From the English Standard Version:
“1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,”
Specific men are called to fulfill specific service according to God’s will. A man cannot fulfill a role unless God has called him to it. Paul was called by God to be an apostle. He successfully completed the work that Christ gave to him to do during his life time. He was set apart as an apostle.
One definition of an apostle is one sent out directly by Christ to fulfill a mission. It appears that the apostles were sent where no one had been before to plant churches. There were twelve official apostles and Paul, who was a special calling by Jesus to the work. These men had a special mission, and were also given special gifts to accomplish it. We call those sent on missions today, missionaries, and I believe they are empowered by the Spirit with everything they need to accomplish it. Though, they may not be empowered in the same way as the first apostles.
Judas did not fulfill the role of an apostle and was replaced by Matthias after Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1. Sosthenes was a helper to Paul in the work of the ministry.
“2 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:”
The letter was written to the church at Corinth. That is the audience of the letter and must be taken into account when interpreting it. The audience here is believers. Then we have some truth about the church. The church here was sanctified in Jesus , which means set apart. They were called to belong to Jesus. The question could be posed, “called by who?” The answer would be called by God. They are called just like everyone, everywhere, who call upon the name of Jesus. Who is the Lord of all Christians across the planet. If the Lordship of Christ is not part of a believer’s walk, then I would be concerned about the truth of their call. If Jesus is Lord, then He holds authority and power over those who call on His name, and it is the believer’s obligation to obey Him in their lives.
“3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. “
Paul desires for God’s grace and peace to cover the believers here at Corinth. I think this would be the desire of any Christian for other believers. I think it would be especially true for those who God has called into leadership of His people. It shows that Paul had concern for them, and its used as a greeting to them as well.
“4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, “
Paul is thankful to God. He gives thanks because Paul recognizes that these people at Corinth who have believed belong to God. They were given grace through Christ Jesus. And also, Paul is thankful for what he discusses next. But ultimately, Paul recognizes God’s hand in the grace that had been given. If the grace did not come from God there would be no reason to give thanks.
“5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— “
It is by the grace of God that we grow in Jesus. The words of the church at Corinth show that they are growing in Christ. Those who follow Jesus should do so in word and action. God found it good to teach them all knowledge concerning Jesus. That confirms the word that Jesus spoke, that the Holy Spirit when He came would teach them all things (John 14:26).
“6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— “
The testimony here I believe refers to the message brought to them by Paul. That message about Jesus was confirmed to them by the great work of the Holy Spirit through various gifts of the Spirit. The fact that some believed could be confirmation as well as faith if a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). And, it could be that God confirmed the message in various other ways.
“7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, “
The Holy Spirit had fully blessed them with the gifts they needed, and one of the marks of those who belong to Jesus will be waiting for His revelation. We are to wait patiently for the Lord to be revealed from Heaven. We are to look for His coming as we are instructed to do so by Him (Matthew 24:42).
“8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
God is the one who keeps, strengthens, and gives us everything we need. We will be kept by the Spirit guiltless when that day arrives. The reason is that our guilt was placed on Christ at the cross. He died for all of our sins from the beginning of our life until the end of our life. The price was paid, we were bought in full. The perservering of the saints is brought about not by our strength, but by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. It is part of God’s grace to those who are called.
“9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The foundation of that grace and promise that we will be sustained is God Himself. It is by His faithfulness, who called us into the relationship we have with Jesus. Who of course is the Messiah and Lord of all those who are called.
There is one powerful truth that I see in these first nine verses. That it is God who does all these things. God chooses and calls men into His service in specific roles. It is God who sanctifies, God who calls us into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is God who teaches us all things. It is God who blesses us with all knowledge and spiritual gifts. It is God who sustains us through our lives as we wait for Jesus to return. And all of that is based on God’s faithfulness alone.
When Abraham had finished cutting the animals in two (a blood covenant) and God chose to make an everlasting covenant with Him, it was God alone who passed between the pieces of the animal. Abraham was in a deep sleep laying over at the side. God’s covenant would be kept based on God’s faithfulness, not on Abraham’s faithfulness (Genesis 15). The covenant has a number of aspects to it, but two of the greatest promises is that God would be God to Abraham and his descendants forever, and through Abraham all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3; 17:7) . We know those promises are fulfilled and focused through Jesus Christ.