To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2).
We are called to be holy. Paul greets the church in Corinth as those called to be holy — that’s how he defines them. So, what is it that makes us holy? We are holy because of the One who lives in us has already sanctified us in response to our trust in Him. Therefore, it is Christ’s work – not ours – that makes us holy.
Notice the phrase, “…who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gospel is not a complicated thing. You don’t have to know a lot of theology. The gospel is available to those who call upon the name of Jesus.
An inevitable part of holiness is to possess a certain kind of strangeness. Holiness is strangeness to the world. We are strange, because we have been set apart and made special by God. Because the church is holy, she must be pure.
Over the past few days, we took a long look at one the classic statements on the purity of the church. The disciplinary actions Paul directed the church to take were all about holiness. A man in the church was sleeping with his stepmother! Paul responded, “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). He was concerned about the church’s tolerance for sinful behavior. Paul went on to warn them about the negative effects of their tolerance. Sin spreads, so you must be very careful about leaving sin present in the church. There will be consequences if you don’t deal with it.
Please note that Paul doesn’t address the man. No, he yells at the church for having tolerated the sin. The church’s toleration of sin relinquished the very nature of a church. They were supposed to place the man outside of the church in order that he might be clearly see his sinful behavior for what it was. It was as if the body’s immune system was failing.
Far worse than a church in which someone commits adultery is a church that says nothing about people committing adultery. One is an individual error and may happen to affect others who know about it; the other is an entire body of believers failing in the mission of the church.
Paul’s concern is that gospel would be entirely undermined by the spreading corruption of sin in the church. So in 5:7, Paul tells the church to “get rid” of a few things. I know these words might seem harsh, but Paul says, “Get rid of the one who’s causing the corruption.” Why does he say that? It’s not because God has finally decided to condemn the wicked man. Paul says what he says so that he might see his sin and be changed – and so that the witness of the gospel through the church might be preserved.
The church is to be marked by holiness. It’s our trademark, so to speak. When someone thinks of the church, God wants them to think, “Those people are real. They’re not phony. They are authentic.” We cannot allow others to see a bunch of self-righteous, prudish people, but rather a community whose conduct holds out hope of a better, more humane, more God-honoring way of living than the world offers.
Because of Jesus,