Grace In Us

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:03
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If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of 1 Corinthians 1.
We will begin our time together by reading verses 1-3 from our study last week…, then we will read verses 4-9 for our study this morning.
1 Corinthians 1:1–9 ESV
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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.
Lets Pray
The prayer of thanksgiving which introduces this letter to the Corinthian church is perhaps more stunning then we first realize.
It is wonderfully encouraging.
It is terribly convicting.
It is worldview changing.
It’s not that Paul’s form is that different from traditional Hellenistic Greek letter writing.
The traditional Hellenistic letter always began with a greeting, followed by a prayer, or praise, or a wishing for the well being of the recipient.
Consider our traditional formula when writing an email or letter,
dear so and so,
I hope you are doing well.
Verses 4-9 is that sort of second step of introductory greeting, I hope your doing well, before he gets into the real body of his letter.
The astounding thing, however, is the kind of positive note that Paul is able to strike in this prayer of thanksgiving all the while he is writing to what is one of the most notoriously messed up churches documented in the New Testament.
As we will discover in the pages and verses to come… the Corinthian church is far from an exemplary example in any category of church life.
As we will see the Corinthian church is marked:
- by divisiveness,
- by sin,
- and, by arrogance.
But in these opening words, Paul actually thanks God for the good gifts given to the Corinthian church…, even though as we will see later in the letter, these good gifts are actually being misunderstood, twisted, abused, and/or neglected By the Corinthians.
Despite all of the problems that Paul is going to boldly address, Paul strikes only a positive note in this introductory prayer of thanksgiving.
Paul does something here that many of us are unfortunately incapable of doing.
He sees the world and especially other Christian’s through the lens of the gospel of Grace.
He sees the grace of God in an otherwise very messed up people in the midst of very messed up situations.
Paul is able to celebrate good gifts
and the work of the Lord in the lives of people whom he not only intensely disagrees with,
but who have opposed him And perhaps even slandered him.
Commentator Gordon fee said this well,
“To delight in God for his working in the lives of others, even in the lives of those with whom one feels compelled to disagree, is sure evidence of one’s own awareness of being the recipient of God’s mercies.”
(Gordon Fee, p. 37).
Paul, himself, had lived in total foolishness.
Paul, himself, was not a perfect man.
He was beset with weaknesses, struggles, and sins.
And when he addresses these immature, infighting, sinful Corinthians…,
He is able still to see and to celebrate the good evidence of a good God who had saved them and who was working in them.
Paul could identify with their struggle,
empathize with their weakness,
and he could rejoice in the evidence of God’s grace in them…,
But at the same time…, Paul does NOT give false affirmation or encouragement.
There are other books where Paul praises the churches for their witness, and for their faithfulness.
This is not one of those books.
We should notice, that in this introductory thanksgiving, he directs no thanks to them directly.…
He gives no false compliment so as to make anyone feel better about themselves…
Part of the problem is that the Corinthians already feel TOO good about themselves.
Paul is not one to speak untruths just to butter up his listeners.
Rather, Paul directs all of his thanksgiving to God himself.
Any good gift bestowed upon them…, was a gift of grace from God.
verse 4.
1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

Truth #1 God Gives Grace in Christ Jesus (v.4)

This is foundational to everything we believe as Christian.
The clearest definition of grace can be discerned from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
after describing the dismal and desperate spiritual situation of humanity...
He writes,
Ephesians 2:8 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Grace is the undeserved good favor of God that he pours out on us when we have done nothing to secure it or earn it.
God had gifted the Corinthian people with kindness,
with forgiveness,
with eternal life…
and he did so not because they had been righteous…,
but because Jesus had been righteous in their place.
Paul thanks God for the undeserved favor of God poured into them and he grounds that grace only in their position as being people IN Christ Jesus.
They trusted the message about Jesus, and through Jesus they received the eternal grace of God.
This was true for the Corinthian people in all their mess.
This is true for you in all of your mess… and this is true for those around you who trust Christ in all of their mess.
It is this common understanding and appreciation of grace undeserved, that should have been shaping the actual communal life of the Corinthian church.
Milton Vincent reflects on how grace received should impact communal life:
“When my mind is fixed on the gospel, I have ample stimulation to show God’s love to other people. For I am always willing to show love to others when I am freshly mindful of the love that God has shown me. Also, the gospel gives me the wherewithal to give forgiving grace to those who have wronged me, for it reminds me daily of the forgiving grace that God is showing me. Doing good and showing love to those who have wronged me is always opposite of what my sinful flesh wants me to do. Nonetheless, when I remind myself of my sins against God and of his forgiving and generous grace toward me, I give the gospel an opportunity to reshape my perspective and to put me in a frame of mind wherein I actually desire to give this same grace to those who have wronged me.”
(Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, 24.)
This is how Paul wants the Corinthian church to operate, thus he reminds them by way of thanksgiving.…

Truth #1 God Gives Grace in Christ Jesus

Verse 2 then expounds on this grace given.
The grace of God we receive in Christ is even more than forgiveness and eternal life.
1 Corinthians 1:4–5 ESV
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—
So again, the condition or the position of receiving any of this grace from God is IN HIM.
Again, the main character here is the God who give in and through Christ Jesus…,
But now the grace referred to is clarified not just as salvation, but to the vast diversity of all the ways in which God enriches his people with spiritual gifts .

