1 Corinthians 1:7a ~ 20121202 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/02 1 Corinthians 1:7a No Grace-Gift Lacking
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.
Paul is thanking God for the grace of God at work in the believers in Corinth. Although there were many serious problems to address, although much was not right in the church in Corinth, although there were serious sin issues and doctrinal issues, there was still much to thank God for. Paul begins this difficult letter by thanking God for the evidences of grace that he observed in this wayward church. First, he thanks God that they were enriched in Christ in every way, especially in all words and all knowledge. Their minds had been enlightened. They had perceived the truth of the gospel message and believed. Then he thanks God that this fullness, this being enriched in all things, comes from the testimony of Christ, the witness Jesus bore of himself; the witness borne by the apostles about Jesus, the good news that God the Son became human, that he lived a perfect life, that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was raised from the dead, that he is King. This testimony of Christ was confirmed, made sure, shown to be firm and legally binding in the Corinthians. They believed the foolish message of the cross, and they were transformed by it. Although they were not yet what they ought to be, they were no longer what they once were. As Paul says in Romans 8:16
The good news about Jesus was demonstrated genuine among the believers in Corinth.
Not Lacking in Any Spiritual Gift
Next on his list of evidences of God's grace at work in Corinth is verse 7; 'so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift'. This will be the focus of our attention today. Paul thanks God that his grace is evident in their lives in that they lack no spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack, and what is a spiritual gift? And why would we spend so much time looking at just a few words?
Words Mean Things
God has spoken, and he has used words to communicate truth to his people. He has preserved his word through the centuries so that we can live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Words mean things. If we want to know what God says to us, we need to pay attention to the words he uses to communicate to us. Today we are going to take some time to look carefully at two of the words used in this phrase. Part of my job as a pastor is to preach, to proclaim God's truth in the power of the Holy Spirit so that God is glorified and your life is transformed. Part of my job as pastor is to equip you, the saints, for the work of the ministry, to give you the tools you need to do the things God has called you to do. Think of it this way. This is a jar of baby food, and this is a little baby spoon. The food is already ground up really small. Somebody else has done the work of chewing. Somebody else uses the tools – the spoon to get the food into your mouth. You almost passively receive. Now picture a big thick juicy delicious steak. Here is a fork and a steak knife. I'm going to cut off some small bites and give them to you so you can get a taste for what is really good. But you are watching how I hold my fork and how I use my knife and you are learning. The goal is not to stay dependent, not to stay on a baby-food diet. The goal is to learn to enjoy food yourself. The goal is for you to learn to use the tools and dig in to God's word on your own, with your family, with your friends and co-workers, maybe leading a bible study, being prepared to do what God is calling you to do. My prayer is that both things are happening. You are being fed. Your souls are being nourished with the pure milk of God's word. But you are also watching, learning how to use the tools, becoming equipped to dig in to God's word yourself. Here are some tools. This is an English dictionary. This is not where word meanings come from. What words mean comes from how the words are used in a culture, in a society. The dictionary listens to how a culture uses words and then tries to record what it hears. As the way the culture uses words changes, the dictionary has to catch up and publish a new version. The way people use words determine what they mean. So to find out what a word in the bible means, we need a different tool. We need to be able to see how a word was used by biblical authors so that we can start to hear how they used words in their culture and hear what they meant by what they said. This tool is called a concordance. It is an alphabetical catalog of every word in the bible and lists every verse that uses a given word. We can use it to get to know how the biblical authors used a word and what they meant by it. It also helps to know that our English bible is a translation from a different language. A good concordance will help you get behind the translation to get a taste of the original language. With a good concordance you can get at the original word behind the English translation and find every place that word was used, even if it is translated by a different word in English.
What is a spiritual gift? There is one Greek word that is behind the translation 'spiritual gift' in our English bibles. 'Charisma' [χαρισμα] is derived from the Greek word for grace [χαρις] 'charis'. This same word is translated twice in Romans 5:15-16 as 'free gift', and again in Romans 6:23
The concept of grace, as we have learned, is diametrically opposed to any sense of earning or deserving. Grace is the polar opposite of works. Wages are set over against the free gift of grace. As Paul says in Romans 4:4
And he says again in Romans 11:6
There is no possible way to combine grace and works in salvation. If I work for or earn or contribute even a small percentage, then it ceases to be a gift, it ceases to be grace. In 2 Timothy 1:9 he points to God,
So the concept of spiritual gifts has at its root the concept of grace; a gift freely given and not in any way earned or deserved. We could translate it a 'grace-gift'. At the heart of this concept is the free gift of eternal life, the gift of sins forgiven, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of a full, rich, satisfying relationship with God that is guaranteed to you for eternity, purchased for you by the blood of Jesus on the cross.
