Reading I Corinthians 12 this morning, under the tutelage of John Barclay’s excellent Paul and the Power of Grace, I’m reminded of my former colleague Gordon Fee’s transformative advice to capitalize most of the NT references to the “spirit” or the “spiritual,” thus rendering most (not all, but most) as “Spirit” or “Spiritual.”
Rendering the familiar term “Spiritual gifts” instead of “spiritual gifts” (or “Spiritual things” as in I Cor. 12:1) reminds us that these are not just vaguely mystical phenomena, not just spooky abilities, but equipment specifically and intentionally provided by the Holy Spirit to do the Holy Spirit’s work and to accomplish the Holy Spirit’s agenda.
Indeed, as the gift lists vary throughout Paul’s writings (Rom, Eph), *any* gift of God that advances the Church’s trifold work of worship, fellowship, and mission is a Spiritual gift—even singleness for dedication to ministry (I Cor. 7), even the “thorn in the flesh” that was *given* to Paul (2 Cor. 12) to keep him from being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good (so to say).
Spiritual gifts thus come to us in many forms—indeed, in whatever is needed to do Christian work here and now. We can count on them being provided (why would we not?), so we should pray for them, expect them, and then get to work with them, whether we like them (“I love preaching/serving/leading/hosting”) or not (“I hate this location/task/suffering, but I accept it as the gift of the Spirit it is”).
God gives what is needed to get done what needs doing. Can I be that pragmatic? That practical? That realistic? That trusting? May the Spirit help me to be.