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Paul seems to be addressing the next question which the Corinthians had for him (cf 7:1), but actually the main theme of the letter continues here: healing the divisions in the church. As we already learned in chapters 1-4, the believers in the church in Corinth apparently made distinctions and elevated on pedestals ministers with particular kinds of gifts, especially the gift of oratory. In this chapter, Paul teaches that everyone has a role to play in the church, and no one is better than anyone else because of the special gift which they have.
First of all, he grounds his teaching in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Christians do not have different kinds of spirits, but the different gifts they have all come from one Spirit, the Spirit of God. This may seem obvious to you and me, but the Corinthians were more like the South East Asians among whom I live, who see different spiritual powers coming from different spirits or gods. Someone who believes in Jesus’ Lordship has the Spirit, who gives gifts as he chooses, for the building up of the church, which is the body of Jesus.
Paul lists a number of different gifts which are used for church’s profit: word-ministries (eg prophets, teachers, speaking in and interpreting tongues), healing and miracle ministries, apostleship, faith, administration, and helping. Although some of these clearly look more exciting than others and may elevate the gifted to a place of prominence, Paul states that all are needed and there is no place for division over who has what gift(s). The imagery is wonderful: how can any part of the body think it is more or less important than any other part? Everything works together to make a complete body. The church is – or should be! – the same. The parts suffer together, rejoice together, are mutually concerned for each other. And this is regardless of gifting, ethnicity, or social status; we were all given drink from one Spirit.
It cannot be denied that some roles in the church are simply more glamorous and apparently honorable than others. The one who leads worship, the one who preaches, s/he is up there and everyone is looking that direction. Healers and miracle workers may also get more attention. In contrast, the helpers and the administrators are less visible. But they are no less important for the functioning of the whole body, and we do well to honor them publicly from time to time. The important application is that there should be no division and the body’s members should have mutual concern for one another, not only for the obvious people who are known and loved by all, but for everyone in the church. Let us not be divided in any way, nor jealous, nor overlook the less obvious in our churches.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, and thank you for the gifts that he gives to your church. Thank you for the gift you have given to me. Help me to know it and use it for the building up of your body. Let us be mindful of everyone in our community; forgive us when we elevate some and forget others.