1 Corinthians 1:4 ~ 20121111 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/11 1 Corinthians 1:4- An Attitude of Gratitude
1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ⸂Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ⸃ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς 2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ⸂ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ,⸃ κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ ⸀αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν· 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ ⸀μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει, 6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν, 7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.
Exhortation to Thankfulness
What we are looking at today is a section of thanksgiving. Paul repeatedly exhorts believers in Jesus to be thankful people.
Paul sets a high priority on gratitude. Thankfulness is an essential part of the Christian life. For those who have experienced the grace of God, we are to live lives characterized by gratitude.
And we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances. This is God's will for us. We are to give thanks always and for everything.
Thanksgiving in Paul
Paul is a man who practices what he preaches. He gives us practical examples of what gratitude should look like in the life of a believer. Paul begins almost all his letters with a section of thanksgiving. Paul thanks God that the faith of the Roman Christians is proclaimed in all the world (Rom.1:8). He gives thanks for the faith of the Ephesian believers and their love for all the saints (Eph.1:15). He thanks God for the Philippians' consistent partnership in prayer and financial support with him in the gospel (Phil.1:3-5). Paul thanks the Father for the Colossians' faith in Jesus and love for the saints (Col.1:3-4). Paul is thankful for the work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope of the church of the Thessalonians (1Thes.1:2-3). He thanks God that their faith is growing abundantly, and their love for one another is increasing, and for their steadfastness and faith in the midst of persecutions and afflictions (2Thes.1:3-4). He thanks God for their election to salvation, their sanctification in the Spirit, and their belief of the truth (2Thes.2:13). Paul thanks God for Timothy's sincere faith and for his tears (2Tim.1:3-5), and he thanks God that he, Paul was the recipient of God's overflowing mercy and grace and love, that God had given him strength, and appointed him to the service of King Jesus (1Tim.1:12-14). Paul thanks God for Philemon's faith and love toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints (Phm.1:4-5).
When Not To Give Thanks
There are only a few letters that Paul wrote where he did not include a word of thanksgiving to God. To the Galatians, he wrote instead:
The church in Galatia was turning away from the pure and simple gospel; that sinners are declared righteous before God through believing in Jesus and not by earning righteousness through works of the law (Gal.2:15-16). There is nothing to thank God for in a church that is abandoning the truth of the gospel, but only stern rebuke. When the gospel is being compromised or distorted, this is the one good reason for not being thankful. All Paul's thanksgiving flows out of the gospel.
Thanksgiving for Corinth
Surprisingly, Paul found things to thank God for in the Church in Corinth. In fact, this is one of his more lengthy sections of thanksgiving. This is amazing when we consider all the serious problems that Paul addresses in this letter; there were divisions over who followed whose teaching, there was sexual immorality tolerated in the church - of a kind that even the heathens found offensive, there were believers taking other believers to court, believers were so self-centered that they didn't care how their actions affected their brothers and sisters in Christ, there was participation in pagan idolatry, there were people getting drunk at their fellowship meals, they misused their spiritual gifts for personal status, there was a pervasive lack of love, and even doctrinal doubts about the resurrection. But before Paul addresses any of these serious issues, he affirms who they are in Christ and gives thanks to God for them.
As we saw last week, he affirms that they are God's church, they are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and they are called to be saints. He prays God's grace and peace on them, and then he says
Who Is Thanked?
Notice who is receiving the thanks. Paul does not address his thanksgiving to the Corinthians. He does not say 'I thank you Corinthians for your giftedness, for your faithfulness, for your steadfastness. That would be misdirected thanks. When someone gives you a gift, you thank the one who gave the gift. When someone brings you a gift from someone else, you might thank them for delivering the gift, but if you thank the postman for the gift, it becomes rather awkward. He might say 'I'm just delivering the gift. It's not from me.' You need to thank the giver. The one who gives the gift deserves the thanks. Paul addresses his thanksgiving to God, because God is the giver of all good things. Anything that is worth giving thanks for comes from God. Even when the church in Philippi sent him money, he writes 'I thank my God ...because of your partnership in the gospel' (Phil.1:3-5). If he had sent them a note that said 'I want to thank you so much for your generous support of my ministry', the right response would be 'no, it was God's money; we were just the ones entrusted with the responsibility to deliver it to you. It is a gift from God.' Paul rightly addresses his thanks to God. 'I thank God for you.'
When Do We Say Thanks?
