Summary: Grace as the source of spiritual gifts. Peace as something more than the absence of war. Thanksgiving is for always. Fellowship in Christ draws individuals together.
GRACE AND PEACE, THANKSGIVING AND FELLOWSHIP
It was customary for Greek and Roman letter-writers in the first century A.D. to prefix their epistles with “greetings” (Acts 15:23; James 1:1). Paul regularly uses a pun, replacing “greetings” with “grace” (1 Corinthians 1:3). In what may be a second pun here (1 Corinthians 1:4), Paul gives thanks for the Corinthians’ “grace” - possibly hinting at their gifts.
The “grace” which we receive “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” - and for that matter from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4) - is more than just free forgiveness, although it is inclusive of that. “Grace” is also an empowering for ministry (1 Corinthians 3:10), as Paul himself testifies (1 Corinthians 15:10). “Grace” is the source of the spiritual gifts given for the benefit of all (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and those of the leadership in particular (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
By adding the word “peace” - the traditional Hebrew greeting - Paul internationalises the Gospel. “Peace” does not just indicate the absence of war, but is about being complete, perfect and full. “Peace” speaks to us of health, success, well-being, rest, and harmony - and is part and parcel of our “peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
When Paul makes this special greeting, he does so as the ambassador of Christ. “Grace and peace” are the offering which we receive from the God who is pleased for us to call Him “Father” (Galatians 4:6). “Grace and peace” is the gift which we receive from God’s Son, with whom we are “joint-heirs” (Romans 8:17).
Paul offers thanksgiving to God for the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:4). This is good pastoral care: Paul wants the Corinthians to know that, even if he does have some stern words to speak to them, it is because his heart longs for them. The Apostle offers his thanksgiving to God, not just once but “always” on their behalf, and particularly gives thanks for their gift of grace.
In fact Paul celebrated the Corinthians’ giftedness, especially in speech and knowledge, in which they were enriched by God (1 Corinthians 1:5). This is part of God’s grace to them. In this the testimony of Christ has been confirmed in them, and strengthened among them (1 Corinthians 1:6).
Again Paul affirms their giftedness (1 Corinthians 1:7), by which they can patiently wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in His glory. As with all His people, God will not hold them liable to charges, and will confirm their blamelessness at the second coming (1 Corinthians 1:8). He who has begun a good work in us will see it through to the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
“God is faithful,” Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 1:9). Our faith may waver, but the Lord’s kingdom is steadfast and true, far outliving the kingdoms of men (Daniel 6:26). The Lord is the One who helps us in the midst of our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The Lord is the One who calls us into the fellowship of His Son (1 Corinthians 1:9). We may think that we enter into fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ as so many individuals: but ultimately we enter in as part of His body, the church. This fellowship begins at conversion, continues in our communion with other believers, and is eternal.