Year A – Epiphany 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1–9 – Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Summary – The first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church includes a remarkable greeting. Paul with Sosthenes writes this book. Sosthenes was the Jewish leader who apparently sought to persecute Paul, but it seems Sosthenes had been won to Christ after that (see Acts 18:12-17). Now Sosthenes writes with Paul to convey instruction to the Corinthians. Despite many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul calls them saints in Christ Jesus. He confers grace and peace to them from God the Father and the Lord Jesus. He gives thanks for the Corinthian believers and indicates by way of foreshadowing a major theme in the book, that they will not lack any needed spiritual gift. Paul encourages them to persevere because the God who called you is faithful. He has called the Corinthians into fellowship with Jesus.

Insight – Through the apostle, God speaks to His people a word of kindness to confirm their identity as saints, despite their sins: “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” This is true of all Christians, despite our level of maturity or our problems. We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, that is set apart in union with Him. We are called saints, that is sanctified ones or holy ones. We are also part of the people of God in every place that call on the name of Jesus. This is who we are and this is how we are to see our own identity. God has called us as His people and we are His not because we have it all together. Rather, it is “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1:31).

Child’s Catechism – What are believers in Jesus called? Saints.

Discussion – What are some of the problems that existed in the Corinthian church and how are they like problems in our lives today?

Prayer – Almighty God You have give to us the Son of Your love in order that through Him who is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, we may be called saints in Him. Grant that as we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may grow ever more into His likeness in our sanctification. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Year B – For All the Saints

For All the Saints – In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin says, “Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are afflicted, we should always consider the end of it to be, that we may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to aspire to the future life.” (Inst. 3.9.1)  In the midst of persecution and strife of Calvin’s time, he was sustained by the  expectation of glory, and indeed has now achieved that which we will sing about in this hymn.  “For All the Saints,” leads us in declaration of our hope.  For though we may face trouble in this life, we may trust in God’s holding of all things in His hands.  They hymn may be broken into 3 parts, which we will now briefly consider.

The first three verses lay out the context of the “saints who have gone before.”  It is a clear echo of Hebrews 11, and we sing of these saints who confessed their faith boldly before the world (verse 1).  These saints were emboldened by God who was their “Rock, their Fortress, and their Might” as well as their “Captain” and their “one true light” in the darkness of their tribulation (verse 2).  Here we see their example powerfully: it was only by virtue of their unwavering faith and hope in the Lord that they were able to remain faithful.  And so we petition in verse 3 that we, God’s “soldiers,” may “fight as the saints who nobly fought of old.”  We truly desire to follow their example.

Verses 4-6 focus again more on us here as God’s soldiers fighting now, but with the victories of the saints who went before close-by in our thoughts.  For though we struggle feebly now, now “in glory” they “shine” (verse 4).  When our trouble is great, we are enjoined to remember “their distant triumph song” and gain strength for the fight (verse 5).  Verse 6 reminds us, too, that the “rest” of death will come to “faithful warriors.”  Calvin’s words are again helpful here, as he says, “If we reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our native country…shall this give us no comfort?” (Institutes 3.9.5)

Finally, in verses 7-8 we sing of that “more glorious day.”  That day of Resurrection when the saints rise together “in bright array” (verse 7) and stream through “gates of pearl” (verse 8) to sing in praise “to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”  Back to brother Calvin, who no doubt sees this more clearly now than we do, says that as we learn to bear our present struggles, we will “turn [our] eye to that day, on which the Lord will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his happiness.”  And finally, “To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of his resurrection.” (Institutes 3.9.6)

As we ascend to the heavenly places this Lord’s Day, we remember that we are joined by that great company of Saints on high, and so may we gain comfort and hope in life and death, for we are not our own, but belong body and soul to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

Jon Herr