This is the first of Five Alive: a series of short articles on five of Paul’s key points on the who, how and why of the Gifts of the Spirit in his first letter to the Corinthians. I’m calling them
1. Not Lacking
2. To Each
3. The Importance of Being Earnest
4. Church Building
5. A More Excellent Way
Not lackingWe begin in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which looks to me like his commentary and operating manual based on the events at Pentecost in Acts 2 and how the Holy Spirit filled the church afterwards. In particular, in the seventh verse of the first chapter, this:
you are not lacking in any gift.If any gift is not lacking, that means it must be present, plentiful and perfect. The church must be full of them.
The NameNot lacking in any gift comes from the grace of God that was given us in Jesus (1 Cor 1.4). Paul uses Jesus' name five times before verse seven and five more times after. Christ, his title, is used seventeen times. Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit and his Gifts do not exist just for wild eyed charismatic fun. They have another vital abundant life giving purpose which is all about Jesus.
The setting of Paul's Holy Spirit inspired declaration, "you are not lacking in any gift," reminds me of that wonderful hymn to Jesus in verse six of St Patrick's Breastplate (812 in the Blue Hymnal):
We do not lack the Holy Spirit and his Gifts because Jesus sent him to us to bear witness about him (John 15.26), to remind us of all that he said (John 14.26) and that he is all around, enveloping us with the Father's love, always.
AlwaysJust as Paul always gave thanks to God for the Corinthian disciples (1 Cor 1.4), God's promises always find their Yes in Jesus (2 Cor 1.20) and in Him
always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2Cor 2.14)The Gifts we are not lacking and which you and I need are available always.
Lacking NotI believe this is literally true. Although no individual (other than Jesus) has them all, worshipping Christian communities do, if only in a latent waiting-to-be-released state. All the gifts are available. There are three kinds.
The Motivational Gifts (Romans 12:6-8)
The Manifestation Gifts (1 Cor 12:7-10)
The Equipping Gifts (Eph 4:11-13)
How many of those have you seen operating in your parish? Are you aware of any active in your own life? Notice the gifts that occur in more than one list. The only one which appears in all three is prophecy. Paul calls us to earnestly the desire the gifts, especially that we may prophecy (1 Cor 14.1). I don’t hear much about it these days. Sadly, the word of the Lord seems to be as rare now as it was in Samuel’s boyhood (1 Sam 3.1). But it’s out there. Prophecy is practiced decently and in order to strengthen, encourage and comfort at most ARM events. So are various kinds of tongues if you listen carefully. Words of knowledge and wisdom are common. There is good teaching and encouragement.
There is usually some asking, seeking, knocking, identifying and discerning needed to find out how the Father has chosen to distribute them (1 Cor 12.11) among the people we meet, but lacking they are not. There’s nothing we enjoy more than helping ordinary Anglicans discover and unwrap the Father’s promised Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The PromiseJust before he ascended into heaven Jesus said to his disciples,
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24.49)The promise of his Father is the Holy Spirit, the Helper. That promise continues to find it's Yes in Jesus without fail. We wear power suits from on high. There is no lack.
ARM Canada offers a comprehensive survey of the Gifts of the Spirit in it’s Discovering Your Gifts day. If you would like to explore the possibility of having such a day in your parish, deanery or diocese email our office by following the link here.