First Corinthians 1--The Revelation in the Greeting
Feb 15, 2017
In 1 Corinthians 1:3, we read,
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This double greeting of grace (charis) and peace (shalom) shows how the Corinthian church was composed of both Greeks and Hebrews, because, as Charles R. Erdman writes,
“‘Grace’ was a familiar salutation among the Greeks; ‘peace,’ a usual greeting among Jews; both have been united and filled with a new glory by Christians.” (The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 20)
Here is our first hint that some of the Greek words Paul uses ought to be understood through Hebrew eyes. When the word charis is used as a greeting, it is proper to understand it as a Greek salutation that expresses favor, delight, or friendly disposition toward another person.
The word eirene, translated “peace,” should be understood through Hebrew eyes as the equivalent of the Jewish greeting, shalom. It denotes more than just a state of harmony between people. It invokes a blessing of total well being—health in spirit, soul, and body.
Paul's use of both terms shows the presence of both Jews and Greeks in the church of Corinth. Both forms of greeting express warmth and blessings in different ways. These greetings, or blessings, are not only from Paul and Sosthenes, but also come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The two former persecutors of the church, being now reconciled to God and to Jesus Christ, are now able to bless the church in the name of Jesus and “God our Father.”
Logos and Gnosis
Paul then enlarges upon these two concepts, charis and shalom, in his praise and thanksgiving for that which has been established already in the Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 1:4-6 says,
4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace [charis] of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech [logos] and all knowledge [gnosis], 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,
Christ Jesus had introduced Himself to the Corinthian church and had thus greeted them in their own language, Paul says. This greeting had “enriched” them in all logos and gnosis as the witness about Christ was confirmed in them. Paul again uses Greek terms that have meaning to Greek ears, but at the same time the terms were rich with underlying Hebrew connotations.
The term logos, translated “utterance” (KJV) or “speech” (NASB), on its surface is simply a verbal expression of thought. When Paul bore witness to Christ, he had spoken the word of truth to impart gnosis, “knowledge.” But as we see in John 1:1, the logos had much greater meaning, for he says,
1 In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.
Later, John 1:14 drops the bombshell on any gnostic in his audience, saying,
14 And the logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus Christ was the expression of God, the visible image of the invisible God, who came in the flesh to reveal the nature and thoughts of God. The gnostics, whose name indicates the importance of gnosis to that sect, believed that spirit was good and matter was evil (created by the devil). This ran contrary to the Hebrew view, which said that a good God created all matter and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Greek culture, then, which was evident in Gnosticism, had difficulty believing that a good God would “become flesh,” for a good God would not taint Himself by evil flesh. The goal of all wise Greeks was to be released from this evil flesh, not to put on human flesh as Jesus did. But the gospel, which the Greeks thought to be foolishness, was the true gnosis of God. It was the truth that matter had been created inherently good, that only later had evil invaded God’s good creation, and that therefore, this evil and sin was temporary. The gospel truth was that Christ had taken upon Himself the limitations of human flesh in order to show us the path out of sin, so that we, like Him, might manifest the good nature and words of God in human flesh.
Logos and Memra
The Hebrew concept of the Memra was also expressed through the Greek term logos. The earth was created by the Memra, called in the Targum, “the agent of God.” The Targum of Isaiah 48:13 says, “Memra has laid the foundation of the earth.” The Memra was also “the comforter” and the Shekinah, the “glory of God” and “the consuming fire.” When speaking in Greek, the Memra was referred to as the Logos, but when the Christians adopted the term through John’s gospel, applying it to Jesus the Messiah, the Jews found it necessary to stop using the term. So The Jewish Encyclopedia, under the subheading, Logos, tells us,
“In the ancient Church liturgy, adopted from the Synagogue, it is especially interesting to notice how often the term ‘Logos,’ in the sense of ‘the Word by which God made the world, or made His Law or Himself known to man,’ was changed into ‘Christ’ (see ‘Apostolic Constitutions,’ vii. 25-26, 34-38, et al.). Possibly on account of the Christian dogma, rabbinic theology, outside of Targum literature, made little use of the term ‘Memra’.”
