1 Corinthians 12.1–12 The gifts of the Spirit (25 February 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Frogs

1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the king and tell him that the LORD says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me. 2If you refuse, I will punish your country by covering it with frogs. 3The Nile will be so full of frogs that they will leave it and go into your palace, your bedroom, your bed, the houses of your officials and your people, and even into your ovens and baking pans. 4They will jump up on you, your people, and all your officials.’ ”

5The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron to hold out his stick over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up and cover the land of Egypt.” 6So Aaron held it out over all the water, and the frogs came out and covered the land. 7But the magicians used magic, and they too made frogs come up on the land.

8The king called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take away these frogs, and I will let your people go, so that they can offer sacrifices to the LORD.”

9Moses replied, “I will be glad to pray for you. Just set the time when I am to pray for you, your officers, and your people. Then you will be rid of the frogs, and there will be none left except in the Nile.”

10The king answered, “Pray for me tomorrow.”

Moses said, “I will do as you ask, and then you will know that there is no other god like the LORD, our God. 11You, your officials, and your people will be rid of the frogs, and there will be none left except in the Nile.” 12Then Moses and Aaron left the king, and Moses prayed to the LORD to take away the frogs which he had brought on the king. 13The LORD did as Moses asked, and the frogs in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields died. 14The Egyptians piled them up in great heaps, until the land stank with them. 15When the king saw that the frogs were dead, he became stubborn again and, just as the LORD had said, the king would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

Gnats

16The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron to strike the ground with his stick, and all over the land of Egypt the dust will change into gnats.” 17So Aaron struck the ground with his stick, and all the dust in Egypt was turned into gnats, which covered the people and the animals. 18The magicians tried to use their magic to make gnats appear, but they failed. There were gnats everywhere, 19and the magicians said to the king, “God has done this!” But the king was stubborn and, just as the LORD had said, the king would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

Flies

20The LORD said to Moses, “Early tomorrow morning go and meet the king as he goes to the river, and tell him that the LORD says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me. 21I warn you that if you refuse, I will punish you by sending flies on you, your officials, and your people. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and the ground will be covered with them. 22But I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live, so that there will be no flies there. I will do this so that you will know that I, the LORD, am at work in this land. 23I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miracle will take place tomorrow.’ ” 24The LORD sent great swarms of flies into the king's palace and the houses of his officials. The whole land of Egypt was brought to ruin by the flies.

25Then the king called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Go and offer sacrifices to your God here in this country.”

26“It would not be right to do that,” Moses answered, “because the Egyptians would be offended by our sacrificing the animals that we offer to the LORD our God. If we use these animals and offend the Egyptians by sacrificing them where they can see us, they will stone us to death. 27We must travel three days into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, just as he commanded us.”

28The king said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD, your God, in the desert, if you do not go very far. Pray for me.”

29Moses answered, “As soon as I leave, I will pray to the LORD that tomorrow the flies will leave you, your officials, and your people. But you must not deceive us again and prevent the people from going to sacrifice to the LORD.”

30Moses left the king and prayed to the LORD, 31and the LORD did as Moses asked. The flies left the king, his officials, and his people; not one fly remained. 32But even this time the king became stubborn, and again he would not let the people go.

Jesus' Teaching on Prayer

1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:

‘Father:

May your holy name be honoured;

may your Kingdom come.

3Give us day by day the food we need.

4Forgive us our sins,

for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.

And do not bring us to hard testing.’ ”

5And Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend's house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. 6A friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to my house, and I haven't got any food for him!’ 7And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.’ 8Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.

9“And so I say to you: ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10For all those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13Bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Jesus and Beelzebul

14Jesus was driving out a demon that could not talk; and when the demon went out, the man began to talk. The crowds were amazed, 15but some of the people said, “It is Beelzebul, the chief of the demons, who gives him the power to drive them out.”

16Others wanted to trap Jesus, so they asked him to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him. 17But Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long; a family divided against itself falls apart. 18So if Satan's kingdom has groups fighting each other, how can it last? You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. 19If this is how I drive them out, how do your followers drive them out? Your own followers prove that you are wrong! 20No, it is rather by means of God's power that I drive out demons, and this proves that the Kingdom of God has already come to you.

21“When a strong man, with all his weapons ready, guards his own house, all his belongings are safe. 22But when a stronger man attacks him and defeats him, he carries away all the weapons the owner was depending on and divides up what he stole.

23“Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering.

The Return of the Evil Spirit

24“When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can't find one, it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ 25So it goes back and finds the house clean and tidy. 26Then it goes out and brings seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in a worse state than he was at the beginning.”

True Happiness

27When Jesus had said this, a woman spoke up from the crowd and said to him, “How happy is the woman who bore you and nursed you!”

28But Jesus answered, “Rather, how happy are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

The Demand for a Miracle

29As the people crowded round Jesus, he went on to say, “How evil are the people of this day! They ask for a miracle, but none will be given them except the miracle of Jonah. 30In the same way that the prophet Jonah was a sign for the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign for the people of this day. 31On Judgement Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse the people of today, because she travelled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I tell you there is something here greater than Solomon. 32On Judgement Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Jonah!

