B.C.P. Trinity 18 1 Corinthians 1:4-8
1Cor:1:4: I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is near the start of Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. The church was mainly Gentile and Paul's letter addresses a number of serious doctrinal and moral sins which included divisions in the church and disorderly worship.
In these few verses Paul refers to God's work in the past, the present, and the future. All of these are focused on the work of God in the lives of those he has chosen to save.
In the preceding three verses he had introduced himself and those to whom the letter was addressed. As is customary with his letters he then goes on to write a prayer of thanksgiving for the faith of the recipients of his letter.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
Paul is thanking God on behalf of the Corinthian Christians. Not that they were unable to thank God themselves, but it is wonderful to be able to see the work of God in people and to thank God for that.
What is there to thank God for ? His grace, or undeserved favour. God's grace is found in different ways. In his provision of life, families, friends, homes, food, drink, etc. There is also his grace to save, which can only come through Jesus. He has taken the initiative in sending His Son to earth to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He has enabled Christians by the work of His Spirit to realise what Jesus has done for them and to accept his gift of life.
God has not only saved people through Jesus, but has improved their lives, 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; The Greeks emphasised the importance of knowledge and wisdom. God's helps us in our speech and in our understanding. There should be a discernible growth in what we say and what we know when we come to faith, and as we grow in our faith.
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Some commentators think Paul is referring to spiritual gifts here, something he deals with later in this letter. Whilst it Is important that we discover and use the spiritual gifts God has given to each one of us to build up the church, I think he is referring to the power of the Spirit to enable the believer to persevere in the Christian life. His Spirit will work within every Christian to counteract the sins and the faults that we have.
This should give us confidence that our faith does not solely rely on our ability to keep going, but is helped by God. However, this does not mean that we should sit back and do nothing. Elsewhere Paul likens himself to a runner, exerting himself, training to win the prize.
That motivation is in this is, verse 7. waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
If we ever feel downhearted or find our faith difficult we can look forward to the time when we will be united with God through Jesus. This leads us on to the third aspect of these verses,
( 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. )
(NIV) 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Mastermind the famous catchphrase is, "I've started so I will finish..."
God will keep us strong, even when we are weak and feel a failure. We can have confidence in him that what he has started, he will finish.
When Jesus does come, and we can be certain that he will, we will appear as blameless before God. Not because we are better than anyone, or our good points outweigh our bad points. But because God will not see us in our sins, but Jesus, in our place, in his perfection.
He has died for us on the cross, something we remember and proclaim in this service. Through this grace, and the grace of his Spirit working in our hearts, we have died to our old life and have been raised to new life in Jesus. We experience some of the blessings of this here and now, and will experience all of them when Jesus comes again.
We can thank God for what he has done for us in Jesus, and thank him for the faith that he has given others.
We can thank God for his gift of the Holy Spirit who makes us more like Jesus, and ask him to give us everything we need to persevere.
We can look forward to the coming of Jesus, safe in the knowledge that God will finish what he has started in us, and in other believers.