I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:4-5)
The church in the ancient city of Corinth was started through the work of the Apostle Paul. After visiting Athens, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1–17) and spent a year and a half there, bringing many to faith in Jesus Christ and doing the work of discipleship among these believers, young in the faith.
As his two letters to the church in Corinth show, the Corinthians Christians had a lot of problems. 1 Corinthians shows that at times, they had moral problems, doctrine problems, church government problems, spiritual gift problems, church service problems, and authority problems.
What do you do with a “problem church”? Paul thanked God for them. That’s what he said: I thank my God always. Paul spent a lot of time in this letter rebuking sin and correcting error, yet he was still sincerely thankful for God’s work in the Corinthian Christians.
Those who feel called to rebuke sin and correct error in the church today should follow Paul’s example. Unfortunately, many of them never communicate any encouragement with their correction and advice.
Paul was especially grateful for the grace they received by Jesus Christ. Everything good, everything worth being thankful about among the Corinthian came to them by grace. Grace means that God gives freely, for His own reasons.
God’s grace had an effect among the Corinthian Christians. The Corinthians were a “rich” church, not only materially, but also in their speech and knowledge of Jesus (all utterance and in all knowledge… the testimony of Christ, 1:6), in their abounding in the gifts (come short in no gift, 1:7), and in that they lived in anticipation of Jesus’ coming (eagerly waiting, 1:7). In these things, they were genuinely enriched.
On could say that the work of God in the Corinthian Christians could be seen by what they said, by what they learned, by a supernatural element in their lives, and by their expectant anticipation of Jesus’ return.
When Paul looked at the Corinthian church, he could say: “These people proclaim Jesus, they know about Jesus, there are the supernatural gifts of God among them, and they are excited about Jesus’ return.” All those things made him thankful, so Paul’s gratitude was sincere.
Whatever problems the Corinthians had, they also had these impressive strong points. Can even this much be said about many churches today? We may pride ourselves on not having the problems of the Corinthian Christians, but do we have their positives?
Yet, these positives were no great credit to the Corinthian Christians themselves. They were not the spiritual achievements of the Corinthians, but the work of the grace of God in them.
If you’re around some problem people or problem churches, there are probably still reasons to give thanks for them. Be real about the problems; but find a way to give thanks.