Now we come to the book of First Corinthians. Just a heads up before we get into it: I’m not going to be talking about every verse or passage here, just pick up some themes. I’m also not going to spend too much on the background on it, except to say that Corinth was one of the most degenerate cities in human history. Paganism, religious syncretism, and sexual promiscuity were ubiquitous. Las Vegas can call itself “Sin City” all it wants, but it’s Mayberry compared to this place.
And unfortunately, as so often the case, the atmosphere from outside seeped into the local church, and there was an imminent danger that pagan Corinth was affecting the church waaaaay more than vice-versa. Almost the entirety of the book is Paul reaming them up one side and down the other, castigating them for screwing up so bad it wasn’t even funny. Pretty much each chapter is another major problem that he’s addressing.
But before he starts talking about their problems and lets fly the artillery, he starts out with a positive note, and it’s something we need to focus on, especially before we read the rest of the book with all its denunciations and censure.
He introduces himself as “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and this is extremely important. In fact, I don’t think we can overemphasize this. He started the church at Corinth—in fact, he personally led many of them to Christ. But on top of that, he’s an apostle. Literally it’s a “sent one.” These were individuals who were called to be special representatives of Christ to speak for him in an utterly unique way. Each of the books of the New Testament was either written by an apostle or a direct protégé of one. When these men spoke and wrote, it carried the full weight and authority of Jesus Christ himself. Let me repeat and clarify: The words of Paul are just as authoritative for us as the words of Jesus found in the Gospels. As we proceed in the next few chapters and he’s castigating them for something, keep in mind that he’s not submitting his personal opinions about their behavior. Every word he writes comes from the Throne itself.
And of course we have the usual blessing: Grace and peace to them from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As someone pointed out to me long ago, this is not a random greeting. “Grace” must precede “peace.” And it must come through the Lord Jesus Christ.
But here we come to the words of hope to these messed-up and mixed-up believers. Paul had started the church in Corinth and every time he thought of them, he thanked God for them. He'd seen the Lord’s grace in action in their lives. No matter where they were right now, and despite the fact that they were nowhere near where they were supposed to be, they also were not where they used to be.
He also acknowledged that in the spiritual gift department, they enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. No matter what else you could say about them, you couldn’t accuse them of a dearth of spiritual gifts.
But these last two verses are what I really want to focus on today even though I’ve discussed them a bit before. Please keep in mind that he’s going to spend the next 15 chapters blistering their behinds (figuratively) like wayward children. But no matter what else, he knew that in the end they would be found to be standing firm. Yes, they had some major areas that needed to be corrected immediately. But on the day when Christ would have all humanity stand before his Judgment Bench, all the sincere believers among them would be found blameless.
Why? Because of their faithfulness? Oh, please. On their own they were about as faithful as Hosea’s wife. If their blamelessness before God was to be based on their own faithfulness, they might as well be packing suitcases for Hell right now.
But no. It was the faithfulness of God working through his Son Jesus. It was all his faithfulness. It was the righteousness of Christ which would cause them to be declared blameless before the Judgment Seat. He called us, and he will keep us.
Please please please don’t misunderstand me. None of this is written to encourage us to give into sin (if you need more on this, I’ve written on this here). In fact, if you take it as such, then at the very least you’ve severely misunderstood the very nature of grace. And these verses must be taken into context of the really harsh rest of the book. But when we do sin, we know that his faithfulness is our only—but sure—hope.
Aren’t you glad?
Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, and I’d be a fool to claim any other. Thank you so much for covering me by your grace, your mercy and your blood. That’s my only hope, but it’s a sure one.
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