After greeting his readers with a prayer for grace and peace to be theirs from God and Jesus, he then continues explaining how he prays for his readers in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.” Paul’s prayers always seem to begin with “thanks.” As he begins his prayer in this section, he says, “I give thanks to my God always.” I remember my mother saying “thank God!” a lot of times. When Dad would finally do something she asked him to do, she would say it. When the turkey came out of the oven on time, she would say it. When I would get a passing grade on my report card, she would say it. My mom was a lot like Paul. She would thank God for most things in life. She would also say, “thank goodness.” Sometimes it would be “thank heaven.” One online dictionary comments on the saying and says that the “thank God” phrase means, “I’m grateful, as in Thank God you arrived safely, or We didn’t, thank goodness, run out of food, or Thank heaven the book arrived on time. These ejaculations originally expressed gratitude to divine providence but today tend to be used in a more casual way.”[1]

Paul sounds a lot more sincere with his thanksgiving to God than my mom did. He specifically points out what he’s thankful for regarding the Corinthians. First, he’s thankful for the Grace God gave them. It appears to be agreed that Grace, by definition, is undeserved favor. It’s not earned by being good or doing good deeds. It is simply a gift. One writer said, “At Christmas time, we all give and receive gifts, but in most all cases, these gifts are not deserved. (Except in the case of Santa Claus, so you better watch out!). The gifts are given, but they are of no value unless they are received (opened) and put to use in our lives. So if God’s grace is a gift, your only action is to be open to receive His gift.”[2] This is especially true regarding salvation itself. It is impossible to be earned or deserved. When can only accept the generous offer of salvation like one receives a Christmas gift. Jesus, of course, is the greatest Christmas gift. Paul tells us that we are saved by “grace.” It’s a gift from God. All of our service to God is done by His grace. All of our acts of kindness are done by His grace. Paul is not only talking about the grace of salvation that the Corinthians had received. He’s specifically pointing out how God had gifted them personally. He thanks God for their enrichment in speech and knowledge.

Paul begins by complementing the Corinthians for all their giftedness in speaking and knowledge. The Corinthians had become known for having many of the spiritual gifts of ministry. He wants them to know that he respects their giftedness to set the stage for what’s coming. There’s going to be a big “but” in the course of this letter. But for now, he wants the Corinthians to know he recognizes their giftedness. But he wants them to know from the outset that these gifts are somehow reflective of their being any better than anyone else. They are “underserved,” as are all gifts from God. Paul will get quite specific about this later in the letter. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, he writes, “What do you have that you did not receive? If you received it, why do you boast that you did not receive it?” We talk a lot about being “self-made.” We are taught that we should lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We honor and lift these people up as examples for us to follow. But “The problem with some self-made people is that they end up worshipping themselves. They may think, ‘Wait a minute; I built this business with my bare hands.’ But who gave you your hands? They say, ‘I thought up the business plan totally by myself.’ But who gave you your mind? They claim, ‘I worked for where I am today by the sweat of my brow.’ But who gave you the ability to work so hard?”[3] When I pray over our food with my grandsons around, I say the same thing every time because I want them to understand where Grampa stands. I say, “Dear Lord, you have filled the world with color and have given us eyes. You have filled the world with music and given us ears. You have filled the world with good things to eat and given us the ability to enjoy them. So, Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts that we are about to receive through Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”