1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (NRSV)
Chapter 1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, Verse 2To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Verse 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, Verse 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind- Verse 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you- Verse 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
These words from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contain the basic elements of the beginning of a typical Greek letter, including a thanksgiving (vss. 4-9). Donald Juel, a former professor at Luther Seminary, would point out a contrast here between 1 Corinthians and Galatians. Both letters begin with the same initial elements (vss. 1-3 and vss. 1-5 respectively), but only 1 Corinthians has a thanksgiving. In Galatians, Paul dives right in to his agenda: “I am astonished….”
Put simply, the Galatians had lost track of the freedom of the gospel. While the Corinthians had taken that freedom too far, Paul evidently believed that legalism was the greater threat to the gospel. Freedom can be scary. It can be easier to have someone tell us what to do and to have clear rules. Given the above, this passage suggests that the blessings of the gospel do not hinge on rule following. They accompany faith.
Gracious God, when we are tempted to find security in following the rules, remind us that we are saved by your grace, that for freedom you have set us free. Amen.