To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints… – I Corinthians 1:2

If you or I were going to write a formal letter, we would put our name and address at the top, followed by the name and address of the people we are writing to. It wasn’t a whole lot different in the middle of the first century when Paul wrote this letter, except in place of an address, they wrote about one’s credentials. In verse 1, Paul wrote his name and credential of being called as an Apostle of Jesus. Then in verse 2, he tells us a little bit about the credentials of the church of God in Corinth, saying that they are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.”

Now, what is interesting about these two phrases is that each of them is built around the same root word. The word translated as “sanctified” comes from the Greek verb hagiazo, and “saints” comes from the noun hagios. Both words have to do with holiness. The noun could be translated as “holy people” (as the NIV translates it). The verb could be translated as “those who have been made holy.” So, a very literal translation of this part might be, “those who have been made holy in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.”

What’s going on here? Why would Paul take the time to say the same thing twice? Why both hagiazo and hagios? What’s the difference between being made holy and being called to be holy? Well, a clue is in the tense that the verb hagiazo is in. The verb is in the perfect tense. This tense is used when you want to imply that something happened in the past but that it has ongoing implications for the present. So, Paul is saying that at a point in time in the past, the Corinthians were made holy, but it wasn’t a one-and-done type of thing. Their holiness-making event has implications that reach into the present. Because they were made holy, they are living different lives today. This is why it is important to clarify that they are also called to be holy people today.

What Paul is telling us is that we can’t just rest in our past successes. Just because God made us holy, doesn’t mean that we get to stop striving to live holy lives. I think this is a good word for us today. Our lives have been changed once and for all because we were made holy by what Jesus did for us on the cross, but that event has ramifications on our lives today… It means that we are continually called to live holy lives. Let’s step into our calling today.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

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