Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hey Paul, What about Single Ladies?

 “....Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." (1 Timothy 2: 14, ESV)  

Did Paul really say that women will be saved through child bearing? Readers who are already acquainted with the issue will know that Paul is addressing an issue relating to heresy in this epistle.  Hence, i am going not going back to all those issues again but will focus mainly on this verse.  The stated text (vs. 14) is shrouded with ambiguities, especially verse 13 and i guess it is one of the difficult verses in the New Testament.  So what exactly is Paul talking about? Is Child bearing a means of salvation, if so what about single ladies? What about those who cannot conceive a child?  Is it an antithesis to his (Paul) own other epistles like Romans and Galatians? From the past two years, from time to time, i read books and browsed the internet for answers on this subject, i had gone through some Greek parsing charts and translation provided by some websites and the different renditions of translations, but none of the theories seems to convince my mind.

  Here are some of the theories in brief: 

 Ø  Women will be saved only if they bear children.
Ø   Women will be kept safe during childbirth.
Ø   Childbirth refers to the birth of the Messiah through whom we are saved
.Ø   "She" refers to a wife who was teaching false doctrine and who needed to repent and learn the truth.
Ø   "She" refers to a single woman and "they" switches to women as a whole.
Ø  They will be saved if they continue in faith, love, sanctity, and self restraint.

All these interpretations don’t make any sense to me especially when the text is taken together with the context (beginning from verses 11-15). For instance, how are all these interpretations related to the prohibition of teaching by women in the church as seen in verse 11.  However, i would like to share what i came across from my latest readings. I came across two more interpretations which are quite compelling.
 #1: Typological Approach (relating typology with ontology of women).
Type and Anti-type in the Bible are used as supporting references to support the interpretation. For example, Adam- Christ typology and other verses like “so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (the anti-type) (John 3:14; cf. Numbers 21:9). The Passover Lamb and the rock from which Israel drank in the wilderness were also types of Christ (Exodus 12:1, Exodus 12:49; Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3, 1 Corinthians 1:4 and Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:24). Mary Kassian the proponent noted that Paul viewed Adam as a type of Christ, we also know for sure that he viewed marriage as type of the relationship between Christ and the church — in which the role of husband is a type of Christ and the role of the wife is a type of the Church. Thus, we can justifiably extrapolate that Paul also viewed Eve as a type of the Church. Hence, for Adam (type of Christ) was formed first, then Eve (type of Church) - and Adam (type of Christ) was not deceived, but the woman (type of Church) was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she (the Church) will be saved through childbearing (bearing fruit in Christ)—if they (man and woman) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. In her conclusion, she wrote that Paul is saying that woman's ontology (her capacity to bear children) relates to her typology (the Church's ability to be fruitful in Jesus). She (the Church) is saved through childbearing. Paul reinforces the profound mutuality of men and women here. Both are church. Both are saved by the type of union that results in spiritual children—the union with our husband, Christ. Both must continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.  
 #.2 Historical Approaches:  I always love digging out the historical context in order to know the situation of the Church. And i really like this theory. The Proponent of this theory is Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry ( According to this theory, In Ephesus, where Timothy was when Paul wrote this epistle, the Greek goddess Artemis was the goddess of hunting, wilderness, wild animals, and childbirth
Ephesian women used to pray to Artemis so that they would be “saved” through childbirth. The word for Salvation in Greek is “soteria” and one of the other names of Artemis was “soteira” which is very close to the Greek word for Salvation. Paul may very well have been referring to this goddess by saying that the Ephesian women who were converts from the cult of Artemis/ Soteira were to trust in Christ to deliver them through childbirth instead of looking to the pagan goddess. This  is why Paul then switch to “they” in reference to continuing in “faith and love and sanctify  with self restraint” (v. 15). He first speaks of women as “she” by analogy in reference to Eve (she) and then moves to “ they” as he speaks for women in general, applying the principle of Eve’s “womanness” to them—especially in the area of them bearing children (see also Acts 19-27).

My argument against the two interpretations:
These two theories almost convince me to the depth of my soul, but on a second thought, when i put on my thinking cap, mist of doubts covers my mind. So here are some of my points. In fact, I really really appreciate the typological approach, drawing relationship between typology and ontology is a phenomenal idea. Somehow this interpreting is compelling me to say “yes”, especially when the text is dissected from the preceding text. (from verse 11).  But part of me say “Wait A Second, It Cant Be” since the text cannot be dissected from the preceding text, on the contrary, it is a running text (see the connecting word between 11, 12, 13, 14 we see conjunctions “but”, “for”, “and” ) in which Paul used the later portion as a point to establish his argument against the former verses. So how can we relate verse 11 if the interpretation is legitimate? What the point telling someone to be silent just because they will be saved by this and that?  Hence, i guess the conundrum is not yet solve. Furthermore, if it is a typology, why is it that Paul is silent in explaining the typology? For instance, see the other typological explanation in Galatians (Sarah and Hager) and Romans (Adam-Christ Type/Anti-type), they are quite vivid. Secondly, why Paul uses such vague and ambiguous expressions and that also without any vivid explanation? Furthermore, what’s the point of rebutting the disorder manner of worship in hard to construe language?
                         I think some of my questions and doubts can be clarified when we look at the historical approach. For instance, questions like “what’s the point of rebutting the disorder manner of worship in hard to construe language?” For us, it may be difficult to understand the language but for the intended audience it may not be because they are familiar to it. Now when the text is seen in the light of the historical context, the ambiguous expression “saved through child bearing” should not disturb us anymore as such expression is a familiar concept pertaining to their context. From the Christian context it is questionable as our doctrinal framework is completely different. But not to them due to the prevalent teaching of Artemis Therefore it has nothing to do with childbearing as means of Salvation. However, there are still uncertainties as the construction and the flow of thought as seen from verse 11 -15 seems odd. Hence, the historical approach is still unsatisfactory for me but i guess such approach indeed has opened a new vista.  

