Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spiritual Gifts and the Church (part 15): 1 Cor 12:27-30

"Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?" (1 Corinthians 12:27-30)
Someone once asked me if I filled the "Office of a Prophet". Now they obviously asked me this because (1) I do occasionally prophesy and (2) because they did not know me real well; I am not a prophet. While their honest question was a bit flattering, it did reveal a prevailing notion in the church, that of offices; such as the offices of a prophet, pastor, teacher, elder, exorcist, etc. (during early catholic history there was an office of an exorcist).

Our English translations of the scripture does refer to an "office" in various places. For example, in relating as to what should be done after Judas betrayed Jesus and killed himself, Peter remembers what was prophesied about Judas in the scriptures: "'Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it' and 'Let another man take his office.'" (Acts 1:20) However, the office mentioned here refers to the role of superintending the message given to the twelve by Jesus. One was to replace Judas among the twelve and be numbered among them as they delivered the Gospel given to them by Jesus.

It is my belief that there is no such things as ecclesiastical offices, such as, in this case, an office of "One of the Twelve". When Jesus established the church I do not believe that He vested it with certain ecclesiastical offices which are to be held by various Christians in succession. I do not believe that there is the office of a prophet nor an office of a pastor, or elder, or even deacon. This does not mean that there are not people who fulfill the function of a prophet, pastor, elder, or deacon, but rather that the church does not have any hierarchical or structural office that such people would hold of fill.

This verse says that God has appointed certain men and women within the Body to perform certain functions. The Greek word used here for "appointed" simply means to "set in" or "place". God did not give the church an office, He gave them men and woman with unique giftings, graces, and favor to support and equip the Body. The truth is that we are the church, not because we have people fulfilling all the right offices, but because we are all members of the Body and in right relationship with each other. In this relational setting, God has placed different people with differing roles and functions to minister to the health, stature, and growth of the Body. This is in essence what Paul was saying in the letter to the Ephesians:
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.' And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:7-13)
Notice what were the gifts that He gave to men. The gifts were not offices, the gifts were men. The gifts that God gave to men were other men; men (and women) with special favor and grace on their lives to effect the equipping of the body; to provide for the furnishing and the perfecting of the saints that the Body might increase.

Our love an honor for others within the Body of Christ should not be based on the office they fulfill but rather based upon an understanding of the gift they are to us and to the Body; a gift given to us by God, and we must see our selves in the same light; not striving for an office or title, but as a gift given to others in Christ.

More to come, David Robison

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