Grace and Gratitude
1 Corinthians 1:4–7
A good place to start this morning is 1 Corinthians 5:18 which states that, “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This same thought is echoed in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians 5:20, “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father.” A couple of things to note about this verse that we will find in our passage is the mention of “always” and also the object, “all things”. It is an instructive study to study the all things in Scripture and the all things that God has provided for the believer.
This morning’s message can be titled, “Doctrine works but negative volition doesn’t.” That’s what 1 Corinthians is all about. Another thing we should note is that we should look at the context of the two verses I just quoted. The context of 1 Corinthians 5:18 and the following verse, verse 19, gives the command not to quench the Holy Spirit. Then if you look at the context of Ephesians 5:20 the two verses prior to this give the mandate to be filled by means of the Spirit. What we see in both verses if that when the emphasis is on gratitude in the life of the believer, it is something that is directly related to the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We are to give thanks in everything and for all things.
This morning we’re going to focus on some of “the all things” in Scripture. It refers to everything that God has given us in Jesus Christ. That is always the starting point. The starting point is not our circumstances. Paul is not focusing here in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians on circumstances when he gives thanks in relation to the Corinthian church. He is focusing on what they have in Christ. Circumstances are a secondary area of thanksgiving.
When we come to 1 Corinthians 1:4 Paul says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus. We have taken time out the last two weeks in order to study the important doctrine of positional truth because it is the reality of positional truth that underlies everything Paul is going to say to the Corinthians. That’s why he emphasizes it in this introduction.
I have stated in the last two weeks that we see this emphasized three times in the opening verses. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 he says these believers are “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus”. Then again in 1 Corinthians 1:4, “The grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” Then in verse 5 he says they “have been enriched in Him.” It is that position in Christ that is ours, that is the same for every single believer that includes at the very least the forty things God has done for every believer at the instant of salvation. These are not experiential realities. These are positional realities that are ours for all times. That’s the basis for the Christian life.
I noticed that Al has been running in the bulletin the forty things that are ours in Christ for quite a while. That’s an excellent study to have because a lot of times people are not sure what those forty things are that God has provided for us. They are spiritual realities and spiritual blessings. They have to do with our salvation and the foundation for the spiritual life. We have been given everything we need at the instant of salvation. That is what is called the sufficiency of grace or the sufficiency of Christ.
We have not only been given everything necessary for the spiritual life but we have been given more than enough. We rarely tap into but a small percentage of what God has provided for us in terms of facing life’s problems and in terms of living the spiritual life. This is Paul’s starting point for thanksgiving and should be our starting point as we go through life.
Thanksgiving begins with an understanding of grace. It begins with an understanding of what Christ provided for us at the instant of salvation. If you’re not living a life of gratitude then you’re not living a life based on grace orientation. Your level of gratitude for what’s going on in your life is a barometer of your own grace orientation. It gives you an opportunity to do a little self-evaluation in that area.
Paul begins by saying, “I thank my God always concerning you.” This is a typical introduction in Paul’s epistles with the exception of two, 2 Corinthians and Galatians where he is really reaming out the congregations. In all other epistles except those exceptions Paul always begins with thanksgiving. He says here, “I thank my God always concerning you.” He makes it very personal and the “my God concerning you” has to do with the preposition PERI which is a preposition of substitution and emphasizes intercessory prayer. This is a responsibility for every single believer to be involved in intercessory prayer for other believers, for family members, friends, loved ones, people you are involved with on a daily basis, for employers or employees, for government figures, for leaders in the local church such as the pastor and the deacons. That is a responsibility to be involved in that every single day.
So Paul says, “I thank my God always concerning you.” Following that we have a causal construction in the Greek, which gives the reason or cause for his thanksgiving. He is thankful for the “grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus”. This is important because a lot of people stop at the phrase “grace of God”. The Greek word here for grace is the Greek word CHARIS which is the root of another word which we find in Greek and we will find later on in the epistle. That word is CHARISMA which is where we get our word charisma. It refers to grace gifts and is a term that is used to refer to the spiritual gifts.
If you look at this passage Paul does talk about the spiritual gifts down in 1 Corinthians 1:7, “So that you are not lacking in any gift.” What happens here is that because of the problem of spiritual gifts, the problem of speaking in tongues when we get down to 1 Corinthians 12–14, everyone wants to read that back into this introduction, especially the mention of grace in verse 4. As soon as you get to the word grace everyone seems to want to take a diversion and start talking about the spiritual gifts.