If you have different ideas and interpretations please feel free to share your thoughts and understanding of this text.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jesus and Aristotle: Refuting Post Modern relative truth and liberal theology of religious pluralism.

At the outset, I guess i don’t need to bring out lofty delineation of Post Modern relativism, but  in simple words, it  assert that  all truths are relative, hence, all truth claims  are equally true. At the same time, the framework of liberal theology can be traced back to the period of enlightenment, thus, their theological approach exalts “reason” as the metaphysics and epistemology (of course, with the advent of post modern thinking, the limitation of “reason” is acknowledged). Consequently, in the underlying philosophical system of both “Post modern” and “liberal theology”, one can see that there are neither meta-narratives nor universal truth but only “a truth”not“the truth”.  
In the mind of post modernist, Jesus’ teaching seems to be naive lacking cogent logical argument.  The statement of Jesus- I am the way, the truth and the life cannot be accepted as universally true but subjective to the context of Jesus. True only for Christians, therefore, it cannot be imposed to the people of other faith. Among the liberal theologians, there are few who chose to embrace such approach although they are not that successful in convincing others, but free thinkers and non Christian scholars enjoy taking side with them in their argument against Christianity.
Now the question is, “can we take their proposition as legitimate argument?” if we look from the framework of post modernist; it is true that our knowledge is limited to our context; hence, our understanding of truth changes according to the context. So far i guess such epistemological argument seems valid and logical coherent. However, when we come to the claim of universal truth as seen in the statement of Jesus, I guess we are dealing with different category of philosophical approach.  When we speak of Jesus, it is crucial to be reminded that we are speaking in terms of theistic philosophy. Theism posits a person who is omniscient, omnipresent and Omni potent. Secondly, what we need to reconsider is the question of “universal truth “. If we construed such claim within our humanistic philosophy,  it is pivotal to note that we are no longer dealing with divinity or theology.
It is also crucial to reconstruct our humanistic philosophical framework, is it reasonable to posit that there is no objective truth as such. In many categories, it is true to say that everything is subjective but not in all categories. Hence, now, we may take a look at the metaphysic of Aristotle.

The law of non-contradiction according to Aristotle.
Ontological: "It is impossible that the same thing belong and not belong to the same thing at the same time and in the same respect."
Psychological: "No one can believe that the same thing can (at the same time) be and not be."
 Logical: "The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously."
I guess such metaphysics cogently proved that there is an objective truth. Ontologically, psychologically and logically, one can assert that there is a universal true; hence, Jesus was right by saying that “IAM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE”.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Critique on Hegelian Dialectical Method

Some years ago  while i was  working on a theological research, a friend of mine introduced me to the so called Hegelian Dialectical Method , in fact ,that friend of mine suggested me to use this approach in my research. Indeed I am thankful to my friend for introducing to me to such method as  I found it  helpful and effective  in that research . since then, it has become a part of my thinking  pattern especially when  I am curious or intrigue (to probe) about certain matters. 

What is it all about? The genesis or the progenitor of this method is debatable as some ascribed the terminology to Immanuel kant. However, it is often associated with  Hegel.

Hegelian dialectic is often described using  triad , namely :
(1) Thesis: The first stage here deals with the  Proposition 
(2) Antithesis : The second stage is to analyze the counter theory of the thesis
(3) Synthesis : New thesis came as a result of analyzing the  thesis and antithesis. Common ground or truth from the two triads is juxtaposed and amalgamated to form a new thesis at this stage. 
According to Miriam Webster dictionary -the Hegelian process of change in which a concept or its realization passes over into and is preserved and fulfilled by its opposite;also:the critical investigation of this process. 

Why it matters? This kind of approach has been widely adopted for doing research in various disciplines such as philosophy, history, theology , sociology, etc. Thus it is not limited to Hegel himself. It was also adopted by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels as well. Niki Raapana and Nordica Friedrich noted that Hegelian-Marxist thinking affects our entire social and political structure. The Hegelian Dialectic is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution. If we do not understand how the Hegelian dialectic shapes our perceptions of the world, then we do not know how we are helping to implement the vision. When we remain locked into dialectical thinking, we cannot see out of the box.(note the last line). I admitted that  I myself have become so imbued with this kind of thinking pattern , however, one day I felt prompted to reintrospect myself ,thus an impetus to give appraisal on this particular approach came to my mind. I realized that unconsciously it has become a kind of standard of judging almost every book that I read (even lecture ). Whenever I read a book , I am habituated of questioning what other books have to say about this particular book or about this topic. Cynically, I doubted almost every book , unless I come across antithetical theory , I always remain skeptical.  

