Longing for Christ's return. 1:4-9
Paul the apostle tends to use a similar opening style in all his letters. He begins with a salutation or greeting and then follows up with a thanksgiving. In this, his first letter to the Corinthians (although there is possibly an earlier lost letter), Paul follows his usual format. Our passage for study is the thanksgiving. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthian believers.
v4. Although Paul is often burdened by what he calls his "concern for all the churches", 2Cor.11:28, he none-the-less can give thanks for his brothers and sisters in the Lord. He can separate their problems from their spiritual state.
v5. Paul goes on to identify two of the spiritual gifts which are in abundance in the Corinthian church, but he does so by underlining the fact that they possess these gifts "in him" (in Christ). The gifts are given by God through the work of Christ to those who associate with (are "in") Christ. The two important gifts are first, "speaking", in the sense of spiritual utterance, and second, "knowledge", in the sense of spiritual insight.
v6. The spiritual gifts which the Corinthians possess are a consequence of Paul's ground-breaking gospel ministry in their midst. The gifts are "because of our testimony about Christ." The gifts serve as a confirmation of the power of the gospel and of the validity of Paul's preaching ministry.
v7. As a consequence of their acceptance of the gospel, the Corinthians were endowed with an abundance of "spiritual gifts". This does not mean that they were extraordinary because they possessed such gifts, but just that they did not miss out in this department. They possessed the normal spiritual gifts of a church empowered by the Spirit of God. Thankfully, these gifts will serve the church until the coming of Christ.
v8. Although the Corinthians have not yet arrived, they will indeed share in the day when Christ is "revealed". "He (God) will keep you strong (confirm, or guarantee you) to the end". The word "confirm", in the sense of guaranteeing to the end, is a better reading than "strengthen". God will see to it that they will arrive on that day. On that day they will arrive "blameless", guiltless and sinless before the Judge of the universe, and this because their sinfulness is transferred to Christ while Christ's righteousness is transferred to them. Their state of purity will be proclaimed on "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ". This day is the Old Testament "day of the Lord" and it will be the day of judgement for God's people.
v9. The "guarantee" that the Corinthians will arrive safely on the day of the Lord, rests with the character of God himself: He "is faithful". The God of Israel has shown himself to be a dependable and reliable God, Deut.7:9, Ps.144:13. So, the God who called them into fellowship with Christ will get them through to the end.
False expectations are terribly dangerous. For example, when it comes to marriage, unrealistic expectations can easily undermine a loving relationship. The Christian walk is no less vulnerable and so it is helpful for us to take note of the realistic expectations that Paul lists in our passage for study. What is essential in the Christian life is to know the truth - understand the mind of God. We must fill ourselves with realistic expectations when it comes to our personal walk with Christ, our Christian fellowship and our life in the world.
1. Grace - "spiritual gifts", v4-7
What are our expectations for the church? Are we looking for a big congregation, a thriving youth ministry, ..... ? Given the demographics of our suburb, we may have little hope of realizing these particular expectations. Let our expectation be for an enrichment of spiritual gifts such that we lack nothing in this department. In particular, that the proclamation of the Word of God is spiritually powerful so that we may grow in the wisdom and knowledge of God.
2. Guarantee - "blameless", v8
Many Christians today lack assurance in their standing before God. This fear is often driven by the false expectation that Jesus loves good little boys and girls. Let our expectation rest on God's intention to present us "blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." He is faithful and because of Christ's righteousness, he will do it for us. We insult our Lord when we try to earn what he freely gives us.
3. Goodwill - "fellowship", v9
False expectations can have Jesus deciding who we should marry, starting our cars in wet weather, finding that illusive parking spot for us, getting us through exams and protecting us from influenza. Let our expectation be for his friendship. Like any good friend, he will do what he has promised to do.
List as many expectations as you can think of that impact upon your personal walk with Christ, your interaction in the Christian fellowship, and your responsibilities toward the world.
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