You see the grace that Paul has in mind here is defined by the relative clause that follows God, “For the grace of God which was given to you...” This is the use of an aorist passive participle with an article in the Greek. We have the verb DIDOMI, which means to give or to grant and always emphasizes grace. DIDOMI here is an aorist passive participle. This is just a nice time to understand why it is important to understand grammar and syntax. It is preceded by the definite article. That means it can be taken as a substantive or a relative. It is defining the word grace. Since it is an aorist participle that means the action of the participle precedes the action of the main verb. The main verb is “I thank”. He is thankful for something that has happened in the past, something that preceded his thanksgiving. He gives thanks and because it is passive it’s emphasizing the fact that this is something the Corinthian believers received. The passive voice means that the subject receives the action of the verb. The subject does not perform the action of the verb, so the Corinthians are on the receiving end of grace. It is not based on something they do.
Grace is never based on anything we do. It is based on everything Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. The emphasis here is on something that was given in the past and this was at the instant of the Corinthians’ salvation. At that instant they received the forty things that God does for everyone who believes in Christ. That is part of our positional reality, part of our positional truth. So Paul says, “I thank my God always concerning you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.”
There are several categories of grace. This describes a particular category of grace which he is thankful for. For example, we have antecedent grace. This is not a doctrine I’ve developed for you. Antecedent means that which comes before and that which precedes. Antecedent grace is the grace that characterized the plan of God in eternity past. It is the grace that precedes the creation of the angels and the creation of mankind. God, in His omniscience, knew that creatures would fall and so God provided a grace plan for mankind to provide for their salvation. That is not the grace which was given us in Christ Jesus.
Then there’s common grace which refers to the undeserved blessings of God that are common to both believer and unbeliever. Unbelievers may live in a country where there exists a large number of believers and because of blessing by association, they live in a prosperous country with security and safety, a nation where there is freedom. They equally benefit from good weather, from all the various positive circumstances of life and that is all part of common grace which is God’s undeserved favor and blessing to the unbeliever and believer alike. That is not what we are talking about here.
Next there is efficacious grace, which describes the effectiveness of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. God the Holy Spirit takes your faith which is the faith of a spiritually dead unbeliever and makes it effective for salvation. See, anyone can believe and just because you believe in Christ that doesn’t automatically do the trick. There has to be some work there by God the Holy Spirit who takes the faith of a spiritually dead unbeliever and makes it effective for salvation. That is not what we are talking about here either.
Then there is saving grace, which is the grace of God to provide a perfect plan of salvation at the cross and once again, that is not what we are talking about here. Then there is the grace related to spiritual life, which comes in two factors: logistical grace and greater grace. These are all part of the spiritual life. That’s what is really being discussed here. It’s the grace that was given to every single believer at the instant of salvation. The grace that relates to salvation where God the Father is propitiated but it goes further than that to provide all the ministries of God the Holy Spirit to the believer. It includes the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of God the Holy Spirit, and the filling of God the Holy Spirit, all of these are ours as a result of our position in Christ. We are empowered. We are regenerated. We’re given a new nature. All of these are what the believer has by virtue of his position in Jesus Christ.
When we come to 1 Corinthians 1:4 the concept of grace here is clearly defined in context. It is not talking about spiritual gifts, although spiritual gifts are part of what we receive at the instant of salvation. At the instant of salvation, every single believer is given at least one spiritual gift. Some spiritual gifts are overt and obvious such as teaching or evangelism. Other spiritual gifts are less obvious, such as the gift of helps and the gift of mercy. Some people utilize their gifts of helps and mercy in the realm of prayer. They may spend a tremendous amount of time interceding for other believers. That is an unseen ministry.
Spiritual gifts have nothing to do with spiritual maturity. Just because someone has a tremendous impact as an evangelist does not mean they are any less mature than some believer who sits in the quietness of their own home and spends hours and hours of prayer for someone. There are some believers who just quietly and out of the generosity of their own soul exercise their own gift of giving and give a tremendous amount of their resources to missionaries and local churches and help other believers who are financially destitute. These spiritual gifts are unseen and unnoticed by everyone except God. That has nothing to do with spiritual maturity or immaturity just because something is more obvious. So Paul says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you in Christ Jesus.”
