Thanks to a comment on my post called “Autonomous churches…” I have been studying and meditating on 1 Corinthians 1:2. To begin with, I was hoping to better understand and explain the phrase found at the end of verse 2: “together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (ESV).
However, as I was studying this verse, I learned something new about the first half of verse 2. I always love to turn to Scripture. God always (well, almost always) teaches me something new, and usually, he teaches me something that is unexpected. Now, I’m not saying that this is new and ground-breaking. In fact, I’m sure that most people who have studied this verse already know this. But, I’m excited about it, and it’s my blog, so I’m going to write about it.
In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul introduces himself as the author of this letter:
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1:1 ESV)
Then, in verse 2, Paul names the recipients of this letter:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints… (1 Corinthians 1:2a ESV)
(Note: I did not include the last half of verse 2, because it is listed above.) Now, 1 Corinthians, along with the other letters in the New Testament, are occasional letters. This means that they were written on a specific occasion, by a specific author, to a specific group of people. This does not mean that the letters do not apply to us. However, it does mean that we should recognize that the letters were written for a specific reason.
Paul addresses this letter to the church in Corinth. When he names the recipients, he does so using three clauses. (For those of you interested in the technical details, Paul uses three dative clauses to describe the recipients.) These three clauses do not identify three different groups of recipients. Instead, the three clauses each further define the identity of the recipients. (Again, for those interested in the technical details, the three clauses are in apposition to one another.) Specifically, here are the three clauses:
- To the church of God that is in Corinth
- to those sanctified in Christ Jesus
- [to those] called to be saints
I put the last prepositional phrase “to those” in brackets because the ESV translators decided not to include it. However, that phrase is parallel to the other two.
With these three phrases, Paul is telling us something important about the church in Corinth. What is he saying? The church in Corinth is the same as those who have been sanctified (“set apart”) in Christ Jesus, and the church in Corinth is the same as those who have been called saints (“holy ones”). (Note: Since this is an occasional letter, it is probably best to read the phrase “that is in Corinth” as modifying each of the three phrases. Thus, Paul is not writing to all those sanctified in Christ Jesus, but to those sanctified in Christ Jesus that are in Corinth.)
So, what/who is the church in Corinth? The church in Corinth is the same as those who have been sanctified by Christ Jesus and are now saints (“holy ones”). Thus, those who belong to Christ that are in Corinth are part of the church that is in Corinth. The church is not a subsection of believers in Corinth. Instead, the church is made up of all of the believers that are in Corinth.
Again, this is not an earth shattering break-through. However, it may be interesting to wonder how God sees the church in your city. Does he see splintered groups, or, like in Corinth, does he recognize the church in your city as made up of those whom Christ has sanctified and called holy?