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Thankfulness for God’s grace – in our own life and in the life of our fellow believers – should be the constant refrain on our lips.  The Apostle Paul reminds these conflicted Corinthian saints of the blessings of God’s grace (past, present and future) in association with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our assurance of continued participation in this privileged family relationship is based not on our own performance but on the faithfulness of God – the one who sovereignly and effectively called us into fellowship with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gordon Fee: Paul’s thanksgivings generally follow the same pattern: (1) give thanks, (2) to God, (3) always, (4) for the recipients, and (5) for certain reasons, which are then elaborated. . .

Even though what comes next (vv. 4–8) forms a single, somewhat convoluted, sentence, the apostle’s flow of thought can be easily traced. The verb “I thank” controls the whole. The grounds for the thanksgiving are stated up front (v. 4, “for grace given you in Christ”). Paul next (v. 5) elaborates the grounds in terms of some specific gifts, which also serve as confirmation of the gospel among them (v. 6). As a result of God’s confirming the gospel among them in this way, they lack no gift available in the present age as they await the final consummation at the coming of Christ (v. 7). The final clause (v. 8) then brings the sentence to a fitting conclusion by shifting the focus from past “graces” to what God will yet do for them at the final eschatological event, namely “confirm them completely to the end.” The whole is then set off with the concluding exclamation (v. 9), which emphasizes the faithfulness of God to accomplish the future glory (of vv. 7–8) in light of their prior “calling.”

Mark Taylor: The extended thanksgiving in 1:4–9 captures Paul’s profound gratitude to God for the grace given to the Corinthians in Christ.  The NIV punctuates 1:4–9 into five sentences, but in Greek the paragraph is structured around two main clauses:

  • I thank God” (1:4) and
  • God is faithful” (1:9).

Richard Hays: Paul characteristically opens his letter with a word of thanksgiving for the community to which he writes. This thanksgiving section artfully foreshadows many of the issues that Paul will address in the letter as a whole. Three theological themes stand out in the thanksgiving section of 1 Corinthians:

(1)  the grace of God, who is the giver of all the gifts enjoyed by the Corinthian church;

(2)  the eschatological framework of Christian existence; and

(3)  God’s call to community in and with Jesus Christ.

Dan Nighswander: Paul uses the thanksgiving to introduce some theological teaching, some ethical exhortation, and some expression of pastoral concern to set a prayerful context for what follows and to introduce the topics to be addressed in the rest of the letter (O’Brien: 12–15, 261–63).

Like an overture in a musical composition, the thanksgiving introduces the themes to be developed later and the circumstances of writing. In this section we thus get our first glimpse of the issues that Paul will address and a hint of the approach that he will take in dealing with them.

In the thanksgiving section of 1 Corinthians, Paul highlights the Corinthian interest in speech and knowledge, gifts with which they have been especially endowed by God. Paul also identifies the ethical and eschatological context that determines the value of these gifts and the community context for exercising them. . .

Paul introduces several issues in the thanksgiving that will draw more extended discussion in the letter that ensues. The tone of the thanksgiving is a strategic preparation for what follows. Coming to the thanksgiving, as we do, with some awareness of the messy, complicated, and shameful behavior that will be exposed in this letter and the sometimes chiding, even scolding, tone that Paul uses to address the Corinthians, we may be inclined to read or hear these words as ironic, perhaps even sarcastic. However, that would be a misunderstanding of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian assembly (O’Brien: 113–16).

The tone of the thanksgiving, especially if read as if for the first time, without “reading back” what is to follow, is encouraging, affirming, inviting. Paul is sincere in giving thanks for these people and in recognizing their strengths. He has, after all, been the one to call them to faith and to nurture them in faith over an extended period. His passionate concern, evident even in his correction that follows, is here expressed positively. His pastoral heart longs for their well-being and for a warm relationship of shared faith and affection with them. Therefore he draws the contours of divine grace, eschatological hope, and the fellowship of the faith community before he launches into the difficult and risky work that forms the body of the letter.



A.  Looking Upwards — Consistent Emphasis on Thanksgiving

I thank my God always

Paul starts off almost every letter with this customary tone of thanksgiving.  No one can perform this function of giving thanks for us.  We are personally responsible to offer up thanksgiving on a continual basis to our God.  This tone is not conditioned on our external circumstances but on the greatness and goodness of our gracious God.