Then he goes on to the next verse, “That in everything you were enriched in Him.” This is the all things that the believer has. It’s the plural of the Greek PAS which means everything or all things. Notice once again that the direct object of “in Him” tells us the sphere where the enriching takes place. Now we have to have to make a couple of observations in reference to exegesis to understand what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 1:5. He begins with the Greek word HOTI which is translated “that”. It indicates an explanation. It is not a causal construction here. It is an explanation of the grace that has been provided to the believer at the instant of salvation.
Next you have the second personal plural aorist passive indicative of the Greek word PLOUTIZO. It is related to the noun PLOUTOS which means to be rich and in the plural has to do with riches which is how we normally find the word in the New Testament. PLOUTIZO means to make rich to make wealthy and to endow above and beyond what is necessary. What we have here is the idea that we have been made wealthy in Him. We are spiritually wealthy. We have more than we could ever imagine or hope for or ask for and it’s already been given to us in Jesus Christ. It is ours in Him and we have been given everything that we could possibly imagine or possibly need for any contingency in life.
I want you to notice that our riches are supplied by God. At the instant of salvation we are given a vast portfolio of innumerable spiritual assets. These are the same for every single believer. It doesn’t differ from one believer to another. They are ours. They have been put in our spiritual bank account for us to draw on and for us to spend. That’s the purpose of money. Money isn’t something you’re just to sit on and say, “I’ve got this in my bank account so I want to keep it there.” God has given us this spiritual capital, which is for us to spend, to use it in our spiritual life. We have been enriched. We have been made rich. We’ve been endowed with a tremendous amount of spiritual wealth in order to face any situation we may run into in life.
This is the doctrine of our spiritual riches and it’s further explained in a few other passages. For example, Ephesians 1:7–8 says, “In Him [positional truth in Christ] we have redemption through His blood.” So one of the forty things we have in Christ is redemption. Another of the forty things has to do with forgiveness. The phrase “the forgiveness of our trespasses” is not an appositional phrase. An appositional phrase is like a parentheses; it gives a synonym or states the previous clause in another way. But redemption and forgiveness have two separate meanings. Redemption means to purchase and forgiveness to blot out, to remove something.
Both redemption and forgiveness are financial terms, accounting terms in their root. Redemption means to buy something and to purchase it and forgiveness has to do with forgiving a debt. If someone owes you something, let’s say someone owes you $50,000 to $60,000 and you have an instrument of debt that indicates the exact amount they owe and that it’s due within a certain timeframe. When that timeframe is up, you forgive that debt. It means that when you take that instrument of debt, that loan agreement, and you tear it up and you throw it away. You don’t just stick it back in the files so that six months down the road and things suddenly turn sour on you, you go pull it out and go back to that person. You tell them they owe you $60,000. You can’t just say, “I didn’t call the debt six months ago but I’m calling it now.” If you do that, you never forgave the debt. That’s what forgiveness means. It means to completely do away with something so when someone does something to you or something happens to you that hurts you, whether it’s real or imagined, or they have done something harmful to you, no matter how extreme it might be, when you forgive them, you tear it up. You don’t hold them against that person. You don’t call it up in your mind and enjoy thinking about revenge and getting back at them. You don’t tell anyone about what they’ve done. You don’t come to prayer meeting and say, “You know I have this prayer request. I’m really struggling with so-and-so.” You use that as an excuse to talk about what they did to you. That’s just a backward way of gossiping about that person.
We have redemption and because we have redemption the price has been paid and the result is that forgiveness can be enacted. What we have here is an ellipsis of a sort where all of the connections between “redemption through His blood” and “redemption of our trespasses” we understand that redemption is the basis for the forgiveness of our trespasses.
What is the standard for forgiveness? That is expressed in the next phrase, which in the Greek is expressed by the preposition KATA, which always means according to a standard. The standard is the riches of God’s grace. The wealth of God’s grace. The multi-faceted dimension of God’s grace with is undeserved by mankind.
Then we have a relative clause at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1:8, “According to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us.” So the riches of His grace have been lavished upon us. Here we have the word PERISSEUO. This is a word that is usually translated abundance. It really has the idea of superabundance. It is to have such an abundance of something that it is more than anyone could possibly spend or utilize. It means to have much more than enough or to have an overabundance or a superabundance. The verb indicates that something exists in abundance, which means that it implies that it is considerably more than anyone would ever be expected to utilize.
