1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
For those of you who don't know Corinth was a bustling port city and one of the major trade crossroads of the Empire. It was also home to the temples of every major god including hundreds of temple prostitutes (some estimate about 2000). It was a city known for its immortality.
To this city came Paul and established a Christian presence. The only place he spent more time was in Ephesus. It was here in Corinth that Paul stayed with the tent makers Aquila and Priscilla. It was here that he baptized Crispus, the ruler of the Jewish synagogue.
Now Paul with the assistance of Sosthenes is writing back to them. We'll find out why as we go.
Today I want to key in on verse 2 in the middle of Paul's greeting. Two words in particular need some attention: sanctified and saints.
Several years ago I studied for 2 years with a woman born and raised Roman Catholic. When the subject of saints came up the Biblical definition was too much for her to handle. The truth is it is too much for most of us to handle including Bible translators.
In the NKJV it says "called to be saints" but the words "to be" are italicized meaning they were added by the translators. Why? Because the truth was too much to handle.
I grew up in church. I remember the adults discussion big words like justified and sanctified. The widely accepted definition/understanding was that we are justified but are being sanctified. In simpler terms God is ok with us because of Jesus (justified) but sanctification is the work of a lifetime.
It sounds good. It seems logical. God forgives us based on the completed mission of Jesus but then the work of becoming like Jesus begins and that takes forever.
However as logical as it sounds it is not Biblical. Paul boldly states that the believers in Corinth are sanctified. They are saints. It's a done deal. We have such a hard time wrapping our heads around this that even the Bible translators take the liberty of adding words to make it sound like there is more to be done before we can be considered saints.
Saints in the Catholic Church are the super heroes. They are the Navy Seals of the church. Mother Theresa was a saint. The list of saints is quite short.
It is no wonder that lady had such a hard time accepting what the Bible says. Everything in religion is based on merit. You dig and claw your way up to God and hope you make it. We are so self-obsessed that we quickly become blind to that fact heaven came down. We minimize what Jesus did and what it means and return the Jewish style self-absorption that existed before Jesus ever came.
If Jesus says believing in Him makes us sanctified saints who are we to argue? Can you see now why Paul was hated by the Jewish leaders? When you have a system in place where the "finish line" is unattainable but must be reached it becomes both lucrative and effective for controlling the masses by those at the top. It is no wonder why Jesus said the truth would make us free. Freedom from the tyranny of doubt. Freedom from the tyranny of trying to make it, hoping to make it, clawing to make it, and paying to make it.
When Jesus was dying He declared "It is finished!" Religion says "Not so fast. It's not that simple. When the Jews asked Jesus what they needed to do to work the works of God Jesus said "Believe in the One He sent."
Sure it's true that a new life with Jesus will make us more like Him. Absolutely it does. However that has no bearing on the fact we are already sanctified and already saints. Peter was as much a saint in Jesus when he was denying him as he was when he was preaching boldly at Pentecost because his status as a saint had no roots in himself.
We are blinded by self-obsession. It taints everything including the translation of the Scriptures because the news is so good we can't believe it.