Thanksgiving For God's Faithfulness
Parkdale Grace Fellowship
Sunday AM, January 13, 2008
1 Corinthians 1:5-9
Thanksgiving for God’s Faithfulness
In our last study we saw how many serious problems the believers in Corinth were being dragged down with; everything from law suits and sexual immorality to drunkenness and divisive contentions in the church. Yet Paul begins his letter to this carnal church by drawing their attention, not to all of their sins but to who they have been made to be by the grace of God through their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul reminds them that God has sanctified them and made them to be saints.
In these verses the Bible gives some examples of God’s grace in the lives of these Corinthians for which Paul gives thanks. What have they freely received from God?
“You were enriched in everything by Him.” Every aspect of their lives has been made richer by Christ Jesus. This is true of everyone who has truly received the Spirit of Christ into themselves as their new life. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The old wretched life; the corrupted, fallen man, that which was dead in trespasses and sin has been replaced by that which is eternal, righteous, pure, incorruptible, and born of God. And all of this happens when we receive Christ.
Although we don’t always realize the massive treasure we have gained when we receive Christ there is no area of our life in which we were actually better off before Christ. The Lord is not exaggerating when He says through Paul that “You were enriched in everything by [Christ Jesus].” This truth is reinforced in Philippians 3:8 Amp., After giving a list of all that he had going for him before he received Jesus, Paul concluded by saying, “Yes . . . I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may . . . (gain) Christ . . .” His greatest asset before Christ is now considered to be mere rubbish in comparison to what he has gained in Christ. We are all enriched in everything by Christ Jesus.
Later on in his letter to the Ephesians Paul expresses the same truth this way, Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Jesus is the Great “I Am”. Whatever our need in life He is the abundant source and supply of everything we need. How foolish for a child of God to look covetously over the fence at the unbelieving world and to think that the grass is greener on the other side. If in your eyes today the life of an unbeliever looks more advantageous and appealing to you than your new life in Christ, then that is a sure indication that you, like the Corinthian believers, have taken your eyes off of Jesus. You have lost your first love. You have lost sight of that infinite treasure of great price that is now yours in Christ. I pray that your heart would once again be captivated by desire for God alone.
Paul goes on in verse five to specify one aspect of their lives in which the church at Corinth was particularly blessed: “You were enriched . . . in all utterance and all knowledge.” Both utterance and knowledge are further described in chapters 12-14 where they are clearly identified as gifts of the Spirit. All utterance refers to “every kind of spiritual utterance” especially, in this context, to the many speaking gifts listed in chapters 12-14. (Fee, p.39) Examples of the speaking gifts are: a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy. Every kind of spiritual utterance could also more broadly include powerful anointed preaching, teaching, and evangelistic witness, Spirit led intercession and worship etc.
In verse five Paul draws particular attention to these prominent gifts of speech and knowledge which, as the rest of the letter makes clear, were very prominent spiritual gifts in the church at Corinth. Their great giftedness in speech and knowledge became a great source of pride, contention, disorder and division. They saw their spiritual gifts as a mark of their spiritual superiority and elitism over those who did not share their gift. Spiritual pride has historically been the downfall of many churches and believers over the years who have been blessed with great speaking gifts. Having grown up in a Pentecostal denomination I know that some Pentecostals saw their particular speaking gift as a mark of superiority and some would not relate to other believers who did not share their gift. This is what happens when we lose sight of the fact that every spiritual gift is an undeserved gift of God’s grace and is never a mark of maturity or of spirituality or of rank.
Paul genuinely gives thanks for these utterance gifts though they are the center of so much of the problems in Corinth. Paul did not ban the speaking in tongues nor did he forbid prophecies as many churches today do when these gifts are misused. Instead He thanks God for giving these gifts and then in the chapters that follow he instructs the people on how to properly use the gifts that God has given them so that they are not abused. Paul can genuinely thank God for graciously pouring out these gifts upon the believers at Corinth because he knows that the problem in Corinth is not with the gifts. The problem is that the people have lost sight of Jesus and the grace of God. The people have fallen in love with the gift and have set it up on a pedestal and have lost their passion for the giver of the gift. When we lose our joyful passion and desire for Jesus Himself as our ultimate treasure we can easily become sign-seekers rather than Christ-seekers. This is what had happened to the church at Corinth.
A.B. Simpson described the proper emphasis this way, “Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord; Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word; Once His gift I wanted, Now the Giver own; Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone . . . Everything in Jesus and Jesus everything.” (“Himself”, by A.B. Simpson)
However, let us not go to the other extreme of being satisfied to never experience any of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit at work in our lives. As the Lord will prompt Paul to say at the end of chapter 12, we are to “earnestly desire the best gifts.”
o Paul goes on to thank the Lord that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit which were so commonly practiced among the Corinthians were confirmation that they had received the testimony of Christ. (F.F. Bruce, p.31)
§ This principle is demonstrated for us when Cornelius’ household began speaking in tongues in Acts 10:44ff. That experience confirmed to the apostles that Cornelius and his family had received the testimony of Christ.
