By its completion in 1980, the Crystal Cathedral cost $18 million. Ten thousand glass panels “opened to the sky and the world” as televangelist Robert Schuller wanted.  Opulent  Lavish.

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The Corinthians couldn’t have imagined such a building, Yet, they “have been enriched in every way” (1 Corinthians 1:5).  For this, Paul tells them how he thanks God.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4, NIV).

 In this thanksgiving paragraph, Paul accomplishes two goals.  One, he tells the church how he gives thanks to God for them.  He wants them to know, despite their problems, that he’s genuinely thankful for God’s grace among them.  And, two, he redirects the Corinthians’ focus from their giftedness to the Giver, and from the present to the future.

He gives thanks to God, he explains, because God has lavished his grace on them in Christ Jesus.  He has acted in great mercy to redeem these undeserving, guilty sinners.

By “grace” (Greek charis) Paul often means God’s free justification through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24)—what we often call “saving grace.”  But here he means more–spiritual gifts (charisma) God has given.  This is obvious from his following comments:  “For in him you have been enriched in every way . . . Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift (charisma) . . . “ (1:5,7).  The reason Paul thanks God for them, then, is the charis he has given them in Christ Jesus, specifically in the charisma. 

For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge (1:5, NIV).

God’s grace in Christ, says Paul, has made the Corinthians rich “in all your speaking and in all your knowledge.”  “Speaking” is the Greek logos ,“knowledge” the Greek gnosis.  Why does Paul thank God for these graces in particular?  Probably because these “graces” are the most evident among them.  (Their abuse of these graces he will later reprove them for.)

What does Paul mean by “speaking and knowledge”?  Later, in chapters 12-14 he uses both words of spiritual gifts (charisma).  For example, in 12:8 he identifies “the message (logos) of knowledge” (gnosis).  Other gifts (such as wisdom, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues) also involve speaking knowledge one has been given.  Such spiritual gifts are the specific “graces” God has given the Corinthians.

 . . . because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you (1 Corinthians 1:6, NIV).

Paul is especially thankful because these charismata are evidence that “our testimony about Christ was confirmed”. They are signs of the Corinthians’ genuine faith in the gospel.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed (1 Corinthians 1:7, NIV).

With “you do not lack any spiritual gift”, Paul negatively repeats what he affirmed positively in 1:5, “For in him you have been enriched in every way . . . “

Here, though, he adds “as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”.  Why add this?  Two reasons.  One, for Paul salvation began with Christ’s incarnation and will be consummated at his return.  Salvation, then, is eschatological.  Two, the Corinthians are behaving as if everything promised in Christ is theirs now.  Theologians call that “overrealized eschatology”.  This has led to “triumphalism” (the idea that they will be “winners” in every life-situation) and, unsurprisingly, to spiritual pride.  So Paul refocuses them on the coming revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ when salvation will be consummated and every promise fulfilled.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8, NIV).

To continue refocusing them on the Lord, Paul assures them the Lord, not their “spirituality”, will cause them to be firm in the faith, so that on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ they will not fall under condemnation but be guiltless before God’s Law.

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9, NIV).

With this statement, Paul summarizes everything expressed in this thanksgiving.  The Corinthians will be found blameless on the day of Christ because God is faithful.   God is faithful to save them by grace.  God is faithful to give them grace-gifts for serving him and each other.  God is faithful to keep them blameless in the judgment.  For all this grace, God has faithfully put them “in Christ”.

Including into “fellowship with his Son”. They are not only positionally “in Christ”, they are relationally “with” Christ.   Old believers spoke of this as “communion”—intimate sharing—with Jesus.

Give Thanks for “Grace-Rich”!

That’s my take-away from Paul’s thanksgiving prayer.  His prayer should move me to pray . . .

O God, I thank You because of the grace You’ve given in Christ Jesus to my family, to so many I was privileged to pastor over four decades, and to my blog-readers (over 3,000 subscribers, most of whom I don’t even know!).  I include myself with them when I thank You for enriching us in every way, so that we don’t lack any spiritual gift of Your grace as we wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  I also thank You that we have his revelation to look forward to.  And I thank You that is not a day to dread—because You will keep us stumbling believers firm to the end, so that we’ll be without blame on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God, I am often ambivalent; but You are always faithful.  You must be true to Yourself and Your promises.  And I thank You, too, that by Your grace You have not only put us positionally in Christ, but You have called us relationally into fellowship with Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In His name I pray.  And in His name I give You thanks.  Amen.