Daily Readings & Thought for August 30th. “… A STILL MORE EXCELLENT WAY”
We are told in several chapters in Acts, quite apart from the initial outpouring of the Spirit Gifts to the 12 disciples on the day of Pentecost, that the Spirit was given by the laying on of the Apostles hands (see 8 v.17) or the direct action of their unseen Lord (10 v.44) upon new believers
.Clearly the gifts were a significant factor in the spread of the Gospel message and the functioning of the growing community of believers. The converts would not have had access to any Bible – apart from believers who had been and maybe still were associated with a synagogue which possessed the scrolls of the ancient writings, but most of these would be of the Mosaic Law which was now superseded; frictions with unconverted Jews would probably hinder or prevent access in most if not all cases.
Today’s chapters (12 & 13) are the first of 3 chapters in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which we learn extensive details of the spirit gifts the Lord made available to the first generation or two of believers. Unfortunately, as seems to be always the case with human nature, there was some misuse of the gifts.
There is a misconception among some that the gift of the Spirit was only the ability to speak in other languages, but today we see how Paul writes, “To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowledge … to another faith … “ [12 v.7-9] It is the “Spirit” which “apportions to each one individually” [v.11]
What wonderful experiences – yet, such is human nature, our reading of the 3 chapters shows there were aspects of jealousy between the recipients. The ideal was that they should harmoniously team together looking to “the head” for Paul had written, “the head of every man is Christ” [11 v.3] – and the result should be a wonderful team spirit.
At the end of ch. 12 Paul tells them, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers …” &c [v.28] Then, after telling them to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (note that ‘tongues’ is listed last) he says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
His next words are (start of ch. 13) “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong …” There follows words describing what real “love” is, for “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” whereas the gifts were to “pass away.” [v.7,8] Let us fully follow the “more excellent way.”