Whole Life Whole Bible Day 42
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
41: No Spirit, no Church
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost introduced a new element into the lives of the believers. Until that point, their identity and unity had been based on their personal knowledge of Jesus, or on the faith engendered by accounts of his resurrection. Then came the overwhelming experience in Jerusalem, heralded by the appearance of fire and the sound of a mighty wind. As we come to this stage in the biblical account, then, we find ourselves in the drama of God’s dealings with us, his people — indwelt by the Spirit, joined together in the body of Christ.
As the early group of believers evolved into the church, the Spirit was an acknowledged presence. So, Paul writes to the Ephesians about the church as a building, a ‘dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (2:22), bound together in ‘the unity of the Spirit’ (4:3); and, to the Romans, of the experiential love that God pours into our hearts ‘through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (5:5).
Essentially, the Spirit initiates people into the church and empowers them once they are in. Gordon D. Fee, commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:13, writes, ‘Such expressive metaphors (immersion in the Spirit and drinking to the fill of the Spirit)… do imply a much greater experiential and visibly manifest reception of the Spirit than many have tended to experience in subsequent church history.’ That the experience of the Spirit is not discussed much in Paul’s letters (except in 1 Corinthians, where it seems to have been confusing and divisive) is no proof that it was unimportant. Indeed, it is highly likely that Paul took that experience for granted as part of the full ‘package’ of salvation.
Clearly the Corinthians were confused by the charismata, the ‘gifts of the Spirit’, and, being a church riven by division, were misusing these gifts, particularly those that were seen to be more spectacular. But Paul’s main point is to emphasize the great variety of spiritual gifts, and that they are the work of God for the upbuilding of the church.
Few of us would deny the need for the manifest presence and power of God in our skeptical and rationalistic age. Differences in our personalities and in our callings will require different gifts, which God gives to each of us according to his will. In line with Paul’s exhortations, let us never be guilty of quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19); rather, may we ‘eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 14:1).
For further reflection and action
In addition to looking more widely at Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 12-14, read and reflect on other passages that deal with gifts given for the overall good of the body of Christ: Romans 12:3–8 and Ephesians 4:1–16.
How far does our self-reliance, our rationalism or our fear of ridicule hinder us from seeking the fullness of the Spirit in our lives or in our churches?
Do we allow ourselves to be challenged by stories of miraculous healing or provision? Are we brave enough eagerly to desire, and to use, whatever gift the Lord may want to give us?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.