1 Corinthians 1:1-9
God Will Sustain His People to the End
The city of Corinth is well-known to scholars from ancient sources. Gordon Fee says that it “was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world” (NICNT, 3). It sat at the crossroads of East and West, of Asia and Italy, of the Aegean and the Adriatic Seas. Thus, it was a major commercial city and home to a diverse population of different beliefs, religions, and worldviews, and where sexual immorality and prostitution were widely practiced. But these were just the kind of cities where Paul was looking to preach the gospel and plant churches, and so he did in Corinth where he stayed a year and a half (Acts 18:1-17).
But a few years went by after his departure and matters had degenerated—that happens in churches sometimes. From this letter which Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we learn that they had lots of problems. But that is actually good for us, for had Paul not written this letter, we would lack apostolic teaching on some important matters that we need to know about, such as, dealing with division in the church, church discipline, lawsuits among the brethren, marriage and celibacy, interacting with a pagan environment, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection, and then some. As we read in Romans a few days ago, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (15:4), and this is certainly the case here.
We tend to read this letter and feel good about ourselves: “Gee,” we say, “at least our church isn’t that bad!” Maybe, maybe not—there’s enough sin in all churches to go around. What I want to highlight here in these first few verses (Paul’s greeting and thanksgiving), is that in spite of all their problems (i.e., sins), the apostle never doubts that they belong to the Lord. He calls them “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and says that the grace of God was given to them; that they had been “enriched in speech and knowledge” and were “not lacking in any spiritual gift.” But far above any of that, Paul told them that God would “sustain [them] to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And why is that? Because “God is faithful by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Don’t misunderstand me; Paul is going to spank this church. He will admonish them out of love with the desire that they repent and return. But he will do it with the knowledge that this is God’s church and God’s people, and as such she rests on God’s promises and God’s faithfulness. It is God who sustains his Church to the end—even the Corinthians—even us.