David Garland: Paul cultivates a thankful spirit and refers to his regular habit of giving thanks “always,” that is, at every opportunity (Thiselton 2000: 89; cf. 15:58), for this church. He did not suddenly think of them when he began to send this letter. After reading the Corinthian correspondence, one might wonder what Paul could find about them for which to give thanks. Many observe that giving thanks that they are enriched with gifts is surprising since this letter reveals that they have misunderstood and perhaps misused them. Fee (1987: 36) corrects views that assume that Paul indulges in sarcasm by noting that he “recognizes that the problem lies not in their gifts, but in their attitudes toward these gifts. Precisely because the gifts come from God, Paul is bound to give thanks for them.” The focus of his thanksgiving falls on what God graciously has done among them in Christ, not on their own particular qualities (cf. 4:7). He gives credit where credit is due, to God, the source of these eschatological blessings (Brown 1995: 67 n. 5). This reference to God’s grace given to them undercuts any egocentric pride in their spiritual achievements.

B.  Looking Outwards — Conflicted Corinthians Still the Object of Thanksgiving

concerning you

Paul has much to say to them in the way of correction.  But their genuine reception of the gospel and union with Jesus Christ makes them first and foremost objects of thanksgiving and participants in mutual fellowship.

C.  Looking Inwards – Critical Spiritual Resource

for the grace of God

All of the fruit of changed lives flows from God’s grace operating in our heart.

Herries: Grace is divine favor given by God to His children.  In 1 Cor. Paul speaks of grace as a power given by God to the believer that enables him to live the Christian life.

Bill Gothard: Grace is a dynamic power or desire given by God to help you do things His way.

D.  Looking Backwards to Their Conversion

which was given you

No place for pride; no allowance for division; no personal merit or reliance on one’s abilities or achievements

E.  Focusing on Christ

in Christ Jesus

Every spiritual blessing we enjoy flows to us in association with Christ Jesus.  He is both the Gift and the Giver.  He is our Savior and our very life that we now share.

Stamps: The thanksgiving establishes a shared spirituality which is distinctly Christocentric; in so doing, it establishes the basis upon which the sender and recipients relate through the letter.

Robert Hughes: Paul continually stressed the role of Christ and God. The Father was the source of all gracious acts, and the Son was the means through which those acts were realized.


A.  Overall Spiritual Enrichment in Association with Christ

that in everything you were enriched in Him

You lack nothing that you need for spiritual success and fellowship

Herries: One of the problems of the Christian life is an Inferiority Complex — this is caused by one thing only = Comparison

Paul Gardner: The prominence of “wisdom” and “knowledge” in Greek society and, indeed, in some Jewish wisdom traditions may help us understand why the Corinthians seemed to have especially emphasized these gifts. Perhaps they came to regard these grace-gifts as the Christian equivalent of the very things that their own society most valued. There the art of rhetoric was highly valued. The power of persuasion and the use of logic were prized forms of communication. As Munck argued, probably correctly, what Paul encountered was a compromised and distorted gospel, centered on a Corinthian theology owing much to “a mixture of philosophy and sophistry typical of that age.” Here, he says, we meet a “popular . . . mixture of philosophy, religion and rhetoric.”  More recently Winter has examined the first-century Sophists and their influence on the world into which Paul was writing in considerable detail.  He maintains that the Corinthians had absorbed much of the sophistic attention to careful rhetoric, wisdom, and knowledge and that Paul’s teaching is specifically countering this tendency. Thus, from these early verses of the epistle the emphasis on God’s gifts of wisdom and knowledge must be seen against a background in which such skills are to be admired and are indications of a status possessed by an elite. Knowledge of the gods and of spirituality was highly regarded. Later, Paul will show how distorted the Corinthian understanding and use of these gifts really was. For now, he simply thanks God for what they have received from the riches of his grace.

B.  Two Specific Areas of Spiritual Enrichment

  1. In All Speech

Just as Christ came into this world as the pre-existent Word (logos) and fully revealed God, believers can both evangelize and edify with the various gifts of utterance in communicating spiritual truth.

