Monday, September 22, 2014

Speaking In Tongues (part 15)

In this type of association (a body of those that believe that Jesus is Lord), there is simply no place for elevating one member at the expense of another.  The practices that would have gained one honor in another association, such as speeches of wisdom and knowledge, healings, the performance of miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, are not to function that way within the church. 

The fact that there is to be no stratification (especially around the table---the way that the church gathered) based on spiritual gifting, and that not all were expected to exercise the same gifting, is reinforced when one reads “If the foot says, ‘Since I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it does not lose its membership in the body because of that.  And if the ear says, ‘Since I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it does not lose its membership in the body because of that” (1 Corinthians 12:15-16). 

Indeed, the body (whether the human body or the body of Christ that is the church), demands a multiplicity of what are, in the end, equally valid functions for proper engagement with its environment.  Though some functions, such as seeing or being able to use one’s hands, seem far more important than others, those functions are radically dependent on other functions.  Beyond that, “If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing?  If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell?  But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as He decided.  If they were all the same member, where would the body be?” (12:17-19).  So not only is each and every member of the body a valuable component that aids in proper functioning, but each member must do what it has been ordained to do, lest the whole of the body be limited in its functionality. 

So it seems that Paul is insisting that not only is there to be no assignment of special honor to any particular gifts, but there should also be no striving for emulation of another’s gift.  How can this be said?  Well, if there is no particular honor associated with a dramatic gift such as ecstatic speech, then there will not be attempts at mimicry that may ultimately stem not from a desire to serve and expand the kingdom of the covenant God, but from jealousy or covetousness with an eye towards accruing honor and enhancing one’s position in the association and within society.  Rather, with no honor accrual or loss at stake, each member will seek to exercise the indwelling of the Spirit of the Creator God, which Paul insists is evidenced by the acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord, in ways that will benefit the body as a whole and enhance its health and functionality.  This will manifest itself in an unlimited number of ways. 

With this understood, and understood alongside knowledge of the fact that Paul is dealing with issues specific to Corinth (with the outcome of his dealing with the issues---that towards which he is driving---universally applicable for Christians for all time), one can toss out any thinking that has Paul constructing systemic lists of spiritual gifts, along with any thinking that one must evidence one of the spiritual gifts listed in chapter twelve of First Corinthians (or taking tests to determine spiritual gifting in accordance with this list) in order to determine if one has truly been gifted with the Spirit of God. 

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