January 14, 2018: Epiphany 2

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join in thanking You for Your many gifts to us.  We also ask You to empower us to use our spiritual gifts to the utmost in building up each other and thereby Your holy kingdom.  Amen


TEXT:  I Cor. 1: 1-9

Dearly Beloved By Christ:  

Since we all live in Massachusetts and many of us have driver’s licenses, I think everyone is aware of the infamous: gift that keeps on giving.  That is, if you ever get pulled over and get a ticket, it’s called a: moving violation.  This goes on your record and the insurance company can then levy a surcharge on your policy.  This increase in premiums continues for 7 years until it goes away.  Hence the name: the gift that keeps on giving!

As Christians we have been given various “gifts that keep on giving” by God.  They are not negative, but totally positive.  They don’t cost us money, but do involve time, commitment, and energy on our part.  These gifts are spiritual.  They are earthly tools God uses, through us, to build up His kingdom.  Since St. Paul mentions them in today’s lesson, it is good for us to review them and our usage of them.  


Most of us are aware of the “fruits of the Spirit.”  Elsewhere Paul enumerates them: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”  These are outgrowths, fruits, of the Spirit’s indwelling in all of us.  Since they belong to our sanctification, they are imperfect in us, too.  That is, we don’t always bear such fruits as often or as much as we should because our sinful nature curbs these holy impulses.  

However, the “gifts of the Spirit” ARE perfect.  Everything from Him is.  And every single Christian congregation, including this one in Corinth, is given and possesses these gifts.  Here Paul says: “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”

So, what exactly are these “spiritual gifts?”  Again, Paul enumerates some of them later in I Cor. 12: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit….To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gift of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”


One of the great joys in the public ministry is recognizing these gifts among your people.  Then, the challenge is to get those people to value their Godly gift(s) and use them wisely.  On a practical basis, this is perhaps the greatest challenge for any pastor.

So, do you have at least one gift?  Yes!  Do you recognize your Spirit-given ability?  If so, are you willing to use it, or do you keep it hidden?  Likewise, do you recognize such gifts in other Christians and encourage them to use theirs?  Do you value their gift when employed and take what they say and do to heart?  These are serious questions for all of us.

Wisdom, or the ability to put everyday stuff into proper perspective and not let little things overwhelm you, that’s a huge gift.  Some people give better advice than others.  Recognize that fact when fellow Christians speak to you about your sins and your life.

Knowledge, or being able to take a broad spectrum of factual truths and lay them all out in a concise way, is also a fabulous gift.  I’ve known people who knew all sorts of factoids from the Bible, but they were unable to get them across to another and make them real to them.  When you discover someone who can, value them and pay attention.  Your soul will benefit.

The “faith” mentioned here by Paul is not the same thing as basic trust in God’s love that all of us have.  No, the faith here is an unswerving confidence that whatever God says to us in the Bible is totally true, even if our senses say otherwise.  Churches need people with such faith.  They are the human “rocks” which we rely on during the week when worldly stresses get the better of us.  They are the ones giving us good cheer and bucking us up when cancer is diagnosed or an untimely death or loss occurs.

Paul mentions “gifts of healing.”  Some people, by God’s grace, have the ability to calm a troubled soul.  Others have the ability to heal both spiritual and physical ailments with Godly insight and love.  If and when you meet such a person value them and never, ever discount their help.

What about “miraculous powers?”  Certainly much of that occurred during the early years of the church.  Much of it has died out because it wasn’t needed after the church got up and running.  That’s why we don’t see Christians raising others from the dead like St. Peter did (Dorcas).  But miracles, or stupendous things beyond our understanding, still occur.  Since such miracles always were accompanied by prayer in ancient times, perhaps we all need to pray more and then we’d see more miracles, too…..

Prophecy is the ability to see the future.  Paul says in this life “we see through the glass darkly” in that our sins obscure our spiritual vision.  But some folks are much more insightful than others and can give us a pretty good outline of things that will occur if we go down certain roads.  So, pay attention to each other and weigh what others tell you.

Distinguishing between spirits is vital for God’s church.  Satan is alive and well.  His dark allies seek to lead us astray and destroy our faith and good cheer.  Some people are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in that they appear holy and pious but their hearts are dark.  There are Christians who can see through such facades.  My mother had this gift and it took many years for me to value it, but I’m glad I did.  

The gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues is also touched on by Paul.  Without going into great detail, it means: understandable languages.  People communicate through languages.  If you cannot understand what someone is saying, what good is it?  In a multicultural setting such as Corinth, this ability to convey truth in one’s native language and then translate their response was vital.  The same is true today.  Whenever I read this particular passage my sainted Prof. Honsey comes to mind.  He could speak over 20 foreign languages and translate even more!  He reached countless souls with the Good News of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection on the cross for us because he possessed this gift more than anyone I’ve ever known.  


Paul’s last words on this subject from I Cor. 12 are very important.  “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”  That means that each and every one of you has at least one of these spiritual gifts.  Our wise God hasn’t left you defenseless.  His power and strength, His truth that: “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son,”—to us! That truth resides in all of us.  It is the foundation of our faith.  But, he has also given each of us the spiritual gifts listed previously which when used in harmony are a powerful antidote to Satan’s scheming.  

So, the question today for all of you is this: What gifts do you have and what are you doing with them?  How much are you paying attention and valuing the gifts of your fellow believers?  Do you view yourself as a believer on an island, or as a bee in a hive, one among the busy collective?  The former viewpoint is very, very lonely.  The latter is very, very  energizing…..Amen