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Topic 30: To whom are the Spirit’s gifts given?


This topic asks the question, “To whom are the Spirit’s gifts given?”  Does the Spirit put limitations on these spiritual gifts?

 1 Corinthians 12: [7] To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Thesis One: God gifts as God wills.

◆”When someone says ‘no one has the right to limit my use of gifts in ministry,’ the pastoral office is seen as simply another form of a self-chosen effort to do good.  In order to do the self-chosen good for others, authority is needed.  Otherwise, one remains powerless to perform ‘ministry'” (George Wollenburg, former LCMS Vice President, as quoted in Christian News, 2 April 1990).

(A) Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 12 addresses those who feel that because they have a certain gift they are superior to those who don’t have an identical one.  They feel the others’ gifts are less important or significant.

(1) The Spirit is the one who chooses who shall serve, which gender will serve, and how each will serve (vs 11: “All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills“).

(2) In Greek, “each one” (ekasto) is neuter, which implies the gifts are not limited or bound to one gender.

(3) In Chapter 12 there are no gender designations given when Paul talks of the Spirit who gifts all as he wills, even in the area of pastoring, preaching, prophesying.

(B) If a person of either gender has any gift, who are we to deny the use of that Spirit-given charisma or exclude from office those who bear the gift?

(1) “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you'” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

(2) Compare the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Jesus points to the sin of burying one’s talents.  It is spiritually unhealthy for an individual to be restricted in the use of Spirit endowed gifts and abilities merely on the basis of gender.  The Scriptures do not make this limitation.

(3) In many parts of the world (for example, India), a man may not approach a woman without endangering her and himself (Personal correspondence).  God’s gift of life needs to be proclaimed through women.

1 Corinthians 12:[28] And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers …

Thesis Two: Prime Biblical passages which speak of God appointing persons to offices in the apostolic church do not speak of these offices as being based on gender.

◆ “If it is admitted that the charge which constitutes this office is based on the mandatum Christi, then we are faced with this pressing question: Is not the fact that God, according to the apostolic witness, has in His ekklesia appointed only men to be ‘apostles, prophets and teachers’ part of the divinely established contingency of the Office of the Means of Grace which we may not call into question?”  (Brunner, pg 26).

◆ “Distinctive identities for man and woman in their relation to each other were assigned by God at creation.  These identities are not nullified by Christ’s redemption, and they should not be reflected in the church” (CTCR-WIC, page 26).

(A) When God appoints persons to these positions in the apostolic church, the witness of this verse includes no gender distinctions.

(B) Priscilla was a teacher in the church; the daughters of Philip were prophetesses; and women led worship in the Corinthian congregation.

(C) If the sequence of the listings is significant, then we need to recognize that ones who prophesy, even women, are of greater rank than teachers, workers of miracles, healers, helpers, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:28-29).

 1 Corinthians 14:[26] What then, brethren?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.  [27]  If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at the most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.  [28]  But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God.

Thesis Three: Paul’s concern is, again, not gender, but worship order.

(A) “[vs 26] …. each one … ”

(B) In these worship instructions, everyone present is included; there are neither instructions to exclude anyone nor restrictions established based on gender.

(C) “[vs 31] … you can all prophesy …”

1 Corinthians 14: [26[ What then, brethren?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.  [27] If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.  [28] But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God.  [29] Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.  [30] If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent.  [31] For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged;  [32] and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.  [33] For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.  As in all the churches of the saints, [34] the women should keep silent in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.  [35] If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.  [36] What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?

◆ “Simply stated, this assignment has arisen because the Synod has previously taken the position that the Scriptures themselves qualify or limit the eligibility of women for service in the church.  The Scriptures do so in those passages which require that only men are permitted to serve in the office of pastor and carry out the functions which God has assigned to it (1 Corinthians 14; 1 Timothy 2)” (CTCR, “The Service of Women…16 November 1994”).

◆ “The opening phrase of verse 34 suggests that the practice in all of the Christian congregations of Paul’s day is that the women are to keep silent in church assemblies.  The context of this passage makes clear that the ekklesiai referred to are the assemblies of Christians gathered for congregational worship” (Maier, page 35).

Thesis Four: Paul, here in 1 Corinthians 14:26-36, is not discussing the office of the public ministry, nor ecclesiastical authority, nor qualifications as to whether or not women can participate in such an office.  He is discussing rubrics for conduct during worship and how wives relate to husbands during worship.

(A) In the preceding and following chapters and verses, Paul is addressing an apparent problem of behavior in public worship in Corinth:

(1) There is confusion in the public worship: with factions and divisions being evident (1 Corinthians 11:18-19), with regard to the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-29), confusion on how women relate to men in worship (1 Corinthians 11:3ff),  a confusion centered in “speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:6-19), and misunderstandings due to everyone trying to speak at once (1 Corinthians 14:26-40).

(2) Confusion will be offensive to unbelievers and hinder the Gospel witness.

(3) In Chapter 14, Paul uses the term “edify” seven times, laying down a basic, common sense outcome so that chaos is stemmed and order and growth take place.  Verse 26: “Let all things be done for edification …”

(4)  In 14:26 Paul suggests a “liturgy” that might bring about order and edification in the assembly (“each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue … let all things be done for edification …”).

(5) In 14:28 instruction is given to ensure order when the gifts of tongues is present: “… each in turn…”

(6) Then in verse 29 he instructs “the prophets” (which would include women, 1 Corinthians 11:5) to proceed “one by one” (verse 31).

(7) Verse 33: Paul concludes “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”

(8) Verse 40: “… but all things should be done decently and in order.”

(B) We can conclude:

(1) Paul is addressing the issue of rubrics for worship, not eligibility for public preaching of the Word.

(2) The universal principle Paul is laying down (vs 37: ” …what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord …”) is not directed to the question of whether or not women can lead worship and preach, but that those who are prophets and spiritual (vs 37) should demonstrate this by showing godly love and respect toward each other within the worship setting.

(3) The context is behavior in worship, not eligibility for pastoral office.