The Light of the Body

33“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl; instead, he puts it on the lampstand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.”

Jesus Accuses the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law

37When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and sat down to eat. 38The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus had not washed before eating. 39So the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of your cup and plate, but inside you are full of violence and evil. 40Fools! Did not God, who made the outside, also make the inside? 41But give what is in your cups and plates to the poor, and everything will be ritually clean for you.

42“How terrible for you Pharisees! You give God a tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint and rue and all the other herbs, but you neglect justice and love for God. These you should practise, without neglecting the others.

43“How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the reserved seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market places. 44How terrible for you! You are like unmarked graves which people walk on without knowing it.”

45One of the teachers of the Law said to him, “Teacher, when you say this, you insult us too!”

46Jesus answered, “How terrible also for you teachers of the Law! You put loads on people's backs which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads. 47How terrible for you! You make fine tombs for the prophets — the very prophets your ancestors murdered. 48You yourselves admit, then, that you approve of what your ancestors did; they murdered the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49For this reason the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and messengers; they will kill some of them and persecute others.’ 50So the people of this time will be punished for the murder of all the prophets killed since the creation of the world, 51from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the Holy Place. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will be punished for them all!

52“How terrible for you teachers of the Law! You have kept the key that opens the door to the house of knowledge; you yourselves will not go in, and you stop those who are trying to go in!”

53When Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to criticize him bitterly and ask him questions about many things, 54trying to lay traps for him and catch him saying something wrong.

Bildad

1-2God is powerful; all must stand in awe of him;

he keeps his heavenly kingdom in peace.

3Can anyone count the angels who serve him?

Is there any place where God's light does not shine?

4Can anyone be righteous or pure in God's sight?

5In his eyes even the moon is not bright,

nor the stars pure.

6Then what about a human being, that worm, that insect?

What is a human life worth in God's eyes?

Job

1-2What a fine help you are to me —

poor, weak man that I am!

3You give such good advice

and share your knowledge with a fool like me!

4Who do you think will hear all your words?

Who inspired you to speak like this?

[Bildad]

5The spirits of the dead tremble

in the waters under the earth.

6The world of the dead lies open to God;

no covering shields it from his sight.

7God stretched out the northern sky

and hung the earth in empty space.

8It is God who fills the clouds with water

and keeps them from bursting with the weight.

9He hides the full moon behind a cloud.

10He divided light from darkness

by a circle drawn on the face of the sea.

11When he threatens the pillars that hold up the sky,

they shake and tremble with fear.

12It is his strength that conquered the sea;

by his skill he destroyed the monster Rahab.

13It is his breath that made the sky clear,

and his hand that killed the escaping monster.

14But these are only hints of his power,

only the whispers that we have heard.

Who can know how truly great God is?

Gifts from the Holy Spirit

1Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit.

I want you to know the truth about them, my brothers and sisters. 2You know that while you were still heathen, you were led astray in many ways to the worship of lifeless idols. 3I want you to know that no one who is led by God's Spirit can say “A curse on Jesus!” and no one can confess “Jesus is Lord”, without being guided by the Holy Spirit.

4There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 8The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. 9One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. 10The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God's message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. 11But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.

One Body with Many Parts

12Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.

14For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. 15If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. 17If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? 18As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19There would not be a body if it were all only one part! 20As it is, there are many parts but one body.

21So then, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “Well, I don't need you!” 22On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; 23and those parts that we think aren't worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don't look very nice are treated with special modesty, 24which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honour to those parts that need it. 25And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.

27All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it. 28In the church God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perform miracles, followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues. 29They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles 30or to heal diseases or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said. 31Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts.

Best of all, however, is the following way.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: 1 Corinthians 12

Sometimes Paul writes very dense theology that we puzzle over and decide is too hard for us. At other times, like this, he is luminously clear. The Spirit gives us all different gifts, he says. Underlying his teaching to the Corinthian church is the idea that we shouldn't expect to have someone else's gift and ought to be satisfied with our own. What matters is that everyone's gifts contribute to building up the whole church.

There's reassurance here, and a challenge. The reassurance appears to chime with a lot of modern messaging that focuses on individual fulfilment, feeling good about ourselves because we have unique things to offer to the world. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, and Paul's message that 'The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person' (verse 7) is comforting to all of us: no one is worthless, and we all have something special about us because God's Spirit lives within each of us.

The challenge, though, is because this isn't just about self-fulfilment. Our gifts are given to us for the sake of other people – 'for the good of all' as verse 7 concludes. This is a sharp reality check. Our gifts are not for our own enjoyment or profit, but for the benefit of everyone. Our church community is not somewhere where we try to dominate others, or compete for attention; it's where we humbly give what we have been given.

Pray

Pray

God, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Thank you that I am unique, and that you made me for your glory. Help me to use my gifts to build up others, rather than seeking to shine for my own advantage.

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