How far is it applicable? Despite the fact that such approach can be used in  a cogent manner or  as rationale to demonstrate the finite of one single theory in the presence of counter theory.  Yet, One should learn where to draw the lines in using such approach. It is indeed true that one should not be so quick to jump to conclusion without dealing  the counter thesis in order to avoid bias answer or judgment. However, the question is, what if the proposition ( A) is true and the antithesis (B) is wrong or what if the antithesis (B) is right and the thesis (A) is wrong.  In such case , the synthesis “c”  is no longer applicable. Further complexity may also occur,  when the researcher  is not aware that  “C” (synthesis) is no longer applicable.  Thus, when there is lack of coherence in the  two stages prior  to the third , the triad- together as  A,B,C is no longer valid . The tendency to posit that A and B together has element of relative truth is erroneous such as in the case mentioned earlier where “A” contains absolute truth thus B and C is no longer necessary. The grouping of A,B and C ( together as triad) in order to establish truth is not always necessary. Truth can be known or established without the triad. 

Conclusion. Hence from this brief analysis, it is evident that such posit is not always pertinent or applicable in all areas . Hegelian dialectal method cannot be laid down as an underlying  criteria or method of research which is relevant at all times. There is a  peril when one is deeply imbued by it . On the other hand, in some case, such method can be pivotal to shed  light for a bias mind. Thus, my critique is not a negation   but  to demonstrate the limitation of such postulation.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Polemical letter : Refuting the Modern Antinomian Hyper-Grace Preachers

The purpose behind the writing of this short article is to bring out the biblical concept of grace. At the same time , one should note that I am not trying to bring out lofty teaching pertaining to the subject matter (doctrine of Grace). But as i feel the need and urgency of revisiting the doctrine of grace in order to bring out the original intent of the Bible so that the falsity of prevalent hyper-grace teaching may be exposed. Thus, the subject of grace will be approached in relation to the teaching of the modern hyper-grace preachers. My usages of the term "Hyper-grace" is to delineate the teaching of some eminent preachers who preaches as though Christians can simply live an idle and passive life bereft of any christian duties and responsibilities (dos and don’s of the Bible).The urgency of understanding the biblical notion is crucial as one can smell the odor of heresy ( false teaching) or deviation from the truth in the teaching of such preachers. For the sake of privacy , i would also like to leave the name of such teachers or preachers unnamed however one can easily discern such teachers through their teachings.
It is true that Grace is a gift ,etymologically speaking, it comes from a Greek word "χάρις" charis meaning "favour" or "kindness" . Indeed , Salvation is purely the unmerited favour that God is offering to us. However, on the contrary, Christians should not think that Grace is a freedom or liberty to indulge in fleshly works. Apostle Paul was not an antinomian (one who is against law), he was emphasizing grace as a means to receive the righteousness of God (note it is God's righteousness c.f Romans 3:21, see also Roms 3:31 "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." ) as one cannot earn salvation (or God's righteousness) by observing the law. Paul wrote that Christ is the end of the law. The word " end " should not be misconstrued as "abolishment" (c.f Matt5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.) the Greek word is "telos" meaning " end","purpose" or "goal". so paul usages here is more likely "goal" ( as the term "teleology" deals with goal oriented philosophy). thus i believe that it is not an overstatement to say that Christ became the embodiment of law or in other words, Christ is the perfect righteousness that was onced sought through the law. In Galatian , Paul was countering the so-called Judaizers and one of the many reasons behind the tension between Paul and Judaizers was circumcision , Paul emphasizes spiritual circumcision in Christ as Christ is the fufillment of the law, hence Galatians epistle is not portraying Paul as an antinomian , one should look into the theological issue and the historical context of the Galatians, the text should be read in the context otherwise a text without a context is pretext. ( Apart from the immediate context of the text, one should also look into the historical context , this will vivify the situation that the church was going through, it will further help the readers in understanding the theological issue as seen in the text, otherwise when the text is isolated , there is 100% chance of misinterpreting the text) . In Romans, one can clearly see Paul addressing the issue of antinomianism , “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).
To sum up this part of the argument :-
(a) Paul teaches that Christ is the end of the law
(B) As Christ is the end of the Law, God's righteousness Comes through Christ
(c) Thus, Salvation is God's free gift in Christ
(d) Since it is in Christ thus it is not by works in the law but by grace

From the preceding argument it is clear that Salvation is not by works but by grace. Now , after establishing this point, we will approach other issue which involves duties and responsibilities. This part of the premises is crucial to understand as it is often confused with the first part of the argument. The question that is often posed is “Since works has not part to play in righteousness ,are we exempted from dos and don'ts?” . The answer is more likely affirmative as dos and don'ts denotes the notion of works or efforts. Thus, theology of grace is often misconstrued , however the answer is “no”.At this juncture one should remember that the Bible indeed speaks of dos and don'ts and exhorted us not to misuse the liberty and freedom in Christ. As cited earlier , Paul says “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2) and through out the New Testament , the Bible speaks of a commandment of love and many dos and don'ts . For instance , Romans 12:2 says ,”Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed.” . To sum up , it is in God's grace that we abide and have fellowship with God, and this is how we grow up spiritually , the Bible speaks of faith and perseverance, it never teaches us to be passive. Salvation is by Grace and that same grace enables us to abide in Him. Grace does not liberate us from obedience but we walk in obedience to His will as Grace enable us to have fellowship with Him.
To be continue

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spiritual Gifts: Analyzing the Diverse gifts. (1 Corinth 12:4ff).

