Sunday, September 21, 2014

Speaking In Tongues (part 14)

Also, it must also be noted (and noted well), that Paul is not attempting to offer up an exhaustive list of the giftings of the Spirit (or the evidences of the mysterious working of the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead).  It is inconceivable that Paul was constructing a hard and fast list of “spiritual gifts” that would be forever operable in the church at large.  Rather, just as is the case with the whole of the letter, he is dealing with issues related to this church, with what he knows about this church, and the actions in the church that are resulting in a setting that runs counter to that which is expected from those that represent and model out the kingdom of the Creator God and His Christ before the world. 

Surely one would not be willing to place limitations on the Creator God’s working through His people, through that same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, by indicating that this list of actions found in the first half of chapter twelve of the first letter to Corinth is an actual and limited list of the ways in which the Spirit of the covenant God manifests itself in and through the lives of believers.  Given all of the potential ways to live in such a way that declared the cosmic King-ship of Jesus, and given all of the potential ways for those that call Him Lord (which is the fundamental gift of the Spirit in Paul’s estimation) to be the place of the overlap of heaven and earth and to set forth the renewed creation through simple actions of self-sacrifice, compassion, and love, any notion that there is a defined or limited list of gifts would have to be thought ludicrous.  

Clearly then, this list is not meant to be systematic.  It is most likely that Paul could have gone on to make reference to other activities within the church as evidences of the gifting of the Spirit, but it might be the case that this was a list of activities that were most related to the problems at hand within this church.  It is also quite interesting to point out that, though the performance of all of these things could lead to the accrual of honor and status, more than half of Paul’s list have to do with public speech acts.     

Paul goes on to stress the need for unity within the church body, regardless of the spiritual gifts that are being expressed.  One must continue to hear an effort to level out the believers, undoubtedly lifting up some while lowering others as needed, and decimating hierarchies that are or have been improperly constructed in the church upon the standards of the surrounding world.  Honor and shame approbations, as popularly enacted and recognized, are and were not going to have any place within the church of the Christ.  Consequently, believers that exercise what are considered to be the more prominent spiritual gifts are not going to be allowed to have a place or position above those whose spiritual giftings are not so obvious or familiar (ecstatic speech being a rather familiar and highly honored practice). 

Paul writes “For just as the body is one and yet has many members, all the members of the body---though many---are one body, so too is Christ” (12:12).  This use of “one and yet… many,”  followed by “many… are one,” most assuredly picks up on the “different, same, each, and all” pattern that has already been on offer from Paul.  Continuing in this mold, Paul goes on: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.  Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.  For in fact the body is not a single member but many” (12:13-14).  

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