Concerning Spiritual Gifts: A Study Of I Corinthians 12 -- By: Thomas A. Jackson

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:1 (Fall 1989)
Article: Concerning Spiritual Gifts: A Study Of I Corinthians 12
Author: Thomas A. Jackson


Concerning Spiritual Gifts:
A Study Of I Corinthians 12

Thomas A. Jackson

Pastor, Wake Forest Baptist Church
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Wherever the Spirit of God is breathing new life into the church, the priesthood of believers is being rediscovered. So, too, is the spiritual giftedness of that priesthood, because a heightened awareness of either of these leads inevitably to the others.1 Four passages in the New Testament speak to the subject of spiritual gifts: Rom. 12:3–4, Eph. 4:1–18, I Peter 4:7–11, and I Cor. 12–14. The Corinthian passage is particularly important since it presents the earliest and most extensive treatment of the issue. This article will focus on chapter 12 and will draw upon the related chapters whenever they contribute to the study.

In I Cor. 12 Paul appears to be answering a question which he has been asked concerning spiritual gifts. This is indicated by the introductory formula, “concerning” (peri de), since the same formula introduces his replies to other questions (cf. 7:1, 8:1, 16:1). The chapter represents the first part of a three-part answer which concludes at 14:40. The continuity is clearly discernible even though the connection between chapters 12 and 13 seems artificial. Discernible also in these chapters is a typically Pauline rhetorical pattern which can be represented as a/b/a. After introducing spiritual gifts from a broad theological perspective in chapter 12 (a), he shifts to an excursus on love (b), then returns to spiritual gifts, focusing specifically on the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues.2

Paul’s emphasis in chapter 12 on the diversity of gifts suggests that he is addressing a situation in which spiritual diversity is not respected. Apparently some members of the Corinthian congregation possess a gift which they, and/or others, value above others. In exercising their gift, they are contributing to the church’s discord. Paul’s commendation of love as superior to all other gifts, starting with tongues, as well as...

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