Did you notice when Paul says he gives thanks? He doesn't say 'boy, it's a good thing I'm writing you today, because I'm in a much better mood. If I would have written you yesterday, I would have ripped you a new one'. Paul's thankfulness to God is not dependent on his moods or external circumstances. He says “I give thanks to my God always for you.” He doesn't say 'well, I thought it would go over better if I started this confrontational letter out with a thanksgiving, so I've been scratching my head for the last three days trying to come up with something in you that I can thank God for.' Paul is simply informing them of his consistent habitual practice. He didn't start praying hard for them when he heard about all the problems in Corinth. His gratitude is not conditioned on circumstances. Even his frustration, even his disappointment, even his correction is saturated with an atmosphere of thanksgiving. He is able to thank God when things seem really good, and when things seem really bad. He never loses sight of the big picture. God is always worthy to be thanked because God is always good all the time.
What To Be Thankful For
We've looked at who gets the thanks and when he is thankful. Now let's begin to look at what he is thankful for.
Paul thanks God for the Corinthians because the grace of God was given to them in Christ Jesus. Gospel grace is the fountain out of which all thanksgiving flows. Grace is the undeserved blessing of God. In this passage we learn that the grace of God is a gift. Thanks goes to God because God gives the gift of grace. In Romans 3, Paul spells out why we need God's gift of grace, and what the gift is.
We need God's undeserved favor because we have all sinned and fall short. The gift of God's grace to sinners consists in being justified, or absolved of all guilt before God. This happens through the redemption, or purchase price paid in Christ Jesus. The blood of Jesus propitiates or satisfies God's wrath against sin. This gift of God's favor through the sacrifice of Jesus is received by faith. He concludes in v.28
And then in chapter 4 he clarifies the difference between wages earned and a gift given.
Abraham, who received the gift of justification, has nothing to boast about. The one who works earns his due, and has the right to boast. The one who depends on the generosity of God cannot boast. In chapter 6 he draws a contrast between what we have earned and what we are given.
In chapter 11, he states that grace and works are mutually exclusive.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul recounts God's spiritual blessings heaped on us that resound to praise the undeserved grace of God.
In chapter 2, he describes our helpless situation and then this grace in action.
God's unearned undeserved grace toward sinners is the root of all thanksgiving. It is 'to the praise of his glorious grace … the riches of his grace ...by grace ...the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness ...the gift of God'. This is the good news of the New Testament. God is gracious toward sinners who don't deserve it. Boasting is excluded by the gospel. Entitlement is inconsistent with the gospel. Only gratitude is appropriate to those who have received the greatest of all gifts.
How the Gift Comes to You
Notice, last of all, where the gift comes to us.
The grace of God is given in Christ Jesus. There is no other source of grace. There is no grace outside of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the only Son from the Father, is full of grace and truth (Jn.1:14). From his fullness we receive grace upon grace. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn.1:16-17). Election, predestination, redemption, adoption, justification, reconciliation, propitiation, sanctification, resurrection, all the good gifts of God are in Jesus Christ.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:1). All good comes to us through our living connection with Jesus. We abide in him we bear much fruit. This is the sixth time in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians that Paul has referred to Jesus. '...called an apostle of Christ Jesus; those sanctified in Christ Jesus, with all who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; their Lord and ours; grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ; God's grace given in Christ Jesus; the testimony about Christ confirmed in you; waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ; called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.' Paul refers to Jesus at least 10 times in the first 9 verses of this letter. It is really all about Jesus! Jesus is central to everything. Jesus is the source of all blessing and the root of all thanksgiving. If we want to learn gratitude, we must look to Jesus.
What Can I Learn?
What can I learn from Paul's expression of gratitude for the believers in Corinth? I have been shown much grace. I have every reason to live life saturated with thanksgiving to God for all the blessings I possess in Jesus Christ. If my heart is not overflowing with gratitude, it is out of touch with the gospel. Even when things are not as I wish the were, there is ample grounds to be grateful.
I can learn to perceive the grace of God in the lives of others and thank God for that. Naturally we see the faults and flaws first. It will take focused effort to train our eyes to look for evidence of God's grace at work in our brothers and sisters. But if Paul could find it in the Corinthians, I am confident we can find evidence of God's grace in each other.
Maybe when we need to rebuke someone or confront them over sin, it would be good practice to pause and search for things we can thank God for. Maybe we could start the conversation by emphasizing the evidence of God's grace we see in their life before we simply rip into them over everything they are doing wrong.
I think there will be some real practical benefits from consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
Joy. A heart tuned in to God and thankful to God for what he is doing will be a happy heart. Cast out the crusty cranky critical spirit and replace it with an attitude of gratitude.
Another practical benefit of thankfulness will be to check that my heart is in the right place before God. If I am actively looking for evidence of God's grace, I am looking genuinely for the good of the other person in love, not to tear them down but to build them up.
Cultivating gratitude to God also gets me looking to the right source for change, because transformation is a work of God's grace in the life, not a work of the person who is out of line. This kind of thankfulness keeps me humble – recognizing that I too am where I am by the sheer undeserved grace and mercy of God, that I have been freely given a gift I didn't earn, and it all comes through my relationship with Jesus.