1 Corinthians 12:1–14 (read online ⧉)
You have probably read this passage many times, and probably heard a few sermons on it. You might have even delved into it during your investigations of your spiritual gifts. And we will get to that. However, there is a warning in these verses that we often miss.
“…you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols.” We often immediately dismiss this or skip over it partially because of its past tense language, and our belief that we are good to go. However, the Greek is in imperfect tense. In other words, Paul is really saying they were (past tense) and are now being enticed by the mute idols.
How could they still be being enticed? For so long, the pagan speaking in tongues with the interpreters controlled the culture. Habits are hard to break.
One of the other interesting things is about Jesus being cursed. There are a number of interpretations. One of the easiest is the Jewish tradition that a man who dies on a tree is cursed. Other commentators observe that the Greek though doesn’t have “is”. “Anathema” may also be interpreted as curses. In other words, these Christians were using Jesus’ name to curse others, and in the context of the verses that follow, the implication is that Christians were using Jesus to curse…Christians.
This sounds appalling, doesn’t it? There were definitely some not good things going on in Corinth!
We miss so much being separated in time, space, and culture from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Divisions had been built up. Instead of supporting and bolstering one another, they were daring to curse one another in Jesus’ name. In the name of the one who came to break the chains, they sought to bind others.
The Body of Christ is not to be divided. The spiritual things (often called the Gifts of the Spirit) are for the Body, not for the individual. While Paul addresses these, in our context we need to look at the purpose of these gifts and look at the opening of this group of verses.
The deceit of the pagan world is the so-called mute idols that the “empowered” and “enlightened” share with those with the appropriate monetary compensation. We are so advanced over the benighted Corinthians…the stock market, houses, stuff, buildings, collections, knowledge, and even data. We have our own voiceless idols. Just like in the day of the Corinthians, the “wise” put a voice to the mute.
Sadly, we have also seen false gifts of the spirit used. The false idols and their followers can seem to be full of the gifts of the spirit, which ties onto Paul’s point because these “gifts” are used to divide, rather than unite. This is an indicator of the source of the “spirit” used.
On the other hand, we have many brothers and sisters in Christ that are truly mute. We have others that are hurting. We have others who are angry. We have others that are so lost in the current disarray. The gifts and graces that we have been granted by the Holy Spirit are intended to build up one another, encourage one another, and unite us together.
Lord, we see the world divided around us, and even division in your body. Help us to be unifiers, so that your body is one, and so that the world may be one. Amen.
2) If you are aware of your gift or grace, how have you used it to build up the body and unite it?
3) Other than unity, what are other signs that a “gift” or “grace” is of a worldly “spirit” or of the Holy Spirit?