21 May 20191 Corinthians 12:1-11
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Psalm: Psalm 134
Paul continues to explore the theme of the worshipping Church, but now turns to the issue of spiritual gifts. This seems to have been a further point of contention at Corinth, with some Christians boasting in the gifts that they had or suggesting that certain gifts were better than others. In such a context, Paul affirms that gifts are given from God to build up the community.
Paul begins by explaining that it’s the Spirit who allows Christians to confess that Jesus is Lord, and so – by implication – the Spirit is given to all Christians (1 Corinthians 12:1-3). The reference to people saying "Let Jesus be cursed!" has been much discussed, and may be a reference to pagan religion settings where Jesus was renounced rather than blessed. From such a background, it is the Spirit who opens the heart to know and confess Jesus.
Paul next explains that the same Spirit works through each of the gifts and – indeed – such gifts serve the same Lord and are ‘activated’ by the one God. The spiritual gifts are given by the Triune God, poured out by the Spirit "for the common good" (v. 7).
Paul enumerates a number of such gifts, choosing gifts that were known and practised in the church at Corinth. These include gifts of speaking with wisdom and knowledge, miraculous deeds, and the gifts of speaking in tongues. At this distance, it’s hard to know exactly what Paul means by each of these gifts, and commentators differ in their assessment of them. Certainly, it’s significant that the gift of tongues – a gift that many of the Corinthians seem to have boasted about – is listed last. It’s also striking that other lists of spiritual gifts differ from this one (eg Romans 12:6-8), showing that this is an illustration of the kinds of ways in which God works rather than an exhaustive description.
Paul ends again with an emphasis on the Spirit’s role in giving such gifts (v. 11). The Spirit activates the gifts in the Church, and it’s the Spirit who decides how the gifts are distributed.
- What are the spiritual gifts you encounter within your church?
- How can the Church encourage all to use their gifts, whether in services, small groups or other settings?
- In what ways can you discern your own spiritual gift(s)?