1 Corinthians 1:4-5 “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge–because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.”
We might be amazed at Paul’s words of thanksgiving here. Usually we think of giving thanks for the good things in life. But these Corinthian Christians had become a pain in the neck. They were making all kinds of problems for Paul in the church. Still, he says, “I always thank God for you.” Can we thank God for the people who sometimes make our lives harder, people we can hardly get along with?
We can if we learn to see past their shortcomings and failures to the great riches of God. Paul gave thanks “because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” The apostle introduces us to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. For all their faults, these people were people to whom Christ had shown his grace and love. Even more, it was just because of their faults that they needed his grace. Isn’t that what grace is all about? In showing them his grace, our Savior had also made them very rich, something for which Paul gave thanks.
First he says that they had been enriched, “in all your speaking.” Before they became believers, what did they have to talk about? “How’s the weather? It’s been a cool and wet summer, don’t you think?” They could talk about political issues. “Who makes a better emperor, Claudius or Caligula?” “I don’t think the empire should be sending soldiers into the middle east. Do you?” They could talk about the economy or business or philosophy or sports, but what did these things really matter?
Now God had given them the message of Jesus Christ. That was something infinitely valuable to talk about. Even if all they could manage was a stuttering, stammering, monotone whisper, how could anyone not be interested in listening to every word they had to say? They had found the ultimate cure, not just for cancer or heart disease or lower back pain or wrinkles or nearsightedness. They had found the cure for death. They had found the cure for guilt. And because of Jesus Christ, God was giving it away for free! They had been made rich beyond their wildest imaginations in all their speaking.
Don’t we share that same wealth? When I started studying for the ministry, one of my biggest fears was having enough to say. I wondered how I could enter the pulpit 52 or more times a year and have something to talk about for twenty minutes. How many ways could you say that we are all sinners, but Jesus died on the cross to forgive all our sins?
But the more that we are introduced to our Lord Jesus Christ and look into his love…the more treasures we discover, the more strength and comfort God provides, the more ways we discover that he has provided all we need for life and eternity, and the more certain he makes us that the riches he promises are really ours. I don’t have to come up with something to say. God has supplied that, and he does the same for all of us. In Jesus Christ he has made us rich in our speech.
Closely related to this treasure are the riches God gives “in all your knowledge.” For all their problems, the people in Corinth apparently had a great store of Bible knowledge. They had had some impressive teachers: Paul and Peter and Apollos. But more importantly, they had the word of God, and they knew about the work and the love of their Lord Jesus Christ.
Do we appreciate the riches we have been given in knowledge about God’s word and our Savior’s work? Even those who aren’t theological scholars can draw on a wealth of comfort in knowing Jesus forgives every sin, a wealth of strength in knowing that God will lovingly supply everything we need. Do we realize how different our lives might be every day without such faith? It is a marvel of God’s grace that, as rich as he has already made us, he allows us to add to that wealth daily at home and weekly at church.
We have plenty for which to be thankful in the riches the Lord has given to his church. Treasure them, and the people with whom we share them.