Something to be Thankful for

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.1-9
A friend who used to work in the Government Printing Office tells the story of a typesetter who was so accurate that it was unreal. The proof readers would think there was something wrong because they couldn't find any mistakes. The lack of mistakes made them read with even greater care. One day they found one mistake and went to him at once. "When's the baby due?" He replied, "How did you know? It was only this morning that my wife rang to say she is pregnant." They showed him the copy. Instead of "confirmation" he had typed "confinement"!

At the other end of the scale, there are some students whose grasp of their subjects is so slender that their teachers have to search for something right that can be given a mark.

Of all the churches to whom Paul wrote, none was so strife-torn as the church at Corinth. No church claimed greater endowment with the gifts of the Spirit. Yet there was deep conflict among them as to whether their true spiritual leader was Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter) or Christ. There were serious and unresolved cases of immorality among them. Disputes were being taken to the pagan courts. There was argument and offence over the question of eating food that had been offered to idols. Their lack of care for one another was evident in the way they celebrated the Lord's Supper. Their spiritual gifts became further cause for bitterness among them, causing division in the body of Christ and disorder in their public worship.

Yet, even though that was what prompted this letter, Paul begins it with thanks to God for them! Thinking about them he could well have been filled with despair. But, thinking about God, he doesn't have to search far to find cause for thanks.

The grace of God to you

He thanks God firstly "because of the grace he has given you through Christ".

Grace is the undeserved favour of God. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, speaks clearly of the state of each of us apart from Christ. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (3.23, NIV) "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom.6.23, NIV)

Often we have no sense of the awfulness of human sin. But it was so serious as to merit the death penalty - separation from God forever in hell. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (5.8,NIV). This gift we receive through faith, through dependence on Christ alone for salvation. In Matthew 4.17 we read that From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (NIV)

Paul could address the Corinthian Christians as "those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours" (1 Cor 1.2 NIV). By faith, they had received the grace made possible and offered in the Lord Jesus Christ. For this Paul is thankful.

You have become rich

In spite of their divisions, Paul takes note that "in him [Christ] you have been enriched in every way - in all your speaking and in all your knowledge: because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." (1.5-7, NIV).

The purpose of the grace of God in us is not simply to redeem us from hell, but to fit us for heaven.

The eager enthusiasm of the Corinthian Christians for spiritual gifts may have become seriously misdirected. But there is the need for each of us to grow up in Christ and to be equipped by the Spirit for service within the Body of Christ and as his witnesses in the community.

For their richness in spiritual things, Paul is thankful.

You will be faultless

For the moment, however, their spiritual immaturity and divisiveness are all too evident - from v.10 this becomes Paul's theme. They may have received every spiritual blessing - but they are far from having arrived!

Paul is thankful that as the grace of God continues to work in their lives, as the Spirit continues to work his gifts among them, as they "wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed", God will not only keep them "firm to the end", but they will in fact be "faultless on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ".

© Peter J. Blackburn, Buderim Uniting Church, 2 December 1990
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, 1984.

Back to Sermons