A reflection on 1 Corinthians 12:1-14 for Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Mosaic Baptist Church, Gungahlin.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
1 Corinthians 12:1-14. (NRSVA)
We are continuing our consideration of our values here at Mosaic Baptist Church. We have been doing this under the series title ‘Empowering for the Extraordinary’. This is a nod to our church-wide mission statement which reads: ‘Empowering Ordinary People for God’s Extraordinary Mission’.
So far we have looked at two of our values. Two weeks ago we considered the centrality of Jesus under the title ‘Jesus Front and Centre’. Last week we pondered our aspiration to be ‘All about the Other’.
This week, we are looking at our third value, ‘Everyone Gets to Play’.
In the above reading, the Apostle Paul seems to want to point to the fruit of the ‘Spirit of God’ before he discusses the more prominent and visible Spirit-gifts that are given and manifest among the church at Corinth. If a tree is known by its fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, here, is named as the revelation – and declaration – that ‘Jesus is Lord’.
Good gifts will point here.
Paul’s other motive is to insist that the variety of Spirit-gifts that are being manifest in this community of Jesus-followers come from one source. This is much less a list of the gifts as it is an articulation of them all as stemming from a single spring: the Spirit of God.
Somehow it saddens me to think that this passage is so often used as a list of Spirit-gifts rather than a drawing them all together under the one Spirit who gives them. Even a cursory glance at the lists of the gifts-of-the-Spirit in the writings of the Apostle Paul reveals quite clearly that none of these collections is exhaustive. After all, they are all different.
Each list seems to include and leave off possibilities on the basis of relevance and manifestation in and among the different communities Paul is writing to.
If so, they are occasional lists – not general ones.
If there is merit to this, it lends all the more weight to the idea that Paul is not so much talking to the Corinthians about the gifts they do or don’t have – but rather about the Spirit that is the source for each and every one of them.
This is a unifying passage – and severely abused if it becomes a way of pulling the community apart.
Here is – above anything else – a celebration of the one Spirit that manifests in each one and points us all in the direction of Jesus.
Here is a beautiful articulation of our third value – ‘Everyone Gets to Play’. Not only does Paul insist here that ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ He also makes the memorable statement: ‘All these (gifts) are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.’
The implications of such claims are significant for our life together. The gifting of each of us calls for both courage and humility. Courage to be who God has made – and is making – us. Humility to respect, listen to, and learn from the manifestation of the Spirit of God in others.
Here is a path to follow in order to become an community that delights in utilising our own gifts and also learning from what others bring to the table.
A path to a community where ‘Everyone Gets to Play’.
Do you think this is a passage prone to abuse? What makes you come at it from this perspective?
Do you see the Spirit of God as a source of unity or diversity in the communities you are a part of? How do you contribute to this culture?
Do you delight in your God-given Gifts? How might you do this more?