Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Called from Persecution to Serve (1 Corinthians 1:1)

“Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,” (1 Corinthians 1:1, NASB95)

As with Paul’s other letters, he begins by establishing his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though Paul did not believe in Christ until after His ascension to return to the Father, Paul did have a very personal encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus while he was on the way to make sure that many followers of Christ would be persecuted for their belief (or heresy). The record of this is found in Acts chapter 9. Following his believing and a season of growing in his faith Paul was sent out by the other apostles (Acts 9:25-30). Later in Acts chapter 13, while a group of believers were together praying with Barnabas and Saul (Paul), the Holy Spirit spoke to them saying, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (Acts 13:2, NASB95) After they had finished praying, these men laid hands on Barnabas and Paul and sent them off on what we know as their first missionary journey.

While in Antioch and after speaking in the synagogue to the amazement of many on that first Sabbath, we read, “The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:44–49, NASB95)

Not only was Paul called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by Jesus Christ Himself, Paul was also sent, or as he put it “commanded” to go to the Gentiles as well and “bring salvation to the end of the earth.” As stated in the previous post the people of Corinth were direct beneficiaries of Paul having been sent out, and in their case to one of the spiritually darkest cities of the day.

In the last post we looked at the origins of the church at Corinth. What was not mentioned was what happened to one who was most likely responsible for bringing charges against Paul. We read, “But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.” (Acts 18:12–17, NASB95)

Having been rebuffed by Gallio on their charge, the Jews were turned away. As they were leaving there were those there who took advantage of their weakened position, and they attacked Sosthenes who we read was the “leader of the synagogue.” Somehow and sometime before Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian believers Sosthenes had come to faith in Christ and had actually come to be with Paul. It was likely Sosthenes who even gave Paul information concerning the condition of the church to which he responded in this letter. We don’t know any more other than Sosthenes was once the ruler of the Synagogue opposed to Paul and here he is a believer and possibly even the one who served as Paul’s secretary in the penning of this letter.

There aren’t many words in this first introductory statement, but the words that are there are incredible. Our God took these two men who as Jewish leaders were both called from persecuting followers to becoming servants according to God’s will to reach both Jews and Gentiles in an area that was steeped in darkness, but where people quickly and eagerly believed. Our God is so amazing and His love extends far beyond our imagination. He demonstrates over and over again that He can and does shine the light of life in His Son into the darkest of places so that His glory might shine even brighter. 

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