What does it say?
This section of three chapters focuses on spiritual gifts. Chapter 12 deals with the diversity of spiritual gifts and functions within the body of Christ and how each member in particular works together in the assembly of believers. No one is more or less important than another and we all have need of each other.
Chapter 13 is one of the most eloquent chapters in the Bible, and some would say in all literature. Paul celebrates the superiority and completeness of God’s love.
In chapter 14 Paul deals specifically with the gift of tongues and interpretation and the misunderstanding and misuse of these gifts in the Corinthian church.
What does it mean?
In first century Corinth the prevailing paganism includes all sorts of religious ecstasy and trances. It is easy for those coming out of such a background to confuse what they are hearing about spiritual gifts with the religious atmosphere out of which they have come. Chapter 12 gives a biblical perspective of spiritual gifts. This is not intended to be a complete catalogue of all spiritual gifts nor a complete definition of each, but rather to show how God uses every individual in the body of Christ working together as one, regardless of any individual’s gifts, abilities, training or skills.
The great love chapter (13) points to the purpose of spiritual gifts and the body of Christ – we are the visible expression today of God’s love. Rather than debate over who has what gift or which is better, we should focus on reflecting and living God’s love.
Ecstatic utterances and trances were so prevalent in pagan religion that Paul uses chapter 14 to correct abuses and misunderstandings in Corinth. Again, his purpose is not to lay out a definitive definition, structure and methodology for gifts in general or tongues and interpretation in particular, but to teach that gifts are only tools to assist in worship and giving glory to God.
How will I respond?
Rather than try to figure out which gift or gifts I might have, how am I investing the gifts, abilities and training that I’m certain I have in order to glorify God? Is there a skill or gifting I possess that I’m not using in the body of Christ? What step will I take this week to engage more fully in the body of Christ?