Series on I Corinthians, I The Mission of Paul, A A Mission of Mercy, Text 1:1-9, Title: Confidence in Grace


As was customary the apostle Paul begins with identifying himself and those to whom he was writing. This salutation tells us that the Apostle is a man with a mission. The Apostles were the founders of the Church of Christ. One of the characteristics of the true Church is that it is apostolic which means that it follows the teaching of the Apostles as its authority. So Paul affirms his apostleship at the beginning of most of his letters. Since he was not one of the original 12 his apostleship was challenged in many places. Where it is not, as in Philippi and in Thessalonica, he simply calls himself a servant of Christ. As we progress you will see that the issues in the 21st are not very different from the first century. in these introductory verses we can see that Paul's mission was essential, ecclesiastical, evangelistic and encouraging.

I Essential

Paul’s writing is essential. He feels the compulsion of God’s call to feed the sheep. As an Apostle he is called to serve the church in a unique way. Thus he identifies himself in verse 1, Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. His realization of his calling makes it clear that this letter like all of scripture is essential to our Christian lives. All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. We may not temporize an apostle's words. They are given for church of all ages. We need this badly. While talking with a lady Bible teacher, a minister mentioned capital punishment. "I'm against capital punishment," she said. "I cannot imagine anyone claiming to be a man of God who believes in capital punishment. Why would you believe in capital punishment?" "Very simple reason," he said. In the ONLY society that God ever established on earth he decreed capital punishment. I can give you the verses." "I would be very happy to hear the verses," she said. "But I would first have to go to the Holy Spirit and see how He would lead ME on the subject." Do you realize what she was saying? Even if God in His Word did, in fact, establish capital punishment, I would first ask the Holy Spirit for myself whether capital punishment is right. We hear what we think. The Scripture is given to tell us what to think and is most necessary.

II Ecclesiastical

In verse 2 we see that this letter is written to a specific church like the majority of Paul's epistles, 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. The major exceptions are those written to individuals. However, the latter part of verse two says he is writing to all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus. This means for all times and places. Paul is dealing here with issues that affect the church as much today as they did in the first century. There was division in this church and Paul teaches us how to establish real community. In dealing with idolatry he teaches us how to live in a wealthy, corrupt, pagan society without compromise. He deals with how to live with non-christians, and with marriage and divorce. The issues of worship and spiritual gifts are matters of great concern in the twentieth century church and he discusses these too. I Corinthians presupposes a broad knowledge of Christian doctrine. but the Corinthians were not practicing what they preached and neither is the Church in the 21st century.

III Evangelistic

In verse 3 Paul says, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . We are apt to skip over this common greeting, but it is pregnant with meaning and purpose. The ordinary Greek greeting was “chairein” wishing somebody joy and gladness. Paul changes it to “charis,” grace. by changing a couple of letters he changes the world. grace is the theme of Paul's life. True story: Two pastors were on their way to Alanta, Ga. for a meeting. After staying in a motel overnight, they stopped at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. When their meal was delivered, one pastor who had never been south before saw this white, mushy looking stuff on his plate. When the waitress came by again he asked her what it was. "Grits", she replied. "Ma'm I didn't order it and I'm not paying for it". "Sir, down here you don't order it and you don't pay for it, you just get it." How like the grace of God!  You don’t order it and you don’t pay for it. James Packer writes, God does not owe it to anyone to stop justice from taking its course. He is not obligated to pardon; it is an act done, as we say, “of his own free will,” and nobody forces his hand. It depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Grace is free because it is self-originated and proceeds from the One who was free not to be gracious. Only when one realizes that what decides each man’s destiny is whether or not God resolves to save him from his sins, and that this is a decision which God need not make in any single case, can one begin to grasp the Biblical view of grace. This grace permeates every letter Paul wrote. He spends much time defending grace. Peace is the ordinary Hebrew greeting. Shalom is hello. You can ask someone “mah shalomka”, “how is your peace” hopefully he answers “tov meod” “very good.” But here the word peace means much more. Peace is the result of grace and stands for all the blessings we receive as a result of being in God’s favor. Salvation is found only in the gospel and in Jesus who died for our sins. Paul has some hard things to say to them so he tells them first that he believes they are genuine believers possessing God’s grace and peace. Otherwise there would be no point in writing.

IV Encouraging

Paul's thankfulness for these people is amazing. If i had to write a letter to a church with contention, corruption and confusion i would have a hard time being thankful for them. Since this is difficult for us to understand let us look carefully at why he was thankful. the first reason is that he was confident of their faith and secondly he was confident of God's faithfulness.

A  Faith

He is confident of their faith in verses 4-7, I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. They were genuine believers. The evidence of the Holy Spirit's working was abundant. They had gifts of faith and gifts of service.  When i first read this i thought Paul was setting them up, but it goes much deeper than that. What the Apostle is saying is that, because he is confident of their genuine faith, he can be thankful in writing to them because he knows these problems will be worked out. Paul was not a person to cut and run. he knew the churches had many problems. He was a man who hung in their and worked at those problems because this was the church that Christ had purchased with his own blood.

B  Faithfulness

But he was also confident of God's faithfulness in verses 8 and 9,  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. Knowing that God had begun a good work in them he was confident that he would complete that work in the day of Jesus Christ, that is, the day of His return. Right now they were anything but blameless in their actions but in Christ they were blameless, justified, forgiven. Paul held that ideal and he did not give up on them. This confidence was the practical result of the grace we talked about in verse three. In 1940, Dr. Clarence Jordan founded Koinonia Farm for poor whites and blacks in Americus, Georgia. The idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who were segregationists. For fourteen years The town tried everything to stop him. They boycotted him, and slashed his workers’ tires when they came to town. Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of Clarence Jordan. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm and riddled Clarence’s home with bullets. And they chased off almost everyone. Clarence recognized the voices of many of the Klansmen who were church people. One was the local newspaper’s reporter. The next day, the reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smoldered and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting. “I heard the awful news,” he called to Clarence, “and I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing.” Clarence just kept on hoeing and planting. The reporter kept prodding, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who went on planting. Finally, he said in a haughty voice, “Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them Ph.D's and you’ve put fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?” Clarence stopped hoeing, turned and looked the reporter in the eye and said firmly, “About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.” Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia and the farm is going strong today. Paul said in Galatians, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ Jesus my Lord. That’s why he is thankful.