This is the idea in Ephesians 1:8, that He lavished His grace and riches on us so we have more than we could ever imagine and more than we would ever possibly need. It is always enough and it is always going to be enough. That bank account God has provided for us will never run dry. In terms of our riches in Christ, our account is never going to be overdrawn. There is always going to be more than enough there to meet any and all contingencies, every problem, and every difficulty in life. Ephesians is filled with the riches we have in Christ. Someday we’ll have a chance to do a study in Ephesians.
In Ephesians 1:18 Paul says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart [our spiritual perception or mind] may be enlightened.” That means we can move from darkness into light. Darkness always represents human viewpoint thinking and light always represents truth. When we’re enlightened that means the human viewpoint darkness in our soul is being replaced by the light of the truth of God’s Word. Paul’s prayer is that the thinking of our soul, the perception of our thinking, may be enlightened with the result that you might know something.
It’s not talking about emotion here. It’s talking about knowledge. The enlightening of our mind is so that we may know something, so we may have a certain understanding of “the confident expectation of His calling.” Hope is a word that always relates to that sixth spiritual skill, that sixth stress buster of our personal sense of our eternal destiny. So what Paul is praying for the Ephesians here is that they will understand something related to the purpose of our calling.
The purpose of our calling isn’t just so that we can get through the problems of life here and now. The purpose of our calling eventually is to be trained so that we can come back with Jesus Christ at His Second Coming so that we can rule and reign with Him during the Millennial Kingdom. That is part of our inheritance, part of being a joint heir with Christ if we suffer with Him in Romans 8. Paul’s prayer is that we can come to understand this and that EPIGNOSIS doctrine in our soul will cause us to understand the hope that is the confident expectation of His calling. He’s focusing on our eternal destiny.
Then Paul says, “What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” That phrase is appositional to the hope of His calling. The hope of His calling is the riches of the glory of His inheritance. It has to do with our inheritance in the future. The believer’s life today is determining what we’re going to be in eternity. We need to think that each decision we make today such as how we use our time and how we function as a husband or a wife, an employee or an employer, how we handle our money, how we redeem our time, all of that is related to preparation for ruling and reigning with Jesus Christ in the millennial kingdom.
The next phrase has to do with our riches in Christ which comes from Ephesians 3:8, “To me the very least of all saints, this grace was given to me to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” That word unfathomable is a Greek word ANECHNIASTOOS. This word is used only a couple of times in Scripture and it relates to something that is impossible to understand on the basis of careful investigation. It is something that goes beyond the normal frame of reference that is ours on the basis of either rationalism or empiricism. We can only know it because it has been described to us in the Word of God.
That’s why Paul says the responsibility that he had as an apostle to the Gentiles and, by application this is part of a job of a pastor-teacher, is to teach the riches of Christ which are beyond comprehension. That doesn’t mean we can’t understand these riches to some degree but we will never understand them completely. They go beyond our comprehension. They are innumerable and they are so vast and so profound that we can never bankrupt them. Paul says his role is to teach the unfathomable, impossible to comprehend, riches of Christ.
Then he goes on to say in Ephesians 3:16 when he prays that “God would grant to you [the Ephesian believers] according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” This has to do with the empowerment. The riches of God’s grace provide us with the power or strength through God the Holy Spirit to live the spiritual life.
So we are given everything we need to live the Christian life and then we are reminded of the promise in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your needs…” Not just some of them; not the ones that are common to everyone in the world, but “He will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” Once again the standard is His riches, His infinite wealth. God has provided more than enough in every arena of life to solve every situation and every problem and every difficulty. No matter what you’re facing, the solution is always grounded in the positional truth we have in Jesus Christ.
In Colossians 1:27 Paul states, “To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of His glory among the Gentiles.” This has to do with the fact that the church age is the age of mystery doctrine, which refers to information which had not been revealed in human history. This is a technical term related to all the doctrines related to the Christian life in the church age. The church age was not foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. They saw events up to the 1st Advent and they saw events from the 2nd Advent on but they did not see events that took place between the day of Pentecost and the Rapture of the church. That age is called the mystery age. The doctrine related to that age is part of that mystery doctrine and relates to all we have in Christ.
Believers in the Old Testament were not in Christ. They were not baptized in Christ. They were not in union with Christ. They did not have the forty things which we have in Jesus Christ. Their spiritual life had a different basis than the one we have in the church age. In Colossians 2:2, Paul says, “That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding.”