                                                    Analyzing the Diverse gifts. (12:4ff).

Word of wisdom (logos sophias) and word of knowledge(logos gnoseos) (1Corinth 12:8): These gifts are commonly thought to be the ability to receive a special revelation from the Holy Spirit and on that basis to speak words that give wisdom in a situation or give knowledge of a situation in the life of someone present in the congregation. The other interpretation of these gifts would see them as more “non miraculous” or” ordinary: the “word of wisdom” simply means the ability to speak with knowledge about situation. Contrary to that ,according to James G.S.S Thompsom, Word of Wisdom is a miraculous gift which function in such a way that this gift would communicate ability to receive and explain “deep things of God”(Rom: 11:33).

Some find it hard to distinguish these two gifts; Paul W Marsh postulate that word of wisdom is not easily distinguished from word of knowledge. He asserts that the later indicates an intelligent grasp of Christian principles and facts, the former expresses an understanding of their application, a spiritual insight into the principles. However, both the interpretations have a weakness. In case of the first interpretation, it can be similar to prophecy while the later interpretation also has it Achilles heels as the entire gifts mentioned by Paul are all miraculous gift. Another weakness in the later interpretation is that it means that only some people have the gift to understand Christian principle and facts as not everyone are endow with these gifts. Another alternative is that these two gifts might be related to teaching as in every other list the gift of teaching is mentioned, but it is lacking here –unless wisdom and knowledge refer to teaching.

Working of Miracles ( 1 Cor.12:10,28-29). “Miracles” is the rendering of “dynamies” (power). In Acts “dynameis” refers to the casting out of evil spirits and the healing of bodily ailments (8:6-7, 13; 19:11-12). This may explain “working of powers,” but this is not synonymous with “gifts of healing.” Probably the former was much more spectacular than the latter, and may have signified raising the dead (Acts 9:36-42;20 :9-12). Paul himself exercised this gifts of working of powers, and it was for him proof of his apostleship (2 cor.12:12) and authenticated both the good news he preached and his right to proclaim it (Rom 15:18-21). According to Paul Enn a distinction should be made between Miracles and the gift of miracles. although the gifts of the miracles- the ability of an individual to perform miraculous acts ceased with the apostolic age, that is not to say miracles cannot and do not occur today. God may directly answer the prayer of a believer and perform a miracle in his life. However, Wayne Grudem profusely argue against such view, according to him what Paul is speaking about in 1 cor. 13:10 is the total and final abolition of these gifts that it to be brought about by the divine initiative at the return of Christ. Until the time of the return of Christ these gifts will at least to some extent remain available for use, and the Holy Spirit will continue to distribute these gifts to people.

Gifts of Healing (1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30). As already suggested, gifts of healing resembled “working of miracles” (powers).witness the ministry of our Lord (Matt. 4:23-24), of the Twelve (Matt. 10:1), and of the seventy (Luke 10:8-9). Gifts of healing were also prominent in the church after Pentecost (Acts 15: 1-16; cf. also James: 14-1). “Gifts” (plural) indicates the great variety of both the sicknesses healed and the means used in the healings. The person who exercised the gift and the patient who was healed had one essential in common-faith in God. The writings of the church fathers show that “gifts of healing” were exercised in the church centuries after the apostolic period. Today there are recognized branches of the church which believe that there are beginning to reappear. However, according to Charles Webb Carter, these gifts of healing may involve much more than direct divine intervention, important as that is. that there are Christian men and women whose natural aptitude better qualify them for specific branches of medical science and service than their fellow is evident .Christian doctors, nurses, counselors, and psychiatrists exercise their gifts by “ the one Spirit” who endows ministers to preach or teachers to teach.

Gift of Prophecy. The hardest gifts to define are probably prophecy and tongues. Some thinks of 1 Corinthian 14:24-25, where the words of prophecy reveal the secrets of the heart and cause the visitor to acknowledge God’s presence. Or in 1 Corinthians 14:3 prophecy results in edification, encouragement and consolation. But this verse hardly helps us define the gift of prophecy, for all gifts rightly used would edify, encourage and console. Such results are not the exclusive province of prophecy. According to Hans Conzelmann, gift of prophecy does not disclose the future, but what is hidden within a man (Human) (1 cor. 14.2). However according to Charles webb carter, it is related to preaching, he quoted Peter, Paul, Luther, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Moody, and Graham as a few examples of those who are endowed with this gift. Contrary to all these views Craig Blomberg argued that, in the New Testament, Agabus exemplifies a prophet who can predict the future (Acts 11;27-30;21:10-11;cf. John as a seer in Rev 1;1-4). Other individuals called prophets include Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1). Quoting Joel’s prediction that prophecy will characterize “ the last days”, the entire New Testament Age , God will bestow this gift on many of his people irrespective of gender, age, or social class ( Acts 2:17-21;for additional examples, see Acts 19:6-21:9). Holding a very similar view, Thomas R .Schreiner stated that Prophecy is better defined as communicating revelations from God in a spontaneous utterance. He argued that the close relationship between prophecy and revelation is cemented in Corinthians 14:29-33. Paul mandates how the gifts should be exercised in these verses. I Corinthians 14:30 is especially instructive since it describes prophecy in terms of a revelation granted suddenly to one who is sitting down: “But if revelation is given to one sitting, the first one should be silent” The notion that prophecy involves spontaneous revelations is also confirmed, for the revelation comes to a person while he or she is sitting in the assembly. Paul W Marsh however believe that both preaching and foretelling can be included here though he did not give primacy to foretelling, at the same time did not exempt it.

Discernment of the spirits (diakriseis pneumaton 1 Cor 12:10) fits nicely after discussion of prophecy, and it immediately follows prophecy in the list in 1 Cor 12:10. We have seen that prophecies were judged and evaluated (1 Cor 14; 1 Thess 5: 19-22). Those who had the gift of distinguishing spirits were able to discern whether the prophecies and interpreted tongues were truly from God. Such a gift was practical for the community indeed, since many false prophets threatened the young churches. William Barclay wrote, “In a society where the atmosphere was tense and where all kinds of manifestations were normal, it was necessary to distinguish between what was real and what was merely hysterical, between what came from God and what came from the devil”.

Gift of Tongues: Not used in English before 1897, the technical term glossolalia derives from glosais lalein, a Greek phrase used in the NT meaning literally “to speak in (or “with” or “by”) tongues. Both Luke and Paul regarded glossolalia as charismatic praise in language unknown to the speaker. Schreiner believe that there is no compelling evidence that Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians refer to two different gifts of tongue , as in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Paul agrees that tongues speaking is no longer a mystery if an interpreter can translate what is being said. The nature of these gifts is explained in 1 cor.14 which is as follows:

(a) The tongue in which the person spoke was unintelligible and therefore unedifying to the Christian assembly (v 2-4).

(b) The tongue (Glossa) was not a foreign language (vv.10-12).

(c) The tongue speaker addressed himself to God to whom he probably offered prayer and praise (vv 14-17);

(d) The tongue edified the speaker (vv 4)

(e) The tongue speaker loss control of the intellectual faculties (vv 14-15).

Gift of interpretation of Tongues: Gift of interpretation of tongues (1Cor. 12:10, 30) was a necessary corollary as to speaking in tongues, as was “discerning of spirits” to the Prophet’s speaking by revelation. The tongue speaker might also exercise the gift of interpretation (1 Cor. 14:13), but usually others exercised it (vs. 26-28; 12:10). This gift is crucial as in the absence of it; simply babbling in the church doesn’t make any sense to anybody. If outsiders come to the assembly and hear only tongues they would naturally identify the church one more form of a Hellenistic cult involving mantic prophecy; they would say, “you are raving (mainesthe).” But if they hear prophecy, they would be moved to say, “God is among you” (14:25). The plural kinds points to considerable variation within this experience. while some speakers could also interpret (14:, 5,13)

The Gift of “Faith” (1Cor 12:9). Not saving faith in general, which is the common endowment of all Christians, but wonder-working faith? In 1 Cor 13:2 Paul speaks of faith that moves mountains, and thus the gift of faith likely relates to a faith that believes that God can do the extraordinary. This can be confirmed by James 5:15, where the prayer of faith may be the conviction that God will heal the sick. It is also believe that the Spirit’s gift of faith could effect might things (Matt. 17:19f), and keep believers steadfast in persecution. In View of 13:2, the gift of faith presumably involves a distinctive ability to trust God to work in unusual ways or in particularly difficult situations.

Evaluation: All the gifts mentioned in chapter 12 are most probably supernatural, Paul was comparing them with there pagan past spiritual experience. Though with certainty one cannot say the actual functions of Word of wisdom and word of knowledge, contrary to Paul W. Marsh’s proposal, it cannot be the ability to understand principle and application, as the gifts are not given to everybody, otherwise in such case only some gifted people will have the ability while the rest without the gift will be rendered useless. Working of miracles and healing are most probably supernatural endowment as the apostles had performed many miracles ranging from raising the dead, healing; etc.Gift of prophecy is most probably a divine revelation, as Paul instructed the Corinthians to take turn in the church. Prophecy is not primarily confined to preaching. One can also see from 1 Thess 5: 20-21 and 1 John 4:1 which speaks profusely of the need for assessment. Criteria for evaluating purported prophecies would have included seeing if prediction came true (Deut 18:21-22) and presumably, testing the content of forth telling against already accepted (i.e scriptural) revelation. Whether or not a message edified the church was doubtless equally crucial. All believers must “test the spirits”, each church’s leadership must ultimately render a verdict on the legitimacy of any alleged prophecy. However, those revelations may not have a permanent significance and that may be the reason why so few prophecies are mentioned in the New Testament.

As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to clearly explain all the gifts in detail as Paul did not explain all the functions and the nature of the gift. , one can say with certainty that they are a supernatural endowment, for instance as the description of faith in the 13 chapter, it is mountain moving faith. Then, in chap.14:2 Paul said that one who speaks in tongue speaks to God. He utters mystery with his Spirit. Then Paul mentioned the necessity to interpret so that it can edify the church. Thus, we can see that Paul is not merely referring to languages and their interpretations. But supernatural gifts. So all the gifts mentioned in chapter 12:4-10 refers to supernatural or miraculous.


