Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Christian Spirituality: 1 Cor 12:12-31

  • What image is used in v12?
  • What is this supposed to teach us?
  • What objections are raised in v15,21?
  • What is wrong with the objections?
  • How is each objection refuted?
  • What sort of diversity is good for the body?
  • App: How must the way we treat one another change?
  • App: How must my desires change?

Whatever our roles in the body we are one body in Christ with one Spirit. One with many different parts. We cannot say that we do not belong. Everyone is needed – we should not be jealous of others or want to be what we are not. No-one is useless. The body would be wierd if it was all one part. God arranged it as it is - and either way you can't opt out!

We cannot say that someone else does not belong. We are not self-sufficient. Everyone has a part to play – though some may require extra modesty and attention. The parts we might think we don't need get extra care and extra honour from God. He arranged it and honours each part.

Furthermore our diversity leads to greater unity. We are dependent on one another, unable to live without each other. If we were each all-stars then we could live without each other – God arranges us interdependently, and united under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Together confessing "Jesus is Lord".

We suffer together, we rejoice together. This is a challenge to our relationships with each other - to share our lives together, in the highs and lows. You don't share the pain of people you don't know, nor the gain.

This is real supporting fellowship in action. Unity expressed in relationship - how else could it be? Unity is not institutional, it is relational. Unity is created by a label, but by fellowship. We belong to one another, irrevocably - none self-sufficent, none useless. We'll live together as God's people for eternity as his body.... may as well get used to that and enjoy it!

The chapter ends with a slightly odd twist. Having told us to accept who we are. Telling us that every contribution counts. However he then ranks a few of the gifts and having made it clear that no-one has every gift, he tells us to seek the greater gifts - to desire them. That's a direct command to our affections. Unavoidable.

What it looks like is that whilst we should accept who we are, since the gifts are for the common good we should seek the greater gifts so that we can be more beneficial to the body. There are some gifts that the body really needs to grow - apostles, prophets, teachers etc. Let our prayer then be - "Lord, give me apostleship, and if not that prophecy, and if not that teaching etc..." I cannot see how else to read this. Paul's structuring indicates that revelatory and leadership gifts are particularly needed. Followed by miracles...

Our desires are commanded to seek the greater gifts... The temptation if we don't heed this chapter are that we seek greater gifts for our own benefit and advancement. Rather, we pursue the gifts God gives so that Jesus will be proclaimed as Lord, and his body grow together. Our understanding must be that spiritual is gospel. We must see that gifts are for the common good and are given by good. We are diverse in gifts and this is good – we need everyone and that helps unite us. Some gifts are however more useful than others – and we should seek that which will most benefit the body.

My understanding is challenged, my actions and affections commanded. "Lord, help me change... empower me to confess Christ, equip me to exercise gifts to benefit the church."

Adrian Warnock continues his series: now talking about words of wisdom

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