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1 Corinthians 1:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:59 mins 18 secs

Doctrine of Apostleship; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3


We find Sosthenes mentioned again in verse 1 and we find that he, too, has become a believer and is travelling with Paul and is with Paul in Ephesus. Paul includes him in the greeting to those who are back in Corinth. Paul spent 18 months in Corinth and was followed by another pastor, Apollos, who was an excellent speaker and orator, but he was short on doctrine. He was not well grounded on doctrine and so the people there got beautiful sermons but very little content. That may be a reason things began to fall apart during that time. They became so divisive that Apollos left. Eventually Paul sends them a letter, referred to in 1 Corinthians 5, to straighten some things out. It did not succeed. We don't have a copy of it, it obviously was not meant to be included in the canon of Scripture, therefore it was not inspired, but it was the teaching of the apostle Paul back to the Corinthians church. It apparently generated a number of more questions and problems. The root problem in the Corinthians church—which is the root problem of everybody's failure in the Christian life—was the problem of authority. Whenever we get into extended carnality the problem is the authority of God and the authority of the Scriptures. We prefer to be our own authority in life rather than follow the authority of the Scriptures. Here it is the authority of the apostle Paul and the church at Corinth has basically rejected his authority, outside of a few people. So these people are going to go to Paul to get some clarification on his role as apostle, to validate his position as an apostle, and for answers to some of their questions and some guidance as to how to resolve the internal conflicts. Therefore Paul is going to write this epistle and send it by way of Timothy. Timothy knew doctrine but he, too, was inexperienced. He did not ultimately resolve the problem, and so finally Paul had to send Titus who seems to have been able to straighten things out in Corinth.

Paul begins in verse 1 with the basic opening that he uses in almost every epistle. His salutation is his epistles always give some clue as to why he is writing the epistle. The introduction extends down through verse 17 and in this we will discover the basic theme that Paul will emphasize throughout this epistle. 1 Cor 1:1 NASB "Paul, called {as} an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother." He calls himself Paul which is the Greek name by which he is known after his salvation. Prior to his salvation he is known by his Hebrew name, Saul. It is translated in the NASB as "Paul, called an apostle," although the "as" is not in the original Greek. What we have in the original Greek is KLETOS APOSTOLOS [klhtoj a)postoloj] which means "called an apostle." Greek does not have an indefinite article in it. So Paul says he is "called an apostle of Jesus Christ." Why does he start with this? Simply because he was not a part of the original twelve. Paul's statement that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ indicates his relationship to the Lord, that the Lord is the one who has commissioned him. The word apostle basically means someone who is commissioned or sent on a mission, and when you are an apostle of Jesus Christ the genitive indicates the source of the apostleship or commission, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. "Through the will of God" is the preposition DIA [dia] he genitive. When there is a DIA plus a genitive noun it indicates means or mode; it is not cause.

Galatians 1:1 NASB "Paul, an apostle (not {sent} from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)." Paul had the same problem with the Galatian believers and so in his introduction to the epistle to the Galatians he had to emphasize his gift of apostle. Notice in that verse that the first thing he says about being an apostle is that it is not from men. The NASB translates that "not send from men" but that may not be the best translation. The apostleship did not come from men, it was not bestowed upon him by a group of men. In the Greek this is the preposition APO [a)po] plus the accusative, and he is emphasizing the fact that he did not receive his apostleship from a group of men—not like Matthias in Acts chapter one, in other words. He is indicating that the gift of apostleship does not come from the source of men, a college of men, a board of deacons or any other group. Then he says that "neither does it come through men." This is DIA plus the genitive which indicates instrumentality: "neither does it come through the instrumentality of a man." It comes only through Jesus Christ. It is a divine commission and a divine appointment. It was on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Paul that He personally commissioned Paul as an apostle.

The doctrine of apostleship

1)  Apostle comes from the Greek word APOSTOLOS [a)postoloj] which means someone who is commissioned and sent on a mission. It is a word that is not used very much in classical Greek literature. There are a few instances of it where it is used to described the mission of a military or naval commander, or a governor of a Greek colony, but outside of a few uses it is a rare noun. The verb APOSTELLO [a)postellw] which means to send is used much more frequently. But one of the things we always have to remember when we get into the New Testament and into New Testament vocabulary is that the background for understanding the terminology of these words is more often than not Hebrew and Old Testament concepts rather than fifth-century BC classical Greek. The precedent for the vocabulary is the Old Testament. An apostle was someone who was sent out as a personal envoy or representative and that was exactly the function of an apostle in the church, he was a personal envoy or representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2)  There were two categories of apostles in the New Testament. It is important to recognize that there is a common and a technical use of the word "apostle," and it depends on who sends, who does the commissioning. In the technical use which refers to the twelve apostles Jesus Christ is the one who sends. In the common or everyday use which related to men who were commissioned by a local church they were sent out as missionaries or on some specific errand or mission. The common use refers to the local church sending out missionaries on to the field. For that reason some other men were called apostles, but they did not receive the commission from the Lord Jesus Christ, they received it from a local church. The unique spiritual gift was only given to twelve men, eleven of the original disciples outside of Judas Iscariot, and then Paul. 1 Corinthians 15:7-10. This was a temporary spiritual gift and it vanished from history with the death of the apostle John about 96 AD. The second use had to do with a pioneer missionary or someone who was specifically commissioned by a local church to fulfil a specific mission. Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7. The gift of apostleship was a spiritual gift. By definition, therefore, it could not be bestowed by man. All spiritual gifts are sovereignly bestowed at the instant of salvation by God the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29. 

