A MORE EXCELLENT WAY

Text: I Corinthians 12:31

This is truly an interesting turn. Paul has spent a great deal of time talking about spiritual gifts, listing them, illustrating how they work, emphasizing again and again their importance. And then we read this line …. I will show you a still more excellent way. Yes you should strive for these gifts; they are all important. Yet, there is something even more important. Chapter 13 is then devoted to that more excellent way. It’s one of the most well known passages of scripture, often called the love chapter. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul had pointed out the importance of unity in the community of faith. Here Paul points to love. Unity and love — that is the context in which spiritual gifts can thrive, doing the work they are meant to do, enabling the Church to truly Be the Church. If we seem to lack what we need to be effective in our local congregations, perhaps we should look first to our unity (or disunity) and our love (or lack of love). Paul says we need both.

Prayer: Help me love. Amen

Thought for the Day: Love — and the absence of love — changes everything.

Text: I Corinthians 12:31 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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Helpers and Leaders. We need them both.

Text: I Corinthians 12:28-30

Another gift that is new to the list is all forms of assistance. Literally the word meant the ability to help. (Paul used a different word translated helping in the Romans list.) To say it simply, these are the helpers in our churches and aren’t we all thankful for them? Without such help or assistance, very little would get done. That’s followed quickly by a similar phrase — the ability to lead. It comes from the Greek word used for steering a ship. Leaders in the church are meant to be guides not autocrats. Leaders help people find their way to the place where God is leading. (These folks need our prayers.) I love the image. Those who lead in churches have to know more than just the ship (their congregation). They also need to understand the waters in which that ship sails (the community, the society, the world). And they need to understand the changing weather patterns that can emerge so quickly and how that might affect the way the ship needs to be steered (guided). Two more important gifts that show up at the end of chapter 12 reminding us once again that Paul’s lists are not meant to limit but rather to demonstrate. Think for a moment about the helpers in your church. You may find them setting up communion or working in the kitchen. They build the sets for the children’s musical, volunteer in the office and clean up after special events. Seek them out and thank them. Their gift is important too. And when it comes to the leaders in the church? Support them through your prayer. Pray for your pastors, staff and lay leaders. Pray for the leaders of the larger church, in your denomination and in other denominations. Pray that those who lead are indeed leading the church where God would have us go.

Prayer: Thank you God for those folks who help — who work behind the scenes, who take care of the details, who make sure others have what they need when they need it. And God, please bless those who lead my church. May they follow your wisdom and guidance so that your will might be accomplished in and through us. Amen

Thought for the Day: Leaders AND Helpers are both important.

Text: I Corinthians 12:28-31 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

 

 

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The Importance of Teachers

Text: I Corinthians 12:28-30

In these verses we have the second two lists of gifts that Paul offers in his first Letter to the Corinthians. One is really just a rephrasing of the other in question form. There are, however, additional gifts in this list that I think are worth examining more closely. As I said earlier, I do not believe Paul meant for any of his spiritual gifts lists to be limiting. Rather, I believe he was citing examples of the kinds of gifts that would be important to the church. In this list he includes a gift that I think is hugely important to the church — teaching. I’ve heard this distinction (can’t remember where). Preaching proclaims the Gospel, teaching explains the Gospel, mission makes the Gospel real. Clearly all are important. The word used here for teacher is a form of the Greek word didaskalos. This is the title most often used in reference to Jesus. That should indicate just how important this gift is in the life of the church. Think for a moment about those who have been teachers for you in the church. Hopefully there was a pastor or two who managed to do some teaching from the pulpit, but just as important are all those other teachers: Sunday School, Youth Group, Small Group Bible Studies, VBS. Churches can do pretty well with only one or two preachers (prophets) but churches need many teachers. Teachers, we need you. If you have this gift, step up and put it to work in your church.

Prayer: Thank you God for all who have taught me about you, your word, your love and your power. Amen

Thought for the Day: Teachers explain the Gospel.