Gifts that Differ
This concept is expanded later in Romans and in Corinthians to include the various gifts God gives to his church to create a fully functioning body. In Romans 12, Paul uses the metaphor of one body with many members that differ in function, yet are inextricably interconnected as one body.
And he goes on to list some of the various grace-gifts God has given to his church; prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, mercy. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul points to the grace-gift of singleness and self-control. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, he addresses the issue of grace-gifts in the church in Corinth at length. He says:
Here we are given some definition on what these grace-gifts mean. In the trinitarian formula 'the same Spirit, ...the same Lord, ...the same God', our word 'grace-gift' is placed in parallel with two other synonyms; they are varieties of service or ministry, and varieties of activities or energies. Grace-gifts are God-enabled service, God energized activities. Grace-gifts are here said to be God-empowered, and they are said to be a manifestation of the Spirit. This is why the word is often translated 'spiritual gifts'; they are gifts of grace that come from the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of these grace-gifts is for the common good. They are given by the Spirit of God for the good of the church, the body of Christ. Peter exhorts us:
So a spiritual gift or grace-gift is a concrete evidence of God's grace that is given, not earned or achieved, it is an expression of divine energy, not human potential or effort, it is an act of service which promotes the common good, not for selfish gain [NIDNTT vol.3, p.703]
Paul thanks God that the Corinthian church is not lacking in any spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack? This word is used in Luke's gospel in Jesus' story of the prodigal son. He 'squandered his property in reckless living'.
That's our word for 'lacking'. He describes what he lacked. It says in verse 16
And then he says that his 'father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!' The lack was a desperate shortage of something essential to life. When he returned as a beggar to his father, he was freely given more than he could have imagined.
There was a young man who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed him to the commandments.
This man had not murdered, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, he had honored his father and mother, and claimed even to love his neighbor as himself. And yet he still sensed that he was coming up short. Something was missing. So he asked Jesus 'what do I still lack?'
Jesus tells him he lacks one thing. One thing is lacking for eternal life, but Jesus gives this man three commands; he tells him to go sell, to give, and to come follow. But he says one thing is lacking. Is it one thing or three? I think he is saying 'get the stuff out of the way that is preventing you from doing the one thing. One thing is lacking: come, follow Jesus.
Paul points in Romans 3 to the one area in which we all lack or fall short.
He spent chapters one and two outlining how all men are without excuse because although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. They brought God down to the level of a created being, a man or lower. All have sinned. All are under God's judgment because all have failed to give God the glory that is his due. We come up lacking in giving God glory. He lays out the remedy in the next verse.
To lack is to have a shortage of something essential, whether on a physical level, lacking the basic necessity of food; or on a spiritual level, coming short of giving God his rightful glory, being distracted and missing the one essential thing to come, follow Jesus.
Thankful for no lack of Grace-Gift
Paul thanks God for his grace shown to the Corinthian church in that they did not lack in any grace-gift. This is the flip side of what he said in verse 5
In every way they were enriched in him; in no way did they lack any grace-gift. This would include first of all the God-given gift of justification, forgiveness of all sin, the free and undeserved gift of eternal life in full soul-satisfying relationship with Jesus.
It would also include those various gifts of God's grace given to his church to create a fully functioning body. They as a church are not lacking in any grace-gift. If they were not functioning as a healthy group of believers, which from the rest of this letter we know they were not, it was not because God was withholding something that they needed. They, like us, were enriched in Christ in every way. They were not lacking in any spiritual gift. They may have taken God's generous gifts distributed according to his good purpose and prided themselves that they were superior to others who had different gifts. They may have used their gifts in self-serving ways rather than using their gifts to build up the body. They may have overemphasized the more spectacularly supernatural gifts and undervalued and neglected the more essential nuts and bolts gifts that were critical for the unity and health of the body. They were misusing, even abusing the gifts that had been given by God for their good. But even in this Paul finds reason to thank God. The fact that they were misusing the gifts of God meant that they had indeed been given gifts by God. God had extended grace to sinners in Corinth, they had received the free gift of eternal life, and God was at work in them. They certainly lacked in character. They lacked love. They lacked humility. But God was doing a great work. And there is reason to rejoice, because what God begins, he will see through to completion.