1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Spiritual Gifts Serve the Lord and His Body
1 Corinthians 12 & 14 have received so much attention over the last several decades that there is little which I could say that would add anything to the ink that has already been spilled over them, and that’s probably a good thing. The cause for which Paul wrote this part of the letter seems to center around the proper use of the “gift of tongues,” a gift resurrected by the Pentecostal movement of a hundred years ago and which still generates so much interest today. It is almost impossible to approach the topic without some theological presuppositions about the presence of spiritual gifts in the Church today, especially of the more extraordinary kinds (i.e., healings, miracles). I will therefore state my beliefs about what this passage is teaching us before I delve into what I think are the more important issues: 1) I do not think that Paul was providing an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts for which a denomination could develop “spiritual gift inventory” tools that a local church might use to survey its individual members that each might discover their particular spiritual gift; 2) I do not think that we must assume that every spiritual gift Paul mentioned was represented by someone in the church at Corinth. When Paul speaks of gifts of healings and working of miracles, he may very well have been referring to the particular gifts given to the apostles for the confirmation of the word (Mark 16:20) and not to others; 3) I certainly do not say that God does not work miracles and healings today, but I do say that it seems that God works through His people as a whole through prayer now that we have long passed the apostolic age (James 5:14-18); and, 4) I do think that these more extraordinary gifts will be given to God’s people again just before our Lord’s return.
Now for the more important point of the passage: Whether these extraordinary gifts still exist today or not, all gifts given by God to His Church are for the mutual edification of her members. This will be the argument Paul employs later about the proper use of tongues. Among all their many problems, none plagued them more than disunity. Here we see that they would rival one another even in spiritual gifts! And most important, whatever the gift, however so wonderful, it was to serve the cause of Christ. Paul begins this passage speaking of the foundational confession of “Jesus is Lord.” It doesn’t matter how many mountains a person can cast into the sea if he doesn’t confess and profess Christ (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). And Jesus warned that in the last days, false christs and false prophets will work miracles (Matthew 24:24). We and the gifts serve the Lord and His Church. And let everything we do be done for His sake and glory.