Paul: Pretty much everyone knows who Paul is, but for anyone here that does know, here is a shortened version of Paul’s life story: Paul, formerly Saul was a leading Jew, he rose above his peers and persecuted the early church. On the road to Damascus to capture more Christians, he saw God in a vision and was blinded. His companions finished taking him to Damascus where Peter restored his vision. He then went into the desert for 3 years before going to Jerusalem and taking his appointed place alongside the other Apostles. He went on 3 missionary journeys to spread the gospel, and he planted the church at corinth during his second missionary journey. In this letter, Paul does bring up his apostleship in the introduction to assert his authority to write this message. This would be a hard message, and due to the factions present, having the authority of his Apostleship would certainly lend to the receptivity of his letter.
Sosthenes: We know that Sosthenes is a co-author of the book. Because he included his name with the greeting, also includes that he knows and fully agrees with what is written. Most likely the same Sosthenes as in Acts 18:12-17. in Acts 18:12-17 we see Paul in Corinth during the time period in which the church at Corinth started. After Crispus was converted from Judaism, Sosthenes took over his position as leader of the synagogue, and he brings charges against Paul and brings it to Gallio who throws out the charges because they are purely religious charges. This Sosthenes is then beaten because he can’t get charges to stick. NKJV says “the Greeks” while the NU text reads “they all” which would imply all of the Jews who had conspired as well as
We know that Paul is writing from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8-9;19) around AD 56 which is roughly 5 years after he initially left Corinth. During those 5 years, he did write a letter before this one, (1 Corinthians 5:9) and so this is actually 2nd Corinthians, and then he wrote a 3rd letter that was lost to us before writing 2 Corinthians which is actually 4th Corinthians.
This book is written first of all to the church of God at Corinth. It was written secondly to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, and thirdly together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With this threefold greeting, it is fairly common in Paul’s epistles, and here it is important because it associates the church at Corinth with the rest of the church. But here we need to stop and get some information on Corinth itself.
Corinth was sacked in 146 B.C. by the Romans and then rebuilt by Julius Caesar who reestablished it as a capital of the province of Achaia. So it would end up attracting lots of Romans, businessman, and people from the near east including many Jews.
Corinth was a sea port in Greece. that separated the Gulf of Corinth from the Saronic Gulf. Basically it was the fastest and safest way to get goods from the East to the West, and because the sea route was incredibly dangerous and long, ship captains would rather pay to get their goods ported across the land than sail the 250 miles. This led Corinth to being a major city until the Canal of Corinth was built. They were incredibly rich, held the Isthmian games (second to the olympics, just like the World championships are to the olympics today). Corinth was home to the goddess Aphrodite which was the goddess of love who had a temple with 1000 prostitutes. The ancient world even had a term for Corinthians which was “corinthizestha” which translates “to live like a Corinthian.” We can think of it like Vegas, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Essentially this city was known for sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) What’s bad is that the church of God in Corinth was even known to be worse than the pagans of the city.
For the church that was formed in Corinth, we know about a few of the members of the church. We know that Paul planted the church in Corinth after leaving Athens. When he got there he met Aquilla and Priscilla who were also tentmakers (shared the same profession as Paul and who would follow Paul on his missionary journeys). Also, when Paul got to Corinth, he debated in the synagogue and then after they opposed him and blasphemed, he was obviously frustrated with the Jews and so he shook his garment and said he was done with them and he would go to the gentiles (Acts 18:7) So he went next door where to the house of Justus. And it was after this that Crispus, the leader of the synagogue was converted. When he was converted, he would have either been forced out or stepped down, and Sosthenes would have taken over as the leader of the Synagogue. And so we already briefly talked about Sosthenes. The next important person here is Apollos who would be the leader of the church in Corinth after Paul. This will be important when we start to see Paul address issues of division within the Corinthian church. While it is not brought up yet, it is important to see that one of the issues that Paul address is the topic of division in the church.
An important correlation for us is that America is much like Corinth. We are very prosperous, we have every gift we can possibly imagine, we have lots of wickedness both inside and outside the church, and we are incredibly divided. What is your congregation?
While we are still on the topic of the corinthian church, it is important to notice that this is still the “church of God in Corinth” despite any problems within the church, and as we will come to see there was some horrible sin, but it was still God’s church.
Now lets move onto the next group this letter was addressed to. The second part of the threefold greeting is “to those sanctified in Christ and called to be Holy” The first group here is that this is also written to those sanctified. Sanctification is a process that all Christians are going through and there are two ideas we should keep in mind here. There is a positional sanctification as well as practical sanctification. All Christians are positionally sanctified. And all Christians are being sanctified. To better illustrate this principle, its a good idea to think of Sanctified as a title, much like mayor, president, manager, or any other job title. While a person may hold the title, they may not act like the title deserves. A person may be the president, but not act presidential.
Yesterday at the Men’s breakfast, Pastor Aaron Lorkovic was talking about our view of us. This here is God’s view of us. He sees us in the position we are in, he sees us as Holy, sanctified, and set apart for his purposes. While I’m not going to go into the whole message that Pastor Aaron went into yesterday, if you turn with me to Isaiah 5 starting in verse 1 you’ll see how God sees us as His vineyard. It is a perfectly taken care of vineyard, everything necessary to produce good wine has been set up and laid out, and God expects there to be good wine from his vineyard. He sees us in such a way as this, God sees us not with the failings that we have, but rather through the lens of the sacrifice of Jesus, set apart, sanctified and Holy for His purposes. It is important to note here, that we are living Holy lives and God expects us to live Holy lives, because we are Holy, we are not Holy because we live Holy lives.
Next, we see that the third part of this greeting is that it is written to those who call on the name of Jesus Christ. We can extrapolate from this threefold greeting that while Paul was writing to the Corinthians specifically, it was also intended to be distributed around and God intended it to be used in His Canon as well. Also, we should note that the Corinthians, despite their sin, were still Holy and sanctified for God.
Verse three has a standard greeting that was common among the Jews, and is even still practiced today. With this greeting, we see two things first, Paul is giving them a blessing before he really launches into the meet of his letter. This shows incredible tact, but also shows that he is out for their best good. Now not everyone is going to take this well, but it doesn’t mean that Paul isn’t going to try. Also, of note is that Peace is the same peace that Paul refers to in Philippians 4:7, the peace that surpasses all understanding.