Summary: In today's lesson, I want to examine the salutation of 1 Corinthians.
Today is the first Sunday of 2011. It is also the first Sunday of a new series of sermons on The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. I plan to preach at least 50 sermons on 1 Corinthians.
I regard it as an extraordinary privilege to study and teach the Word of God. There are times when I think to myself, I can’t believe that I am getting paid to do this! And even though I have a number of other pastoral duties, such as shepherding, counseling, evangelizing, discipling, administering, and so on, I am immeasurably grateful for the joy of spending time in the Word of God. And so, echoing Pastor John MacArthur, “the dominant thrust of my ministry is to help make God’s living Word alive to his people.”
The apostle Paul embarked on three missionary journeys (46-47 AD; 48/49-51 AD; and 52-57 AD). Aided by Priscilla and Aquila, Paul planted the church during the 18 months he spent in Corinth in the early 50s during his second missionary journey.
After a brief trip to Judea and Syria, Paul settled in Ephesus for three years (52-55 AD). While there he wrote two letters to the Corinthians, the first of which is lost. The second letter he wrote is the current letter we have and which we call The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (written between 53 and 55 AD).
The original (and now lost) letter apparently dealt with sexual immorality, a persistent problem for the Corinthian church (5:1-13; 6:12-20). Sometime later, Paul received an oral report indicating that the Corinthians had not only misunderstood his first letter (5:10) but were plagued with serious problems of division, sexual immorality, and social snobbery (1:10; 5:1; 11:18). Around the same time, a letter arrived from the Corinthians that displayed considerable theological confusion about marriage, divorce, participation in pagan religions, order within corporate worship, and the bodily resurrection of Christians (7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 15:12, 35).
In response to these troubling developments, Paul felt compelled to write a substantial letter to Corinth, making the case that much of their conduct was out of step with the gospel. This is the letter we know as The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, and which we will be studying for the rest of the year.
First Corinthians is a pastoral letter to a spiritually troubled church. The letter is highly relevant today, as it deals with such issues as the relationship between Christians and their surrounding pagan culture, divisions within the church, the ordering of church practices such as the Lord’s Supper, and the use of spiritual gifts. The letter also deals with matters of personal morality, such as sex, marriage, celibacy, and love. That is why I am calling this series of messages: Challenges Christians Face.
So, are you ready to study The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians? I hope so. Let’s begin by reading the salutation in a message I am calling, “The Salutation of 1 Corinthians.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3:
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1–3)
The salutation of letters written in ancient times followed the standard formula of that day: A, to B, greetings! The salutation of 1 Corinthians followed the same standard formula.
In his definition of “salutation,” M. G. Easton quotes Josias Porter who apparently spent some time in the Middle East:
Eastern modes of salutation are [often] so prolonged as to become wearisome and a positive waste of time. The profusely polite Arab asks so many questions after your health, your happiness, your welfare, your house, and other things, that a person ignorant of the habits of the country would imagine there must be some secret ailment or mysterious sorrow oppressing you, which you wished to conceal, so as to spare the feelings of a dear, sympathizing friend, but which he, in the depth of his anxiety, would desire to hear of. I have often listened to these prolonged salutations in the house, the street, and the highway, and [often] I have experienced their tedious monotony, and I have bitterly lamented the useless waste of time.
The salutation of 1 Corinthians is certainly not a useless waste of time. Indeed, it is very instructive.
In today’s lesson, I want to examine the salutation of 1 Corinthians. We will look at:
1. The Greeters in the Salutation (1:1)