A reflection on 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 16, 2022.
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.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (NRSVA)
The Apostle Paul seems to want to point to the fruit of the ‘Spirit of God’ before the 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 pointing to the one who gives them. 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.
Perhaps each list includes and leaves 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 abused if it becomes a way of pulling the community apart.
Here is – above anything else – a celebration of the one Spirit that points us all to Jesus.
I wonder if the other passages assigned to this Sunday can inform the tone that we assign to the last of Paul’s claims here: ‘All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.’
Is this simply a call away from jealousy of gifting – a kind of warning – or is it a joyful statement revealing a God who knows and equips us for every situation?
We have been considering that God might delight in us. Perhaps a part of this includes God delighting in giving good gifts to us that bring us joy.
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?