A Story of Grace

1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Paul starts the body of his letter to the Corinthians. After a meaty introduction, he begins with a six-verse thanksgiving.

This is among the few positive parts of the letter or those parts where Paul did not rebuke or correct the Corinthians. Here, we see a positive aspect about the Corinthian Church. Paul praises God for such aspects.

This opening is very typical of Paul and can be seen in Romans, Colossians and in other epistles.

In v 4, what is striking is the word “always.” Paul always thanks God for the Corinthians not because of these people per se, but because of God’s grace given to them in Jesus Christ.

If we look at it more closely, Paul is thanking God because He has revealed how gracious He is through the Corinthians. The thanksgiving, then, is God-centered and it is a reminder to us that everything really begins and ends with the Lord.

The grace or undeserved gifts upon the Corinthian Church is made possible in Jesus Christ who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3). This has a great implication in that it lets us see and understand how God has not only supernaturally made Himself known and felt. He, in fact, incarnated to be with us in the flesh!

The grace of God, thus, transcends the realm of ideas or intellectual pursuits and is physically manifested in the work of Jesus Christ and ultimately on the cross in Calvary. This grace is continuously seen in the life of the Corinthians.

In v 5 we see even further how this grace is manifested in the Corinthian Church. In Jesus Christ, they have been “enriched” in their “speaking” and in “all their knowledge.” The idea conjured by Paul here is similar to the preceding verse. The Corinthians were enriched because of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Once again we see how Paul ascribed the glory to God not to human capabilities.

When Paul said they were “enriched,” he may have invoked the imagery of physical wealth because Corinth, being a trade city of its time, was undeniably rich and its people well-off. Paul reminds them that these riches were still given to them by the living God. The Lord has given them riches in every way which in its original Greek can be rendered as enriched in all things.

Though they are enriched by God in all things, Paul underscores their wealth in “speaking” and in “all knowledge.”

The original Greek used for “speaking” is “logos.” This is the same word which referred to Christ in the Gospel of John.

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This word is also related to reasoning, talking, one’s motive, computation, communication of the doctrines, preaching and reasoning. Thus, the grace of God is seen in the Corinthians’ ability to communicate the Truths of God, most probably in evangelism, teaching and apologetics.

When Paul spoke of knowledge on the other hand, he meant “general intelligence” and “understanding” which, in this context, is obviously related to Christianity. The Corinthian Church is a congregation of intellectuals, easily grasping the Truths of God and Jesus. They are gifted in teaching and speaking.

In these two examples, coupled with the grace of God in every part of their lives, the Corinthians confirmed the testimony of Jesus. They exhibited transformed lives which is very significant because they belonged to a very worldly city. This transformation is possible only by the grace of God which opened their hearts to accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

Paul reminded them in v 7 that they did not lack any spiritual gift. It appears that the spiritual gift he is underlining refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-14. These chapters defined spiritual gifts as “capabilities given through the Holy Spirit that enables one to minister to the needs of Christ’s body, the church.”

That the Corinthian Church is gifted is no doubt. But the stress, as seen in the preceding verses, is that the gifts are a result of God’s grace. It is also encouraging to see that the Corinthians “eagerly wait” for the second coming of Jesus Christ. When the Savior comes again, He will be revealed. In the original Greek word, it conjures the imagery of someone being stripped naked, thus, the fullness of the glory of God, the fullness of Truth and Grace in Jesus Christ will be made known and visible to the world.

The overall theme of abundant giftedness by the grace of God culminates in the last two verses. They are also central in the passage because they point everything back to God.

In v. 7 Paul promised that Jesus will keep the Corinthians strong to the end. He will sustain them so that they will be blameless, guiltless on that day when Jesus comes again. We see that the Christian’s life, though already justified and under grace, still needs constant confirmation and renewing from the source of salvation. This is sanctification.

So long as Christians remain in this world, the imperfection of our bodies and of flesh will be footholds of the devil, leading us to fall and sin. Though our salvation is assured, that is, it will never be taken away from us (John 10:28), sin breaks our intimate walk with God and leaves us spiritually depressed, unable to bask or exercise the joy of our salvation.

When this happens, on the Day of Judgment, when we take account of how we have used the gifts given to us by God, we may fall silent before the King of the Universe. If, because of the enemy’s success, we fail to exercise our gifts, we will have to face our Maker like the servant in Luke 19 who buried his master’s mina because he was afraid to lose it. “…to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away (Lk 19:26).”

“Those who seek spiritual gain in the Gospel, for themselves and others, will become richer, and those who neglect or squander what is given them will become impoverished, losing even what they have.”

Remember, however, that the context here is in the use of the gifts for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. It is not merely in the use of the gifts in everyday activities. Our Lord will take into account how we have worked to share the Gospel and the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Paul ends His greeting the same way he started it—a focus on God. He reminds the Corinthians that His promise of God’s sustenance is true because God is faithful; He delivers His promises.

Paul also emphasizes one final truth—The King of the Universe does all these because He is the one who called us into fellowship with Jesus. That is, by His grace, we are saved (justified) and by His grace we are continuously being saved (sanctified).

Let us, thus, gaze upon the face of God, seeking Him everyday to renew us and strengthen us in the face of all trials and temptation. Amen.
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