Saints and Sinners – Part 3

1 Corinthians 1:1-17 This week’s lessons teach us about holiness.
Unity in the body of Christ.

Today we continue our close examination of 1 Corinthians 1:2. Although Paul uses the same word hagioi in the first two phrases of this verse, there is a slightly different meaning between the two uses. The first phrase, “sanctified in Jesus Christ,” talks about our separation, which is what it means to be a saint. In the second phrase, “called to be holy,” Paul is not repeating himself, saying exactly the same thing. He is saying that you are separated unto Christ, and you are called now to go on in terms of what that separation means and become increasingly holy in the context of your life. But whether you get the idea in the first phrase or whether you get the idea in the second phrase, it is perfectly clear that Paul is saying, “Anyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ has been set apart to Jesus and his service.” Before you became a Christian, you served yourself. You were set apart for your own interests. But when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, you are set apart for him. This is what Paul says was true of the Corinthians.

Now, in verse 5, he talks about something else. Paul says, “For in him” (that is, in Christ – having been set apart to him) “you have been enriched in every way in all your speaking and in all your knowledge.” There are different translations of this. It is quite possible that, as the translators reflected here, Paul is saying that the Corinthians were enriched in their ability to speak about spiritual things. We know that was true of them because later on in this book, where Paul begins to speak about the problem of their speaking in tongues, he points out that they were quite eloquent. Many of them took pride in their eloquence. That became a problem as well. When translators come to that word, logoi, they think that, at this point, that is what it refers to.

I do not think that is the best translation. I think that when those two words occur together, logos, logoi, on the one hand and gnosis (“knowledge”) on the other, there is a contrast between pure doctrine on the one hand and understanding or perception of it on the other. You have to remember that the word logos means far more than “word” in its fullest New Testament meaning. It is used of Jesus Christ, for example, in John’s gospel. He is the “Logos of God.” The word logos comes over into English in our words theology and anthropology and soteriology, where the word logos is coupled with words for God and man and salvation. In every case when the word is used like that, it means “the doctrine of” –  of God, of man, of salvation, and so on.

I would think that what Paul is saying here is that these Corinthians were not short in their understanding of spiritual things. They knew the doctrines of the faith. More than that, God had at the same time also given them a full measure of under-standing or perception where these things are concerned. That is, they did not merely find themselves in a position of being able to quote Christian doctrine off the top of their head as, for example, an unbelieving professor might very well do when teaching a class on theology in a secular university. But, in addition to that intellectual understanding, they really did perceive, in a spiritual way, what it was all about.

Consequently, they were able to encourage one another in spiritual things, as Paul later on in the epistle says they did. So, we have first of all the fact that they were separated unto Christ, saints participating in his holiness. Second, we have here that they were enriched by God in doctrinal knowledge and the perception of what it means.

Study Questions
  1. What does it mean to be a saint?
  2. What has happened in us as a result of being set apart to Christ?
  3. Describe the sort of knowledge Paul was speaking about.

What has God used to increase your spiritual knowledge and perception since becoming a Christian? Make a list of everything that has helped you.

Scripture Memory
Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

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