Truth #2 God’s Grace Includes Spiritual Gifts

The two that Paul mentions here are gifts that we all enjoy From the Spirit of God.
It is the gift of being able to know God’s Word and
the gift of being able to speak God’s word to others.
Paul is praising God that they aren’t just forgiven by their belief in the message of God…
They have been given the supernatural ability of actually understanding the message of God and articulating that message to other people.
These are not things that happen naturally in the hearts of sinners. This moment we are experiencing right now is a moment of God’s grace.
This will be Paul’s later emphasis to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 2:12–14 ESV
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
to know God,
to know God’s word,
to know how to explain God’s word to someone else…
All of it is grace.
Its all gift from God so that we have no grounds for boasting.
Paul is praising the Lord that he had the privilege of seeing the light go on as these Corinthians were confronted with the word of God.
He is praising the Lord that they have the supernatural ability to know and to speak…
But he is also redirecting their eyes to the giver of those good gifts…, because they have made it a matter of boasting.
They have forgotten that its all by grace and that its supposed to point the watching world to God’s work, not there work.

#3 God’s Grace in Us Confirms the Gospel that Saves Us(v.6)

1 Corinthians 1:6 ESV
even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
Paul understands the grace of God given to us,
and the spiritual enrichment,
and spiritual gifts that God gives to us…
he understands all of that to come into our lives in such a way that it actually confirms to us and to others the truthfulness and the legitimacy of the testimony about Jesus Christ that we have come to believe.
if you know God…
if you want to fight sin…,
if you are able to understand God’s word
if you are able to speak and explain God’s word
if you have love for the things of God and the people of God…,
then you are a walking billboard to the legitimate power of the gospel message you believe in.
Grace in you results in glory to God.
The most powerful apologetic for the truthfulness of the Christian gospel is a whole community of people who have been radically transformed by the Christian gospel.
grace received results in glory given …
transforming grace in our lives confirms the message of grace..
so let me pause and ask you…
do you know any skeptics in your life?
do you know any people who are skeptical about the testimony of Christ Jesus?
Any people who have trouble believing that Jesus is God?
Think about that skeptical person… now ask yourself… if they observed your life from the day you decided to follow Jesus…, would they see confirming evidence of the gospel’s power?
Does your life authenticate the good news of Jesus you say you believe in?
Or would your life actually cause others to disbelieve the gospel of Jesus Christ?
No where does Paul assume that Christians are or should be perfected in this life…,
but he does suggest that they be effected in this life to a degree that the change in their live validates the message.
When we become a Christian, God forgives us, but he also spiritually gifts us with gifts to serve him and his church and his mission.
Paul, elsewhere refers to the Holy Spirit given to us as the first fruits of what has been promised to us.…
Romans 8:23 ESV
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
We are waiting for the day where we see Jesus face to face, but until then we have this gift of grace in the Spirit of God that begins to prepare us for that day.
he begins to transform us from what we were to what we forever will be And that transformation is God’s confirmation to us and to the watching world that this message is real.
On Wednesday, I did an interview of Mrs. Millie for a new podcast we will be releasing soon called salvation stories.
On this podcast we are interviewing church members so that we can be encouraged by the Spirit of God’s work in their lives to save them and change them.
In that interview Mrs. Millie summarized her story with these words, after years of wrestling with the truth of Scripture it came down to one moment. She says…,
“I was at my kitchen sink… and I said, ‘OK Lord I am yours and I am following you.’ And from that moment on my life changed and I have never been the same since.”
In a moment of surrender.…,
In a miracle moment of saving faith…,
Mrs. Millie received the grace of Christ and she received a whole variety of spiritual gifts that changed her life… and her changed life by the power of the Spirit began to confirm to her and to others that the message she had believed in IS REAL.
Praise God!

Truth #3 God’s Grace in Us Confirms the Gospel that Saves Us

Paul is thankful that such work had begun in these Corinthians…,
but the fact of the matter was that though the work had begun, it was far from finished.
As we will see…, the Corinthians still had a lot of sin to repent of…, a lot of things to learn…, a lot of transformation was needed.
And so Paul does not stop his thanksgiving at what God had done…, he pressed forward in time and space… to thank God for what Paul was confident he would do.
1 Corinthians 1:7–8 ESV
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.

