REFLECTIONS ON 1 CORINTHIANS 12


The thesis of the chapter is: proper use of the gifts of the Spirit in the body of believers.  The antithesis presented in the chapter is: wrong definition, presumptuous use, and human preoccupation with the personal benefit expected from the possession of the gifts.

Proper understanding is needed to truly allow the existence of these gifts to fulfill the reasons for which they were bestowed for the common good of all in the body.  To discern when they are bestowed by the Holy Spirit one must pay attention to the insight received from God.  The Spirit that recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as Lord is certainly from God the Father, for the Holy Spirit is given to exalt Christ and to show us of things truly given by Him (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3).  Whatever spirit does not glorify Christ is not of Christ, nor of God.

These gifts properly defined are tools for the effective implementation of the divine task of reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).  We are therefore made ambassadors to our world with the word of reconciliation. 

Spiritual gifts are not marks of spiritual achievement, growth, divine endorsement, or reward.  The gifts of God are without repentance i.e. regret due to human failure (Romans 11:29).  Their use cannot be presumed; it must measure up to the divine standard.  Therefore, it is not for self-benefit, but for the building of the body and ultimately the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ that they are employed.

Proper understanding is to see these nine gifts as tools for the effective expression of the ministry gifts give to the church as a whole alluded to in verses 28-29 of the chapter, and mentioned explicitly in Ephesians 4:7-13:

1.      Apostle

2.      Prophet

3.      Evangelist               Five-fold ministry gifts

4.      Pastor

5.      Teacher

If these ministry gifts are not endowed with the nine tool gifts in this chapter, the effort of the five-fold ministry gifts will be based on human effort seeking to achieve known results.

Since all humans are principally influenced from outside to act in certain ways, we must have a way to determine the source of our influence.  Here we must never be ignorant.  If Christ is not exalted and the body edified, we have a problem: it is not from the Holy Spirit of God, for the Spirit is given primarily to exalt Christ.

All service falls into three distinct areas.  These are knowledge, power or strength, and utterance or communication.  The nine tool gifts are divided as follows:

1.      Word of wisdom

2.      Word of knowledge                      Gifts of knowledge

3.      Discerning of spirits

 

4.      Faith

5.      Healing                                        Power or strength

6.      Miracles

 

7.   Prophecy

7.      Tongues                                       Utterance or communication

8.      Interpretation of tongues

These tool gifts are bestowed on the individual believer wherewith to build the body.  It is imperative that their expression is collaborative rather than in competition.  This will ensure that the gifts are not placed above the Giver (Romans 12:3-11; Romans 15:7).  Any shift from the Giver to the gifts or to the person upon whom the gift is bestowed will result in the sectarianism for which Paul rebuked the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:10).

   

Dr. T. Cyprian Kia

March 5, 2002


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