Read 1 Corinthians 12 at Bible Gateway.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 1 Cor 12:4-6
This chapter opens with Paul not wanting the church to be ignorant of that which is of the Spirit. “Spirit” is in Greek, Strong’s G4151, from the Hebrew root, Strong’s H7307, ruach, resh vav chet. The parent of this root is resh chet, from the ancient pictographs meaning the man outside the fence, or nomad. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon reveals that all of the words in this family, which have the resh chet as their root, have to do with following a prescribed path. A nomad, even though he dwells as a man outside, follows a prescribed path through the wilderness to care for his flocks, as well as through the seasons.
Other words related to this root are travel; path; the shovel used for winnowing (at the prescribed season of the year), caravan (which follows the same route from point a to point b); an allowance of food or a diet (what is prescribed for that person), millstone (the upper stone follows the same path along the lower stone), wind (which follows set patterns of currents) and the moon, which follows its prescribed path in its cycles and through its orbit.
The breath of a person also follows a prescribed path of inhaling then exhaling. The Spirit, then, is like the breath, or like the wind – you cannot see Him, where He comes from or where He goes (Joh 3:8), but you can see His effects, as He follows a prescribed path. That is what the Hebrew reveals to us that the Greek does not.
In explaining the things of the Spirit, in this chapter, Paul is describing to the Corinthian church, what the Spirit’s prescribed path is. We do not need to be deceived by false spirits or lying spirits or demonic spirits – because the Holy Spirit follows a prescribed path that allows us to identify Him.
The Spirit, then gives gifts, ministries, and activities to the Church in order to profit the Body. Gifts is in Greek, charisma, which is from the root Strong’s G5485, charis, meaning grace – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. The Hebrew root is Strong’s H2580, chen, chet nun. The ancient pictographs are of the fence and the seed. Chen, then, is the fence that continues; i.e., when the nomads encamped in a place, the families set up their tents so that all the tents formed a circle – a continuous fence. The tribal clan lived and worked within the circle, within the continuous fence. It was home. It was the place of family, of beauty, freedom, and mercy.
Ministries, in Greek, is Strong’s G1248, diakonia, or service – the work of those who execute the commands of another. The Greek is a combination of two words, meaning, raising dust by hastening. Isn’t that beautiful? The servant is about his master’s business, and is not slack about it either.
Activities, in Greek, is Strong’s G1755, energema, or a thing wrought. An activity of the Spirit results in a tangible effect as the result of putting forth power. I think we have made some artificial boundaries by saying that a miracle of healing is a gift of the Spirit, while a pastor who preaches a message of encouragement is tendering a ministry of the Spirit. All the work of the Spirit is a gift – a charis, a chen, a thing of beauty, freedom, mercy, and grace, or that which produces beauty, freedom, mercy, and grace in God’s people.
How the Spirit effects grace, then, differs: it can be by the expending of supernatural power, as when someone is miraculously healed. It can be by the gentle leading inside the heart which allows one to forgive another. It can be by the service of the person who derives joy from providing food to the congregation during the weekly assembly of the believers. But the same Spirit that leads a person to clean the church’s bathrooms is the same Spirit that reveals truth to the prophet or teaching elder and inspires him to deliver that truth in a clear and compelling way to the congregation. The same Spirit that empowers a widow’s prayers of intercession, which no one sees, is the same Spirit that empowers an evangelist to preach so that thousands are saved, which everyone sees.
And then there is the crazy notion that gifts of the Spirit have ceased operating in the church today. It is a rejection of a certain class of charisma – that which is supernatural or obviously wrought by an agency other than man. The ekklesia will need the grace (gifts), ministry, and activity of the Spirit operating among it at least until the Lord returns! But, we have all seen that which gave cause for concern and doubt among the “Spirit- filled.” The Spirit follows a prescribed path, even among His diversities of gifts, ministries, and activities. The Spirit might do something amazing that we have not seen before. But, He will always follow the prescribed path. He will always exalt Jesus and will never accurse Him. The outpouring of His charis, His chen, will always result in profit for the body (vs. 7). And Paul will continue explaining the prescribed path of the Spirit in the next chapters.
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