1 Cor. 1:1 - "Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes..."
At first glance, the opening verse of 1 Corinthians seems so simple and straightforward that one could be tempted to skim over it in order to get to the seemingly more important things Paul wrote about. However, with a little background, even this first introductory verse holds significant lessons for us.
For instance, as in many of his letters, Paul explained that he had the authority to teach and communicate the way he did because of the calling he had received from Jesus.
Beyond that, the letter was addressed from Paul and a man named Sosthenes. It is possible this man was the same Sosthenes from Acts 18:17. That man was the recently appointed ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, since his predecessor had converted to Christ (Acts 18:8)! That Sosthenes was responsible for a failed legal attempt against Paul and the local Christians. If this is the same man Paul includes in his introduction, it would indicate that after Sosthenes received a beating from his fellow Jews for the unsuccessful arrest of the Corinthian Christians, he too came to believe in Jesus as the Christ and joined himself to the same group of Christians he had formerly targeted!
If this is the same Sosthenes, how would you have responded to his conversion? We're talking about a man who had drug saints before a judge and attempted to legally stop them. If he had walked into your assembly one day, what would your gut reaction have been? But wait, all of this sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it? Former persecutor turned brother? Former persecutor trying to join fellow saints? Sosthenes conversion should remind us of Paul's conversion and his attempt to join the saints in Jerusalem! Do you remember that it took the help of Barnabas for the Christians in Jerusalem to give Paul a chance? How wonderful that Paul was given the opportunity to do the same for this new brother. In this opening verse of 1 Corinthians Paul affirms his unity with Sosthenes by calling him "brother". He wanted it to go on public record that Sosthenes, Paul and the Corinthians all belonged to the same spiritual family.
So what we can learn from the opening verse of 1 Corinthians? Let's make three applications. (1) We should listen to the word God has given us through inspired men like Paul. (2) We should be impressed that the same powerful gospel of Christ which reached an antagonistic religious leader in first century Greece is the same powerful gospel that can reach people today! (3) Finally, we should rejoice that God can add anyone to his family. We should remember that we only belong to this family by grace, and we should encourage one another by treating one another with the same grace, mercy and forgiveness we have each received.
I pray your Bible reading this week builds you up, and challenges you to think and act more like Christ!