“[God] 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 1:8-9
The church in Corinth was a people who were guilty of a multitude of horrific sins that even people in our day would consider to be vile. Among the church were sexually immoral people committing sexual acts with family members, idolaters who were claiming to follow Apollos, Cephas, and even Paul, and then lumping Christ into the same category as these men as just another person worthy to be followed. The members of this church were adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, indulgent, abusive with their language, and swindlers. Yet these are the people that Paul calls “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “saints” in Chapter 1, Verse 2. These are people for whom Christ died. These were wretched and dreadful people who are lowly to the world and are full - to the brim - with sin and shame. Yet these are people for whom Christ died. The radiant King of Glory died to save a man who was having sexual relations with his fathers wife. Think about that for a moment…
It was very often and for a very long time that I would read 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 and imagine Paul writing with anger, filled with vexation and horrified by the scandals of this church. I imagined him writing to them in fury and with condemnation, hating not only their sin, but them also. I imagined that with every word he wrote, he reminded himself of how undeserving they were of the grace of God, and how much they ought to abhor themselves for all the wrath they are heaping upon themselves… A very sad thought indeed… In fact, I imagine that my reading of Paul’s motives said more about my own understanding of sin and my own hatred of other sinners than it did about the actual reason for Paul’s writing.
No doubt Paul hated the sin of this church, and that he wanted this church to be pure, holy, and obedient to Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:8 makes that abundantly clear. However, this was not void of his love and compassion for them, and his clear understanding of God’s immense compassionate-love for them. This brings us to today’s passage.
Paul knew full well the issues in the Corinthian church at that present moment. He did not set into writing this letter without full knowledge of the status of this congregation. People from within the church had reported these things to him after all (1 Corinthians 1:11). Yet in verses 8-9 he declares to them that “[God] 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” (Emphasis added).
This passage screams out loud the doctrine of perseverance. We are held by God in our salvation because of his saving of us, not because of our sinlessness. The Westminster Confession puts it like this, “This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree...flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them”
In other words, Paul was writing to these broken people assuring them that God will sustain them, they will be guiltless because of the merit of Christ, and they will be sustained in their faith until the last day.
Just as Paul said this to the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit says this to us today.
We are horribly sinful people, yet if we are in Christ we are assured that God will preserve us, keep us guiltless by the merit of Christ, and sustain our faith until the last day. Take heart Christian, that your transgressions are washed away by the blood of Christ, not because of your ability or works, but because of the unchangeable decree by God for your salvation.