“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,”
Biblical writers placed their names first in epistles to state upfront their authority for writing Scripture.
called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ
The word “called” is timeless in Greek. The eternal God called Paul in eternity past. Paul’s calling as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” indicates his authority to write Scripture (1 Ti 1:1; 2 Ti 1:1). Jesus personally appointed Paul to apostleship. Literally, this phrase reads “a called apostle of Jesus Christ” – his apostleship was not from to himself.
Paul’s apostleship came from the initiative of God. The “caller” is God and took place in eternity past. This calling implies that the summons to this calling has not merely come from God but has been accepted by Paul. God vindicated Paul’s apostleship (Ga 1:12-16). He is equal in authority with the twelve apostles. Paul’s authority was not from some religious society or domination. His was not the voice of man. God appointed him an apostle.
The Greek word “apostle” comes from two Greek words: to send and from. The word “apostle” then means sent one. An apostle is one who comes into a situation with credentials from a person in authority. In this case, the person with authority is Jesus Christ. Paul is an emissary of Jesus. Paul speaks for Jesus. He was no self-styled author.
“Apostle” is a nautical term. Kings sent admirals to other nations with the authority of war. The admiral carried credentials from the king. The idea is to send someone from someone in authority. In this case, God sends Paul with the authority and credentials of God almighty. An apostle had the authority to write scripture through direct revelation, and they had the right to found and rule over churches.
The apostle was appointed by the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:8,11). He was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Ac 9; 1 Co 15:8,9). The apostle was endued with powers of miracles (Ac 5:15; 16:16-18; 19:11-12). No apostle was appointed to the church until after the ascension of Christ. The twelve apostles sent to Israel is not the same as the apostles sent to the church (Mt 10). The church did not exist at that time; it was still future (Mt 16:18).
Apostles have the authority to write scripture and found the church. They carried the authority of having seen the resurrected Jesus with their eyes. Their teaching comes from the direct authority of Christ. Their teaching comes from Christ’s lips. They evidenced authority by miracles (2 Co 12:12).
through the will of God,
The agency of Paul’s apostleship was “through the will of God,” and his writing of 1 Corinthians was through the will of God. Paul is about to rebuke the Corinthian church for their wrongdoings. He speaks to the Corinthians with God’s appointment. He speaks with God’s voice. God did not call Paul because of his merit or worth. His apostleship did not come from himself or some church authority. Paul’s apostleship did not come through self-seeking, but his call came through the will of God.
God calls every Christian to preach the gospel.
Paul makes his own commitment clear in 1 Corinthians 9:16,17,
“If I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” He said, “I must preach the gospel whether I want to do it or not. Whether it is convenient or not, I have no choice.”
God is not a cruel taskmaster. He is a wonderful Master who gives a sense of satisfaction when we serve Him. Paul did not quit. He served to the best of his ability, which is all God asks. This kind of commitment gives us direction, point, and purpose. We keep our drive no matter what opposition may come our way.
A hundred years from now, it will make very little difference where we stood before the great people of our day. However, a hundred years from now, it will be of utmost importance where we stand in reference to Jesus Christ. That will determine where we will be in eternity; it will demarcate how we lived our life in time.