1 Corinthians 1:4–9
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way — with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge — 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
As we get further into First Corinthians, we will find that the Christians in Corinth had a problem with pride and with misuse of spiritual gifts to justify that pride. We can almost imagine that their confidence as upwardly-mobile Roman citizens has spilled over into an unjustified level of pride in their spiritual standing as well. They had a very pleasing opinion of themselves!
Paul clearly expresses his thankfulness for what the Corinthians have in Christ (1 Cor. 1:4), but he does so in a way that makes it clear that the source of these blessings lies in God’s grace and not in what the Corinthian Christians have done on their own. The Corinthians have things backwards: the tail does not wag the dog; the dog wags the tail!
Paul begins to reframe the situation by starting with God’s grace. James Dunn reminds us that “It is important to grasp . . . that for Paul ‘grace’ does not mean an attitude of disposition of God; it denotes rather the wholly generous act of God.” In what way did God act? He sent Christ Jesus, who was full of grace and truth (John 1:17). Because of this emphasis on action in the biblical meaning of “grace,” the word “kindness” is often a better way of thinking about grace.
So, Paul jumps right to God’s “grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4). “In him” the Corinthians “have been enriched in every way” (1 Cor. 1:5). Their wealth does not lie in the lucrative trade of Corinth, but rather in Christ. This is why Fee says: “The whole of the thanksgiving is God-oriented and Christ-centered. Everything comes from God and is given in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s letters often use this early section that expresses thanksgiving to bring up problem areas that will be explored later. Here he singles out “all kinds of speech” and “all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:5) as particular areas in which God has blessed the church. Later he will point out ways the Corinthians have misused these gifts. For example, though Paul here says the Corinthians have been given “all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:5), he will ask them eleven times in the letter, “Do you not know?” Apparently they knew a lot but did not know how to apply it.
Paul also begins to turn their thoughts to the day when Christ will return to evaluate their stewardship of the spiritual gifts given to the church in Corinth. Thus he speaks of their eager waiting “for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Cor. 1:7) and their blamelessness on “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). In this way Paul takes the Old Testament’s “day of the Lord” (Amos 5:18–20 and Joel 2:31) — a period including God’s wrath, the return of Christ, final judgment and the creation of a new heaven and new earth — and clarifies it. Fee says, “It is still ‘the day of the Lord,’ but ‘the Lord’ is none other than Jesus Christ.”
As a final note of thankfulness, we can join the Corinthians in being grateful that the faithfulness of God (1 Cor. 1:9) is what “keeps you firm to the end” (1 Cor. 1:8). Our “fellowship with his Son” (1 Cor. 1:9) is unbreakable!
Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Cited by Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 35, footnote 29.
 Fee, First Corinthians, 36.
 David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 34, citing 1 Cor. 3:16, 5:6, 6:2–19, 9:13, 9:24 and 12:2.
 Fee, First Corinthians, 43.