Thursday, May 08, 2008

On the Holy Spirit - gifts for the common good

Gifts are for the common good (1 Corinthians 12v4-11)

Paul here notes that
  • v4 – there are various gifts and in v8-10 he lists many. What are they? Paul doesn't say – it's not the point! Our (21st Century) way of reading is desperate for those definitions of prophecy etc, and maybe some controversy might have been avoided if they had been supplied - but they're not, which probably means there is something more important for us to understand. We'll find some sense of more specific and descriptive definition of tongues and prophecy across the whole of chapters 12-14, but not much yet. So far, they are gospel-centred gifts..
  • v6 – gifts come from God. He gives. And they are gifts (charismata) of grace. Given to all. Freely. Graciously. Not as a reward but a gift.
  • v7 – gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit is one of revelation, of manifestation, of confession. Displaying God. God's gifts show us our God. Prophecy, tongues, administration... gospel-centred gifts of grace to reveal God.
But, to what purpose? Why give these grace gifts, these charismata?
  • Answer: v7. For the common good. Gifts are not given to me for my good but to me for the good of others. The purpose of gifts is God-centred in manifestation and other-centred in service. What is good for the people of God will in turn be good for me. We’ll see later with tongues that some gifts are particularly useful for the building up of the person who exercises them – such as uninterpretted prayer in tongues. That said, my own edification is subsequently for the benefit of the body. So we see that our thinking about the Holy Spirit must first be gospel-centred and then other-centred. These are indeed Elephants in the Room.

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