2 March 2015

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord” (vv. 4-5)

Psalm: Psalm 119:17-32


For the rest of this week, we shall be exploring one of the richest and most moving passages in all of Paul's writings as we look at four of the closing chapters from his first letter to the Corinthians. Corinth was a city port which Paul knew well and where he had spent quite a period of time (according to Acts chapter 18). However, it's also evident from both his letters to the Christian community at Corinth, that there were divisions within the church there, and also tensions in his relationship with them.

All of which makes it quite remarkable that he could address them so tenderly about the nature of their mutual dependence upon one another and their sharing in the life of Christ, which is the theme of this latter part of this letter.

Paul begins by reminding them that unlike in their pagan past when they were led to worship false idols which were incapable of speech, it is now the Holy Spirit who inspires them to speak, not to bring curses upon Jesus, but rather to confess that "Jesus is Lord" (v. 3).

Then, and no doubt reflecting on the diversity which has caused some of the tension in the Christian community there, he outlines how although there may be a variety of gifts and services to be offered, it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, and "the same God who activates all of them in everyone" (v. 6). The important thing is that all these manifestations of the Spirit are to be used for "the common good" (v. 7).

Paul goes on to identify some of these spiritual gifts: the gift of expressing wisdom or knowledge or faith; the gift of healing or of working miracles; the gift of prophecy and discernment; the gift to speak in tongues or to interpret such speech. There are a variety of gifts, but for Paul the crucial thing is that they don't belong to individual Christians; rather they all come from God, who distributes them through the Spirit. "All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses" (v. 11).

To Ponder

  • What kind of spiritual gifts do you discern in the people around you?
  • Has someone ever suggested to you that you may have a particular gifting? What is it?
  • How can such spiritual gifts be developed and used for the common good?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.