Friday 31 March 2017

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

“Strive for the greater gifts.” (v. 31)

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Friday 31 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 130


Paul sums up his teaching about the Church at this point byreturning to the image of the body with many different parts, whichhe has developed extensively in the previous section.

He moves on to list the roles which contribute to building up achurch. The list has many echoes elsewhere in the New Testament.Paul himself is an apostle, sent out to proclaim the Good News (ofJesus Christ), especially where it hasn't previously been heard.Prophets have a role in worship (see 1Corinthians 11:4-5 with its reference to men and women who prayand prophesy, speaking with insight into the past, present andfuture - like Simeon, Luke2:34-35). Teachers pass on the tradition to help others makesense of their new faith, as Philip helped the Ethiopian official(Acts 8:26-40). A church also needs people whocan channel God's power and healing; it needs people who can helpothers, who can guide (the Greek word is associated with steering aship), who can speak in tongues or interpret.

Paul uses the collective term'charisms'to describe these gifts.The word indicates that they flow from 'charis', the grace of God.This is why his understanding of charismatic gifts is so wide -God's grace permeates every aspect of the Church's life.

The final words in this section take us back to the focus of theprevious verses on the collaborative functioning of the Body ofChrist. No single person has every gift needed for a flourishingchurch. Paul's rhetorical questions expect the answer 'no, ofcourse not'. We need one another's gifts.

Yet at the same time, we should not be complacent about ourgifts. Paul invites us to seek the greater gifts. The Greek wordtranslated 'seek' suggests zeal, or enthusiasm, even passion - butwhat are these "greater gifts"? Is Paul establishing a hierarchy ofgifts, contrary to everything he has previously said? It seems morelikely that he is using this approach to lead his hearers to anunderstanding that there are gifts on a different level from thosehe has listed - the ones he will go on to describe so beautifullyin his next section.

To Ponder

  • Who would you name as a modern-day prophet? Why?
  • What is the relationship between the way the word 'charismatic'is used in contemporary church life and the way Paul uses it?
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