I think the most important thing to note about this chapter is that it does not stand alone. The topic of spiritual gifts and body life does not end in chapter 12, but continues through chapter 14. The often quoted Love chapter is not a change of topic, but building on today’s passage. Chapter 13 lists spiritual gifts mentioned in chapter 12, and says: “without love, it is nothing.”
I don’t think I could do better than Paul; I really think that he is pretty clear in these three chapters. There is a part of me that wants to read this entire section without comment; there is another part of me that feels like I need to say a few words; but today I feel only a few need said.
This three chapter section talks about several spiritual gifts: Specifically, it mentions tongues, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, and the interpretation of languages. I don’t know how profitable it would be to go into details. Some Christians focus on practicing these gifts, and others critique the charismatic movement. This modern debate does not seem helpful to me, and even describing what these gifts are enters into the realm of the debate.
The reason that I don’t find the debate helpful is that it really misses the point of the very passage that they are quoting to get a list of gifts. I don’t think Paul was dealing with the problem that there was a lack of enumerated gifts. I don’t think that he was making a list to make a list, and even though he starts by saying, `I don’t want you to be uninformed’, it is pretty clear that he is not talking about teaching us the nature of spiritual gifts. If Paul wanted to teach us about prophecy, for example, he would have given a clear definition, and some instructions on how to discern whether or not to listen to somebody who claims to be a prophet.
I believe that this passage, like much of the rest of 1 Corinthians, is dealing with a divided and divisive community, where people are acting in ways that damage the community. Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, reminding the people that these gifts come from the same spirit. He talks about how a body needs to have many members, and how if the whole body were a hand, the body would be blind and deaf. If the whole body were an ear, the body would hear, but would neither see, nor be able to do anything.
Paul reminds the people that they are not identical, should not want to be identical, nor do they have the same gifts. The church is supposed to be a `body’; that is, the Church is a community that works together so that everybody’s gifts and talents add to the whole. Paul is critiquing a group that says things like: “My gift is more important than yours is, so my place in the church is more important than yours.” He is critiquing a group that is failing to speak or act in love.
Now our group is not one that often worries about speaking in tongues, or interpreting. I can tell you right now that neither one is really my gift. While we might debate what it means to be prophetic; I doubt anybody here will jump to claim the gift and calling of prophecy. I’m not saying we are not gifted, I am saying that going through the list, as it is here, is not especially relevant to where we are at. I personally believe that we have gifts; and I believe these come from the same spirit, even if they are not of the same list.
Raysville Friends is blessed to have the best music in the county. Our musicians are truly involved in a ministry, not only here but throughout the wider community. I feel that this ministry should be recognized, and I do recognize it for what it is — a blessing to us and to all of Henry county.
I know that we are not a large group, but something I see of this group is that we are blessed with a heart for the communities we are part of. Our members have lives that touch the lives of others. What I would consider ‘pastoral care’ is part of everyday life for some of you. I know that God gives you the opportunity to show love and care where you are.
Out of every church I’ve been part of, this one is the most generous. There are not many people here, but even with such a small group, I keep learning about something that this group supports. I know you support Quaker Haven, and Whites, and Hispanic ministry in Indianapolis. I also know that you are active in community activities and giving opportunities. I know that this is a congregation that finds ways of helping people.
I see your gifts, and I think God for your gifts. Let nobody say, because I am not a musician, what good is my contribution? Let nobody say, because I am not a great philanthropist I have nothing to offer… and conversely, let nobody say, because you cannot offer what I give, your gift is worthless. God gave us a great blessing in each other, and my we thank God for it.