Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 4 2013 - 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 – Faithful God

We might imagine that the letter that we know as 1 Corinthians would have been written by Paul in a spirit of frustration and disappointment. Paul had spent more than 18 months ministering in Corinth, followed by the able ministry of Apollos. But now the church is marked by division and even false teaching. Nevertheless, Paul begins his letter with thanksgiving for the Christians in Corinth. He is thankful that God has reached out to them in grace and that the message he preached to them was confirmed by the presence and witness of the Spirit in their lives, equipping them with a variety of spiritual gifts.

And yet it’s the rich ministry that they had received and the spiritual gifts that had been given that seem to have become the source of so many of the problems in this church. They were divided over who had been the better preacher; they were divided over who had the superior gifts.

In the face of what must have been frustration and disappointment, Paul remained confident concerning these Christians. They eagerly looked forward to the day of Christ’s return and Paul writes that God “will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Paul is thankful for these perverse Christians at Corinth because God had been at work in their lives. They are Christians not of Paul’s making (nor are they the creation of Apollos); they are the work of God’s Spirit – he is the one who has called them into the family of Jesus. And God is faithful; he will not give up on them but will continue and complete the work he has begun until the day when they are presented blameless before Christ. In that day there will no longer be divisions among them. In that day they will be so overwhelmed with the glory of Christ their king that all rivalry between them will melt away. Paul’s confidence rests not on the quality of his own work, nor in the present character of the Corinthian Christians, but in the faithfulness of God.

We need the same confidence – and thankfulness – concerning the presence and work of the Triune God amongst his people today. We are very conscious of the divisions that fracture the church in our own day. We still divide over whom we consider to be the best leader or leaders within the church. We divide over our brands of Christianity, our differing emphases and spiritual giftings. We have much to learn – and much to unlearn. But God has not finished with us yet. His work is not complete until we stand united before him in glory, casting down before him the tawdry paper crowns we have made for ourselves.

We need this same confidence concerning those Christians who may frustrate and disappoint us. God has not finished with them yet. More importantly, we need to view ourselves in the same light, and to guard ourselves against the Corinthian spirit of spiritual superiority; God has a great deal more work to do in our own lives.

In all of these areas – the fractured nature of the universal church; the rivalries that mar the life of our own congregation; the glaring faults in other Christians; the faults we so easily gloss over in ourselves – our hope and confidence rests solely in the God who began a work in us and who will present us blameless in the day of Christ; it is all of grace – thank God.

Heavenly Father, forgive the ugly pride and arrogance that all too often mark the lives of your people and damage our witness in the world. Make us more like Christ and give us one mind and heart in him. Continue the work you have begun in us by your Spirit and make us the people we shall be when Christ appears.

Peter Misselbrook