Sunday, December 04, 2011

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

In these next series of articles we will be studying 1 Corinthians 12 to examine what Paul has to say regarding Spiritual Gifts and their role and place in the church.
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware." (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)
Paul begins his discourse by introducing the topic for discussion. Verse one is often translated as, "Now concerning spiritual gifts", however the word "gift" does not appear in the original Greek text. Paul literally says, "Now concerning spirituals". The word he uses here is pneumatikos which is typically translated as "spiritual", "supernatural", or "pertaining to the spirit". Thayer further adds this definition, "pertaining to the wind or breath; windy, exposed to the wind, blowing." Paul is not talking here about spiritual gifts but about the moving, or blowing, of the Spirit. Paul's focus is not the gifts of the Spirit but rather the wind of the Spirit. Paul's words remind us of what Jesus said regarding the actions of the Spirit.
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)
We cannot see the wind but we can see its effects. In the same way, we cannot see the Spirit but we can see His effects. The Spirit manifests itself through its blowing, and the result is what we typically refer to as spiritual gifts: prophesy, tongues, healings, and the like. I think this verse is best translated by Darby as, "But concerning spiritual manifestations"; not gifts but manifestations.

This is an important distinction as we attempt to understand the words of Paul. Paul words are not focusing on us but on the Spirit. This passage is not about us and what we may have received from the Spirit, but is about the Spirit and how He moves and reveals Himself among us. It is not our gifts that is of concern here but the Spirit's manifestations.

Paul further tells us that he does not want us to be unaware, or ignorant, of the Spirit's manifestations. There are a handful of things that Paul said he wants us not to be ignorant of:
  • Romans 1:13 His intentions towards the church
  • Romans 11:25 God's love for Israel
  • 1 Corinthians 10:1 How, though all Israel experienced the same things, God was not pleased with many of them
  • 2 Corinthians 1:8 The suffering that came upon Paul in Asia as he sought to further the Gospel
  • 2 Corinthians 2:11 Satan's devices
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13 The hope and future of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord
To this list, Paul adds the working, moving, and blowing of the Spirit. Understanding the manifestation of the Spirit was important to Paul and it should be important to us. The manifestation of the Spirit is something we should not be ignorant of; either by lack of knowledge or lack of experience. It is not enough to gain insight to the Spirit's manifestation but we must also become familiar with His manifestation though experience. Paul congratulates the Corinthian church, not just for their knowledge of spiritual things, but also for their experience in spiritual things,
"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift." (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)
To fully understand the manifestations of the Spirit we will require more than mere knowledge and information, we will also require first hand experience of His wind.

More to come... David Robison

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