Context (It's A Gift Too)

Listen HERE!

One of the first questions I was taught to ask when reading any passage of scripture is what did the original audience hear. In other words what did the text mean FOR them. All too often as we study the Bible we jump to a question that ought to come much later in our study that question being what does the text mean FOR me. Unless we first understand the meaning in its original context we can and will make a text mean anything that we want it to mean. This is never good! So as we begin our discovery of Spiritual gifts I feel it important to point out some key elements of context in which we find this inspired information. From the beginning of this letter to the Corinthians it seems Paul is addressing a measure of selfishness that has come over the church at Corinth. Whether it be an unwillingness to addresss sin within their ranks, a refusal to be challenged to greater maturity, ignorance regarding their Christian liberty, or Paul's blatant appeal in chapter one that there be "no divisions among them" Paul is addressing a church that doesn't understand how much they need and are subject to one another. As we enter chapter 12 we must then understand that there wasn't a basic ignorance concerning spiritual gifts in Corinth, but rather an ignorance in application of those gifts. Yes, Paul does say "concerning spiritual gifts I do not want you to be unaware", but what follows is an appeal to that overtly selfish nature of the church in Corinth and not a 101 lesson on Spiritual gifts. That God had given gifts to each individual Christian was apparently well understood and accepted. That they all are to be brought together like the members of a human body for the common good was the thing sadly lost on these people. Therefore as we read 1 Corinthians 12 they were not receiving an instruction manual nor even an exhaustive list of Spiritual gifts. ( in my estimation) Rather it was instruction that said when those gifts (some of which are mentioned) are evident they are not used for our own personal agenda. Instead they are to be used for the common good, because a body needs all its parts to function properly. (The apostle Paul appeals to ancient Israel as well as to communion prior to this a dressing this selfishness.) Not only that, but the gifts must always be subject to the head which is Christ Jesus, and (as God is love) all gifts must be done out of a motivation to display that love. As Paul begins he says "there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit", thus we say Spiritual gifts. However in the very next line he says "and there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord." This was not to communicate a difference between Spiritual gifts given by the Spirit and ministries which are given by the Lord (somehow communicating Jesus). This would be to needlessly divorce the Trinity. Instead Paul goes even further and says that there are "varieties of effects but the same God who works all things in all persons." Are we then to conclude there are spiritual gifts and then ministries of Jesus and yet still effects of God? Of course not. You see Paul immediately wraps them all together in a nice little bow and says, "but to each one is given the manifestation of the SPIRIT for the common good." There are a great many things that are wrapped in to the heading Spiritual gifts, so it's important for us to study well the whole of scripture to find out what exactly God has given to His Church. This will also help us in our application later. So what did the original audience here? Not a lesson on what Spiritual gifts are, but rather a lesson that shows, all their varying, diverse gifts are to be used for the common good of Gods church and are all given as manifestations of His Spirit. As we continue in this study were going to asked several more questions with the final question resulting in how we apply this to our walk with Jesus in the church today. But for now this question will give us plenty to chew on until tomorrow. I hope you'll join me tomorrow as we explore the question, what's the difference between us and them? Remember I love to hear your cooments and thoughts, so comment in the comments section below or send an email to

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