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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Gifts’

Roaming around 1 Peter 4-7-11 for my lesson tomorrow, and I’m totally digging on 1 Peter 4:10:

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Christians are conduits by which the God’s grace is emitted from Himself and given to other Christians. It’s fascinating to me that God opts to use His children as a means of distribution rather than simply giving it directly, which of course He does as well. This is a unique function of the spiritual gifts, that they are a means of God’s grace coming to us. This is encouraging because it is a reminder that God is concerned with our quality of life.

The book of 1 Peter is clear that Christians will live an awkward

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Poltus, galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen…” (1 Peter 1:1)

if not painful life:

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if neccessary, you have been distressed by various trials,” (1 Peter 1:6)

and

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)

God is specially about the business of receiving glory in all things. One way He does that is through the workings of His people, the church. A chief end of the operation of the spiritual gifts is to accomplish this very thing (1 Peter 4:11). Specifically, the church points to Christ, and Christ points to the Father.. As an exercise of God’s glory, He reveals His character by loving and providing for His people.

Christians therefore are personal channels for the glory of God through His supernatural provision for His people. By us, Do you consider yourself a vessel for distributing God’s grace? Are you a storehouse of blessing for other believers? Do you serve knowing that the power of God is working through you? Do you speak with the endorsement and encouragement of God? This is not only possible, but a command, a stewardship to which we are responsible.

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Ever do a little people watching in public? Not the average Joes, but the ones that really stand out.¬† Mohawks, tattoos, piercings, message t-shirts,dyed hair whatever it might be. Go to your average high-school or ock concert and you probably think something like I do: everybody’s trying so hard to be individual that they’re all the same, even in their diversity.

What is the right way to be an individual?

As some of you know, I’ve been working my way through a Sunday School treatment of the spiritual gifts. It’s certainly rewarding and challenging so far. Some of the biggest challenges are coming. In light of those coming challenges I am thankful for small victories.

Being a teacher of God’s Word, one of the things I really relish is finding a way to get a large volume of truth into a short sentence. That requires me to wrap my mind around an idea such that I can boil it down and reduce it to its most basic elements without oversimplifying. This is to theology what a good outline is to exegesis; the outline of the passage should pop into place, fitting all of the data properly. And so it is with something I’ve been struggling to capture theologically.

I’ve been seeing how passages¬† like 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 all feature arguments that link the single source of the gifts to their diverse expressions. They are all meant to stress the source, showing His character through the compilation of the many individual parts. With the spiritual gifts, the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.

As I was studying Ephesians 4 this evening, I was meditating on v7:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one (J)hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (L)who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

At each turn in these book, Paul is careful to preserve the individuality of the believer. it is as though he is wary of painting with too broad a brush. That everything we do comes from God is important,says Paul, but not at the expense of individuality. And so we see that in Corinthians, Romans, and Ephesians a balance is struck between our unity of source and power and our diversity.

The vehicle for accomplishing this is the spiritual gifts. Through the gifts we have diversity, though the diversity itself speaks of the greater body, the body of Christ. So what value is individualism in Christianity. Honestly, not much. Christ did say in so many words that dying to self is the key to salvation (Matt 16:24, John 12:25). Yet Paul is careful not to destroy individuality completely.

In my mind in struggled to capture the resolution of this tension with simplicity. What I came up with is this:

With the gifts, individuality is checked by incompleteness. Like puzzle pieces, individuals are valuable only in their capacity to point to something greater. Diversity glorifies God only when the pieces are interlocking.

OK. Maybe I need to boil that down a bit. I think this is exciting, though. This helps me to explore and understand a Biblical model of my own individuality. We are all different from others, certainly, but our diversity must not serve to proclaim ourselves. Out individuality needs to point to our incompleteness. Our tastes and preferences should indicate the character of God. Our differences, especially through our spiritual gifts, should incline us to be together with other Christians. More than that, our unique qualities should empower us to edify them in love.

Praise God, the singular author of our salvation and the single reflection of our lives.

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I’ve just wrapped up my studies for the evening in Romans 12. It’s very interesting to see some argument over the meaning of the ‘measure of faith” in v3. It reminds me of my studies over the last few weeks in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I’m no seminary-trained pastor, but I’ve had my nose buried in my share of commentaries, and after these few years you begin to notice some things.

What really stood out to me in looking at 1 Corinthians is how most of us, including myself, brutalize chapters 12-14 by looking to them only for proof-texts of our pet theological issues and not in proper context. In particular, as I was preparing for chapter 14, it seemed like the dispensational commentators were more concerned with keeping the reader from becoming charismatic than with actually explaining the text.

It was certainly cause for me to look at how my own biases influence my approach. Over the years some of my viewpoints have changed. One example of this is how I define the “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. In my heart I was fearful that in capitulating to the view that “the perfect” could not refer to the completed canon of Scripture, I would be opening the door to the charismatic view of modern-day tongues. This is a terrible and even irresponsible way to approach Bible study and it is sure to undermine sound hermeneutics.

As my understanding of Scripture has (hopefully!) improved, I now see that ! Corinthians 13:10 is not the cornerstone of argumentation that I once thought. My view of modern-day tongues has evolved (i.e. show me known but unlearned languages and I’ll show you Biblical tongues). But in many other respects I find that it is of utmost importance to humble myself before Scripture and strive to leave my own agendas at the door.

I find 1 Corinthians 12-14 to be a wasteland for isogesis and contextual abuse. These chapters are about the expression of the doctrine of the cross in the corporate life of the church. Explained in philosophy, motivated by love, and realized in edification. That there is much to be learned about the miraculous gifts is sure, but it is subordinate to Paul’s explanation of how the message of the cross has impacted our daily life and weekly corporate worship.

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