Monday, February 23, 2015

The meat of grace

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ."  1 Corinthians 1: 4-8 (NRSV)

Many of us have been to a restaurant and ordered an appetizer as the main course for our meal. Just as an appetizer can fill us with substantial food, so does Paul’s introduction provide us with solid, spiritual nourishment. Paul’s letter begins with a standard introduction. Greek, which was the standard written form in Paul’s day, usually offered the sender’s name(s), the recipient name(s), and a blessing in the opening of the letter.

A standard greeting should not deter us from considering the significance and impact of this introduction. We do not need to skip through the introduction in order to get to the “meat” of the letter. Just as we sometimes eat appetizers for our main course, we should ponder Paul’s introductions for their spiritual meaning.

Paul gives thanks to God for the church in Corinth because of the grace of God that has been given to them. Paul reminds them (and us!) that it is through God’s grace that we receive knowledge and spiritual wisdom. This is a very “meaty” concept. Our growth in spiritual knowledge does not come from our study or our effort to know God; it comes from God’s grace toward us.

Again, to use a meal as an analogy, God is the gracious host who has prepared a bountiful meal for us and has laid out a table, resplendent of every nourishment that we require. Our willingness to partake of the meal does not make the meal more delicious; our willingness allows us to enjoy the deliciousness. Paul is saying, in his introduction, that our willingness to accept spiritual knowledge in Christ does not make our knowledge better. Spiritual knowledge comes from God, and by grace we are able to understand it and enjoy it.