1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. When the Corinthian Christians had been pagans they were pressured and misled to serve gods which weren’t really gods at all. They had done shameful and harmful things in the service of these gods. In fact, to “Corinthianize” was an exceedingly dirty insult in the ancient world. They had given themselves over to a hyer-sexualized, hyper-individualized culture. So as Paul sat down to write to them about their place together as Christ’s church and their role in this world it was important that they understand the difference between the service of idols and service of the living God.
In so many ways ancient Corinth would fit right at home in our modern western social cesspool. People are increasingly seeking to elevate themselves at the altar of terrible and degenerate gods that demand an ever-increasing litany of shameful and harmful things be done in the name of tolerance, progressivism, and identity politics. People are lauded when they mangle their God-given bodies for dream of new sexual identities. People are applauded for having the courage to tell one and all how they have been shamefully offended by even the slightest of imagined offenses. Micro aggressions and triggers are the new deadly sins. And heaven help you if you are ever seen as being mean! But everything is always someone else’s fault to bear and everyone else’s responsibility to pay. Just look at the tens of millions of babies who have to die for our promiscuous hook-up culture to survive.
But this is the truth that our new/old pagan culture hasn’t come to grips with. No one lives to themselves alone, and every choice and action we make has bearing on everyone around us – no matter what anyone else might try to tell you. You can’t have groups rights without one or more of those groups being left out or vilified. You can’t have gay pride and trans-rights at the same time. You can’t support radical feminism and Sharia law. Each in it’s own self-serving quest is at cross purposes with the other. You can’t have everything you want while your neighbours have everything they want. Something has to give. And that is why it is still important that we understand the difference between the service of idols (usually ourselves) and service of the living God.
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. Now notice something remarkable here, there are no cookie-cutter Christians! To belong to God is to be one of a kind. But that does not make us gods-unto ourselves. For in all our wonderful diversity of gifts are united in this one thing … the one, true and Holy Three-fold God who gives them. Just as the Lord is Triune but not divided, so the people of His Church are varied but not divided.
It is God alone who empowers us with different gifts in different amounts in different combinations to different people at different times and under different circumstances. And He does it so that with all this variety each of us can grow, change, increase and develop. God gives us varied gifts so that we might learn from one another even more ways to reflect the one gift that never changes – God’s salvation held out for us in Christ Jesus crucified, died and risen again!
7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good … 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. Here is another truth for us to ponder … Gifts are given because the giver loves the recipient! And God gives good gifts to us not just because He loves us (which He does beyond measure!) but because through us He would show His love for others too! The same Holy Spirit works through each individual member for the common good. That means the good of the whole!
Often unsearchable beyond our tracing out, there is always rhyme and reason for what God does. The purpose in all His gifts to us remains His eternal glory. I may not understand why I am what I am or why I am where I am. Maybe you wrestle with such questions too. But God assures us that not only is there a reason for why you are some things and not others; why you have some gifts and lack different ones; why you’ve been placed where you are, around the people you know and that reason is simply this …that more people would receive His love through you and would yet be saved.
And that alone is why 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
This is not the only list of God’s many spiritual blessings, nor is it the complete list. But it is enough to make the point. No one person has even all of these, but One Holy Spirit produces all these works through His gifts among all of us together. Some are given the Wisdom & Knowledge to uphold and apply the Gospel in the broken lives and battered logic of this world. Others are truly gifted with Faith by which I mean that trust in God’s mercy in the face of difficulty and need. These are the people so often denied what everyone else would sell their souls for – and yet they remain steadfast in Christ and a reminder that life can be so much more. Healing and Miracles still happen in body soul and mind and most often at the hands of those who have themselves received the Lord’s healing hand or words from another.
There are some modern day prophets gifted with the ability to fearlessly speak God’s Word of warning and instruction. Words of forgiveness and encouragement. And there are still those with the gift of tongues and interpretations most especially those who devote their lives to the work of translating the Biblical languages so that more and more people may receive all the other gifts just mentioned. No one can do it all by themselves, but together we can do it all for Jesus our Lord. For the sake of His kingdom and to the praise of His glory!
3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. And with these words we have the greatest of the spiritual gifts God has bestowed on each and every one of His beloved children – you and me both. The Holy Spirit directs believers’ conversations and life. Jesus is not simply a Lord but is THE Lord, God and Saviour. Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. (LC II 38)
God, who is one, unified and blessed the Corinthian congregation through His Spirit and gifts. Like the congregation of Corinth we also suffer from divisions and party spirit, which undermine God’s work among us. Sometimes we think we are better than we are … or that others are worse than they are. Yet God shows us in Christ that we are all the worst in ourselves and the most loved in Christ. Yet the Lord still leads us to true confession through Jesus, our Saviour, and the Spirit’s work among us. He leads us to see that we are truly One in … the Spirit.