Truth #4 God’s Grace Sustains Us to the End (v.7-8)

There is a lot of theology in verses 7-8.
Firstly, Paul gives this affirmation, that the Corinthians are not lacking in any gift of God.
God has not held out.
He has not withheld from them what they will need to persevere in this life.
Secondly, Paul is not blinded to the difficulty of what we are doing here in this life.
We are waiting…
We as Christians are always in a state of grand anticipation.
We more than anyone on the planet recognize that our life is one of waiting for something better.
We exist now, not as we will exist forever.
We exist now in bodies that are deteriorating,
We exist now with sin natures that are waring against us without rest,
We exist now seeing the world and God only dimly, only partially, but one day in full.
We are in a moment of painful and difficult waiting For the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, Paul is sure of what is at the end of all our waiting.
Paul references the day of the Lord that is coming.
A day mentioned throughout the Old Testament as a day of reckoning.…
A day where God will return and judge all those who oppose him, and fully and finally save all those who have followed him in faith.
It is in light of that coming end that we live our lives.
Paul thanks God for these Corinthian believers, for the grace that they had received, and for the promise that would be fulfilled for them.
Despite all of their mess…,
despite all of their screw ups…,
despite all of their sinfulness…,
the gospel message made possible a gospel optimism, a gospel confidence, a gospel hope.…
Their eternity was not up to them anymore..
Their eternity was sealed in the person and work of Jesus.
Much of this letter is about the ways that the Corinthians have failed in their blamelessness and their guiltlessness…,
but despite all of that…, Paul looks down the corridor of time…, and he rejoices over what they will be by virtue of God’s promise.
They will be GUILTLESS on the day of the Lord.
BECAUSE they will have been SUSTAINED by the grace of the Lord until the very end...
Christian, have you ever thought about giving up on Christianity?
Have you ever been crushed by the burden of the present and lost site of what you are waiting for?
Have you ever wondered if you will have what it takes to make it to the end?
I’ll be real with you… I have had these moments.
I started vocational ministry very young.
I started pastoring this church as a 24 year old… and there are days where I wonder if I can make it to the end.…
I wonder if I can keep preaching for the next 30 or 40 years if the Lord gives me that long...
I wonder if I can keep caring for people…
I wonder if I can keep my passion…, my focus on the mission…,
I wonder if I can keep forgiving people, and being patient with people…,
I wonder if I can keep believing, and keep trusting, when the suffering and stress is not only severe, but it is long and constant.
Maybe you’ve had similar wonderings…, be encouraged… Paul doesn’t put our perseverance to the end in our hands…
he recognizes our perseverance to the end to be not according to our own work…, but according to the sustaining grace of our God.
Our enduring will in the end be one more reason to give God all the glory.
I read this yesterday from a new book entitled faithfully present:
“Time belongs to the God who made its beginning and is sovereign over its end - and who will bring us, one day, to our eternal home with him: a perpetual springtime and unending day, where time, as we presently understand it, will no longer be governed by the inevitability of endings but shall gallop onward for ever into a deathless future of no regrets. Time need not haunt you, when you know it does not hold you. For the one who holds time holds your life.”
(Adam Ramsey, Faithfully Present: Embracing the Limits of Where and When God Has You, p.30)
Thank God for his Grace in Christ Jesus
Thank God for his Spiritual Gifts of Grace
Thank God for his confirmation of the gospel in our lives.
Thank God for his sustaining grace that will take us to the end.
Paul has taken us from the the grace of God given to us when we first believed, to his active work in us in the present, forward to his forever work in us in the future…, and then in verse 9 he works backwards once again to reinforce what God will do in the future.
1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Truth #5 God’s Grace Called Us into a Present Fellowship (v. 9)

God is faithful…
he will do what he promised.
He will finish what he started.
Paul looks back to their calling…
God’s calling of these Corinthians to himself…
and Paul reminds the Corinthians that what they were called to is not just a future reality…, but it is a present reality.
It is a present fellowship that they have with the living Jesus Christ…, but not just with the living Lord…,
they have a present fellowship with each other…
this word fellowship is a big word in the New Testament story of the church.
It was to this that the first Christians devoted themselves to in Acts 2:42.
Acts 2:42 ESV
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
the Greek word for fellowship is koinonia,
It means common-unity.
It means participation…
It means shared community united around one thing…
It is a beautiful word which describes what it was that they were called to be as the church in Corinth.
They were called to be a fellowship of Jesus with one another…
And this too was a gift of grace to be thankful for.
Even for the Corinthians.
In the church of Corinth…
they were dividing into factions around their favorite teachers and leaders..,
they were ignoring grotesque sin in their midst
they were taking one another to court
they were arguing over food offered to idols and who could eat what
they were boasting and competing over who had what spiritual gifts and they were abusing the gifts for their own glory
and they were being stingy with their resources…,
yet Paul praises God that they were called into this fellowship of messed up people, because in it and through it God was going to give grace in a way that would give only God the glory.
In it and through it, God was going to sustain this fellowship, and he was going to present this bride to himself on the last day spotless and without wrinkle, guiltless because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
This is what it means to be one of God’s people called together into the fellowship of a church.
We are a bunch of misfits making it to glory together by the grace of our God.
we have looked at all the pieces of this thanksgiving, lets read it in its entirety one more time and then lets close with some takeaways.
1 Corinthians 1:4–9 ESV
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.

Takeaway #1 Be Thankful

Takeaway #2 Be Humble

Takeaway #3 Be Useful

Takeaway #4 Be Hopeful

Takeaway #5 Be Communal

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