(1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
In these few verses Paul gives thanks to God for what God has done with the church at Corinth. At a high level when we read between the lines we see that Paul is expressing thanks for the work done in the knowledge that this work is not his own work, nor the work of those at Corinth, but is the work of God.
How does God work in the church to effect change among the people? Again the answer is in these few verses for we see that what Paul is thanking God for is the great and wondrous gifts that God gave to the church that brought them out of the world to where they were in Christ Jesus, and that would continue to protect and hold them in His name until the end.
There are a few interesting aspects to these verses and these gifts that are worth looking into and that is what this study today will cover.
In the first of these verses, verse 4 we see the very first gift that God gave the church and the one on which all of His gifts depend. Without this gift none of the others are even possible because the giving of His gifts relies solely on God's willingness and desire to give the gifts. And this willingness comes down to His compassion, kindness and mercy towards man which is what His grace is partly about.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, – (1 Corinthians 1:4)
It was through and by Jesus Christ that God's grace is given and received.
God was gracious to man by providing a way to escape from sin in this world and to be reconciled to God so that we may find salvation unto eternal life through entering the death of Jesus Christ and taking His sacrifice as our own death, which we do via baptism. This is how God gave us grace; through Jesus Christ.
Grace is then received by us through faith, believing what God has done to set us free from sin by the death of Jesus Christ.
So what we see is that Jesus is at the core of these two fundamental gifts that underpin the whole of Christianity. It is by grace through Jesus Christ that God provides the way of escape, and it is by faith in Jesus Christ that we receive God's grace and the gift of freedom from sin that will eventually lead us to life.
The second of the gifts that God gives us, agian in Jesus Christ, is the spiritual insight and knowledge of the way to life that exists in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge- 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you (1 Corinthians 1:5-6)
It is in the testimony of Jesus Christ and the gospel that we preach that the good news of life in Jesus Christ is seen. And the knowledge of this life is not a knowledge that comes from this world, but is a spiritual knowledge. It is an insight that is opened up to the eyes of believers that cannot be seen by people who do not seek out the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ.
And in this verse we see that God provided these gifts of insight and knowledge so that the people of the church in Corinth were able to speak these words to teach one another and build up the church. There would certainly have been some in the church at Corinth who God had given the gift of teaching for this purpose, which is one of the major gifts He gives to the church as shown in Ephesians 4:7-14.
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth. 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – (Ephesians 4:7-14)
This section from Ephesians 4 shows us not only what the gifts of God were that He gave to the church, but also the purpose of those gifts. And it is in this purpose that we see a fuller understanding of the points Paul was referring to back in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.
The purpose of the gifts to the church were to teach, shepherd, protect, grow, and expand the church both for the individuals in the church and for th church as a whole. The aim of these gifts was to bring all the members of the church up to a standard of maturity where they could stand in the face of opposition and where they could tell the difference between what was good and evil, and not be turned aside by false doctrine.
In the next verse from the 1 Corinthians 1 text today we see also that God gave the church at Corinth a different type of gift to help them. The ones mentioned above were teaching gifts and the ability to learn and spread the word. But in this next verse we see that He also gave the church in Corinth various spiritual gifts to help them.
so that you are not lacking in any [spiritual] gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, – (1 Corinthians 1:7)
I have added the word “spiritual” in the text above as it does not appear in the version of the bible I am using, however it does appear in most others. To be absolutely certain of the correctness of this, when we look back into the Greek from which this is translated, the word is “charismati” in Greek, which means “spiritual gift.” Had it been just a gift such as when the three wise men gave gifts to the baby Jesus, the Greek word would be either “dora” or “dorean.”
The spiritual gifts, or gifts of the Holy Spirit are detailed in 1 Corinthians 12 and these are given to various members of the church for the purpose of building up the church. Unlike the gifts discussed above which are probably better described as ministries, these spiritual gifts are given to help the church with direct guidance and spiritual influence in the church.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. – (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
These gifts are spiritual and are given to the church by the working of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that operates these gifts and gives them to individuals in the church so they can use these gifts to build up the church.
These gifts allow for the direct intervention of God through the Holy Spirit to intervene in the affairs of the church for the purpose of helping, teaching, strengthening, providing insight and building up the church.
And every one of these gifts like the ministry gifts discussed above are still available and still important in the church today. All these gifts have a purpose and a place and will not be ceased to be offered and given by God until His kingdom is fully established on earth and all things are finished. Until then, these gifts and all gifts are important and necessary to help us attain maturity and transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.
Sustained To The End
We see these sentiments then expressed in the last two verses of Paul's opening in 1 Corinthians 12 where he says,
8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)
These gifts were given to the church, and are still offered today so that we and they would be sustained to the end. These gifts were all necessary then and they are necessary now.
And the great gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ is what will sustain us GUILTLESS to the end. In His grace He has set us free from sin and through the gifts of the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ so that we can walk as He walked. He gives us righteousness by faith when we first believe in Jesus and then through the working of the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ so that we will think and act as He does.
Freedom and righteousness by faith are given so that God can work with us and His gifts then continue so that he can bring us to maturity.
All of this is the work of God. It is His work and His gifts that allow us to come to Him.
Beginning with the gift of grace and continuing with the ministry gifts to the church and the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, all of the work that is done in us, to us and for us is His work. Our part is to believe and have faith and accept the word of God as we grow and step away from the failures of our past.
We are His work, new creations in Jesus Christ which He is achieving as His great and wondrous gifts mold and transform us. So let us be truly thankful to God for these wondrous gifts, without which we would have no hope and would be doomed to eternal destruction instead of the life that awaits the faithful in Jesus Christ.
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