“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,”
Verses four through nine are the introduction to the epistle. This introduction signals the issue of the entire book. This section shows the believer’s status in Christ. He holds the same status that Jesus has before God – perfect. Paul has already made the point in calling the Corinthian church “sanctified” and “saints.” That is, God set them aside as His own, especially and eternally perfected by Christ.
The section running from verse four to verse nine gives several benefits God gave the Corinthian church and believers of our day.
The introduction is marked with an emphasis in the Greek that points to the grace of God (passive voices). This shows praise for what God wrought for the Corinthians and not what they have done. This is especially true in light of their stark carnality.
Verses 4-8 are one long sentence and focuses on the central doctrine of positional truth or our union with Christ. Paul already pointed to positional sanctification in Christ. Now Paul takes up our position “in Christ” again (1:4); God gives grace “in Christ” (1:5); He enriches all Christians “in Christ.”
Interestingly, 1 Corinthians is an epistle laden with censure against the Corinthians, yet the whole introduction of verses 4-9 is gratitude for God’s grace to them. All prerogatives rest on the privilege of sonship (1:9).
I thank my God always concerning you
Paul is grateful to God for the eternal provisions of God given to the Corinthian church. He is thrilled to see their permanent relationship with God. The grounds of Paul’s thanksgivings always orient around God’s provisions.
The word “always” is hyperbole. Paul does not continually pray for the Corinthians without stopping, but he has a life of prayer for them. He never forgets to pray for them. This is not soft-soap but genuine thanksgiving for them.
1 Th 5:17-18, 17 …pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
for the grace of God
The word “for” indicates the basis of support or ground for Paul’s thanksgiving. That ground is the grace of God. The object of Paul’s thanksgiving was grace, not the Corinthians. The reason for Paul’s gratitude was the grace God had for the Corinthians.
Grace is always free. We cannot merit it because it is a total provision from God in Christ. There is no merit, no obligation, and no work necessary to placate God. Christ fully placated God’s wrath by the death of Christ for our sins. Jesus took our hell that we might have His heaven.
Paul appeals to the Corinthians to live the Christian life according to their status in Christ. Their position before God was perfect because of what Christ did for them. His appeal was not based on guilt but on God’s provision.
In the light of the carnality of the Corinthian church, we might think that Paul would have used a caustic approach. However, he puts the right motivation and perspective on living the Christian life right up front in the epistle. We do what we do in the Christian life because of grace or God’s provisions for us. We do what we do because of what we are. We cannot change our ways because of who we are but because of who God is. God does not condemn Christians because they hold the status of forgiveness and perfection before God in Christ.
Grace is the antithesis to merit.
Human merit is an attempt to pay for sin through personal effort. God does not expect us to pay Him back because grace is permanent and irreversible from God’s standpoint. We will never have debt before God because Christ paid it all; all to him we owe.
If we were to earn forgiveness, it would be a human work. God’s view of human merit is the antithesis to grace.
Ro 4:4, Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
If it were possible to pay for sin, then salvation would rest on us and not Christ. If we win a race by hard work, we rightly receive the due. The race was due to hard work. Grace, however, rests on the work of Another. The price He paid was inestimable. The reason the gospel is good news is that it rests wholly on grace.
God does not offer His grace to good people; He offers grace to sinners. Grace is at the core of God’s glory. If we do the doing, we get the glory. If God does the doing, God gets the glory. God gives grace for His own sake.