1 Corinthians 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
This is one instance where I feel the Japanese really loses the flavor of what Paul said. In Japanese it says, “I want you to know the following things about spiritual gifts.” To me, the English word, ignorant, carries a much stronger feeling. We have a proverb in English, “Ignorance is bliss,” but Paul is saying that’s not the case. The majority of the Church was indeed ignorant of spiritual gifts for a long period, until God did a mighty work around the turn of the 20th Century. There were excesses, certainly, in the early Pentecostal Movement, but the biggest thing the “mainline churches” had against all of that was the dual issue of pride and control. “What do you mean, that we’re ignorant and you have something we don’t? That’s an insult!” The only issue of human control when it comes to spiritual gifts is whether we will receive and exercise them. Paul tells us to “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, and especially the gift of prophecy,” (1 Corinthians 14:1) and he also tells us that “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.” (1 Corinthians 14:22) When we try to control the content of a spiritual gift, it immediately stops being genuine and becomes a fleshly, or even demonic, deception. Ignorance can be very dangerous indeed! As Paul stresses throughout this chapter and elsewhere, there is great variety in the work of the Holy Spirit, and each individual tends to respond a little differently on top of that. God loves unity, but not monotony! We need to press into Him to learn more and receive more of Him, but not think it’s going to be exactly the same as for someone else, whether we admire that other person or not.
I was introduced to the whole topic of spiritual gifts in 1973, and I have been learning ever since. At this point I feel my biggest issue is in failing to exercise the manifestation gifts that are mentioned in this chapter, and thus failing to encourage the believers in my care to seek and exercise what the Lord has for them. I honestly don’t know why things are as they are. I do exercise the gift of tongues frequently, but always in private. In the past I have been used fairly powerfully in prophecy, but I hardly ever prophesy overtly in this church. I’m concerned that is because I fear people and their reaction, knowing that “Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Mark 6:4) That’s no excuse not to speak out what God is saying! I feel that God does give me words of wisdom and of knowledge from time to time, and I certainly seek to preach prophetically every time I stand to do so, but that’s not the same as allowing God to address specific issues for specific people through me. Actually, I might be more prophetic than I realize, now that I think about it. I’m not to dictate how God speaks through me, but I am to strive to be available to Him at all times for whatever He wants to say or do, to build up the Body of Christ and draw people to Him, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and this encouragement. Help me leave control in Your hands, and be the steward that You want me to be of all that You pour into and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!