Sunday 13th June
The Gifts of the Spirit
Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.
1 Corinthians 12:1–12
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Unity and Diversity in the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
Sometimes Paul writes very dense theology that we puzzle over and decide is too hard for us. At other times, like this, he is luminously clear. The Spirit gives us all different gifts, he says. Underlying his teaching to the Corinthian church is the idea that we shouldn't expect to have someone else's gift and ought to be satisfied with our own. What matters is that everyone's gifts contribute to building up the whole church.
There's reassurance here, and a challenge. The reassurance appears to chime with a lot of modern messaging that focuses on individual fulfilment, feeling good about ourselves because we have unique things to offer to the world. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, and Paul's message that 'The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person' (verse 7) is comforting to all of us: no one is worthless, and we all have something special about us because God's Spirit lives within each of us.
The challenge, though, is because this isn't just about self-fulfilment. Our gifts are given to us for the sake of other people – 'for the good of all' as verse 7 concludes. This is a sharp reality check. Our gifts are not for our own enjoyment or profit, but for the benefit of everyone. Our church community is not somewhere where we try to dominate others, or compete for attention; it's where we humbly give what we have been given.
This reflection was written by Mark Woods, Bible Society's Editor
Prayer: God, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Thank you that I am unique, and that you made me for your glory. Help me to use my gifts to build up others, rather than seeking to shine for my own advantage. Amen.