Salutations and Thanksgiving
Addressing (I Corinthians 1:1-2)
Letters typically begin by stating who is writing and to whom the letter is addressed. In this case the letter is from Paul and Sosthenes and it is addressed to the church at Corinth. Paul makes it clear that he was called to his position as an apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will (Acts 9:15-16; 26:15-18). The only other time Sosthenes is mentioned is in Acts 18:17. At that time he was the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, the replacement for Crispus who was converted by Paul to Christianity. He had tried to get the Gentile courts to arrest Paul but failed and was beaten by the Gentiles for his attempt. It appears that sometime later Sosthenes was converted and now was with Paul in Ephesus.
Paul emphasizes that the church in Corinth also belonged to God and was set apart for a holy purpose in Jesus, thus they were called “saints” along with all other Christians in the world. While the church in Corinth is the primary recipient of the letter, Paul knows that its content is also for all Christians in the world. What unites these Christians is that they all claim Jesus as their Lord.
Benediction (I Corinthians 1:3)
Paul’s desire is that both grace, that is the divine blessings of God, and peace, the freedom from conflict, come to them from God, their Father and Paul’s, and the ruler, Jesus Christ. Paul uses similar benedictions in his other letters (Romans 1:7; II Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:2).
1. In what style is I Corinthians written?
2. What is the overall nature or purpose of Paul’s letter?
3. How does communicating in a letter further God’s purpose for I Corinthians?
4. Why does Paul start out with thankfulness for the Corinthians if they are doing so many things wrong?
5. What should we learn from this if we must rebuke another?
Thanksgiving (I Corinthians 1:4-9)
For the most part, Paul’s letter is a severe rebuke of the Corinthians, but he doesn’t immediately start with criticism. A foundation needs to be laid that Paul cares for the Corinthians and that he sees good in them. A person knowing that isn’t completely bad in another person’s eyes is more likely to listen to even harsh criticism. The same technique is show by Jesus in writing to most of the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2 and 3.
The very nature of writing about these topics in the form of a letter is conducive to an effective rebuke. A letter is a personal communications from one person to another. No one in Corinth could read Paul’s letter and think he must have been talking about someone else. But along with the rebukes, Paul is able to express his person concern for the brethren, his love for them, and his desire that they should improve.
Paul is thankful for the things the Corinthians were given by God through Jesus Christ. They were richly blessed by God in everything, including the various manifestations of the spiritual gifts given to them. Two in particular are named, the ability to speak in other languages and knowledge of God’s will. The purpose of those gifts was to confirm to the Corinthians the gospel message. Here the gospel is called the testimony of Christ because it was relayed to those who heard through witnesses (II Timothy 1:8; Revelation 1:1-2). The gifts from God then confirmed that message as true (Philippians 1:7). As a result, the Corinthians do not lack, or are not behind, other Christians in regards to God’s gifts. And they, like other Christians, eagerly looked forward to the return of the Lord.
God will keep His promises made to the Corinthians and other Christians. It is by God they were invited or called into the common association of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 49:7; Galatians 3:26-28; II Thessalonians 2:14; I Peter 5:10).
1. In describing his thankfulness, what topics does Paul introduce which he will address in detail later in his letter?