Thursday, January 12, 2017

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Grace is Two-Dimensional

KEY TEXT: 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 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 spiritual 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.

KEY THOT: There are two dimensions of grace: what God has done for us in Christ at the Cross and what God is doing through us by the gifts He bestowed upon us by His Spirit. The Corinthian believers have been saved by grace--what God has done for them at the Cross--through faith in Christ. This grace has transformed them from sinners to become "saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (verse 2). However, God's grace does not stop there. His grace is expressed also in what He does in us and through us by the spiritual gifts He bestows on us by His Spirit: "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 spiritual gift" (1 Corinthians 1:4-7). Grace grants us not only the gift of life for salvation but also the gift of power for ministry.

The Greek word for "spiritual gift" used in verse 7 is charismata, literally "gift of grace". It is unearned and freely received with the Holy Spirit, which Paul elaborates fully in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14. But what is important to note is the time-frame when the charismata remains operative: "you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 7). According to this verse, the gifts remain operative until Christ's return, contrary to the "cessation theory" that teaches that gifts are removed once the NT canon was completed at the end of the first century.

These spiritual gifts which include the power of speech and knowledge are necessary spiritual equipment for ministry. Our ministry is spiritual and so our weapons of warfare must be spiritual, not carnal. Once we are in Christ, we are plugged into the spiritual world--our ministry is spiritual and our wisdom is also spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). Spiritual gifts are our weapons for spiritual warfare--we cannot do without them.

Another way some try to downplay the gifts of the Spirit is to pit them against the fruit of the Spirit. They divide what Scripture unites. Paul tells Timothy that it is the same Spirit who gives us both the gift and fruit: "God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power (spiritual gifts) and love and self-control (spiritual fruit)" (2 Tim 1:7). Paul does not separate power (gifts) from love and self-control (fruit). Neither should we separate the fruit of the Spirit from the gifts of the Spirit because of fear.

May we be equally open to receive the grace of God as expressed in what He has done for us in Christ and what He continues to do in and through us via His gifts that come with His Holy Spirit. Let's not separate what God has joined together.

Father God, pour out Your Spirit upon us that we might express fully the love and power of Christ in the church. Amen.

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