I'm persuaded that the "spiritual gifts" is better put as "spiritual things" or "spiritual persons" or "spirituality". Either way Paul's first intention is to dispel ignorance. The Corinthians loved gifts with a passion, particularly any that impressed. But what they lacked was understanding. He doesn't say - hold off til you understand. Rather he teaches them. This is one of my great convictions in ministry - that it is always worth teaching people, however wacky or wrong they may be.
As chapter 12 unfolds there is application to affections and to actions. But as things begin it is understanding that must be challenged. There is something to understand about spiritual things, about the Spirit of God, about the Holy Spirit. That will form the headline for these chapters.
There is an evident contrast between v2 and v3. The mute idols and the speaking/saying that can or cannot come by the Holy Spirit. And what is that distinctive - it is the testimony about Jesus being Lord. Its plain that you can speak the words with or without the Spirit. Paul has in mind confession of Christ, or these things as life-changing convictions.
Essentially, Paul wants his reader to know that being spiritual is about proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Put another way: Being spiritual, is being gospel. We cannot consider anything about gifts of the Spirit without this as the foundation. No gifts will be genuinely manifest without the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is only sure to be present when there is genuine confession of Jesus as Lord.
For all our potential differences as we read these chapters, this much at least I'm convinced we can be in agreement on. Whatever else we say about gifts we can stand together in the gospel. By the Holy Spirit confessing Jesus as Lord.
- Why does Paul write these words?
- Why is having the Holy Spirit important?
- How will this set the agenda as we think about spiritual gifts and being spiritual?
To be continued....