An apostle is literally a “sent one” on a mission for God. The acts on God’s behalf and his words carry the weight of one of God’s messengers.
— Church – There were no church buildings in Corinth. People gathered in small groups in homes.
The church is best thought of as a gathering or assembly of people faithful to Jesus.
Corinth was a city of some 50,000 people and the church numbered less than 100.
— Sanctified – Sanctified means to be “set apart.”
The church is “set apart” from the culture where it serves. The church that lives a Jesus-kind-of-life has different values and practices than its surrounding environment.
The church lives as the “salt and light” of the world (Matthew 5.13-14). It flavors, preserves, and enlightens the place where God has planted it.
— Saints – Both saint and sanctified come from the same root word in Greek.
The idea of certain noteworthy persons being called “saints” is far from Paul’s meaning in the New Testament.
People who have been “set apart” from the standards of the world’s system are also “saints.”
Paul often exhorts his followers to “become what you are.” If the work of Jesus has made us “saints,” then we are obligated to cooperate with him and live like it.
— Grace – Grace is the unmerited favor that God bestows on sinners through Jesus. It can be an expression of goodwill, joy, or pleasure.
— Peace – Shalom is a customary Hebrew greeting. It is an offer of well-being and peace upon the person who is addressed.
When the words “grace and peace” are combined, the greeting expresses a wish for well-being on someone because of the grace God has granted through Jesus Christ.
Application to Today
The church in Corinth accounted for 3 out of 2500 persons in the city. They risked being swallowed up by the values and behavior of the city folk of Corinth.
The church in 2021 represents a small percentage of the population. In every generation, the church struggles and has two alternatives.
(1) Will we resemble God’s “saints,” people who are “set apart” for God’s purposes, who live as “salt and light” in the world?
(2) Will we be so influenced by the culture around us that we adopt their values and behavior and fail to live a Jesus-kind-of-life?
The church has never been a building or an institution. The church is God’s gathered people, who have been set apart to serve God and his purposes on earth.
As we read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, God’s mission for the church will become quite clear.
Please join others in praying that we all live a Jesus-kind-of-life to the glory of our Savior.
Rudy Ross and I have a YouTube video on this passage. In the video, you have the benefit of Rudy’s insights that incorporate his study and his Jewish heritage. The video is on the Bob Spradling channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.