Grace and Holiness in First Corinthians 1

In my reading this morning of 1 Corinthians 1, God provided me with a very productive and meaningful time of meditation on his Word. I love being filled with understanding which is a gift of grace from the Holy Spirit. This understanding led to an overflow of notes and thoughts. If you do not take notes while you study the Bible, I would highly suggest you begin. Even questions are important to jot down. There is just something to writing what you are thinking. It always leads me into deeper thought and the more deeply you think about God and his glories (even his mysteries), the more joy you will find. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Rom. 11:33)! What a promise we have here! We can confidently search God out and we will never exhaustively know him, but all the while we will grow in knowledge of him! Wow!

So, with this BIG GOD before me, I want to share with you some of the implications I gleaned from my reading of the first nine verses of 1 Corinthians.


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. – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9


Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus in about A.D. 55 to believers who were living in a culture that was rampant with sin, namely, sexual sin. This should be kept at the forefront of our minds as we consider what Paul has written.

Verses 1-3

True saints have in one sense already been sanctified and all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are saints (see also Rom. 10:13).

Holiness is the fruit of God’s effectual calling to salvation.

Sanctification always follows justification and it is just as certain as both justification and glorification.

We must be holy in order to see God and indeed true saints will be perfectly holy and conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). We have this certainty in Paul’s use of “sanctified”.

Writing to believers living in the midst of sexual immorality and moral corruption, Paul centers his greeting on the holiness that is to mark all who have called upon the name of the Lord.

Note the heavy emphasis on holiness and the connection between holiness and salvation.

This is seen more clearly in the Greek with the words ηγιασμενοις (participle literally meaning “after being sanctified”) and the phrase κλητοις αγιοις (Literal meaning: “called/invited to be holy ones”).

Therefore, if you have repented and believed in Jesus, you have been called to a life of holiness. Holiness should mark your life as a believer. If willful and persistent sin is in the place of holiness and repentance, then serious self-examination is urgently needed.

Holiness is what believers are called to…all who are “εν Χριστω ‘Ιησου”!


Verses 4-9

Paul is thankful for the saints in Corinth because of the grace of God that was given them (via regeneration, calling, repentance, faith, etc.).

Despite the rampant sin all around them and their own probable occasional tastings of these sinful fleeing pleasures, Paul assures these saints (holy ones whose full sanctification is certain) will be sustained by God “to the end” and will be guiltless on Judgment Day (“the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Even though these holy ones will stumble and sin and demonstrate faithlessness, “God is faithful” to keep us to the end and by repentance grow in “the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.


There are two major thoughts and insights I have gleaned from my study of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Grace and holiness are inextricably tied together. Firstly, a command to be holy and expectation to be holy as a believer is a great challenge. God has saved us to be holy and to be conformed to the image of his Son. Holiness is the fruit of the branches who are connected to the true Vine (John 15). Therefore, each day we should repent and work out our salvation through fellowship and communion with God (Phil. 2:12). And we should strive for holiness with the goal of glorifying God by being conformed to the image of Christ who is the perfect image of God.


Secondly, there is great comfort in the sovereign grace of God to forgive. We can confidently and radically live for Christ and obey him knowing that our sanctification is certain as Paul considers the saints in Corinth to be already “sanctified”. This same language is found in Romans 8:29-30. We are also quick to doubt our salvation when we think about how holiness is a necessity for true saints for so often we are not holy. We act as unregenerate slaves when we are actually free. The difference is that we have a loving Father who will discipline us in order to bring us back to closer communion with him. We have a faithful Father. Even when we are faithless, God is faithful to uphold his covenant that was bought with the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28). When we sin and repent, God is faithful to forgive. Indeed, because of the work of Christ in his perfect life and substitutionary death, all the saints—who have been made saints because of God’s grace—are considered to be guiltless! What tremendous joy that is in the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord! The guilt-ridden are made guiltless! What a beautiful scandal! The guiltless One takes guilt upon himself! May he receive all glory, honor, and praise! Believers can confidently fight sin and Satan because the serpent of old has been crushed by the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ (Gen. 3:15). We have been called and justified by the King of kings and Lord of lords. And we have also been sanctified! “It is finished” (John 19:30)! Rest as you work! Strive for holiness and greater submission and obedience to Christ knowing that the end is certain. And finally, pray with this same confidence. Approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that God is faithful to forgive you when you repent. Always!


Radically obey Jesus and willingly give your life for his sake and the sake of the gospel knowing that he will sustain you to the end through all the relapses into sin.


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