Formations 05.20.2018: The Common Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:1-12

The Rainbow” by Nikolay Dubovskoy.

A few weeks back, driving home from work, the truck in front of me kicked up rainbows from the leftover rainwater. I’d seen rainbows cast by sprinklers over St. Augustine but never by tires against asphalt. Then we crossed the first hill, my angle of view changed, and the rainbows disappeared.

I’m often aware of the transience in rainbows. I remember the prisms from third-grade science class. I see the illusion when atmospheric water refracts and reflects sunlight.

Farther down the road, descending the last hill into my neighborhood, another rainbow set firm against gray skies. And it just was. Meanwhile, cars passed through it between the overpass and the gas station. But by St. Paul’s on the corner closest to the gas station, it jumped to somewhere behind the hospital.

Paul, writing about the gifts of the Spirit, reminds me that this rainbow, like all others, comes from nothing more than light and a means of refraction. It is the same with the Spirit. It might show up in all kinds of ways, in speeches of wisdom and knowledge, in faith and healing, in miracles and prophecy, and in discernment, even tongues (vv. 8-10). But all these services come from God.

At a moment when some of these showings were dismissed and others were celebrated, Paul confessed the church’s faith in one Giver. With them, we might celebrate that it is a common source that drips from baptismal robes, sticks to work shirts, and boils rice for poppyseed chicken.

Discussion

• How do your neighbors bear God’s spirit for your community?
• How are these gifts unique? How are they shared?
• What kinds of gifts do we tend to celebrate in our faith community? What kinds of gifts do we tend to forget?
• How might we grow to celebrate all gifts of the Spirit more fully?

Reference Shelf

Service, Work, and Gifts

In chapters 12–14, Paul addresses the matter of “spiritual things” (pneumatikōn). For the most part, however, he rarely refers to what is “spiritual” in this section (only in 14:1, 37), though his discussion is clearly focused on the Spirit (pneuma). Rather than refer to manifestations of the Spirit as pneumatika, he calls them “services” (diakonia), “workings” (energēmata), and especially “gifts” (charismata). Whereas referring to such manifestations as “spiritual things” may place the emphasis on the possessor of those manifestations, his preference for “gifts” places the emphasis properly on the Spirit as the source. Furthermore, his abundant use of words related to “knowing” (e.g. oida, ginōskō, gnōrizō, epiginōskō, and agnoeō) seems to be aimed at challenging what some of the Corinthians think they know about “spiritual things.”

The section follows a pattern we have observed elsewhere in 1 Corinthians (chs. 8–10; 11:17–12:1) in which Paul inserts what appears on the surface to be a digression of sorts into his main argument. In his discussion of eating food offered to idols, chapter 9 gives a lengthy example of Paul’s own practice of giving up his apostolic rights in order to help others. While some interpreters misread this as a detour into an unrelated topic, namely a defense of his apostleship, it is apparent that this section informs the whole of his argument. Likewise, in 11:17–12:1, the central section (11:23-26), in which he recites the tradition about the Lord’s Supper, provides the basis of his resolution of the problem. Here in chapters 12–14, the central section (ch. 13) does not mark a temporary aside to discuss the merits of love but rather represents the model that should guide the exercise of “spiritual things” in the church.

Robert Scott Nash, 1 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009), 355.

Spirit, Water, and Fellowship

To begin life in the fellowship of Christ entails entering into the fellowship of those who belong to him. That was made plain on the day of Pentecost, when Jewish believers owned Jesus as God’s Christ; they stepped out of the ranks of the Christ-rejecters and joined the company of those who owned him as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:41). The same point is made by Paul in 1 Cor 12:12-13 and Gal 3:27-28: to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into his body, the church. These two passages further show that apostolic Christianity did not separate conversion-baptism (i.e., baptism in water) from baptism in the Spirit, as though they related to two different stages in the Christian life. Baptism sets forth alike God’s turning to us in his saving action in Christ and the believer’s turning to God in faith in Christ. Accordingly Peter could affirm that the primary element in baptism is not water, but the “appeal (or confession) to God for a clear conscience” and “the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). Here baptism is the scene of a believer addressing God and Jesus present in risen power, a kind of trysting place of God and penitent man. This powerful symbolism and both elements of it should be retained.

G. R. Beasley-Murray, “Baptism,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 85–86.

William Scruggs is a graduate of Mercer University. His favorite pastimes are adding music to his listening list, TV shows to his viewing list, and books to his reading list. When he isn’t pretending to check items off these lists, he spends time with friends and plays music. He is excited for the opportunity to continue exploring the rivers of Middle Georgia and to stay in Macon as an associate editor at Smyth & Helwys.

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For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

William Scruggs is a graduate of Mercer University. His favorite pastimes are adding music to his listening list, TV shows to his viewing list, and books to his reading list. When he isn’t pretending to check items off these lists, he spends time with friends and plays music. He is excited for the opportunity to continue exploring the rivers of Middle Georgia and to stay in Macon as an associate editor at Smyth & Helwys.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson. To purchase the volume quoted in today’s Reference Shelf, please click Here.

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