by Spiros Zodhiates
"I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge" (1 Cor. 1:4,5).
Someday when you are feeling sorry for yourself because you cannot afford something you think would make you a little happier, try a psychological experiment. Go to any of your friends or relatives who are better off financially than you are, and ask them if they have enough. Almost invariably you will find that they would like "just a little bit more." That is human nature. Most men's definition of "enough" is "just a little bit more" than what they now have.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the congregation at Corinth, he indicated what true riches are for the Christian. "…the grace of God which was given unto you in Christ Jesus" (v. 4, a.t.). He does not say that they deserved this grace. The participle dotheíse, "which was given" (not "is given," as the King James Version has it), is in the passive voice, placing the emphasis more on God's part in giving than on theirs in receiving. This grace was given them by virtue of their position in Christ Jesus. Observe also that Paul does not say "given you by Jesus Christ," as the King James Version has it, but "given you in Christ Jesus."
The Corinthian believers, despite their many shortcomings, were "in Christ Jesus" and therefore the recipients of the greatest benefit of that position, the constant experience of the grace of God.
In verse 5, Paul goes on to speak of the more concrete manifestations of that grace. He says, "In everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge." The Corinthian Christians, being for the most part educated and well-to-do, may have thought that embracing Christ and His cause would mean loss to them. They may have resented the demand for obedience to a higher standard of life, fearing the insistence upon character as the evidence of creed. Like many in our day, they seemed inclined to limit belief to mental assent rather than to enlarge it to include a changed life.
They were not emancipated from the attractions and fascinations of the old life, and with it all they were given to the infirmity of self-pity. Like Peter, who one day said to the Lord, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27), they were inclined to feel that they had been deprived of something. True, following Christ means forsaking our old ways, but it also means being enriched in everything. How? By possessing Christ.
Have you noticed how little emphasis the Lord laid on the material benefits to be gained by following Him? True, He promised that, if we seek God's kingdom and righteousness first, all things needful will be supplied (Matt. 6:33), but this was never in the nature of an inducement, nor to encourage hopes of material gain. Having Christ, we have everything! No area of life is impoverished, for the grace of God adds a new dimension that makes it meaningful. All those who are in Christ are rich, for the very possession of Christ is the greatest wealth anyone can enjoy.
There are no paupers in the kingdom of God. You can be poor in this world's goods and yet be richer than your wealthy neighbor. "Godliness with contentment is great gain," said Paul when writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:6).
When Paul said to the Corinthians, "In everything ye are enriched," he was telling them, "In everything you have found its inherent satisfaction, the fulfillment it was intended to give." He who has Christ within, inherits the earth. Real happiness, blessedness, does not begin with things and work its way into the human heart, but it begins with the human heart as it opens itself to Christ.
Having Christ, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:8, you have "unsearchable riches." Why? Because Christ is God, and possessing Him you possess the Creator and Sustainer of all people and all things. Which is better, to have a limited sum of money, or to be the son of a wealthy man; to have access to the limited resources of this world, or to have the limitless God as your Father?
In anticipation of marriage, a young man had saved for many years to build a fine house for his bride. His dream was realized. But on the eve of his honeymoon, as he and his wife were about to sail on an ocean voyage, he received word that their beautiful home had burned to the ground. With tears in his eyes he broke the news to his bride. But with a fine instinct of love she responded, "Never mind, dear, we still have each other." That is what it means to be a Christian.
When you can echo with all your heart Paul's words in Philippians 3:8: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," you know the meaning of true riches.
From A Richer Life for You in Christ (an exposition of First Corinthians 1). Available from AMG Publishers