First Corinthians is an epistle, or letter, and like the other New Testament epistles, 1 Corinthians addresses some very particular issues that were current for its original audience. As we will see particularly in chapters 12–14, the Christians in Corinth had allowed the exercise of spiritual gifts to create strife among them and disorderly worship. Yet Paul does not wait until those chapters to raise the issue of spiritual gifts and their use. He begins dealing with them in today’s passage, right at the beginning of his epistle.
How does the Apostle deal with the issue of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church? He thanks God that He has given these gifts to the church (1 Cor. 1:4–9). Such a thanksgiving is quite remarkable, as many commentators point out. The Corinthians are having problems related to their giftings by the Holy Spirit, and yet Paul is glad that they have been so gifted. This shows us that real issue is not the gifts in themselves but rather how they are being used. Sadly, any good gift of the Lord can be misused and perverted, but that does not mean the gift itself is a bad thing. When people misuse God’s good gifts, we should reject not the gifts but rather the misuse of them. Because sin remains in us until we are glorified, until we see the Lord face-to-face and are made fully like Him (1 John 1:8–10; 3:2), we always have the potential to abuse the good gifts of God. We can let ourselves get puffed up with spiritual pride because we have certain gifts that others do not. We can overlook significant sins and character flaws on the part of those who have exceptional talent in speaking, teaching, or leading. The way around this is not to reject such gifts but to work to make sure that we and other believers are using them rightly. This begins by acknowledging, as Paul does in today’s passage, that these gifts are from God, not from ourselves. When we keep this in mind, being conscious to thank the Lord for what He has given us, we will remember that we are but stewards of what rightly belongs to God, and we will find greater incentive to use His gifts in the manner He prescribes (see 1 Cor. 4:2; James 1:16–18).
Not only does Paul say that God had gifted the Corinthians “in every way,” but he says that He would sustain them until the end, guiltless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:5, 8). God never truly regenerates and gifts a person, changing their hearts and granting them faith, without also giving them perseverance. Though Christians sin, God sustains them in Christ until the end.