Notice the phraseology there. It says that as we grow we are taking the potential wealth and making it actual that we might attain to all the wealth. The word attain is not in the Greek but it’s added to make sense of the passage and it’s a good addition. We have it. It’s all given to us at the instant of salvation but you don’t know it. When you trusted Christ as your savior probably all you knew at that time was that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for your sins. You realized you were a sinner and the Scriptures taught that you were under condemnation and that if you died without Christ, you would spend eternity in the lake of fire.
After you were saved you did not know exactly what happened to you at the instant you put your faith alone in Christ alone. You were not aware of the fact that you were regenerated unless that happened to be explained to you in the gospel presentation. You didn’t realize that at that instant you were baptized into Christ, that you were identified with His death, burial, and resurrection. You did not know at that instant you were indwelt by God the Holy Spirit and that your body became a temple for the indwelling of the Second Person of the Trinity and that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all take up residence in you. You were not aware of the fact that you were positionally sanctified at that time.
There were so many things that we were ignorant of and the only way we come to know them is by coming to Bible class week in and week out and consistently being reminded of these spiritual assets because they are the basis for the spiritual life. That’s the whole point that Paul is making in Romans 6:3–4 that on the basis of that identification with Christ we have been given all of the resources we need to be able to live the spiritual life and to experience all of the happiness and the joy and all of the benefits that God promises us in His Word. So when we look at Colossians 2:2 Paul states that we want to “attain to the wealth”. This is taking that potential that is ours, which we learn about only as we grow.
As we come to Bible class we begin to learn about these riches and we learn how they are to be applied, some of them through the various spiritual skills. Then we take that wealth that’s in the bank account and begin to move it out of the bank and we begin to cash checks and spend those assets in terms of application in relationship to the problems that we face in life. So we’re to “attain to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding.”
There has to be an understanding. There has to be the teaching of doctrine and you have to come to that point where you understand what you’ve been given in Christ before you can apply it. You can’t apply what you don’t know. You can’t know something unless first of all you take the time and the discipline to come to Bible class and make that a priority in your life. If doctrine is not the highest priority in your life then you’re never going to make it in the Christian life.
It is a tremendous challenge to renovate the thinking in our soul. It doesn’t just happen because we want it to happen. It happens only by making it a priority. If you can’t make it to Bible class when you’re working, then you have to get the tapes/DVDs/MP3s. Even if you come to class, you can get the old lessons and listen to them again and again and again. It’s a constant reminder of everything God has provided for us. We tend to forget and we tend to need to be reminded again and again of what we have.
So we attain to the wealth of what God has already provided for us through an understanding of doctrine. The result of that is a true knowledge, an EPIGNOSIS of God’s mystery. 1 Timothy 6:17 Paul says, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches [material gain], but on God who richly supplies us with all things.” That is the plural of PAS again. He supplies us with all things and we are to be thankful for all things.
The problem is that most Christians are like the Corinthians. They’re living impoverished lives because they don’t know or they’ve never taken the time to learn or they’re just ignoring the realities we have in Jesus Christ. There are basically three reasons Christians fail to do this. Number one is that there’s a failure to learn. That can be because they don’t have a pastor that teaches. We live in a society or an age in which in most churches there is rejection of doctrinal study. In fact the level of rejection of doctrinal teaching today is higher than it’s ever been before, at least in the history of this nation. People don’t want doctrine. They don’t want to come to Bible class two, three, or four times a week. They don’t want to take the time to not listen to their favorite music or favorite talk show when they’re out in the car and pop a Bible class in instead. They’d rather just come on Sunday morning because that’s convenient.
As I’ve said many times, if you think you’re going to exchange the human viewpoint thinking in your soul by showing up for one hour on Sunday morning, you’re fooling yourself and you’re playing games with God. You’re not being honest. You have not correctly assessed the dimension of the problem. The problem is the heart, the thinking of man, is deceitful and wicked above all things and who can know it?
The problem with the deceit is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re not all that bad. What the Scripture says is that you’re a lot worse. Like that book that came out, that psycho-babble that came out in the 70s named, “I’m OK–You’re OK”. The Bible says you’re not okay and neither am I. Not only that, we’re a whole lot worse than we ever thought we were. The only way to get past that is through completely redoing the thinking in our soul.
As I’ve stated many times, it’s hard enough to think. It’s even harder to think about thinking. Not only do we think wrong thoughts, but we have to overhaul the methodology of our thinking. If you just think overhauling the content of your thoughts is going to change the way you think, then you’re going to be thinking in human viewpoint methodology with what you think is divine viewpoint content. Remember, it’s the same principle as a right thing done in a wrong way. If you’re thinking right thoughts but you’re doing it with wrong methodology, then the result is still going to be wrong. You can’t thread divine viewpoint thinking to human methodology and get anywhere.
