First Sunday of Advent, Year B: Undeserving, Yet Exalted
- Larry Overstreet Retired professor, Corban University School of Ministry
- 2014 27 Aug
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
The church at Corinth may have been composed of the most proud, worldly, divided and fleshly people of any New Testament church. We may, however, focus so much on the people's sinfulness and doctrinal deficiencies that we forget Paul's opening words of this epistle. This undeserving congregation had experienced the exaltation of God's grace.
The Assurance of Grace
Grace is the unmerited favor of God; He expects nothing in return for it. In classical Greek, it was used for favors done for friends but not for enemies. In the New Testament, however, God extends grace to His enemies. God has saving grace for sinners (Eph. 2:8-9), strengthening grace for those who serve Him (Eph. 4:7), sanctifying grace for those who are His saints (Titus 2:11-13), and sufficient grace for sufferers (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul's emphasis for Corinth was on sanctifying grace (cf. 1:2).
Believers who experience God's grace also benefit from His peace. Paul's Jewish background informed him that God's peace (shalom) included the ideas of completeness, soundness and welfare. Paul also knew the Greek word for peace was used of a harmonious relationship between persons. Through grace, God gave the believers at Corinth spiritual completeness as He brought them into harmony with Himself.
The Thanksgiving for Present Grace
Paul continued with a declaration that his thanksgiving for the Corinthian believers was all because of God's "grace given you in Christ Jesus" (v. 1:4). In Christ, they had been enriched spiritually (v. 1:5). They did not get their spiritual riches of themselves. They did not earn them, pay for them or deserve them. Their spiritual riches included speaking—the outward expression of God's truth. That speaking came about because of their knowledge—the inward understanding of His truth. Paul was convinced Christ was confirmed in them. They genuinely belonged to Christ, and all they had in Him was because of God's grace.
The Expectation of Future Grace
When special days such as Christmas, birthdays or graduations arrive, we often go shopping for the perfect gift for the loved one who is being celebrated. We think about it and search for it, and then when we find it, purchase it. We do not keep it. We give it.
Likewise, God has His gifts for His children, and He gives them. Indeed, these Corinthian believers "did not lack any spiritual gift" of God's grace. More than that, Paul knew they also were waiting with earnest expectation for the Lord's return (v. 1:7).
Having mentioned they expected Christ to return, Paul assured them God would keep them "strong to the end" (v. 1:8). Once we genuinely trust Christ as Savior, Christ will confirm us as belonging to Him until He returns (cf. 2 Tim. 1:12). Furthermore, Paul assured them they would "be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 1:8). In view of the remainder of the book, how could Paul assert this? He was speaking of not being condemned for sins. That is because of God's grace, which brings forgiveness. Later in the book, Paul cited the issue of rewards and the possibility of losing such rewards when standing before the Lord (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Why should the Corinthians anticipate standing before the Lord, blameless at His coming? It is not because of their own efforts. God extends His call, and people accept it by faith. When they do, God enables them to enter His fellowship. This is all by His grace and is realized in each believer's life because God is faithful (v. 1:9).
First Corinthians is clear these believers were guilty of sin and schism. In their own selves, they were most undeserving. Yet, these same believers possessed all these blessings of God's grace. They truly were exalted, but all of this is based on God and His grace. We today also are undeserving. Nevertheless, God has exalted us by His grace. We must examine ourselves to make certain our practice lives up to our position in Christ.