1Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 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. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
Corinth was of strategic importance for its shipping and trade. In addition, it hosted the annual Isthmian Games, and was home to the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It was therefore the gathering place of people from all over the world: some came to buy its bronze articles, some to use it as safe port for trade with Greece, some for sport, and some to worship in the temple on top of the Acrocorinth.
Paul came to this city in AD50 from Athens. He found work as a tentmaker, in partnership with Priscilla and Aquilla. In the absence of modern hotels, travellers and tourists would live in tents, so there was always work for a tent maker. Acts 18 tells us that Paul preached to both Greek and Jew about Jesus, and a Christian Church was soon established here. It would seem that this church was made up of the variety of people that made up Corinth – and it was not long before they began to develop schisms. They therefore wrote a letter to Paul asking him for advice. Paul replies, probably in AD57, from Ephesus,
The passage for today addresses them at their place of division: their understanding of the Holy Spirit. It would seem that some used their own unique experience of the Spirit to feel superior to others. Paul responds by pointing out that the Spirit of God was never given so that people could gain status. Instead, God’s Spirit was given for service: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; Different gifts are given, but no one gift is greater than another: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Despite this unambiguous teaching, followers of Jesus continue to vie with each other for status. We want to claim truer theological truths, better music, finer preaching, superior buildings, more excellent service projects and clearer mission statements than others. Paul is quite clear: All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. Let us resist the temptation to spiritual superiority. All are blessed by the one God.
Today I ask your prayers for my friend and colleague Ecclesia De Lange who has faced exclusion by those who claim a better truth than hers. I have known her for the past ten years as one who has lived her life in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, not all her colleagues have been able to see the Spirit at work in her life. She was born as a gay person, and reached a point in her life where she married her (female) partner. This led some of my colleagues to question her spirituality, and ultimately resulted in her expulsion from the Methodist Church. I am asking for our prayers – that we might discover that God gives different gifts to different people “for the common good”. In time may we learn to appreciate this.
30 The Triune God
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 190.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.