The only way we can overhaul our thinking from the ground floor up is to consistently expose ourselves to the teaching of God’s Word where you hear things over and over and over again. Suddenly one day the light’s going to go off and you’re going to finally begin to see how it relates to your own thinking. That’s how growth take place. One problem we have today is people rejecting doctrinal teaching. They don’t want that. They would rather go to church and be entertained. They would rather have a lot of emotion. They would rather go and have a chance to explore all of their feelings and just wallow in the subjectivity of their emotions. That’s not Biblical methodology.
The second reason people have problems today is that we have so substituted human viewpoint truth for divine viewpoint truth that it’s blinded most believers. They’re operating on either a materialistic orientation to the world or they’re operating on a psychological orientation to the world or post-modern orientation to the world. Because of that they can’t even see divine viewpoint truth.
Then the third reason is good old-fashioned carnality. People would rather be carnal than spiritual and have to go through the process of the spiritual life. We have to realize that God has provided everything for us. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:4, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which is given you in Christ Jesus that in everything you were enriched in Him.”
Then he specifically isolates two things. He says “In all speech and in all knowledge.” As soon as we come to this, some people immediately want to relate this to the gifts of articulation such as tongues in chapters 12 and 13 or knowledge as a spiritual gift. That’s leaping over Paul’s use of this terminology many times between chapter 1 and chapter 12. The word translated speak is the word LOGOS. If we look at how LOGOS is used in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5, it has to do with message. It’s saying they were enriched in all things and in all speech by every message. They have heard the truth over and over and over again. Secondly, it’s by means of all knowledge. They have been taught the truth. This phrase should be translated “by means of all the messages and all of the knowledge that they have been given.”
Verse 6 further explains this by saying, “Even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you.” KATHOS is the Greek word at the beginning of verse 6. It’s a comparative, comparing something in verse 5 to something in verse 6. It’s that last phrase “in all speech and all knowledge” and the comparison is to the testimony concerning Christ, which was confirmed in you.
Now the testimony of verse 6 is talking about the doctrine that they were taught relative to both the gospel and the spiritual life. That information became usable doctrine in their soul and it was evident in their life. So when we read that phrase “the testimony of Christ,” that is a phrase based on the Greek word MARTURION, translated testimony, and has to do with a witness or testimony in a courtroom. This has to do with verbal statements of truth. So if verbal statements of truth are part of the comparison in verse 6, then that must be what speech and knowledge relate to in verse 5.
What we have here is a comparison, just as you might compare two objects trying to explain something by way of analogy. Paul is going to explain LOGOS and GNOSIS. LOGOS is often used to relate to a message and GNOSIS is often used to relate to knowledge. It’s primarily academic knowledge because all EPIGNOSIS begins with academic knowledge. The comparison is indicated in the Greek KATHOS and it’s compared to a testimony. Testimony over here is a verbal expression related either to the gospel or the Christian life.
Therefore, if this is the point of comparison and testimony is going to be analogous to something in verse 5, then message and knowledge here are not going to be spiritual gifts. It’s amazing that almost every commentary I checked on this jumped to spiritual gifts. As I’ve said before in his introduction Paul mentions the major themes he’s going to cover in the epistle. So he starts off starting about the message and the academic knowledge they have been given and this is made evident in the testimony of their own lives.
It’s confirmed to them in their lives with the result that in 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul says, “They are not lacking in any gift.” This is where we start getting into spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are only made manifest as one begins to mature in Christ. It’s just like this life. When you’re a two-year old, you don’t know what your talents are. There may be a few two-year olds who are above the learning curve and they may be manifesting a few talents but most of us didn’t know at two if we have any sort of musical ability or athletic ability or thinking ability until we begin to get past our years in elementary school and even into high school. For some of us we may still be trying to figure out what our talents are. What happens is that as you mature you find that you gravitate to certain activities and certain interests and you begin to discover your likes and your dislikes. That’s usually related to areas where we have some degree of success and some degree of ability.
