In fact, the struggle of the Corinthians could be summed up by Jesus' own prayer in John 17:15-18, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." Paul writes 1 Corinthians to a church struggling to be in the world, yet not of the world. To carry out Christ's mission in the world without becoming totally corrupted by it.
- The church of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:1-2). We began with some historical background on the city of Corinth. This was a wealthy city, located at a major crossroads of both land and sea. It was full of idolatry and immorality, to such a degree that to "Corinthianize" has become a byword for every kind of lewdness and debauchery. The Corinthians were saved from this lifestyle (1 Cor. 6:9-11), but as we will see in coming weeks, they were losing their battle against sin. In our increasingly post-Christian world, the culture is beginning to look more and more like Corinth. We must be wary that our church does not look more and more like the the Corinthian church.
- A message of hope (1 Cor. 1:2-3). Found within Paul's greeting is an incredible message of hope. Despite their grievous sins, Paul does not write off this church, but views them as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling." Just like the people of Israel were to be a holy nation, set apart from the pagan nations, so the church is called to be holy and set apart from the world. God is a holy God, and we are to reflect the holiness of the One who saved us. This is already our present position through the gospel (Heb. 10:10). But it is also what we are to become in our behavior (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
- Have I trusted in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life? Can it truly be said that I am "sanctified in Christ Jesus?"
- What does it mean to be "sanctified" and a "saint"? Do these words accurately describe my life?
- What corrupting influences fight against my holiness?
- How could 1 Corinthians 1:2 bring hope to someone who feels so guilty that they are beyond Christ's reach?
- Paul says that all who "call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" are saints by calling. What do you think this phrase means? Cf. Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:12.
- Paul writes this letter to encourage and admonish his fellow Christians in Corinth. In a day when writing letters has fallen out of style, is there someone I need to take time to write or call and encourage in holiness?
Photo credit: Todd Bolen