God loves his church. Well that’s an understatement if ever there was one.
But lately I’ve had the chance to see that afresh in 1 Corinthians. We’ve been going through it over the course of the last year in our Growth Groups at church. We do this because we believe the Bible is God’s word and so we want to hear him speak and change us, and just recently we’ve been looking at ch12-14. It’s a section infamous for provoking controversy about spiritual gifts. It also includes a passage that would have made Paul a billionaire if he’d just thought to copyright before the wedding industry got their mitts on it.
The Giving God gives to His church
But before this section is about gifts, it’s about God and his church. And in chapter 12, as Paul lays down the foundations for his pastoral panacea, he gives us a beautiful picture of our God at work, lavishly giving to his people.
‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’
(1 Corinthians, ch12, v4-7)
Straight-up it’s a simple point about unity despite variety. That phrase can be misused to dress up a mishmash of theological heterodoxy that’s actually got about as much unity as a joint Apple & Android staff team-building day. But in context here it captures the stunning and intentional variety of the one God lovingly manifesting himself in his people through various gifts.
Take your eyes off your ‘spiritual gift’
In fact, like the Corinthians, we get hung up on ‘gifts’, probably because, also like the Corinthians, we focus instinctively on the value we believe they give to us. ‘I’ve got a better gift than them!’; ‘How can I get my gift to be seen?’; ‘Why aren’t my gifts being recognised?’; ‘What can I do to let people see how gifted I am?’ (Questions of my heart no less, all the time forgetting of course that the word gift means… duh… gift.)
When my mindset is all about my gift it quickly descends into me treating some gifts as more spiritual. That seems to have been the Corinthian problem with tongues (see ch14).