In 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Paul records his extended prayer for the Corinthians, which begins with thanksgiving as any good prayer does. He expresses his thanks to God for the grace that was extended to them in salvation and for the spiritual gifts that they have been blessed with. Paul then proceeds to confirm the solid ground upon which their faith is based. It 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—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul regularly opens his letters to churches with a prayer of thanksgiving. In the prayer that opens the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul expresses gratitude to God for three things.

The first thing he thanked God for concerning the saints in Corinth was the grace they received from God in their saving faith in Jesus. The Corinthians had come from a plethora of pagan backgrounds. There were some Jews for sure, but most of them seemed to have been Gentiles. To the Jews, all Gentiles were sinners. This was not to say that all of the Gentiles were evil people with no moral codes at all. Some of them lived up to strict moral standards. What the Jews meant by this, as Arichea points out, “In this context, sinners refer not to persons who have committed sin or wrong, but to those who are outside the Law.”[1] As Paul uses it in Galatians, the term “sinner” was often used as a synonym for Gentile. It was still a thing of great wonder that God’s grace extended to these people. At the same time, the vast majority of the Jews rejected Christ as their Messiah. That opened the door of salvation to us Gentiles. Paul was still in awe of this reality. The inclusion of the Gentiles is a fulfillment of Hosea 2:23, “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ” God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

The second thing he thanked God for concerning the saints in Corinth is that they have been blessed with many spiritual gifts, especially those associated with speaking and understanding. The proper functioning of a church is dependent on the member’s utilization of the various gifts they have been blessed with. Corinth had more than its share of spiritual gifts. God provides His church with all the spiritual gifts it needs to accomplish God’s purpose in each generation. The word for spiritual gifts is “Charisma.”  Staton says, “Every Christian has charisma for living in the present. When there is cleansing from the past and charisma for the present, there is potential for real progress, regardless of the present circumstances. God gives us precisely what we need to live in the here and now. God, who has given birds the equipment to live in the air and fish the equipment to live in the water, has not failed to give His converted children the equipment for living in the atmosphere of our age.”[2]

Finally, Paul thanked God for His faithfulness in that He will preserve the Corinthian saints to the end. He knows of the many sinful patterns that existed in the believers at Corinth, but he wanted to assure them that they were secure in God’s faithfulness to hold them blameless in the end. Paul is going to point out many failures that plague the members of the church in Corinth. But he did not want them to question their salvation. Their many failures are not an indication of a lost state. They are manifestations of an immature state. The eternal destiny was not secured for them through their faithfulness but through God’s faithfulness.

[1] Arichea, Daniel C., and Eugene Albert Nida. 1976. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Staton, Knofel. 1987. First Corinthians: Unlocking the Scriptures for You. Standard Bible Studies. Cincinnati, OH: Standard.