3)  Three qualifications for the gift of apostleship. First, they are appointed by God the Holy Spirit and commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ—1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1. Second, they were to be an eyewitness of the resurrection, or have seen the resurrected Christ—1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Acts 1:22. Acts 1:22 also seems to suggest that they observed the teaching of the Lord during His incarnation. What about Paul? If you lay Paul's life over the chronology of the New Testament it becomes obvious that Paul must have been in Jerusalem at the same time the Lord Jesus Christ was in Jerusalem. Paul was probably at least 25 when we first see him at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 & 8. He would have been in Jerusalem for about 12 years because he came from Tarsus to Jerusalem at age 13 to study to be a rabbi, and he would have been in Jerusalem at least three years before our Lord started His public ministry, and he would have been attending a rabbinical school during the entire time of our Lord's ministry. It seems that he would have been a witness of many events in the life of Christ. Third, they were imbued with miraculous powers. Along with the gift of apostleship they were given other spiritual gifts. Cf. Acts 5:15; 16:16-18.

4)  Apostleship came after the ascension of Christ (Matthew 10 precedes the church).

5)  Apostles were recipients of direct revelation from God and were the only authorized source for divine revelation.

6)  The apostolic gift died out in the first generation. There was no provision for successors. It is not passed on though the laying on of hands, there is no such thing as apostolic succession. That term was originally used in the next century, the second century; but at first it did not refer to a succession of individuals, that was the perversion of it as it came down into the Roman Catholic church. It wasn't a succession of individuals but a succession of doctrine. You were a successor of the apostles if you taught the same doctrine the apostles taught.

1 Corinthians 1:2 NASB "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their {Lord} and ours." Notice he says that this is the "church of God." This is a genitive construction indicating the owner of the church. It is a genitive of possession or genitive of ownership, and he is emphasizing the fact that it is God's church, it is not the church of one clique or another clique in the congregation. God is the only one, therefore, who has the right to dictate the plans and policies of the local church. And, "to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus." Here we have the perfect passive participle of HAGIASMOS [a(giasmoj] which means to be set apart. Every person who is a believer in Jesus Christ has been set apart at salvation. This is a perfect passive participle. The perfect tense indicates that this is something that happened in the past with results that continue into the present. It happened in the past when they put their faith in Jesus Christ; they have been sanctified, it is a one-time act that takes place at the instant of salvation. We call it positional sanctification. Then Paul goes on to say that they are saints by calling and he uses the dative plural of HAGIOS [a(gioj], the noun which is the root of HAGIASMOS. Just as Paul was called to be an apostle they have been called to be saints. This is true for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. At the instant of salvation we are positionally sanctified or set apart for the service of God and are designated saints. Being a saint has nothing to do with one's life style, morality or volition; it has everything to do with who you are in Jesus Christ. This is indicated by the fact that he says this to the Corinthians, and remember that this is one of the most screwed up bunch of Christians that ever existed on the planet. There is no sin that they left unpracticed. Then he adds "with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their {Lord} and ours." This last phrase is added in order to emphasize that the Corinthians are not any special group. Apparently they were so proud of themselves that they thought they had a special level of spirituality and thought they were better than other churches. What made them a church was their relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a dative of association and it is indicating that they are associated with every other believer and there is nothing special about being a believer in Corinth that makes them any better or any worse than being a believer in Thessalonica or anywhere else. To "call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" is a term that is used by someone who has put their faith alone in Christ alone for salvation.

1 Cor 1:3 NASB "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul puts his own touch to this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He used the word for grace, which is CHARIS [xarij]. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he is going to take the common everyday salutation that you would find in a letter and tweak it so that it has a doctrinal impact. He is emphasizing that grace comes from God and it extends to us. The source is "God our Father." He is going to use the same genitival phrase there that we saw him using related to the gift of apostleship over in Galatians 1:1, APO plus the genitive indicating the ultimate source of grace and peace. He is going to connect these two because the only source of grace and peace in life is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not come from circumstances, from the details of life, from other people, from financial success or vocational success. It you don't have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and are not applying doctrine then you will never have peace in your life. And no matter how horrible the circumstances of your life, if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ and you are applying doctrine then you will have peace that surpasses all comprehension. So Paul suddenly reminds us of this in his salutation.

The doctrine of positional truth

1)  Positional truth is not based on experience, it is based on a reality that occurs at the instant of salvation.

2)  It is absolute, it is not progressive. That is why Paul says "you have been sanctified."

3)  Our position in Christ, our sanctification, our position as saints, is not related to human merit or human morality in any way.

4)  It is eternal, we cannot lose it. This relates it to eternal security. Once we are identified with Christ that can never be reversed.

5)  It is known only by the Word of God. When you were saved you didn't have a clue about positional truth, but then you heard somebody teach it and you learned that at the point of salvation you were entered into union with Christ.

6)  It is received completely at the instant of regeneration.