Bookends — 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 & 16:23

The prayers of Paul

This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

There is not a lot of prayer in 1 Corinthians, just a starting prayer in the introduction and a benediction at the end. That is not a lot of prayers in 16 chapters of text.

Two resin bookends, resin toucans in turquoise and gold.
Toucan bookends NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence on Flickr, photographer unknown.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 16:23

The opening prayer is one of thanks. Often Paul will open his letters with a prayer for grace but here he gives thanks because grace is working in the lives of the Corinthian Christians, they are showing evidence of spiritual gifts, more than other churches (source later in the letter) and are patiently waiting for Christ’s return.

But that is not enough. 1 Corinthians is not an easy read, this was a divided church and Paul is writing to this church which he started and stayed there for over 18 months and left in a good state. Now there are divisions in the church, sexual misconduct and the poor in the church are going hungry whilst the rich indulge in gluttony. It’s not a pretty picture.

A lot of Paul’s letters are written because of misconduct in the churches. I wonder if those preachers who want us to return to New Testament times have read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians or Colossians?

A venn diagram of three overlapping circles with the captions: Openness,trasparency and integrity - Effective collaboration - Performance orientation. The central overlap says Good governance.
Copyright Jon Kuhrt, used for review purposes.

Churches with problems carry on to the modern day. In a blog post from the 13th of October 2022, Jon Kuhrt commented on the recently released Church of England report into safeguarding and institutional failures in the handling of abuse allegations in which 400 new cases involving actions by clergy, officials and volunteers against children and vulnerable adults were uncovered.

Good governance is impossible in the Church of England, says Kuhrt, because there is no central organisation, the 42 dioceses being autonomous, amongst other reasons. Allegations of abuse are also found in other denominations.

But there is evidence of things going right in the Church of England too. But the good often gets overshadowed because of Bad governance. Please pray for churches where abusive practices are covered up.

To quote the book of Proverbs, there is nothing new under the sun. Abusive practices in churches have been there from the beginning. Movements to reform churches produce new churches which in time propagate the abuse they were formed to oppose. There is a spiritual battle going on and the Church is going to be presented as the Bride of Christ, holy and without blemish. That is the view of the same writer who was tackling the Christian Church for its abuse, Paul in Ephesians 5:27. Things are not as bleak as it looks because God is active in the churches. No matter how abusive clergy, officials and volunteers may get when we focus on God and his grace things become clearer.

The prayer at the beginning of 1 Corinthians is a case in point, Paul looks for the signs of grace in the church in Corinth and finds evidence of God’s grace in the lives of the Christians even in this dysfunctional church. Paul gives thanks to God for a church in which the grace of God is growing.

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5 thoughts on “Bookends — 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 & 16:23

  1. John Mellor

    1 cor 1v 3 is a grace, just before the prayer of thanks. The letter to the church in Corinth has a lot to teach us that is very relevant today. It is certainly worth a good look with the help of some commentaries to highlight the issues.

    1. I am only looking at the prayers in the letters of Paul here, so I am skipping a lot of the theology. I am also trying to do an Autistic person’s look at the Bible, so I go with my feelings about the passage first. And yes, I do use commentaries after that, mainly to remove the heresy of my instincts.

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