1 Corinthians 1:4-9
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;…
Paul, as is his wont, begins by congratulating the Corinthian Church on all that is good and praiseworthy in their character, and by expressing a confident hope for the future. This is just in itself, - tell a man his good points as well as his bad; and it is wise, for thus the good among them will be encouraged, and the evil will be the more disposed to listen to rebuke. Consider -
I. THEIR GIFTS (χαρίσματα).
1. They had the gift of "all utterance," as appeared in their highly gifted teachers and preachers; and they had "all knowledge," i.e. an intelligent apprehension of the truth. These two gifts are closely connected. There may be knowledge without utterance, in which case it is of profit only to the individual; and there is too often utterance without knowledge, to the hurt of speaker and hearer. This last is the plague of our time. Whoso feeds on empty words becomes lean. But how blessed is the union of thought and speech! Happy the Church that possesses spiritual insight into the mind of God, and the power of communicating this to the edification of others!
2. The other gift is that of "waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Faith rests on the first advent; hope looks onward to the second. The time of that great apocalypse has been left indefinite, even the Son being ignorant of it (Matthew 24:36). Sometimes it is represented as very near ("at hand," James 5:8; 1 Peter 4:7); while hints are dropped that this nearness is not to be taken according to our time measurement (2 Peter 3:8). The purpose of this uncertainty is that we may watch and wait, look for and earnestly desire the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:12). The apostles maintained this attitude of expectancy, and exhorted others to maintain it. It is noted here as a mark of true spirituality, and elsewhere the crown of righteousness is promised to all them that "love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). Apart from all points of dispute, the coming of the Lord a second time should exercise a powerful influence on the Christian's life. What a motive to holiness, a stimulus to work, a strength to endure affliction, is the thought, "The Lord is at hand"! "Amen: come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). These gifts are:
(1) Of grace. They are not natural endowments. They are given by the free, good pleasure of God.
(2) Given in Christ Jesus. All fulness dwells in him, the fulness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9). The gifts of grace come to us only through him (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:3). To him, therefore, let us repair, that we may receive of his fulness. In him we are truly enriched ("made full," Colossians 2:10).
(3) A confirmation of the gospel. The gospel is a testimony concerning Christ, not a system of doctrines. This was specially true of apostolic preaching: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1-3); and it is true of all right preaching. There is a personal testimony to Christ and the power of his gospel unto salvation. This testimony is confirmed when it is believed and acted on. Faith and its fruits are the best evidences of Christianity. "He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true" (John 3:33).
II. ASSURANCE OF HOPE. These gifts of grace are pledges of future blessings.
1. Confirmation unto the end. (Ver. 8.) He who begins the good work in us will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). God does nothing by halves. He not only brings up the sinner out of the horrible pit and sets his feet upon a rock, but he also establishes his goings (Psalm 40:2). The Holy Spirit is the "earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14), the first instalment of the full heritage. "The God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ,... shall himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you" (1 Peter 5:10). Observe the links of the chain in Romans 8:29, 80. All through life, onwards to the end of the world, will God deliver our feet from falling (Psalm 56:13). "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" (Job 17:9). This confirmation is effected by the continued impartation of his grace to the believer.
2. The object in view - "that ye be unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Comp. Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.) God will not stop short in his work of grace till it be fully completed. Meanwhile believers are unreprovable in Christ; no charge can be brought against them which he does not meet. Who shall impeach the perfection of his work for us? But we are not morally blameless in ourselves. Personal holiness is far from being perfect. In the day of Christ, however, this work shall be complete. The challenge, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Romans 8:33), will then apply to character as well as standing. God's ideal will be realized in us when we are holy as he is holy. What a comfort, amid conscious imperfection and sinfulness, to know that we shall one day be "set before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy (Jude 1:24)!
3. The security for this. "God is faithful." Not our faithfulness to him, but his faithfulness to us, is the ground of our assurance. Having called us into the fellowship of his Son, all else will follow (Romans 8:30). (See next homily.) Learn the duty of giving thanks for the blessing bestowed upon others. Our own joy shall thus be multiplied. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;