In a letter to the church of God at Corinth, Paul wrote: 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. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

What a strange thing to write to those Christians! Were "to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus" and "saints by calling" appropriate to the situation? After all, they had divisions (1:10); had sexual immorality in the congregation (5:1); had lawsuits among them (6:1, 2); had marriage issues (7); had fellowship issues (8); had serious worship problems (11-14); and questioned their resurrection (15).

How could Paul possibly refer to them as people "who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus" and "saints"? How could that be appropriate?

Early in the same letter, Paul wrote: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31)

They were in Christ Jesus by "God's doing." They were not in Christ because God could not do without them. They were there because they could not do without God. God was not indebted to them. They were indebted to God.

What God did for them in Christ was wisdom (God's, not theirs), righteousness (making them just before God), sanctification (making them holy), and redemption (the act of ransoming from slavery). The wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption did not result from their achievements, but from God's accomplishments for them in Christ.

Any honest look at those Christians blatantly screams that they had major spiritual struggles. In their confidence in their accomplishments, they were spiritual failures. They argued about meaningless things. They treated each other horribly. They engaged in ungodly competitions. They reflected God's influence in their lives terribly.

Their Christian confidence could not be in what they did for God. Their confidence must be in what God did for them. Even though they were far less than God wished them to be, what [in His wisdom] He did for them allowed them to be the sanctified and redeemed. Did they need to grow and mature? Absolutely! However, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption would never be their rewards for perfection. Those always were the result for what God did for them in Christ.

Every Christian struggles. Struggles do not make it impossible to belong to God. A Christian grows toward what God made him or her in Christ. God's mercy and grace in Christ are never earned, only appreciated by those who accept them.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 24 November 2002

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