Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Gift-based Ministry is Trinitarian

KEY TEXT: 1 Cor 12:4-6 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. (NET)

KEY THOT: The entire Godhead is participating in every work of God: “different gifts (charismata) but the same Spirit…different ministries (diakonia) but the same Lord…different results (energemata) but the same God.” If we drill down to each spiritual gift associated with each member of the Trinity, we realize that all varieties of spiritual gift are necessary as they work in tandem to produce the “works of God”. The Spirit endows us with supernatural provisions, the Son sets up the spiritual processes, and the Father decides on the final products.

The first endowment associated with the Spirit is charismata (literally, grace-gifts): these spiritual endowments are listed from verses 7-11. They are called “manifestation of the Spirit” and are spontaneous and situational, an empowerment of the Spirit for a specific occasion and need. For example in Acts 3:1-6 Peter and John were on the way to the temple for prayer when they met this lame man who asked for alms. Instead of giving alms, Peter felt a spontaneous inspiration of the Spirit to respond differently and so he said: "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" The charisma of healing (1 Cor. 12:9) was manifested at that moment and the lame man was healed.

The second endowment associated with the risen Lord is diakonia (literally, ministry-gift): examples of these spiritual endowments are listed in Eph. 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). Unlike charismata which are more spontaneous and situational, ministry-gifts are more or less permanent ministries and roles within the body of Christ. The Lord has given some gifted persons to the church to serve the church in any of the five-fold ministries to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry (diakonia)” (Eph. 4:12). Like different branches in the military (infantry, artillery, suport, logistics etc), each branch has a specific work to contribute. The branches of the military are like ministries-roles. Nevertheless every soldier in any branch is trained to use the basic weaponry like the rifle and hand-grenades. These weapons are used situationally when an enemy appears—they are like charismata. Even medics and cooks have to learn to use the rifle and grenades. So, the Lord appoints us to different diakonia roles in the Body but the Spirit empowers us with the appropriate charismata to respond to specific situation. 

For example, a pastor may be asked to pray for a sick person, and the gift of healing may be spontaneously given. Or a Sunday School teacher may counsel a student with deep problem and the gift of discernment reveals that the student's problem has a demonic root and needs deliverance (gift of faith). In other words, the charismata work in unity with the diakonia to accomplish the final gift (energemata)—the outcomes or results.

The final spiritual endowment energemata is associated with God himself. It is variously translated as “results” (NET), “activities” (ESV), “working” (NIV), and “effects” (NASB). While we may serve faithfully in our ministry-gift (diakonia) empowered by manifestation-gift (charismata), but the outcomes or results (energemata) are God’s—they are gifts of God. In other words, we don’t determine the outcomes in any ministry—it is God who does. So Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6). 

A comparison between the manufacturing process and ministry process might help put all three gifts together:
  • charismata (provisions-imparted by the Spirit) + diakonia (processes-set up by the Son) => energemata (products-determined by the Father)
From start to finish, our ministry must involve the gifts of all members of the Trinity. We cannot ignore any gifts of any member of the Godhead—we do so at our own disadvantage. When we ignore the gifts of the Spirit, we are like the army cooks who refuse to carry his arms because he says “I only cook, I don’t fight”. But when the enemy soldier appears at the field kitchen, the cook would be helpless.

Father, I praise You that the Triune God is involved in my ministry from start to finish--and they are all gifts of grace from You. Thank You that our ministries are entirely Your works of grace and we are grateful to be channels. Amen.

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