1 Corinthians 12:1-12
For Sunday, January 20, 2013
Second Sunday After the Epiphany
You may have heard the story about the man visiting a stylistically restrained church who gets excited about the sermon to the point where he stands up and raises his hands in praise. The usher comes over and says, “Sir, control yourself.” The man says, “But I’ve just got religion!” The usher responds, “Well… you certainly didn’t get that here, so please sit down”. 1 Corinthians 12 is a passage hard to read outside of our existing preconceptions of what true religion really is.
What often gets lost in the English translations is the connection between spirituality, a key theme of the preceding 11 chapters, and spiritual gifts, the theme of this chapter. What ties these two themes together is 1 Cor. 12:1. While the English translations all translate “Now about spiritual gifts,” what they lose in the process is the way Paul is connecting the Spirit (Grk. pneumatos), spirituality (Grk. pneumatikos), and spiritual gifts (Grk. pneumatikon / charismaton). One way to capture this in English might be to go with the alternative translation of 12:1 suggested by the NET Bible (“Now concerning spiritual things“). A variation of this might be “Now concerning all things spiritual…”
The Corinthians were so caught up in particular gifts that they had forgotten that the significance of the gifts was not the gifts themselves, but rather the giver (the Spirit), and the purpose (“the common good” (v. 7)). Spiritual maturity is not a matter of whether we can speak in tongues (whether understood as either angelic or foreign languages) or even raise others from the dead. Spiritual maturity is measured by the extent to which we are employing our God-given gifts for the common good of the church and the world.
What are the gifts God has given you? When you think about employing them for the common good what is God putting in your heart to do? If you want your life to be framed by all things spiritual then let the Spirit lead you in the direction of the best yearnings of your heart.