Saturday, August 12, 2006

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (ESV) Thanksgiving 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As is found in the beginning of virtually all Paul's letter, here following the opening greeting we find a section of thanksgiving. In light of the problems that will be found in the Corinthian church in the rest of this letter, it may see surprising how thankful Paul was. He writes that he gives, "thanks to God always" for them. In spite of the sin that is allowed to run rampant in that church, the divisions between its members over incorrect things, their questioning of Paul's apostolic authority, and several other things, Paul still thanks God for them, not just sometimes, but always. Notice however, that Paul's thanksgiving to God for them is based firmly in what God has done in the Corinthians. It is because of the gifts of grace given by God in Jesus Christ to them, that Paul is able to thank God for them. For, that grace of God in Christ given to them, is a confirmation of the testimony about Christ that they have received. It is evidence that God is working in them and through them to make them more and more his people. Paul first pointed to the fact that God in his gifts to them enriches them in all ways, however, there are specific gifts in mind here as well. The grace that God has given in Christ is that he had enriched the Corinthians in Christ, "in all speech and all knowledge." The first enrichment is in all speech or logos. Although most English translations translate this as "speech," as Gordon Fee points out in his commentary, this word is used throughout 1 Corinthians in the context of spiritual utterance. At the very least the speech here is not merely the controlled tongue that James speaks of in James 1:26, but also has something to do with words of edification that teach spiritual truths. This is something that Paul will return to in the letter The second specific gifts is that of knowledge or gnosis. Again this is probably speaking of knowledge given by the Spirit of God, and again Paul will return to it in this letter. In both cases, although Paul is thankful to God for the Corinthians for these gifts, they are also things that are part of the problem in Corinth. These gifts that Paul repeatedly points out here are given in Christ, had become points of pride and stumbling in the Corinthian church. In spite of that, Paul is still thankful to God for them. That catches me short, for I wonder how often am I thankful to God for the people of God I know or minister to when they take the gifts they have in Christ, and misuse them, making them points of pride or division? Yet, here we see Paul was thankful for them. Yes, he will go on and correct the abuses, but he does not let that abuse remove the great truth that these people are God's people in Christ. That in Christ they have been given everything they need, even though they don't always use it the way they should. They too are people who are looking and waiting for the return of Christ. Paul then ends pointing out that since the grace of God was given to them in Christ and that they had been enriched in every way in Christ, that it is he who did this who will also keep them strong to the end so they will be blameless on the day of our Lord. There were problems in the Corinthian church, but Paul knows that God will not abandon his people. Those things need to be cleaned up, but God who gave the gifts in Christ, will also work in them to make them blameless. "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Paul has such confidence in the effective working of God in his people, the he reminds the Corinthians that God is faithful. If he has done what he has done among them in his Son Jesus Christ, he will not leave them. No he will strengthen them. Again, this is a reminder I need. Often it seems that in my own life and ministry I am weak and unable to do the task set before me. While some of that is incorrect expectations both from myself and my congregation, I believe most of it is my own weakness that requires God's strengthening to keep me blameless. The reminder of God's faithfulness to complete what he has started, encourages me in those times when I am wondering if I can go on, or if my ministry is of any use at all. It strengthens me to know that when I am weak and helpless, God will strengthen me.


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