It was the goal of every rabbi, to attain a state of manifesting the law of God in its purity. As such it was attributed to the coming Messiah. Of course, when the Messiah finally came and manifested the glory of God, the religious leaders could not accept the purity of the law and the glory of God that was seen in Him. In their eyes, Jesus was a lawbreaker, because He did not conform to their understanding (“traditions”) of the law.
Paul says that the Corinthian church had been “enriched in Him” with logos and true gnosis, The Messiah had come to reveal the knowledge of the truth and to express the nature of God by all that He did. Paul’s witness of truth to the Corinthians had imparted the revelation of the Logos, or Memra, giving them true gnosis, or “knowledge” of God.
The implication is that by examining the knowledge of the Memra that is taught in the gospel of Christ, the church will be able to overcome all division, all moral failings, all misuse of spiritual gifts, and any other problems that might arise in their midst.
Spiritual Gifts (Charis)
The testimony of Christ, the Memra, had been confirmed in the Corinthian church according to the grace (charis) of God. The church had responded to God’s greeting and introduction. By responding in kind, they had borne witness to God’s charis, thereby establishing it with their double witness. As a result of this, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:7, 8,
7 so that you are not lacking in any gift [charismati], awaiting eagerly the revelation [apokalupsis] of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul links their spiritual gifts to their acceptance and double witness of His charis, or introductory greeting. Of course, Paul’s acknowledgement of the spiritual gifts in the church sets the stage for his discussion on the use and misuse of spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14. By Paul’s apostolic advice and correction, he hoped to restore shalom to the church, establishing “peace” and full spiritual health to the community.
Paul says that the church was “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word translated “revelation” is apokalupsis, “uncovering, unveiling, manifestation, revelation.” It is more than about a revelation of truth, although that is part of it. The word pictures a scene where something or someone is unveiled or uncovered, revealing what was previously hidden.
There are two main features behind Paul’s “revelation.” First, as the Memra-Logos is unveiled, the truth will be revealed that will end strife, division, and ungodly behavior. In Paul’s second letter, he tells us too that the Old Covenant is a veil over men’s eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14) that is lifted through New Covenant teaching. Searching for truth through an Old Covenant mindset can never unveil the truth, for it served to hide the glory of God in Moses’ face.
Further, apokalupsis has to do with the unveiling of Christ’s glory and presence in our flesh. This is illustrated by Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Luke 9:29), where, the three disciples saw His unveiled glory. Later, John said, “we saw His glory” (John 1:14). Peter, too, bore witness of His glory (2 Peter 1:17, 18), telling us that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).
As we share in His glory, knowing that as temples of God, His glory indwells us as it did in Jesus Christ, the day will come when we ourselves are unveiled, and the glory of God will be seen in us. That day is described as a future time, associated with the second coming of Christ, as Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 1:10,
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
Hence, we see that “revelation” is more than an unveiling of truth. It is also the unveiling of the glory of God in the saints. Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they eagerly await “the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is not only about His return from heaven to earth, but His unveiling within us as we are transfigured before men.
This unveiling, which comes through the New Covenant and its only Mediator, resolves not only the Corinthian disputes and failings, but also resolves the problem brought about by the sin of Adam at the beginning of time. Paul links this revelation of glory to Christ’s confirmation (i.e., charis greeting) in the end, when believers are presented “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8).
It is the day of the birthing of Christ that was begotten in us through the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25). This birth uncovers, or unveils Christ in us. Throughout our spiritual pregnancy, we have been growing and developing through the power of Pentecost, its gifts and its baptism of fire. The fulfilment of the feast of Tabernacles will finally unveil Christ in us, as this holy seed in us is brought to full birth into the world.
On that day we will step beyond the realm of imputed righteousness and into the state of infused righteousness. We will no longer need the legal declaration of righteousness, wherein God calls what is not as though it were (Romans 4:17 KJV). Imputed righteousness is necessary only during our time of growth and imperfection. Once we are “blameless,” then imputation gives way to actual righteousness “in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is part 3 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones