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Don’t be ignorant

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:” 1 Corinthians 12:1 (NKJV)

What an abrupt change of course the Great Apostle steers, from speaking about Holy Communion — arguably the most often celebrated of our Lord’s sacraments — to a topic that has become nearly verboten in many churches. Paul devotes the greater part of two chapters (12 and 14) in his address on the matter. Why then are so many reluctant to accept and obey these scriptures? 

Is it not that they/we have violated Proverbs 3:5-6 by leaning on our own understanding rather than by trusting the word of God and allowing Him to guide our paths? Unfortunately there are those who will remain forever lost because they can’t understand and for them understanding is a requirement to faith. Their faith is in their own ability to comprehend; it is mere head knowledge, not heart changing wisdom that leads to truth (2 Timothy 3:7).

The saddest part of this quandary is that they do not have to be ignorant; they do not have to be dependent upon their finite minds to understand the workings of an infinite God. If all scripture is inspired as Timothy declares in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and if the “inspirer” is the all knowing God the Holy Spirit as Peter declared in 2 Peter 1:21, then we may be sure that He intended that we trust and obey what Paul wrote concerning spiritual gifts.

Paul wrote that his desire was that we should not be ignorant of spiritual gifts. We accomplish this by first acknowledging God — acknowledging that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Having so acknowledged, we then allow Him to direct our paths — especially the path to understanding — for without His direction we will never come to the knowledge of the truth.

The last verse of 1 Corinthians 12 says “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” To earnestly desire means that we should be praying for, seeking with diligence the giftedness that God has provided for each of us. Some have said in error that the reference here to chapter 13 negates this instruction. Why then does Paul pick up with the first verse in chapter 14 by saying, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy”? 

How many times have I heard the phrase, “If God wanted me to have spiritual gifts He would give them to me”? He does want us to have them. He gave them to us to receive as we earnestly desire to walk in the fullness of His provision.

It is really a matter of trust whether or not we remain ignorant of spiritual gifts? Do we trust His inspired word, or do we lean on our own understanding?

Bobby Thornhill is a retired Methodist preacher.