Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider further Paul’s introductory word in 1:1-9.
Verse 2 says, “To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints.” According to grammar, “to the church of God” is in apposition to “to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” This indicates that “to the church of God” equals “to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” This strongly indicates that the church is a composition of the saints, and the saints are the constituents of the church. The two should not be considered separate entities. Individually, we are the saints; corporately, we are the church. Thus, the church is not only constituted of God, but is also composed of the saints.
To be sanctified is to be made holy, separated unto God for the fulfillment of His purpose. Saints are separated ones, those who have been set apart to God.
In this verse Paul says that we have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We are sanctified in the element and sphere of Christ. Christ is the element and sphere that separated us, made us holy, unto God when we believed in Him, that is, when we were brought into organic union with Him through our faith in Him.
The expression “called saints” indicates that the believers in Christ are the called saints; they are not called to be saints (as in KJV). This is a positional matter, a sanctification in position with a view to sanctification in disposition.
Many readers of 1 Corinthians find it difficult to recognize that the believers in Corinth were saints. To be sure, according to the Catholic definition, they were not saints. According to Catholicism, only certain persons, such as Theresa or Francis, can rightfully be called saints. We may wonder how the fleshly believers in Corinth could be called saints. Nevertheless, it is in the Word that Paul describes them as those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called saints.
Do you have the boldness to say that you are holy? Some may reply, “I cannot argue with Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 1:2. According to this word, I have been sanctified. But still I don’t feel that I’m holy.” Concerning this, we should not look at ourselves. Paul does not say that the Corinthians were sanctified in themselves; he declares that they had been sanctified in Christ Jesus. We need to forget ourselves and see that it is in Christ that we are sanctified.
Regarding the matter of being sanctified in Christ Jesus, a brother should not be influenced by any negative opinion his wife may have about him. Every brother is holy in the eyes of others, but not in the eyes of his wife. A wife always knows the weak points of her husband. She has a detailed knowledge of his shortcomings. This makes it difficult for any wife to admit that her husband is holy. But even if a brother is not sanctified in the eyes of his wife, he is nonetheless sanctified in Christ Jesus.
God does not look at us as we are in ourselves; rather, he looks at us in Christ. This may be illustrated by the words the prophet Balaam uttered about the children of Israel. Apparently the children of Israel were full of evil. But when Balaam prophesied concerning them, he declared, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. 23:21). Likewise, Paul knew all the evil things about the church in Corinth. Nevertheless, in his opening word he addressed them as those sanctified in Christ Jesus, and he called them saints.
In verse 2 Paul says, by the use of another appositive, that those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus are called saints. To us, this may seem repetitious. But without such repetition we may not receive a strong impression concerning the fact that the believers there in Corinth were truly saints, even called saints.
Every saved one is a called one. To be called is to be saved. When the Lord Jesus said to Peter, “Follow Me,” that was His calling of Peter. We, the saved ones, have all been called. Once we were called, we became saints.
Do not think that only persons such as Theresa or Francis should be called saints. You and I are saints also. Do you have the boldness to declare that you are a saint? Some of us may have the confidence only to say that we are believers, but not the assurance to say that we are saints. Some may say, “I am a sinner saved by grace, and I am a believer in Christ. But I dare not say that I am a saint.” The reason for this lack of assurance is that the evil influence from Catholicism still affects our understanding. Others, aware of failures like losing their temper or quarreling with their spouse, may not have the confidence to say that they are saints. But whether or not you are a saint does not depend on whether or not you lose your temper or quarrel. It depends on whether or not you have been called.
Instead of saying “called saints,” the King James Version says “called to be saints.” According to this translation, being a saint is pending; it is not already an accomplished fact. But Paul did not say that we are called to be saints; he says that we are called saints. If we turn away from ourselves and look at Christ, we shall be able to declare that we are saints. We shall realize that a saint is simply a called one.
To be called by God is to be separated unto Him. For example, those who have been called into military service have been separated from civilian life and drafted into the service. This illustrates God’s calling. When we were called by God, we were drafted, separated, by Him. As a result, we have been sanctified; that is, we have been separated unto a certain purpose. Because we all have been called by God unto His purpose, we are the called saints.
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