I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus 1 Corinthians 1:4
Outside of his epistle to the Galatians, where Paul’s intense feelings about the church’s apparent defection from the Gospel caused him to go right into his rebuke, Paul always moves from a salutation to a word of thanksgiving. This was more than mere convention for Paul, but was a genuine overflow of a heart full of love for a church that he was very familiar with. There was much instruction and rebuke needed in the church at Corinth, but this is no ploy or technique to butter them before ‘lowering the boom;’ nor is Paul employing irony. His thanksgiving is sincere, as Paul is genuinely grateful for the work of grace amidst the church at Corinth. Paul thanks God, not for anything the Corinthian church had accomplished, but for what the grace of God has done in them. Even though there was a strong tendency for the people to bring their worldly ideas into the church, nevertheless their changed lives bore witness that their faith was genuine and wrought by God. With all of their faults, J.B. Lightfoot writes, “the Christian community at Corinth must have presented as a whole a marvelous contrast to their heathen fellow citizens.”
So Paul uses the salutation and ensuing thanksgiving in order to prepare his readers for what is follow. They are sanctified as saints (v.2), and so should live as such. Their past mercies, privileges and honors are recounted (vss. 4-7), so they should therefore live in thankful service. They have much to look forward to in the revelation of the day of the Lord (vss. 8-9), so they might live a holy blameless life looking forward to that day.
More than anything however, as you read verses 4-9, what stands out is how earnestly Paul is striving to turn the church’s mind toward God and Christ. Read the passage again, and count the references to God and Christ in these verses. The reason for this is that ultimately the church’s carnality and sin is the result of having forgotten God. Christ was becoming less and less to them, and so the leaven of sin was permeating their loaf. How quickly we grow carnal, when our minds forget God. So from the onset of this epistle, it is Paul’s intention to flood their and our minds with thoughts of Christ. For if any person or church could have their hearts brought near to Christ, their sins and stains will become so blaringly obvious, self will be crucified, and pride humbled. There is no better remedy for the divisions in a church than to preach Christ.