David Garland: Paul will make a distinction between rhetorical eloquence, glossolalia, and prophecy (forth-telling). The first he depreciates. He did not proclaim the mystery of God to them in lofty words of wisdom, yet his preaching was effective (2:1–4). His words were not instructed by human wisdom but by the Spirit because he was interpreting spiritual things (2:13) and because the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power (4:20). The act of speaking in the tongues of mortals or of angels, when it is not suffused with love, Paul discounts as loud clanging (13:1). Silence is sometimes preferable (14:28). Prophecy is the most valuable because it builds up the church rather than just the individual (14:1–12) and can lead others to faith (14:20–25).

  1. In All Knowledge

Believers are not looking for some new esoteric knowledge that would only puff up, but need to be reminded of the heart of the gospel message regarding our union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  This experiential knowledge that focuses on our relationship with Christ is mocked as foolishness by the Greeks, but is sufficient for our spiritual growth and vitality.

Anthony Thiselton: perhaps the greatest surprise is that Paul genuinely and generously thanks God for the very gifts that caused him the greatest problems in Corinth: divisions, disappointments, competitive comparisons, and the illusion of being self-sufficient or “special” in a self-affirming sense. Later he will warn them that knowledge (v. 5) too often “inflates” the ego or “puffs up” the self (8:1; cf. also 14:4). Yet Paul holds on to the positive potential of such gifts, and he gives thanks for them. If they are used in accordance with Christ-centered criteria and love (expounded in chs. 12–14), these gifts (v. 7) may constitute a positive blessing to the church as a whole.

Robert Hughes: Why did Paul single out the gifts of speech and knowledge (1:5)? He planned first to note the source of those gifts. Then, on that basis, he would draw out the implications not only for the Corinthians’ incorrect use of speech and knowledge concerning the leadership factions, but also for all the other problems. Their basic problem concerned a misunderstanding of what true speech and knowledge were, and how they should be properly used.

C.  Changed Lives Confirm the Validity of the Gospel Proclamation

even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you

Mark Taylor: The Corinthians’ enrichment in spiritual gifts validated the genuineness of their reception of the gospel message, that the “testimony about Christ” had been confirmed among them.

D.  Application to Sphere of Spiritual Gifts – Assurance of Sufficiency

so that you are not lacking in any gift

Therefore, the Corinthians should not feel inadequate and be susceptible to grasping after other so-called impressive gifts that have nothing to do with their enrichment and edification associated with their conversion to Christianity.

Daniel Akin: The believing community does “not lack any spiritual gift” (v. 7). Indeed, in Christ we get all that we will ever need to be pleasing to God and effective for God. This occurs the moment one is saved, not later in the Christian experience. So, Calvin says it is “as if [Paul] had said, ‘The Lord has not merely honored you with the light of the gospel, but has eminently endowed you with all the graces that may be of service to the saints for helping them forward in the way of salvation’” (1 Corinthians, 57). Oh, how rich is the believer in Jesus. Nothing is missing. Nothing lacking. He provides all we need.



A.  Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ

Robert Gundry: “The revelation of our Lord, Jesus Christ” will happen at “the end,” which equates with “the Day of our Lord, Jesus Christ”—in other words, the day when he comes back in a full display and exercise of his lordship (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). “Who will also confirm you until the end [so as to be] unaccusable in the Day of our Lord, Jesus Christ” assures the Corinthians that their “eagerly awaiting” that revelation is well justified. They’ll be confirmed—that is, well-established in Christian faith—just as “the testimony about the Christ has [already] been confirmed among [them].” As a result, no one will be able to accuse them of apostasy when the Lord returns.

Paul Gardner: The waiting “until the end” (ἕως τέλους) refers to the time of Christ’s “revealing” (v. 7b). At that time the Corinthian Christians will be established “unimpeachable.”  In other words, by God’s grace in Christ Jesus they will be free of any charge when Christ returns to judge. “The day of our Lord” is drawn from Old Testament texts. The prophets warned about the day with some foreboding. Joel talks of “sounding an alarm” and of people who should “tremble” for the “day of the Lord is coming.” Ezekiel and Amos refer to it as the time when God will return to judge and vindicate his name.  Paul’s Christ-centered eschatology awaits that day as the day when Christ will return to judge and to save. He refers to it again in 1 Corinthians 5:5.

