24 March 20201 Corinthians 12:1-11
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord.” (vs. 4-5)
Psalm: Psalm 19
Saint Paul never seems to have set out to write a theological treatise, though his letters have profound things to say about who God is and about our relationship with God. Instead, his letters are always a response to the real-life questions and experiences that emerged within the churches he writes to. So, it seems that the Corinthian Christians have been asking Paul questions about ‘spiritual gifts’ (or about ‘spiritual persons’ – the Greek word could mean either), perhaps because there were conflicts within the community about what they were and how important they were.
Paul’s reply is to put God, the Holy Spirit, at the centre of thinking about what it means to be a spiritual person or to have this or that spiritual gift. A way to test whether someone is genuinely spiritual, or whether their gifts are truly from God, is ask if they honour the lordship of Jesus Christ. Earlier in this letter (1 Corinthians 1:16) Paul ends a similar discussion by saying “but we have the mind of Christ”, meaning that our spirituality is reflected in the way our lives are moulded into the likeness of Christ.
It’s within this vision of a Spirit-led Church that Paul then talks about the different gifts that the Spirit gives and the different services to which Christians might be called. He talks about the ‘charismata’ – the spiritual gifts from which we derive the term ‘charismatic movement’. A key word here is ‘variety’; the many different ways in which Christians express their faith cannot be reduced to a hierarchy where some gifts or roles have more status than others. If gifts, persons and actions are truly spiritual then they will serve the common good, building up the body of Christ so that it reflects the unity of the one Spirit.
- What spiritual gifts have you been given – and how might you use them for the common good?
- What spiritual gifts might be most necessary in the context of the current Corvid-19 outbreak?