Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
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:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
(1 Corinthians 1:1-19 ESV)
This longish passage boils down to one thing: Paul is over and over testifying to Jesus. There is no question here as to what his message is going to be in this letter.
First, he is called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. An apostle is a person entrusted with the task of communicating a message in the first case where no one has been before. So it is a very important ambassadorial role. This is akin to what it would be like if the United States sent an emissary to a country that had never heard of us. When the ambassador approached the king of that country for the first time and said, “In the name of the President of the United States, I bring you greetings,” the first thing the king would want to know is who this President is and what his country has come here to do or say.
Paul is writing to a church that is set apart in Christ Jesus, a church that is in fellowship with all other churches in Christ Jesus. He affirms that grace and peace are found only in Christ Jesus. He goes on to affirm that this church in particular was enriched in its gifts through Christ Jesus, and that those gifts prove the testimony of Christ is in them. He also affirms that they are waiting for the revealing of Christ Jesus; waiting for the Day of Christ Jesus; and living in fellowship with Christ Jesus.
Over and over and over Paul places Christ Jesus in the forefront. This “movement” isn’t about Paul. It isn’t about Apollos. It isn’t about Peter (Cephas). This, in fact, isn’t a movement at all. It is pure and simply Jesus baptizing his people and setting them apart for a life with him. That’s why the whole thing doesn’t make sense to people who are looking for a leader, a movement, a cause, an agenda, an organization. All those things tend toward death in the end. Leaders die. Movements collapse. Causes fade. Agendas are completed and thrown in the waist basket. Organizations rise and fall. Look to those, and you’ll be disappointed every time. Only Jesus himself is forever.
Sure, knowing Jesus is a bit of foolishness. I can’t see him. I can’t hear his voice in the literal sense. I can’t be held by him. I can’t even prove to you that he is there. But I can tell you the same thing Paul was trying to say: I am being saved by him every day. In my best moments I’m being saved by him. In my darkest hours I’m being saved by him. When I sleep I’m being saved by him. When I get up and shower in the morning I’m being saved by him. When I sit with my wife at night and monotonously watch HGTV (ooo… International House Hunters is on…) I’m being saved by him. When I preach I’m being saved by him. When I screw up I’m being saved by him. When I’m at my best I’m being saved by him. You may think that’s foolish. Well, if it is… bring it on.