Summary: In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses essentials for a sound church. In this chapter, he emphasizes how we came to be.
Essentials of the Church
We are a church, in the Townships, that wants to make a difference for the Kingdom. However, we recognize that we have some challenges. We have the geographical challenge of being spread out over a considerable distance, and not having a concentration of us, in any significant number, in any one location. We have the challenge of being an aging congregation. We have the challenge of being a church with limited financial resources. However, we are a church that has been here for many years and one which, I firmly believe, is to be an outpost, with a continuing mission, in the work of God’s kingdom. We are a church that wants to do God’s work. While we seek, and wait, for His clarity on the matter of how and what He wants us to be doing here, I think it is an ideal time to be renewed in essentials of the church. It is a good time to be renewed in those basic matters that will enable us to be a better church, and to function more completely on the front lines of the Kingdom in this lovely area.
Over the next months, we will draw some essential lessons from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. It was a church, too, trying to figure itself out and trying to understand how to be, within the kingdom work of the time. Paul’s letter is very helpful for us and is, I believe, very renewing and encouraging, too.
Today, then, we’ll focus on the first chapter, where there is one essential of the church clearly laid before us. This is one that we dare not forget, as we advance in doing the work of the family to which we belong- that wonderful family of God.
1 Cor.1.- 8 times, Paul emphasizes where this church came from. This is the essential- likely the most basic and necessary essential- of the church. Through using the words ‘call’ (and variants), chosen, and ‘you are’, Paul underscores how this body came to be, and how each individual came to be in it. Let’s begin to see this, and how Paul unfolds this vital lesson.
v.1- Paul was called- he acknowledged that he came to be, within the Christian context, through God’s intervention in his life. His was a dramatic calling, as we know, and it was not simply a calling to conversion, but one to service, as well. He was merrily going along living his life, and doing, for God, what he thought ought to be done, when ‘whammo’, he was struck as with lightning and his life changed. He wasn’t called for just anything, but was called to serve Jesus, as a result of God’s will. When you think of it, this is the same for each of us, and Paul underscores this, as he goes along. Each of us was merrily going along in our lives and God, for reasons that only He seems to know, ‘dared’ to interrupt our lives and ‘dared’ to give us a direction different from what we might have taken on our own. For some of us, this happened early. For some of us, this happened later. But, for all of us, it happened. God’s will is involved. Just imagine that- meditate on that- think of that. God, who made everything ‘from things which do not appear’ called, and you heard.
v.2- Paul underscores, now, the origin of the church, and the position of those in the church. The church belonged to God, and not to any individual or party- this became an issue later, but Paul is laying the sound foundation, now, for what would come in a short while. Those in the church are sanctified, which means to be set apart by the Spirit, and not by human action. Divine action formed the church, and this action, again, was from the highest source. Those in the church, then and now, are ‘called’ to be saints. This calling has great moral consequence. This is not just some title God had to come up with so people would feel special, but it is one that carries a lot of responsibility- a lot of consequence. He underscores the unity of the church- from many areas, with different people- but all having Jesus as their lord.
v.3- Paul gives the greeting which gives the greatest gifts he can pray for or wish for. Grace is the basis for all Christian life, and peace is the outcome of God’s redemption in Christ.
Paul, therefore, begins by reminding people of who they are. He goes on to explain his love for them and to raise their viewpoint. They were guilty, as we’ll see, of looking at things ‘here below’ and he wanted to elevate their vision. So, he (v.4) reminds them of what they’ve received through Jesus- not through their own action or activity. He shows them how they’ve received what they always sought, but never achieved through Greek society and approach. The Greeks highly sought the ability to speak well and to have great knowledge- and they didn’t really receive it until they submitted to Christ. Paul bore Christ’s testimony to them (v.6), and it was confirmed by their transformed lives. They, as all Christians, had not attained the peak of life, yet, because they were waiting (v.7) for the fullest revelation of Jesus- waiting for the revealing of Him at His return, and he reminds them of Christ’s ongoing work in them (v.8). They don’t have to worry about their fate, as long as they are in Christ, because God is faithful (v.9); God called them into a fellowship which is created by Christians’ common participation in Christ. They, and we, have not been called into a social group; we have not been called into a humanitarian organization; we have been called into a spiritual body, which is the body of the greatest individual to ever walk this earth, then return to heaven.