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Lenski, R.C.H, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians
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Spiritual Gifts: Theological Principles

Introduction: Spiritual gifts are the gifts of God enabling the Christian to perform his or her (sometimes specialized) service. Not every spiritual gift affected the moral life of the one who exercised it, but its purpose was always the edification of believers. The exercise of a spiritual gift implied service in the church. This practical approach is never lost sight of in the New Testament, these spiritual gifts often being divided into miraculous and non-miraculous.

 There are several words in the New Testament used for spiritual gifts. “Dorea”and “Domata” are also used but are rare (Acts 11:17; Eph.4:8). Pnuematikas and charismata are frequently found, with charismata being the most common. The term charisma (spiritual gift) except for 1 peter 4:10, is used only by Paul. Charisma signifies redemption or salvation as the gift of God’s grace (Rom: 1; 6:23) and a gift enabling the Christian to perform his service in the church (1 Cor 7:7), as well as defining a special gift enabling a Christian to perform a particular ministry in the church (e.g., 12:28-31) . It seems likely therefore that even though at points the two words are nearly interchangeable ( as 12:31a and 14:1 would imply), the emphasis in each case reflects the root word (pnuema, Spirit; charis, grace). When the emphasis is on the gift, he speaks of charismata; when the emphasis is on the Spirit, he speaks of pnuematika.

Issues of the Spiritual Gifts.

The chapter (1 Corinth 12:1) begins with the word “peri de” (“now concerning”) and “brothers” and: sisters”. It shows that Paul does not want the Corinthians to remain uninformed concerning spiritual gifts (v1) the grammatical construction reminds the gentile Christians of their pagan practices: the present context suggests that enthusiastic, ecstatic rites and cultic meetings are referred to. At one stage, ecstasy had authenticated the pagan Corinthians’ worship of idols. (v2) apogomenoi (led astray) has the sense of leading away by force (Matt. 26: 57; 27:2, 31.)The agent is not specified, the suggestion is that of the domination of the power of evil. For Lenski the introductory phrase “peri” indicate that Paul is answering inquiries which had been addressed to him in the letter which the Corinthian has sent to him. In peri ton pneumatikon the genitive may be singular in 14:37, and denote persons, or neuter, like the accusative plural in 14:1, and denote gifts, the translation can be either “ concerning persons with spiritual gifts, “ or “ concerning spiritual gifts”. The latter is the NRSV rendition, then, reading through the chapter, one can see that, in the Corinthians’ use of their gift of speech, the attitude of elitism, rivalry, and individualism are painfully present .Paul discerned an egocentric competitiveness that was detrimental to church unity. Then, in 14:1-2 Paul criticisms of tongues indicates that Corinthians attached undue importance to this gift. The mysterious babble of unintelligible sounds was seen as the clearest sign of possession by the Spirit and so offered enhanced social prestige. And in consonant with the view of the ancient world, they considered such ecstatic babbling to be the highest manifestation of the spirit. The form of prophesy called mantic was particularly favored, it was thought to result from direct inspiration, a virtual possession of the psyche by the divine Spirit, leading to enthusiasmos, rapt in ecstasy, the prophetess or prophet cried out in unintelligible speech, such form of ecstasy was highly esteemed in the Hellenistic world.

The Corinthians ranked the gifts, declaring that the sign of a truly spiritual person (pneumatikos) was the manifestation of tongues (14:22). Then, he warns them first that not all “spiritual powers” are necessarily good. When they had been pagans, they also had been caught up in rapture (agomai), but had only resulted in their alienation (apogomai; 12:2). Paul tried to make them understand that the work of God’s Holy Spirit is to bring a Human being into relationship with the Lord, enabling him or her to say, “ Jesus is Lord:” (12:3). Apart from endangering the church unity, misused of the gifts also caused disorder in the church. Almost the whole 14 chapter is devoted on tongues as Paul tried to explain and lay down the principles and proper usage of this gift.

Theological Principle of the Gifts:

(1.) Edification: Gifts are for the common up building of the Church (v.7b) .These gifts were not given for the advantage of those who had them, but for the benefit of the church. Whatever gifts God confers on any man, he confers them that he may do well with them. They are a trust out into his hands. They are not given for show, but for service. By using the words diakoniai (serving) and energemata (workings), Paul indicates that such gifts were useful in serving the Christian community (vv. 5,6). The word “diakonia” does not exclusively denote the work of the church officers; it may denote every service to the good of the church. It is for the total good or profit (sympheron) of the Church.

(2) Unity in Diversity: Paul uses the image of the human body and its many members, probably borrowed from popular stoicism, to stress that diversity is necessary. Even the less presentable parts have an indispensable role. Such concept was also very much popular with the Romans, when the plebeians (the lower class in earlier Rome) had proposed revolt, the aristocrat Menius Agrippa convinced them that although they were less noticeable members (like the stomach), they were necessary; the upper and lower classes had different roles but equal importance. For Stoic, the universe was like the body, and God’s logo, or reason, was the mind or head that directed it. This figure is also used in the elsewhere (6:15; 10:17; 11:29) . For a body is not constituted of a single part, but for many. Thus the diversity among the parts of body is no cause for concern about membership or status in the body. In fact, “God has arranged the parts in the body “with though for the proper place and role but one body “(v.20). More over the unity of the body is not superficial but integral to its existence.

