A summary of a sermon preached by John Stott at All Souls, Langham Place, in 1984. A recording of the sermon is available here.
Verses 1-3 – Introduction
It was a miracle that there could be a church in such a place as Corinth. It was notorious for sexual immorality, overseen by the Temple of Aphrodite. If a church can be planted in Corinth, it can be planted anywhere.
Paul had been called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. He taught them in the name, and with the authority, of Christ. The New Testament is not the teaching of the church, but rather the teaching of Christ to the church. The church is not over the Bible, to judge it, but under it, to be judged by it.
Paul invests a conventional greeting (‘grace and peace’) with real Christian meaning.
Verses 4-8 – Thanksgiving
How Paul describes the church at Corinth:-
(a) They have been comprehensively enriched in Christ
This comes from their have received ‘his grace’, from their being ‘in Christ Jesus’, united to him. This includes, no doubt, forgiveness of sins, justification, adoption, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, members of the new community. And all these are ours ‘in Christ’. Let no-one believe the devil’s lie (Gen 3) that God wishes to empoverish us; no: we are immeasurably enriched in Christ.
In particular they have been enriched in their speech and knowledge: they had an unusual ability to understand and to communicate the truth (even though they abused these gifts). In fact, they lack no spiritual gifts.
(b) They are eagerly awaiting for Christ
There is tension between their present enrichment and their future destiny, between grace and glory, between the now and the not yet.
(c) They are being strongly sustained
This ‘meanwhile’ stands between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’. Here we have, then, the three tenses of salvation: the past, present and the future. See v9 – God’s calling is in the past, fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ is in the present, and God’s faithfulness secures the future.
Some of us live too much in the past, focusing too exclusively on the moment of conversion. Others live too much in the future, devising detailed timetables of the ‘end times’. Still others concentrate too much on the present moment, having little thought for the past or the future. The Christian life integrates the ‘already’ (“I have been enriched in Christ”), the ‘not yet’ (“I look forward to the future with eagerness”) , and the ‘meanwhile’ (“Christ sustains me by his grace, so that I can tackel my present duties with confidence).