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However strange it may sound to any Charismatic’s ears, Paul is quite quick to down the spiritual gifts in his letter to the Corinthians. To be sure, he is also quick to say that he is a participant in the gifts. But, his purpose in doing so is to develop level footing with his audience. They need to know that he does them even more than they. Thus, he is a trusted person in this respect for them to listen to. 


The problem is, the Corinthians are using them in illicit manners, and Paul in orderly manners.  Therefore, he tries to show them the more excellent way. Love is the greatest way developed in the Christian world, and no matter how great of a glory experience or moment with God any one of us have, love is actually the greatest. It is also the best evidence that you have God. Not, some ‘spiritual experience.’

In Corinthians 12, 13, and 14 we find the most detailed information regarding spiritual gifts. If there were no abuses in the early church, there would be no expanded treatment of them in the Bible. Generalities yes, but specifics not so much. In Chapter 12 he lists the gifts. Chapter 13 he talks about a more excellent way, which is love. Then, in chapter 14, after establishing that love is the greatest, he sets orderly principles for how to navigate using the gifts in such a problematic congregation.


Then, he goes to great lengths in order to offer a discerning set of wisdom for them to navigate the ecstatic experiences and tighten their loose use of the gifts. Paul is no foreigner to miracles, as the book of Acts records. But, he is not enamored by miracles. Paul specifically says that Christians look to Christ crucified, not for miracles as the thing that defines them like others (1 Cor. 1:22-23). For Paul, all the power manifestations and all the wisdom is found in Christ. Therefore, seek Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24).


Paul knows, that those who are well-bred and well fed with the mainstays of the Gospel, have a better chance of not going off into undiscerned prophecies and strange activities. He knows that those in leadership are to keep a hand on the steering wheel, and not let the whole purpose of their services be about seeking gifts. We seek love, we seek Christ, and if miracles happen great, but if they don’t, we have already received the greater things.  Church is not about an experience, it is about a person. Therefore, if we try to ‘rev it up’ or ‘stir the pot’ in order to have great experiences, we are going after the wrong thing. 

How do I know this? Paul says that the “spirit of the prophets is controlled by the prophets.” In other words, no free ecstatic, undiscerned occurrences in his congregations. Rather, discerning and testing everything, while all the while going after something greater, namely love.

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