“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
If you constantly tell your child that he is a lazy, no good, loser he may very well grow up to be that very person. Certainly, we need to correct our children for bad behavior, but that does not have to define who they are. They need to know that they can become mature, productive individuals. When the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled church at Corinth, he began his letter by reminding them who they are and of their potential in the Lord. Even though he would go on to strongly convict them of their spiritual immaturity and rebuke their sinful behaviors, this was an encouragement and a strong incentive for them to strive to do better. We, too, need to be reminded of who we are.
We are the church of God. The word translated church is a combination of two Greek words which literally mean the called out. It was used of assemblies or gatherings of people who had been called or invited to assemble (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). The church of God refers to those who are called by God out of the world and into a holy community (Acts 2:39; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old testament) used the same word to identify the people of Israel, as did Stephen (Acts 7:38).
The word for church is similar to another Greek word translated elect which is used in the New Testament to speak of those whom God has chosen (1 Peter 1:2; 2:9-10). The idea of election comes from the Old Testament, where Yahweh said to the people of Israel, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). In both cases (“those whom God has called” and “those whom God has chosen”), there is the sense that the people have been called or chosen to be a holy people, separate and distinct from the rest of the people of the world.
We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. These two words translated sanctified and saints are related. Both speak of holiness which means separate or set apart. This concept comes from the Old Testament where things were set aside for the service and worship of God. For example, the seventh day was established by God as a day of rest for the nation of Israel. The tabernacle, the priests and the offerings were all set apart for God. In the same way, we are now made holy in Christ Jesus. Our holiness comes from our relationship with Him and “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is our high calling.
We are tied together by the Lordship of Jesus Christ with all who call on His name in every place. This refers to our obedience to the gospel in baptism (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13-17). All of us were baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12) and into the church of which He is the head, the one body of Christ (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:20-23; 4:4; 5:23). The church is much larger than any one congregation and consists of the followers of Christ from all nations and all walks of life (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22). This is the fellowship of Christ bound together by a common faith and love in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Peter 1:1).
That’s who we are. Let’s never forget it.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
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