(3) Authentic gift: No person by the Spirit can curse Jesus; and positively, only by the Spirit can a person openly testify that Jesus is Lord (1Cor.12 v.3). The term Kyrio (Lord) is used by the LXX to translate Jehovah in the OT (cf. Matt 16:16; John 4:2, 3, 15). In this context Paul recognizes the deity of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit in the use of the Phrases “Jesus is Lord” and “Spirit of God”. Anathema (translated “be cursed”) was, strictly speaking, something that was devoted to God and that could be thought of as given over to him with a view to its destruction. So, it could be thought as being “accursed” (cf. Josh 6:17, 18) the meaning is consistently used in the NT. It is equivalent to the Hebrew Word “ Harem”, the expression would most likely come from a Jew . Basic criterion for distinguishing Spirit-gifted people from imposters is whether they confess Jesus as Lord (vv.1-3) . Instruction on the usage of tongue is given in the fourteen chapter, Paul contends that every true prophet and spiritual person will recognize that what he has written is a command of the lord; and the person who does not recognize that is not to be recognized in the community (14:37-38)

(4).Superior Gift: Some believe that there are significant and insignificant gifts. However, many commentaries disagree with such interpretation. The list that follows is intended to be neither exhaustive nor hierarchical, but typical of the gifts that had been experienced at one time or another by Christians in Corinth. Out of the different gifts, much discussion is given on Tongues; however this does not necessary mean that it is superior over the other gifts. From 14:1-33 we discern that the gift of tongues, perhaps because it was most visible because it was the chief source of strife. Paul critiques the situation in certain ways. One needs to interpret the tongues, and consequently an additional gift of interpretation is required (14:13). Compared to tongues, there are more excellent gifts, e.g. Prophecy that builds up the church (14: 5). Most radically Paul urges seeking after love (agape), which is more important than any charism (13:1-13), whether speaking angelic tongues or prophecy, or miracles. However, Paul should not be misconstrued, he is not calling the Corinthian to abandon the gifts and pursue only love. But stress the futility of the gifts in the absence of love. The gift may be differentiated, but not on the basis of supposition about the degree of inspiration. Rather, those who are given ability (via God’s appointment) to serve and edify the body (3:15-15).

5. Origin of the gifts: The key stress in vv.4-11 lies in the existence of a great diversity of gifts that has the same origin. Strong emphasis is given on “the Spirit “and often repeated in these verses. In the threefold almost perfectly symmetrical composition of vv. 4-6 the variety of gifts, service and activities and their common “ trinitarian “ origin in the same spirit , the same lord and the same God are affirmed . Of God it is said by way of climax that God activates all activities in all Christians (v.6).

6. Divine Selectivity: Paul stresses the divine selectivity. He is saying that not all believers function in each of the way listed. God selects individuals and gives them their specific gifts (v.28) One may seek and pray for certain gifts (12:31a; 14:1, 12) but God makes no guarantees that he will give any one particular gift as requested.

7. Order and Decency: Paul demands responsibility and maturity and thought (14:20) from the Corinthians. The prophets should control their utterance (14:32), speech (tongues) should be orderly and in turn (14:26-31), everything should be done with an eye for edification (14:26) but also “decently and in order”(14:40).

8. Supremacy of Love (13:1-13): it is hardly correct to refer to this chapter as a digression, providing as it does that cardinal Christian quality without which all the charismata are worthless. It is the essential link between the principle expounded in chapter 12 and the practice explained in chapter 14. the absence of love can be compensated by no other quality however spectacular, be it spiritual gifts or religious zeal (1-3) none can compensate for a lack of love (agape), the word “agape” found in LXX, Philo and other Greek literature, but thus far attested only once unambiguously in pagan Greek. In classical Greek its verbal and adjectival forms are used of contentment or affection, but to the exclusion of all sense of sexual passion. Taken up and invested in NT Greek with a new meaning and spiritual fervor it gained an exclusively Christian connotation. Paul stressed that the practice of love produced a lasting result.

Contemplation on Ecclesial Praxis of Holiness

Few years after the atomic bomb devastated the city of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese Theologian, Kazoh Kitamori published his work “Theology of the pain of God.” He interprets the core of the gospel as the pain of God. Coming along the similar vein, Jurgenn Motlmann wrote, “The history of the divine pathos is embedded in this history of men [sic]” (The crucified God). Prior to them, it was Abraham Heschel who first described the prophet’s proclamation as “pathetic theology”. At first such theological advance was vehemently condemned, and was stigmatized as sacrilege or deviation from orthodoxy, as it appears to be in animosity with the traditional doctrine of impassible. Conversely, today as we look at the situation of the world around us, we see continuum exploitation, corruption, bigotry, moral degradation, economic systematic chaos, eco-crisis, gender bias, etc. Even as we gaze within the parameters of the Christendom, there are gigantic paradoxes of holiness rather than the practice of holiness, so in such bleak and poignant milieu, Christian should be made aware that the Creator did suffer. Note, the usage of term “suffer” or pathos of God should not baffle our mind as my usage here is an anthromorphic lingo rather than ontological or literal sense. Divine pathos cannot be compared with human pathos. My rendition is merely to delineate the notion that God is not an apathetic being. But, compassionate and caring Father. Here, the point of my argument is that the divine pathos is the repercussion of human failure to walk in Holiness. As we continue to reflect, let us approach the subject matter from the different stratas or facets of Holiness,

