Reading for Tuesday, Sept 11: 1 Cor 12
Given all the struggles of this young church in Corinth, what comes next is a bit unexpected. Paul offers a rich teaching on the nature of spiritual gifts. In spite of their challenges, Paul still sees this church as a conduit of God’s grace and power, an outpost of the Kingdom animated by the living Spirit of the Almighty. These spiritual gifts Paul speaks of bear witness to the presence of God among these Corinthians. And, I would argue, they bear witness to His continued presence among us today.
In the Lord’s church, there is great diversity: varieties of gifts, varieties of service, varieties of activities (v4-6). But there is also great commonality and unity: one Spirit, one Lord, one God (v4-6; see also Eph. 4:4-6). “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” (v7).
Where we go off the tracks is when we assign merit or value to one gift over against another. Perhaps we hold up a particular gift because we have been gifted with it, seeking to rank it “higher” than the gift of someone else. Maybe we desire a more “public” gift, one that will be seen by all and garner us attention. This is precisely the kind of thinking that Paul is preaching against here. If every gift comes from the same source, how can we say one gift is better than another? Do we dare presume to judge the gifts of God based on our human understanding? Do we dare minimize the gift of the Spirit in another individual, simply because we need to make ourselves feel better? Jealousy, self-esteem, pride…these are real issues that are present in the body of Christ. But Paul’s teaching elevates us beyond pettiness and envy to see each individual as a unique Spirit-gifted servant in God’s sprawling, expansive Kingdom crusade.
But there is still a more excellent way, a higher plane still that these gifts call us toward. Paul will focus his attention here in ch13.