7.07.2013

Beyond the Gifts in Ephesians 4 & 1 Corinthians 12

Warning: Like my previous Ephesians post this is an (almost) midnight rambling.

I've been reading Ephesians for quite some time now.  I reached Ephesians 4:11f and was initially surprised by the continual overarching achievement of Christ's death and resurrection in the letter.  Normally, Christ's death and resurrection is seen as salvific from sin and human frailty, in Ephesians however, Paul has a much broader scope for the effects of Christ's sacrifice and glorification, providing not only salvation but also gift, power and people.

Coming from a pentecostal background the gifts that God gives are usually associated with the Holy Spirit, here, the Spirit is surprisingly absent, in all the areas a good charismatic boy would expect them.  The chapter opens up with the Spirit:

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

(Ephesians 4:1–6 NAS95)

Then he quickly moves on to "Christ's gift" (4:7), which is not the Spirit (of God).  The Spirit is not mentioned again until Ephesians 4:30, well after these "gifts" have been fully discussed.  It is Christ who provides these gifts by virtue of his death and resurrection.

This whole train of thought got me thinking, there is another well known passage which talk about "gifts" of a very similar nature,  1 Corinthians 12.  So what happens when the gifts get mentioned there?  Well, the Spirit is (again) briefly mentioned in the beginning and disappears while Paul is on the topic of the "gifts".

And, while reading I noticed something else.  Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 have more in common than just listing some of the same gifts.  The structure of the content both before and after mention of the gifts is the same:

Eph 4:3 - Spirit provides unity
1 Cor 12:12 - Spirit provides Unity

Eph 4:1-5 - Unity of the Church
1 Cor 12:12-26 - Unity of the Church

Eph 4:11 - The gifts Christ gave to the Church
1 Cor 12:28 - The gifts God appoints in the Church

Eph 4:15-16 - Love
1 Cor 13ff - Love

It may be that there are some gifts that the Spirit provides, and some gifts that Christ/God provides - I'm not sure if Paul is making deliberate distinctions.  What Paul does mean to say (and quite clearly) is that the Spirit brings unity to the Church!  When Paul says that we should not quench the Spirit (Eph 4) he may have the unity of the Church in mind - it is after all, the very next time that the Spirit is mentioned in Ephesians after 4:1-5.

Anyways, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.