Eternal Transcendental Facet: In Isa 6:3, the seraphim cried “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts” God characteristic is vividly portrayed here. Not just one but emphatically thrice, the thrice repeated holy, a Hebrew idiom for the superlative, conveys the Israelites understanding of Yahweh as the most holy God. Some also postulates that it is more than attribute; but the very essence of Yahweh. The primordial deity “Yahweh” in the antique world revealed himself from the realm of the eternal to the realm of time. However, apart from theophanic revelation, due to the depravity of the first Adam, Yahweh stands aloof from humanity. At the burning bush He commands Moses to remove his sandals, as the place is a holy ground (Ex 3: 5). The people at Sinai were forbidden to touch the mountain. Holy of the Holies cannot be entered by the worshippers. Apostle Paul wrote that the fallen humanity fall short of his glory. In the ancient world, the Decalogue and the laws were given to obey, but outward action cannot infuse intrinsic Holiness. By the term “intrinsic Holiness”, I mean to say God standard of Holiness is not naive outward act but an absolute holiness, Jesus once condemned the heart full of lust. The Pharisee obeyed the law and they were zealous for it, yet Jesus called them white washed tomb full of bones as their inward motive was not right

Historical Immanental Facet: The Transcendental eternal deity became the immanent God, as the cosmic logos incarnated in the person of Jesus. Here, I am not drawing a line of demarcation between Jesulogy and Christology. The Cosmic Christ or logos alone without the works of the historical Jesus does not make any sense in the history of redemption. So extricating Christ from Jesus or Jesus from Christ is hollow approach. The word became flesh. With the incarnation of Christ the holy has become immanent and touchable. Christ became the progenitor of the new humanity. The true reflection of the original Human: an archetype “Adi Purusha”. In Christ we see the eternal transcendental God merging with humanity. Thus the immanent infuses the transcendental facet to the fallen humanity. There might be paucity in the word “infuse” however my usage here implies regeneration. Which also has a wider aspect; it is total transformation of the cosmo-theandric. As expounded by Paulose Mar Gregarous in the concept of Theosis,“ Theosis is not theoria, the vision of God, but the infinite and the continuous transfiguration of all creation, in proportion to the capacity of each being, into the God-bearing image of Glory.” Thus Transcendental God descending to humanity is not merely a Christian myth or idealism, but, historical phenomena where the immanence of God inaugurates a new creation in Christ. It is the Holy Descent. The Cross tells two stories, it the portrayal of the ultimate love (agape) and excruciating pain (pathos) of God.

Imperative Facet: After reflecting the two facets of holiness in the abovementioned paragraphs, at this juncture, it is pivotal to note that the former two facets are both indicative. First we see God’s attribute or essence in the first facet, then God’s act to humanity. These facets are indicative and foundational to the imperative.i.e. explicating the human actions called for in response. The attribute of God and His act to Humanity in the incarnation model (indicative) should not be merely embraced as a dogma, or a creed to recite or confess, rather the Christendom- the people of God are called out to reflect this divine attribute. Jesus audaciously said, “Be Holy as your Father in Heaven is Holy” (divine imperative). The indicative involves the affirmation of what the Holy God has done in inaugurating the new epoch of humanity. The veil that was torn at the time of the crucifixion depicts the bridging of the chasm between the Holy God and the fallen humanity. Christ salvific act infuse intrinsic holiness to the progeny of the first Adam. Thus, in Christ the offspring of the first Adam became the sons and daughters of Yahweh the Holy God. The imperative is both vertical and horizontal aspects of Holiness. Thus can be said, it is also a perpendicular facet as it is a command to reflect the vertical Yahweh’s Holiness horizontally towards the fellow being.

Concluding Reflection on Ecclesial praxis As a church, how often do we linger around the indicative without complying with the imperative? Quite often our keygma accentuate both indicative and imperative aspects, but the praxis is often bereft from our life. Jesus demands that there should not be discontinuity of the indicative, this is not say that same act is repeated again and again by the same agent, as in the immanental aspect , no on the other hand the continuity of the indicative can be seen when the imperative is put into praxis by the ecclesia in their demonstration of holiness. Secondly, before we conclude, why do churches often fail to comply with the imperative regardless of their cognizance of the inevitability? Prerequisite to our attempt to walk in holiness, it is important to remember, as mentioned earlier, Christ salvific act infuse intrinsic holiness, and such experience is made possible only with the anubhava of the resurrected Christ, and that through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the first facet, we see Yahweh, then in the second facet Jesus Christ and in the third facet Holy Spirit. Thus here we see the involvement of the third person of the triune God which can never be exempted in the divine strategy as the three Godheads are always inextricably intertwine. The church without the Spirit will never achieve anything but rather digress to stagnation and dryness. In Bonhoeffer’s Christ formation: Christ has to from in us, likewise as Christ form in us, and then only a person can become holy. On the contrary, without such theosis experience , all our effort to walk in holiness will only be an extrinsic attempt of holiness, technically speaking which is not holiness at all but an outward attempt without the cross. Therefore as we conclude, as a called out people of God, surrounded by many cloud of witnesses, let the reminiscent of the divine pathos on the cross induce us to comply with the divine imperative as we reflect the Holiness of Yahweh in our life. Then people will recognize the church as truly unique from the rest of the world where darkness permeate.