Lent – Day 29: Monday, 22 March
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
The issue of speaking in tongues is a gnarly one. Paul talks about it in two contexts, the personal and the corporate (as in the Body). The former is an expression that goes beyond words as we might recognise them, just as Paul described here (don’t be put off by the word “groan” – it’s a description of the sound, not of an attitude!). There is something wonderful about God the Holy Spirit inviting you out of yourself and taking you up to the very throne of heaven. Why would someone refuse that offer?! Is it fear of being out of control? When we walk with God daily then we will know that he desires only good things for us.
The use of tongues in a corporate context may seem odd at first – why does God speak unintelligibly through one and then give the words clearly to another (verse 10)? Why doesn’t he cut out the middle-man/woman? It would save time! I think that this is more about spreading responsibility. One speaker speaks in tongues, and the one who is given the interpretation cannot speak unless the first has spoken – effectively two witnesses. One without the other would be suspect.
We can spend far too long on these minor (my description) gifts and miss out completely on the ones that bring Christ to each other and to the world – wisdom, truth, miracles, healing. We can only present Christ to the world if we do not live and operate as his body. We have to meet together and exercise the gifts we have been given, so that we may use them with faith and confidence when we are out in the world.
It does not matter whether our particular Church fellowship is small or large. We are ‘The Church in the Neighbourhood’, the means to present Christ Jesus to the people around us, and if we are but a small handful of members, then what joy it is to know that will we will be multi-gifted! Christ Jesus does not scale down his operations if the church is small – we just get more kit each.
Paul describes the different ways in which the Holy Spirit may empower us. You and I are known to the Holy Spirit, and we have been given gifts and enablings for growing together and growing in number. The majority of the gifts described above may seem to be for “internal use” in worship, gifts that enhance our worship and build us up as members. They do, however, have uses in our daily lives as well – it may be that they are lying dormant through ignorance or fear, but if the Church is to live under Christ as Head, then it is our task to continue the work of Jesus, in the way that Jesus worked.
How does your church fellowship prepare for mission?
Have you ever complained that you do not have the resources for mission and growth in your church fellowship?
Lord Jesus, you have provided my church fellowship with the kit and tools we need for the task you’ve assigned to us. God the Holy Spirit, we often place you away from our worship and our work as Church because we fail to acknowledge you fully, through fear, ignorance or pride. Teach us that “perfect love casts out all fear”, and enter into our life as church so that you may reveal Christ Jesus to us, and through him Father God. Inspire our worship and our mission. In Jesus’ name. Amen.