Summary: Several facts about how a church should be can be found in the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 1.
The first three verses of 1 Cor. 1 are the introduction to Paul’s letter. It’s only three verses, but they set the scene for the rest of the letter. Let’s look at the first verse.
READ v. 1.
Notice that Paul didn’t refer to himself as a messenger of himself or of anyone else. He is a messenger of Christ. That’s a big statement. You see, the messenger of Christ is called by God’s will. It’s God who calls men and women to serve Him. As I have stated time and again, we don’t choose to serve God. God chooses us to serve Him.
Paul was called by God to be an apostle. That means that Paul was anointed by God to be a messenger, a witness, a missionary to carry the gospel of Christ to men. That’s a huge responsibility. This one statement tells me that when God chooses you to serve, it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously.
There are many in our seminaries today that choose to go to seminary to be a minister. But sometimes that can be a mistake. I had one seminary professor tell me that so many young men and women enter seminary because they think it’s the easy road—an easy career—not too strenuous or exhausting.
Let me say this; ministry is not a career. It’s not a job. It’s a calling. And God is the One who calls. He is the One who chooses us. I was called to the ministry. Our minister to families and youth was CALLED to the ministry. I hope you can see the difference.
In Paul’s particular case, some of the Corinthian believers were questioning and denying his call by God. That is nothing out of the ordinary. That type of thing still happens today. And that is why Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians with the very important announcement of his call by God.
Paul calls Sosthenes “our brother”. That means that he was a brother in Christ. Sosthenes was probably one of the men sent by the Corinthian church to deliver their letter to Paul. That was the letter that asked Paul the questions that he answers here in 1 Corinthians.
It’s interesting to note that Sosthenes may also have been the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. He may have been the ruler who took the lead in having Paul arrested and tried. We also need to note that Sosthenes was himself taken and beaten by the Roman governor because he dared to bother the busy schedule of the courts with such an insignificant matter as preaching. (Acts 18: 12-17) If this Sosthenes was the same as the ruler of the synagogue, he was at some point converted to Christ.
The point is that the messenger of God is called by God, but his call doesn’t make him better or superior to other believers. The called person as a messenger of God is to be acknowledged and respected, but it doesn’t make that person a superior person. That person is a brother or sister to all other believers.
READ v. 2-3. So Paul addresses the local church. His statement reveals what a church is; or what a church SHOULD be. He says the church is born of God. It’s the church of God that was in Corinth. The church was not the church of Corinth. It was the church of God IN Corinth. The church belongs to God—not any city or any man, or any group of people.
There is a lesson in this statement. Sometimes some leader or some group of people in a church begins to act like they own the church, as though the church exists to do their will. That’s dangerous behavior both to the church and to those who act like they own it. It will destroy the fellowship and ministry and the usefulness of any church. And it will eventually lead to punishment for those who set themselves up as the owners of the church. That’s because God will not share His glory with any self-centered, arrogant person who works to destroy His church. The church is God’s alone.
That leads to the next thing: the local church and its believers are set apart in Christ, and called holy. The word “sanctified” means to be set apart or separated. God’s church is to be set apart unto Him. Believers are not to be taken out of the world, but they are to be different FROM the world. That means their lifestyle and purpose in life are to be different. They are no longer to love the world.
How is that church sanctified? Paul tells us verse 2. They are set apart to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. No person can approach God or be set apart to God except through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that believers are called to be holy.