1 Corinthians 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 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:
Yesterday, we saw that the church is the local expression of the body of Christ.
Today, we want to focus on who is the church? Is it those whose parents went to a Christian church? Is it those who were catechized or confirmed? Baptized as a child? Walked an aisle or signed a card? Attended a membership class?
The quick answer is that the church is Christians gathered as the body of Christ for the building up of one another and the spreading of the good news of salvation in Christ.
But this is not where Paul begins. When Paul begins to address this body of Christians in Corinth, he reminds them that they are those who were “called to be saints.”
What does it mean to be the “called?” First, it means that God personally called you, if you are a Christian. The other night, shortly after falling asleep, I was awakened by the sound of my own name. My wife was reminding me of something that needed to be done before the day was over. She didn’t issue a general call to anyone who might take care of it. She called me by name, because I am hers by covenant.
When Paul reminds them that they are called, he reminds them that what defines them as a group is that God called them. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Jn. 10:27-28 ESV) Have you heard the call of God on your heart leading you to repentance from sin and faith in Christ? If yes, then rejoice that God called you out of darkness and into light; out of death and into life. Your salvation was a work of God – not yourself. It is not dependent on your goodness or the momentary strength or weakness of your faith, but on the strength and goodness of the one who called you.
Second, it means that you are called out of an old way of living according to the desires that were formerly yours, into a new life. This is why he says that we are “called to be saints.” Saint is not a title reserved to the especially holy Christians – in fact, as we just saw, it has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with what God has done. A saint is a holy person. Christian, God has called you and, in doing so, has declared you to be holy – set apart for himself.
2 Timothy 1:9 says that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”
Christian, rejoice today that when God called you, he set you apart for himself. You are a saint by the declaration of God! You are set apart for God! The church is not made up of those who are good, nor of those who chose God, but of those that God called and set apart. There is both great comfort and encouragement in that for the Christian to join with other Christians to be the Church.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6 ESV)