David Garland: Being enriched with grace-gifts does not mean that they have arrived (Fee 1987: 36). He intimates that more is to come in Christ. Now they await (ἀπεκδέχομαι, apekdechomai, used of the end time in Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20) the revelation of Jesus Christ. The goal of the adventure to which God has called them still lies in the future (11:26), when tongues will cease and knowledge will become outmoded (13:8). Those who are being saved can expect salvation; those who are perishing, wrath (4:5; 15:23; 1 Thess. 1:10). The period of waiting in a world whose foundations and structures are crumbling (7:31) is marked by cries of “Lord, come!” (16:22). Waiting requires purifying the purposes of the heart so that church members will not be exposed as frauds on the day of judgment (4:5) and will be braced to face the shame of public vilification (4:11–12) and the dangers from formidable foes (15:30–31). Instead of standing on their dignity as those enriched with speech and knowledge, they should be standing on tiptoe in anticipation of what is to come when God will establish or confirm them as blameless on the day of the Lord. The time of waiting is placed under the shield of God’s faithfulness (1:9; cf. 10:13; 1 Thess. 5:24).

Robert Hughes: Their gifts were an “awaiting time” phenomenon. The Corinthians were not yet at the end of their labors and were not yet filled or reigning in the kingdom (see 4:7–8). The placing of grace and the gifts of God into a temporary waiting period was foundational to the point Paul would make in 13:11. The Corinthians had not forgotten the goal of this age, the return of Christ. But they had forgotten the present-day implications of His return, and in doing so they had overestimated the worth, function, and point of their gifts.

B.  Keep Your Confidence in Ultimate Christlikeness

who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ

Anthony Thiselton: Christians are invited to rest securely on God’s promise that he will keep us “to the end” (v. 8). Such freely promised security may meet with three different responses: from some, doubt; from others, presumption; from still others, trustful faith. Martin Luther writes, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.… It makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all his creatures” (Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, 1522).

David Prior: God’s faithfulness extends to that day, and beyond it into the fullness of eternity. He will keep his people blameless in that day: that is, when the secrets of people’s hearts are disclosed and we might have had legitimate fear of being finally found guilty before him. God will ensure that absolutely no charge or accusation is laid against his people, whether by human beings or by Satan, the great ‘accuser of our brothers’ (Rev. 12:10, margin). On that day it will be plain to all that it is God who justifies, and that those whom he has justified he has also, in the selfsame act, glorified (cf. Rom. 8:33). It is Jesus who matters on that day; it is his day; he calls the tune; he determines the issues. Because we have been called to share in Jesus, we share in his supremacy on that day. We are not under judgment for sin on that day.

David Garland: Christian existence depends entirely on God’s faithfulness (cf. Phil. 1:6), not on individual giftedness. “Faithful” (πιστός, pistos) is placed first in the clause in 1:9 for emphasis. Paul stresses the faithfulness of God in 10:13 in the context of recalling the wilderness traditions. God tested the people so that they would learn to rely only on God (Deut. 8:2), but these traditions reveal “that the human situation was hopeless if the one who first chose the Israelites did not remain faithful to them” (P. Gardner 1994: 154). It is an implicit warning against any false security; their boast can be only in God (1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17). Everything in their lives depends on God’s faithfulness and Christ’s lordship.


A.  Our Guarantee of Perseverance in the Faith

God is faithful

Robert Hughes: Paul was speaking to solve problems, one of which was how the Corinthians perceived themselves and their leaders. Verse 9 pointedly exposed the foundation of their self-understanding. All hopes for religious success had to focus on

(1)  the judgment of the day of the Lord, not on their present human evaluations of worth or blame; and

(2)  the Father’s faithfulness to the ongoing process of confirmation.

Paul centered their self-image and hope in the grace and faithfulness of God.

B.  Our Family Fellowship

through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son

Paul Gardner: It is that callingby him [God]” into a covenantal relationship with the Lord to which Paul now refers. The passive voice (ἐκλήθητε) reminds the reader that sharing in the blessings of God’s community (his church) only occurs through his sovereign work of calling. This is the goal of God’s work with his people, that they should have “covenant participation” (κοινωνία) with the one who has all authority, “Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Mark Taylor: “Fellowship” means much more in Greek than it does in current English idiom. In Pauline usage the term carries the idea of participation and sharing, expressed also as being “in Christ.” Their calling into participation with the Son sets the stage for the opening exhortation of the letter body to follow in 1:10, where Paul addresses the looming problem of a divided church, which is the antithesis of those called into intimate union with God’s Son.

C.  Our Lord and Savior

Jesus Christ our Lord