Sunday 31 August 2014

"NOW CONCERNING SPIRITUAL GIFTS ...." Thoughts from Today's Bible readings - August 30


            We now come to a special part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, these are chapters 12 to 14, and the first two are for today and they start, “Now concerning spiritual gifts ….” And Paul seeks to put their understanding of these gifts into a godly perspective.  Paul first makes the point, “When you were pagans you were led astray…” [v.2] At that time they had experienced all kinds of trances and ecstasy, as can still be observed among some primitive peoples today, being seen as ‘gifts’ from their imagined gods.
Paul tells them that, as members of Christ, “there are varieties of gifts … and there are varieties of service, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” [v.4-6].  These are to be used “for the common good”.   [v.7] - not in competition.  These gentiles in Corinth had no Bible to read, and so “through the Spirit … one is given … the utterance of wisdom … another the utterance of knowledge …”  The gift of tongues is mentioned last – and Paul counsels them to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” [v.31] adding, “and I will show you a still more excellent way.”
This brings us to the marvellous exposition he gives on the value of love.  In ch. 13.  One can “have all faith … but have not love” then, says Paul, “I am nothing” [v.2,1]
 In ch. 12 Paul had made the point, which we might fail to stress, “”Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”  Collectively, together we make up “the body of Christ.”  For, says Paul, “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” [v.14]
Believers must team together as parts of Christ’s body of believers, using the individual abilities they have been given for the common good – above all, to display and practise the collective character of Christ.  In that way, our children who have not yet accepted Christ will be influenced – and of course, unbelievers - if they are seekers, will be attracted.  Head knowledge is essential, but is only half of “the body” – our hearts are the other half!   A body is “dead” if it has no heart:  Head and heart team together to produce faith    
The end of ch. 13 sums it all up, “So now faith, hope and love abide … but the greatest of these is love.”  To finish, let us meditate on that verse: in the kingdom age, hope will be fulfilled and turn into sight, so faith will not be needed.  The one thing that will “abide” is “love.”  That will be the all-embracing spirit of mind in that wondrous time, how vital we develop it now if we aim, by His grace, to be there.    
In 2 Kings 4 we have "shut door" repeated x4 times. We have the shut door upon the household that produced oil, and the shut door of the faithful household of the great woman of Shunem where resurrection was borne, a new life.

A shut door symbolises shutting out the world:
Gen 19:6,10
"And Lot went out (of his house) at the door unto them (of Sodom), and SHUT THE DOOR after him..."
"But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and SHUT TO THE DOOR..."

And we are reminded of Jesus' words:
Matthew 6:6
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast SHUT THY DOOR, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly"

Let our households be a place where the world is shut out, to give that environment where our minds can be given to God, where the oil of the word can be developed and make us wise unto salvation through faith. (2 Tim 3:15, John 5:24)

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