The same thing is true in the spiritual life. Too often what you get into because of the so-called church growth movement, which always emphasized getting new believers into some kind of Sunday school course where they can identify their spiritual gifts. They even have these little tests that they hand out to people. Back in the 70s when I was a young believer I took one. They have fifteen or twenty questions and you are supposed to be able to figure what your strengths and weaknesses are as a believer. Then that’s supposed to give you some idea of what your spiritual gift is.
Well, those are all fallacious. Don’t get caught in that trap. Remember, most spiritual gifts are also required of all believers. For example, you may not have the gift of teaching but if you’re a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your children. Not everyone has the spiritual gift of giving but all believers are responsible to support the local church ministry and to support missionaries. It may not be your spiritual gift to evangelize but every believer is responsible to witness. So spiritual gifts do not mean that if you’re not gifted in that area, you don’t have a responsibility there. As you grow up as a believer, you can get involved in trying to teach Sunday school. You can witness. You can be involved in giving.
What you will discover in maturity is that God has gifted you in certain areas. There will be certain areas you enjoy and you are a real benefit to the body of Christ there. Maybe you won’t know what your spiritual gift is. That’s not important. What’s important is that you function in all these areas of the priesthood and sooner or later your spiritual gift will be functioning. If you have one of these unseen spiritual gifts such as helps or some areas of administration it may not ever become really evident to you. That’s just the role you have as an unseen believer, giving and supporting your local church ministry. This will be confirmed as a result of the doctrine within you.
That’s exactly what Paul is getting at in verse 6. As we grow and mature and apply doctrine, the message, that is the doctrine that we’ve been taught, becomes confirmed in us. That’s the way it’s demonstrated through spiritual gifts. Paul is emphasizing in 1 Corinthians 1:7 that these carnal Christians, these carnal Corinthians, have all of this. They’ve had a confirmation in their life. They aren’t lacking in any gift.
In fact he says they’ve been gifted more than many congregations in terms of the degree of the grace concerning these spiritual gifts. He says, “You are not lacking any gift awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The point here is to look to the future. This has to do with your personal sense of your eternal destiny. This present operation of the spiritual life is directly related to who we’re going to be and what we’re going to be when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the Second Coming and we have a place in the millennial kingdom to rule and to reign with Him.
For example in 2 Timothy 4:8, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day: and not only to me, but also to those who have loved His appearing.” Paul is encouraging them because they do look forward to the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something for which we will get a reward if we are positively looking forward to the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ and preparing for that time.
Notice this same principle is emphasized in Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Just as an aside here, this is one of the passages in Scripture where Jesus Christ is specifically called God. Now this emphasis on the return of Christ is because that’s where they were heading. We have to live our life every day with the future in mind. We have to make decisions today in light of where we’re going to be and who we’re going to be in eternity. So the Corinthians are doing that to some degree and Paul is encouraging that and praising them for that.
Then in 1 Corinthians 1:8 we go on to emphasize this same truth, “He shall also confirm you to the end.” That is the doctrine of eternal security. This looks like it’s referring to Jesus Christ but it’s not. The subject there is referring to the subject of this entire prayer and it’s referring to God the Father. When we get to the end of the verse we see a reference there to the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is going to keep us and preserve us in our salvation. That’s the doctrine of eternal security and we will be confirmed blameless in the end.
Now he’s talking to these carnal Corinthians. We haven’t gotten in to all their carnality yet, but there’s almost no sin you can think of that they weren’t enjoying in their spiritual life. This is one of the most carnal congregations in all of life. Yet of them, Paul says that God will confirm them to the end of their life blameless. They will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. That has to do with the fact that our salvation does not depend on who we are and what we have done but on what Christ has done for us.
Paul closes in verse 9 by reminding us of the basic principle underlying eternal security and that it is the faithfulness of God, not our faithfulness. God is faithful. “To whom you were called into fellowship with His Son.” Calling into fellowship has to do with that initial fellowship we have with Jesus Christ at the instant of salvation, which is to be the standard for our spiritual life. However, we often sin and get out of fellowship and that’s why we have 1 John 1:9 to get back into fellowship.
1 Corinthians 1:4–9 introduces us to the Corinthians and emphasizes the thanksgiving for what they have in Christ. The emphasis here is that Paul wants them to understand that it’s what they have in Christ, not what they have in their own ability. The Corinthians seem to be prone to say that they can’t really live the Christian life because they have all these problems and they think they really don’t have all they need to solve their problems. What Paul is starting off with is a reminder that we have everything we need to solve any and every problem that we will face in the Christian life and the starting point is the grace of God which was given to us in Christ Jesus.