Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Keep Your Appointment

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts."

(I Corinthians 12:27-31a NIV)

This is an interesting passage for those of cessationist bent. The ordinals used in this passage can be taken as an order of rank (of importance or even authority), or as a description of the timing of expression. The mention of "greater" in the next to the last verse could be seen as requiring the ordinals to be interpreted as also ranking importance or greatness, but for me, the "thens" seal the deal-- for they most definitely introduce the idea of sequence or timing into the list. If this roster of gifts puts them into sequence, then the issue being addressed is their development and extension, not their comparative value. Paul is trying to help eager Corinthians understand not only the what, but the how and the when of ministry gifts. Notice in the sequence where the miraculous of varying sorts falls. Throughout, but incredibly enough, at the end as well, after the eruption of teachers. Paul says that the body starts with the ministry of an apostle, and as that body grows, up rise prophets, and as it continues to grow then arise teachers, and as things continue to expand then all kind of gifts... and the miraculous was intended to be present from start to finish!

That's cool enough in my mind, but here's the cherry on top: whereas we have been concentrating on leadership gifts in this series of posts, this passage doesn't restrict it's scope to them as does Ephesians 4. Leadership is part of the body, but so too are the lead. Each of us is part, each of us has gifting to serve by and these are assigned by God. Paul called these appointments. Just as a finger on your body wouldn't do any good attached to your elbow, so also God has the prerogative of placing us in the spot he knows we belong. I must admit, I've grown tired of both the church shoppers and the church marketers of our day. What consumer benefits a church might offer has nothing at all to do with divine appointment. What business does any leader have holding out a carrot trying to entice believers to make a decision about where they belong on a basis other than God's appointment?

So, grow where God sprouts you, stay unless God moves you. Embrace your giftings, and rise into whatever God is making you for the benefit of the body. God doesn't run by our clocks, and yet he's always on time, and being a perfectionist in all he does, he expects us to keep our appointments.