1 Corinthians 1:1 (AV)
1Paul, called to be* an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
Paul was an apostle. The word apostle (Greek: ἀπόστολος, apostolos) means a messenger, or sending out, or even one sent on a mission. In some ancient Greek literature the word takes on a form of a ship ready for departure. The Jewish historian Josephus uses the word and translates it, ambassador. In this case, Paul’s apostleship was one of extraordinary status since he was an apostle of Jesus Christ (i.e. sent by Christ).
The words “to be” are not found in the Greek. In many Bibles (although not in electronic versions) words which are italicized are words which are not found in the Greek. They have been added by the translators to clarify a sentence. Italicized words can be helpful. Sometimes an added word(s) changes a meaning rather than clarifying it. The reader needs to be cautious. Unfortunately, translations like ESV do not italicize added words. This makes it difficult for those of us who are English readers to know exactly what the passage is stating. The KJV (above), the NKJV, NASB, and several others italicize words added by the translators. It is important to use a Bible translation that puts added words in italics.
Paul called to be an apostle. The sentence reads literally, “Paul called apostle” (Greek: ΠΑΥΛΟΣ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος). This could mean he is simply called apostle, like I would be called pastor. Another literal reading could be “Paul a called apostle.” It makes a difference whether Paul was called an apostle of if he was called to be an apostle. It is different from the word “elect.” In other words, this is not a predestination calling. It is not some mystical calling. It is a call by a sending party, i.e., Jesus Christ, by “the will of God.”
Any calling we may receive to ministry does not come by mystical means. It is a specific calling from the local body of Christ. A man or woman may desire to serve the Lord in some capacity, perhaps missionary work–It is the local church which calls them and sends them. We don’t see men and women acting alone in the New Testament, and it should not happen today. They are called by the local body of Christ to do his work.
Apostleship required a direct appointment, which Paul had on the Damascus road. In verse 1, he draws out the fact of his apostleship being through the will of God because he was often called into question. He was scrutinized for being an apostle. Those who make the claim of being an apostle today should receive as much, if not more scrutiny as Paul, since it is doubtful there are apostles today.
Sosthenes our brother. Little is known about this man. The first mention (and only other reference) of Sosthenes is in Acts 18:17. He was the chief ruler of the synagogue who was beaten before the Bema seat (judgment seat). Did he become a believer after this? Or had he been convinced about Christ before the beating? If this Sosthenes in 1st Corinthians 1:1 is one in the same, it could account for this letter having a somewhat Jewish tone to it.