“Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,”
That is how the Christians in the first century were called, with all that, in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
You’ve probably heard it said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, and it’s true. Many a church has been founded as a result of persecution. When Paul, Cristus, and Sosthenes were excommunicated from the synagogue in Corinth, because they believed that the historical Jesus was the Messiah, they moved next door to the house of Justus. Thus, establishing the first assembly of saints in Corinth. (Acts 18:7).
This was a cohesive group of believers who held a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the eternally Anointed One, the Redeemer of the world. This seems to be a universal pattern: those who believe in Christ as He revealed to us in God’s word, and almost always ejected from the fellowship of those who do not acknowledge the same faith. The believers then form a band of saints who witness as a group and as individuals.
If you are a believer in Christ, and thus a saint, you most certainly ought to belong to a group of saints, a church. Paul addresses his Corinthian epistle first to the church as a whole. The “ekklesia” the Greek text says. “Unto the church,” thus showing its importance. To the fellowship of the saints and then to the sanctified ones, the individuals constituting the church.
You hear people say, “Can’t I be a Christian without joining the church?” Yes, it’s possible, but it’s something like being a student who will not go to school, a soldier who will not join an army, a citizen who refuses to pay taxes or vote, a football player without a team, a scientist who does not share his findings or a bee without a hive.
Saint of God don’t look down your nose at the local church. Imperfect as it may be, it is still God’s primary organization unit for the benefit of all saints.
Seek the local church where there are other saints of God, you may even find some that are better than you are.
Just one word of warning. Only saints, that is those who are in Christ should be admitted to a Bible believing church. They are the ones who constitute the church universal. But lest anyone think that the saints have earned their right to that title by their own efforts or have been so constituted by their fellow members, Paul adds two words. “Klētois agiois”, which means “called to be saints”. This actually qualifies the saints at the beginning of the verse:
“To the church of God, which is at Corinth, to those who are [a]sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,”.
It is in the same dated case as the church and the sanctified ones. It refers to the same people. Throughout the New Testament the believers in Christ are spoken of as the called ones. Those who have received the invitation of Christ to repent and believe and have obeyed him. Paul is a called apostle, and they are called saints. It is the same word in both instances. It refers among other things to their having experienced a radical change. Paul couldn’t’ have become an apostle without first having believed in Christ, and these saints couldn’t have belonged to the church of saints without first of all being believers.
The word for “called” in the Greek is “klētos.” Now since the word “klētos,” “called ones” appears with the word “agiois,” means “called saints.” It must be taken as qualifying the saints as you read the English translation in the Authorized Version, you find that the emphasis seems to be on saints, while they stress should actually be on Paul. Romans 1:6 makes this more apparent.
“Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.”
So that word “called” is very important. Now this is the same word. You’re not only believers because of Christ, but also saints because of Him. Holy life is not achieved by human effort, but by the indwelling of Christ. It is as He lives in us that we die unto self. We are not saints by human effort anymore, and Paul became an apostle not by anything he did, but by divine grace in Christ.
Whatever our position in the church of God, it is not due to merit, but to submission to Christ.
The emphasis is not only on the called ones, but particularly on the One who calls us and shapes us to form to His will. This One who called Corinthian sinners to be saints is the same Lord today. What He did for them, He can do for us. If the name of saint is applied to them, why should it not apply to us also.
The church in Corinth was in no way superior to the average church of today. We shall find this out as we study in detail Paul’s two epistles to them. They were saints, but not angels. They were distinctly human. They had their favorites. They quarreled and split up into factions and were very fond of having their own way. They had the same passions as we do, and yet they were sanctified in Christ Jesus and called saints. The Lord called them, and if you believe substantially and fundamentally as they did you are His called saints also.
Paul did not write this epistle for the Corinthian saints only, it was meant to meet their particular needs of course, but its application would be more general.
That’s why he adds with all and in every place, call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Observe the conjunction he uses. He was not addressing directly all the saints of God everywhere, but he wanted the Corinthian to realize they were not the only saints in the church of God. What a wonderful feeling it should give every local assembly of believers to realize that God’s family is larger than their little parish, that He has these saints everywhere.
Yet. In this realization lies an incipient danger, the danger in thinking that since there are so many belonging to the church, why not let George do it? I’m reminded of the eastern story of four brothers who decided to have a feast. As wine was rather expensive, they agreed that each one would bring an equal quantity and add it to the common stock. But one of the brothers thought he might escape bringing his contribution by bringing water instead of wine.
“It won’t be noticed in the common wine jar,” he reasoned. But when at the feast the wine was poured out, it turned out not to be wine at all, but plain water. All four brothers had thought alike. Each one had said,” Let the other do it.”
This is a real danger in the church. We must realize that there are other brothers and sisters in the church of God, but we must work as if there are none when it comes to fulfilling our personal responsibility as a saint of God.
Yes, work as if there were no one else to do your job, but behave with humility because the grace of God has reached these called ones all over the world.