Text: I Corinthians 12:28-30 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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The Good, the Bad and at times —- the Ugly

Text: I Corinthians 12:25-27

In one of the earlier posts, I reflected on how Paul called for unity among the Corinthians. It is clear from his letter that there is some dis-unity, some discord. We are not sure exactly what the problem is (Reading the New Testament letters is like listening to one side of a phone conversation.), but there is definitely something pulling the community apart. Paul says here that such discord is counter to God’s plan. The work God has given the Church requires unity and is undermined by dissension. The image of the body is so helpful here. Have you ever had a broken toe? No big deal, right? Wrong. What about a small patch of poison ivy on your arm? (I happen to be struggling with that right now.) It does not matter what the body part, when one part suffers the whole body suffers. That’s the way it is supposed to be in the church. We are united when things go well; we are united when things go wrong. We are united when we agree and we stay united even when we disagree. The suffering of one belongs to us all. The honor given to one belongs to us all. And when we get that right, it is good, good news for this old broken world of ours. Because then, we have every hope of truly Being the Church.

Prayer: Forgive me O God, for any seeds of dissension that I might have sown in my church. Help me be a force for unity. Amen

Thought for the Day: Dissention in the church is counter to God’s plan.

Text: I Corinthians 12:25-27 there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

 

 

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Everyone’s Important

Text: I Corinthians 12:14-21

This portion of Paul’s letter can be summarized pretty simply. Everyone’s important. Don’t think too much of yourself AND don’t think too little of yourself. This teaching is helpful in all sorts of settings but, given that Paul introduces it in the midst of his teaching on spiritual gifts, it’s particularly helpful for our current exploration. Nobody can be the Church alone. God created the Church, Christ commissioned the Church and the Holy Spirit empowers the Church. In every case God’s action was directed toward many, not one. The Church is God’s chosen team. Those who want to be on God’s team need to find their place in the church, identify the spiritual gift they can bring to the church and start being the part of the body they are called to be. Every now and then someone asks me if you can be a Christian and not be in the church. I used to tiptoe around when I answered not wanting to offend. But now, I just speak plainly. Well, I guess you could be but I don’t think any real Christian would want to be. God created us, calls us and empowers us — together. Alone we can do very little. But with all the gifts combined, with all the body parts working together — well, wonder of wonders — even we can Be the Church.

Prayer: Thank you for the body called the Church. Help me to find my place and do my part. Amen

Thought for the Day: No one can be The Church alone.

Text: I Corinthians 12:14-21 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

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The Power of a Good Illustration

Text: I Corinthians 12:12-30

As we continue in this first letter to the Corinthians, we can almost see how Paul’s mind is working. He has declared several truths about spiritual gifts to his readers and he’s given them a list of the kind of gifts he’s got in mind. But, like the good preacher, he realizes they need something concrete. They need a good illustration — something they can easily understand and relate to. In verses 12-30 Paul introduces that illustration and develops it. He uses the word picture of the “human body.” The multiple applications of this word demonstrate the depth of his theological understanding and his mastery with words. Remember, the Church is the Body of Christ. When we have communion we are told to “remember” which means to bring the different parts (members) of the body back together again. Generically, the word body refers to the corporate rather than the individual. And then, of course, there is the physical body. Paul is using all these applications of the word at one time. In our society, where there is so much emphasis on individuality, so much value placed on independence and taking care of number one, we might find it hard to shift to Paul’s way of thinking. He describes here an attitude toward living that emphasizes the whole, values interdependence and calls for us all to work together as equals. Making this shift in thinking is no little thing. It is in fact, the only way we can Be the Church.

Prayer: Thank you for giving me a part in this incredible body called the Church. Help me to value all the parts as equal to my own and to value my own part as equal to the others. Amen

Thought for the Day: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Text: I Corinthians 12: 12-13 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

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It’s the Spirit’s Choice

Text: I Corinthians 12:11

In verse 11, Paul gives the Corinthians and us an important reminder. We do not choose our spiritual gift(s). The Spirit chooses for us. This is done very, very carefully. The gifts are given to us separately, individually. The verb translated “allotted” meant to divide and distribute based on implied distinctions or differences. In other words, when it comes to spiritual gifts, it is not one size fits all. The Holy Spirit chooses the right gift, for the right believer, for the right community of faith. No shopping off the rack. Spiritual gifts are tailor made.

Prayer: Bless me, Holy Spirit, with the gifts that you choose and help me to use them well in and through your Church. Amen

Thought for the Day: Spiritual Gifts are tailor made.

Text: I Corinthians 12:11  11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

 

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