Mid-first-century Corinth was apparently a dynamic place: busy, cosmopolitan, oriented to work and money, competitive and individualistic. Not surprisingly, some of these attributes found their way into the church in the form of arrogance and abuse of Christian freedom. Quarrels arose concerning matters such as leadership, worship, morality and beliefs concerning death.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 1.2-3)
To the church of God that is in Corinth
The church belongs to God (not to an individual, organisation or state!)
to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints
While it is individuals who are called and make up the church, the church itself is a people, set apart and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, on a journey to holiness; it is in this way an ‘alternative community.’
together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours
There may be churches in homes, in localities and in cities, but these are part of the worldwide Church, defined as all those who accept Jesus as both King/Messiah and, most stunningly, Lord and God.
grace to you and peace
All in the church depend on God’s free and undeserved gift and have no grounds for boasting or excuse for arrogance
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
All in the church are united in their faith in God, whom they call Father by their adoption as children through Jesus the Son.
Nothing can alter this basis for unity, despite the need for divisions to be faced, errors to be corrected and arrogance and sin repented of. On this basis differences resulting from the reality of a gospel which is for ‘every nation and tribe and language and people’ (Revelation 14.6) can be tolerated. In this light, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity may be a celebration and an opportunity for much neglected thanksgiving.