· Repeatedly the Bible tells us that the exercise of supernatural gifts of the Spirit served to confirm the legitimacy of both the message and of those who embraced the message.
o The gifts of the Spirit were a sign that God present and at work in their lives.
§ We saw this recently in Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
· And as Hebrews 2:3-4 says that God bears witness to the gospel of Christ “both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
o 1 Thess. 1:5 “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance . . .”
· The implication of Paul’s words in verse seven, “that you come short in no gift”, is that all of the gifts of the Spirit had been bestowed upon this congregation. For this Paul gives thanks.
o We should not fear nor avoid the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. They should be a common part of the Christian life.
§ They should not be foreign to our own experience.
· I believe that there are a variety of ways to abuse the gifts of the Spirit.
o The Corinthian believers misused their gifts by over emphasizing them. But many of us abuse God’s supernatural gifts by neglecting them altogether.
· Look at verse seven again. What is the connection between the gifts of the Spirit and the return of Jesus at the Revelation?
o I do not fully understand the connection but I wonder if there is a correlation between the general lack of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in so much of the North American church and the general lack of interest and emphasis on the second coming of Christ. (Gordon Fee raises this same question in his commentary, p. 42)
§ As a child there were two things I can remember being emphasized in the church circles I was exposed to that are both quite uncommon today: the second coming of Christ and exercising the gifts of the Spirit.
· Yet I’m not sure what the relationship is between the two.
· However we do know that Paul’s emphasis in this letter is to take the believer’s focus off of a preoccupation with the spiritual gifts and to direct their focus onto Jesus Christ.
o Though we are to thank God for His spiritual gifts we should not be content with the gifts alone, nor should we see the supernatural gifts as the ultimate experience in the Christian life.
§ There is an infinitely greater glory that we should live in eager anticipation of and that is the glorious return of Jesus Christ to earth.
· Later on in this letter Paul makes clear to us that the gifts of the Spirit are only a temporary provision while we wait for the ultimate return of the Lord.
o 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 “. . . As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
· We are not to get caught up with the gifts which are only temporary, but our heart’s fixation is to remain on Jesus Himself. The New King James Bible translates it as “eagerly” waiting for His revelation.
o Too many professing Christians live in dread of Christ’s return (if they think of it at all). They have too many other things they consider more important that they want to do before Christ returns.
§ Jesus said that where your treasure is there your heart will be also. If your heart is here on earth it’s because this is where your treasure is. But Jesus insisted that we are not to lay up treasure here on earth but in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21)
· Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure of all. Therefore if we are not eagerly looking forward to the return of Christ there is something seriously wrong with our relationship with God and with our understanding of Jesus and our concept of heaven.
o The return of Christ will bring to earth the ultimate possible human experience (for the believer).
· There are Christians today who belittle those who are longing for the return of Christ. But in Titus 2:11-13 the Bible says that the grace of God teaches us that we should live “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
o Philippians 3:20-21 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
§ This world is not our home. Our goal as believers is not simply to make the most of this world. Our goal, our blessed hope, is the return of Jesus Christ.
· Vs. 8
o The Amplified Bible reads this way: “And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”
§ In other words, the assurance of the believer is not that God will save him even if he stops believing, but that God will keep him believing – God will sustain you in faith, he will make your hope firm and stable to the end. He will cause you to persevere.” (John Piper, “Sustained by the Faithfulness of God”, sermon notes on 1 Cor. 1:1-9, 1988, p. 8)
· Notice the word, “confirm” in verse 8 is the same word used in verse 6.
o Paul thanks the Lord that just as their spiritual gifts confirmed that they had received the gospel, so Jesus Christ Himself will also personally confirm them to the end so that they would be blameless (without guilt) at the coming of Jesus Christ for the final judgment. (Fee, p. 43)
§ How can Jesus do this for such badly behaving Christians as those at Corinth? He can do it because He has given us His righteousness as a free, undeserved gift. (Rom. 5:15-21; Col. 1:21-22)
· Paul didn’t hang over their head the threat that they were in danger of hellfire if they didn’t get their act together. Instead he drew their attention to the fact that God who had begun their salvation would complete it until the day of Jesus Christ’s return. (Phil. 1:6)
o And he thanked God for this grace.
· Now on what basis can Paul give such carnal people as the believers at Corinth this kind of unconditional assurance of being confirmed in the faith to the very end?
o This promise certainly can never be made if it is dependent upon the faithfulness of the Corinthian believers.
§ Paul’s confidence for the Corinthian believers rests entirely in God as the next verse makes clear.
· Vs. 9
o The assurance of our faith being confirmed to the end is based upon the faithfulness of God.
§ God is faithful; He will never fail; He will never let us down. That is my only hope of making it to the end.
· The Corinthians could put no confidence in their flesh; no more can we today put any confidence in ourselves; 100% of our confidence for our salvation has to be in the Lord.
o In Philippians 1:6 Paul reinforces this hope when he says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.
· I thank God that our salvation is not dependent upon our own ability, but instead from start to finish it depends entirely upon God’s faithfulness . . . that is God’s grace; God doing for me what I could never do for myself; God keeping me faithful to the end.
o God’s word repeats this same assurance in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”