Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 12
Paul continues to answer questions put to him regarding the church in Corinth. This chapter is primarily about spiritual gifts and the importance of being the body of Christ.
Paul’s objective is to provide clear insight and understanding about the variety of spiritual gifts that are available in the body of Christ. Paul is aware that pagans can be very muddled and unclear and is concerned that the body of Christ should be wise and discerning.
The Key Test
When seeking to discern truth from lies, the way that people refer to Christ is vital. Anyone offering the slightest tone which dishonours Jesus, cannot be from God and anyone who is truly lifting up Jesus for who he really is, our Lord and only Saviour, is from God. Our attitude to Jesus is a crucial and distinctive characteristic of our faith. The gifts that Paul will go on to describe, must all ring with honour for Jesus if they truly are coming from the Spirit of God. The work of the Holy Spirit in us, is always to lift up Jesus.
Spiritual Gifts, Service and Working
In the body of Christ, there is a great variety in how we exercise spiritual gifts, the way we serve one another and how we work for the Lord. However, it is the same God, Lord and Holy Spirit who is inspiring and motivating each one of us. If all that we do is truly inspired by Him, then there will be harmony and blessing.
Manifestation of the Spirit
The list of spiritual gifts which follow is not exhaustive, because other scriptures mention other gifts. However, the Corinthian list is probably picking up the gifts that the church needed most guidance about, because the misuse of some of these gifts was causing problems in the church.
These are the gifts:
- The message of wisdom
- The message of knowledge
- Gifts of healing
- Miraculous powers
- Distinguishing between spirits
- Speaking in different kinds of tongues
- Interpretation of tongues
These are described as gifts of the Spirit and he distributes them for the common good, as he sees fit. In this chapter, they are mentioned equally and, if a church is exercising all of these gifts, it will be strong and balanced. However, over-emphasis of some gifts and disdain for others, often causes harmful spiritual pride and competitiveness.
The Body of Christ
Our bodies have many parts but we only have one body. In the same way, the body of Christ has many parts but we are one body. There is one Holy Spirit and he has brought us together to be one body in Christ. Whatever our cultural background, it is the life-giving Spirit of God who makes us united in Christ. Every member of the body has to be valued and loved and we all need each other to function properly. Some members are very public and some are not. But God values every one of us equally. If one member rejoices, we all rejoice and if one member suffers, we all suffer; we are all affected.
Paul tells us that there are different roles in the body of Christ. He specifies apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. He points out that not all people have all of these gifts but he exhorts that if, with a pure motive, we desire spiritual gifts that are lacking in the body of Christ, that is a good thing.
Points to Consider:
- How well informed are we regarding God’s word and spiritual gifts? Are our opinions drawn from a careful study of Scripture or are they based upon our own prejudice and insecurity?
- We see nine spiritual gifts recorded in this chapter. Which do you perceive as particularly lacking in your church?
- Do we simply assess people according to their personality and influence or do we diligently look for Christ-likeness in their lives and ministry?
- How much of Jesus is seen in me?
- Do we value every member of our church equally? Does that truly include those working faithfully behind the scenes or only those whose spiritual gifts are visible and apparent to all?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 12
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