Monday, December 26, 2011

Spiritual Gifts and the Church (part 7): 1 Cor 12:7

"But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7)
Paul instructs us that the manifestations of the Spirit are given for our "common good." They are not given for our own blessing or benefit alone (although we are blessed and benefited when we allow God to manifest Himself through us) rather they are given for the benefit and blessing of all. In this, the gifts are meant to be public, shared with all for the benefit if all.

At the end of this chapter, Paul exhorts us to "earnestly desire the greater gifts." (1 Corinthians 12:31) I believe that what Paul was referring to is that we should desire the gifts that have the greater benefit to the Body. That's why Paul later says, "desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." (1 Corinthians 14:1) We are told to especially desire that we may prophesy because of the special benefit prophesy brings to the Body.

Not all gifts are the same and, when we gather together corporately, we should be cognizant of those gifts that offer a greater benefit to the Body. "But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?" (1 Corinthians 14:6) Paul does not discount the value of speaking in tongues to the individual, but he exhorts us to rather employ those gifts which benefit all. Speaking in tongues does benefit the individual but offers no benefit to those gathered, unless it it interpreted. "Greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying." (1 Corinthians 14:5)

In the church, our focus should be on benefiting others, not ourselves. This is why Paul gives us this instruction.
"Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified. I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue." (1 Corinthians 14:16-19)
Much has been written in the past several years on manifestations, their validity, and their value to the church. Some have found such manifestations odd and foreign to their experience and understanding of religious life. Such manifestations as laughing, falling out, and acting as drunk can seem strange to us. However, these manifestations are not new. Some exist in the biblical record others in the accounts of revivals past. The issue should not be as much on the existence of these manifestations, but how we should grow in our understanding and operation of these manifestations. For example, in some circles, much is given to being "drunk in the Spirit", and there is biblical evidence for such a manifestation. "But others were mocking and saying, 'They are full of sweet wine.'" (Acts 2:13) The issue we must address is how such manifestations should be included in our gatherings.

Paul, speaking of himself, says, "For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you." (2 Corinthians 5:13) Paul does not discount even the more bizarre manifestations of the Spirit, even appearing "drunk" or "beside ourselves", however, he does encourage us, when we are gathered together, to rather prefer sobriety in the Spirit over drunkenness in the Spirit for the benefit of all; that we would not be focused on ourselves but others. When we do this, we extend the love and grace of God to others and the Body is built up.

More to come... David

1 comment:

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