Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 1:7

The lectionary passages for Epiphany 2 (Cycle A) include 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. In verse seven, we have the phrase “spiritual gift.” It’s interesting to note which word is used for “spiritual gift”–in this case charisma. This is not the word used in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1, which both use pneumatikos.

A number of interpreters have suggested that in 1 Corinthians 12:1, pneumatikos should be translated either “spiritual people” or “spiritual matters.” I suggested in a previous post that, despite the translation hardships it presents, the same thing is true of 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Part of my reasoning for that is that in no other case does the use of pneumatikos refer to spiritual gifts. It refers to spirituality, but not specifically to spiritual gifts. They are all called charismata. This verse, 1 Corinthians 1:7, reminds us of that, in the very book in which those other passages occur.

Why is this important? I think it strongly reminds us that God’s gifts come by God’s grace and are not ours somehow by spiritual nature. Gifts should always be related to grace–received by grace, used graciously, and intended for the spread of God’s grace.

In addition, 1 Corinthians 1:7 again points out to us the fact that gifts are given to the church. They equip the church for its work of ministry. They are not an individual possession that may be hoarded.

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