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“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul writes this letter from Ephesus to the church he planted in Corinth five years earlier. It is a reply to a letter he received from the church with questions about faith and life. We don’t know what the questions were but it would be nice to know. Some College profs ask their students to write the letter that might have made it into Paul’s hands.
Obviously there are troubles in this church. And in a slightly cryptic way Paul tells us what those troubles were in these first 9 verses.
Paul slips in this phrase: to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he addressed a people that were very legalistic. The Corinthians were on the other side of the spectrum. They were very into “grace” and knew they were forgiven, but they abused grace and became permissive. Since we are under grace, they thought, we can live how we please.
Barna reports that evangelical Christians are just as likely if not more so to divorce as pre-Christians. One wonders if that is not because we have emphasized grace so much that we Christians rely on God’s forgiveness to excuse our actions.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that we are called to be holy. He uses the word “sanctified” which means “set apart.” But it’s more than that.
Consider another big word: Justification. This describes the change that God makes in us when we believe in Jesus. Some call it being “born again.” It is the inward change of our natures from a selfish way of living to a selfless, Christlike way of living. It is a new attitude. This is what the Corinthians understood.
What they did not understand was sanctification. This is the visible result of being saved so that people can see that we are different. Our behavior changes or ought to change when we believe in Jesus. Some people are content though, to believe in Jesus, and don’t know that they need to follow him too. To follow is to imitate and to be like him.
Corinthian behavior was what was in question. As we study this letter over the next year we will see that they had problems with each other, divisive problems, sexual immorality, marriage problems, and so much more. They were saved but they didn’t know how to act saved. Sounds familiar.
We are called by God to be his holy people. Not to be “holier than thou” in attitude that others resent. But to be different in how we approach life and practice – what we do and how we do it. Charles Colson said, “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.” It is God’s church as Paul says, the church of God in Corinth, and so it should act like God’s church.
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched
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