The kindhearted attitude of Paul teaches all of us that we can be thankful for the people in our churches. We may even be thankful for those who are the cause of great consternation for us. When people thought of Paul, it seems to me that they would have found it almost impossible to be offended by his manner. While he was uncompromising and firm, he was also genuinely grateful and loving.
This is startling when you consider the state of the Corinthian church in the New Testament. We read 1 Corinthians and wonder how many of these people could be Christians and still need the directives Paul gave in the letter. We wonder how the Corinthians could be indifferent to what he had to say. Yet Paul makes no assumptions and communicates to them as he would any other church. There is no doubt that many individuals were corrupt in the church. Yet, the majority were more than likely sincere believers.
Most people run away from churches when trouble hits. Paul understands that the problem is not with the believers themselves but with the way they misapply their stewardship in the church. We ought to be thankful for one another always because God has gifted each and every one of us. So, we can be genuinely thankful to God for believers at our churches, since God gives gifts to each of us as individuals. But we must also challenge one another to redirect our focus. How does 1 Corinthians 1.4-9 redirect our focus as we contemplate Thanksgiving in America?
- We observe that arrogance and self-sufficiency put the focus on people and ignore the fact that everything good comes down from our Father above.
- Further, we learn that humility dictates that we live waiting for Jesus to return, which means that there is always room for improvement.
Paul wrote, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless 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 1:4-9).
Focus your attention on two aspects of this passage. First, Paul is expressing gratitude for God’s gifting of believers. Second, Paul is expressing gratitude for God’s guarantee to believers.
Gratitude for God’s Gifting of Believers
These verses teach us that Paul is thankful because all of the Corinthian believers received spiritual gifts from God. He writes, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” The present tense of the verb thank along with the adverb always make it clear that Paul’s habitual attitude toward believers was one of thanksgiving. Paul does not relinquish his fatherly responsibility for the church (see 4.14-21), but he understands that all believers belong to God and not to him. Therefore, Paul is grateful to God for these believers.
Christians might disagree strongly with each other, but we are grateful and joyful because God is working in all of us. If this attitude is not in us, we fail to understand how much we ourselves need God’s daily mercy. It seems the Corinthians have forgotten they need God’s mercy. This fuels self-sufficiency and arrogance in them.
Paul is thankful for the grace of God. Grace means gift. God gives good gifts to His children. Paul understands this, sees evidence of it, and then is thankful for it. The problem is that the Corinthians focused on their gifts and not on the Giver of those gifts. Once you understand that everything you have is given to you by God, self-sufficiency melts away to be replaced by humility. Paul will say in this letter, “Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it” (1 Corinthians 4.7),
Paul is thankful that the Corinthians “were enriched in everything by [God] in all utterance and all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1.5). When God gives gifts, He enriches believers in everything. The Christians Standard Bible renders the phrase this way: “You were enriched in him in every way.” This phrase is connected with the qualifying remainder of the verse: “in all utterance and all knowledge.”
Utterance refers to speaking gifts like preaching and prophesying. Knowledge refers to the gift of information. God gifts them by causing them to learn. It seems that it was very evident that the Corinthians were knowledgeable and very articulate in expressing that knowledge.
The problem is that they forgot they were enriched by God. They forgot that Christ was impoverished so that they could be enriched. Paul will say, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8.9). One great lesson of the Christian life is that self-confidence makes our strengths great weaknesses.
Surprisingly, this was all true “even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in [the Corinthians]” (1 Corinthians 1.6). Paul is genuinely thankful for the gifts God gives them since they are evidence of the testimony of Christ being confirmed in or among them. The Father does the work of confirming that those gifts are present. This passive verb in verse 6 (“was confirmed”) emphasizes again the need for humility. They are confirmed by God already in them. Christians don’t do the work of confirming. God does that work.
The testimony of Christ points up His life’s work, culminating in His death, burial, and resurrection. The work of Christ guarantees the truth of the very message enriching the Corinthian believers. The emphasis is always on Christ not on us. We are simply earthen vessels.
God confirms these gifts in the Corinthians “so that [they] come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1.7). Paul is thankful for what is going on in the present, because he has an eye on the future. He thanks God for grace (v. 4), for enriching the Corinthians with gifts (v. 5), and for confirming the testimony of Christ’s finished work (v. 6). The result is that they come short in no gift that they have (v. 7).
They are complete in Christ. As they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they manifest His fruit in any and every of the gifts they possess. If we were eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we would exercise the gifts God gives to us in greater and greater degrees of humility. Maybe we lack the gifts we need because we lack the eagerness for Christ’s return. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between anticipating Christ’s return in the future and the exercise of our spiritual gifts in the present.
Many believers today are similar to the Corinthians in that we have an over-realized perspective when it comes to the return of Christ. We forget that we are still being perfected. We are still waiting for our final glorified state. We have not arrived. We must eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed so that will happen.
So, Paul is grateful to God. Specifically, he is grateful for God’s giftedness of believers. Verses 8 and 9 now introduce a second major thought regarding focused gratitude.
Gratitude for God’s Guarantee to Believers (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)
The eager anticipation of the revelation of Jesus Christ is heightened because our Savior is the One “who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). Paul already mentions the revelation of Jesus Christ in verse 7. Now, he mentions the day of our Lord Jesus Christ in verse 8. He tells the Corinthians what that will mean for each of them personally. Paul is assured that God will confirm the Corinthians to the end, so that that they may be blameless or guiltless when they stand before the Father in the day of Christ.
It is certain that they have the righteousness of Christ. It’s not that the condition of the Corinthians’ lives at that present moment was blameless or guiltless. Paul doesn’t have confidence or assurance in the Corinthians; his confidence is in God. God is not finished with any of us. All of us need work. But God will see to it that that work is complete. This means that God’s guarantee is our eternal security in Christ.
This is good news which demands gratitude. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). God is faithful. This is important because, often, we are not faithful. The Corinthians struggled with faithfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5.24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
God is not depending on us; we are depending on God. God called us, and God is faithful. That’s an interesting combination. We will be blameless on the last day due to God’s faithfulness. God called the Corinthians and us into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We have fellowship with the Savior through the Holy Spirit. We are in Christ, free from sin, and in fellowship with Him and with our Father.
So, be grateful for God’s giftedness and for God’s guarantee.
Are you a grateful partaker of His gifts? Are you walking worthily of His calling? Are you dependent upon His power to both exercise your gifts and fulfill your calling?
Grateful for Gifts
We have received good things which have come down from the Father of lights. His daily mercy and benefits are incomparable to anything offered by this world. We know the message of salvation and have experienced it. We enjoy the confidence of our immortality and coming glorious reign with Christ. There is no other gift we need. We are content. There is no regret for things we do not have from this world. We have the greatest gifts any of us could desire in Christ. How could we not be thankful?
Worthy of God’s Calling
Once we understand what we have, we realize we come short in no gift. We present our bodies by the mercies of God, as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to Him, which is our reasonable, rational service (Romans 12:1). God’s goal for our lives is that we would be blameless when Jesus returns. God is working in us so that we would become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). We shine as lights by walking worthily by lining up our condition in life with the position Christ gained for each of us.
The Corinthians needed to find out where strength came from. God confirms us to the end. God is faithful. He is the Author and the Finisher of our salvation. We are only channels. “The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3.3). He alone receives glory for the exercise of our gifts.
“Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).