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The signs of the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Pastor David Ernst

Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Aug 8, 2010 

There are many stories of miracles in the Bible. What is a miracle? Perhaps we may think of a miracle as something supernatural, a phenomenon that we cannot explain by the laws of nature. Examples in the Old Testament include the 10 plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the prophetic dreams of Joseph and others, the fall of the walls of Jericho and much more. In the life of Jesus Christ, we might think of the transformation of water to wine, the healing of lepers and others, the feeding of thousands of people with a little bread and fish, the raising of Lazarus, and, of course, the resurrection of our Lord Himself.

The miracles continued after the Ascension of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle proclaimed the Gospel in languages they did not know. It was a great manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. Also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and others healed the sick, cast out demons and prophesied.

So, in the time of St. Paul, as they do nowadays, some people thought these wonders were the real proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. They said that if a person could not speak in tongues or heal the sick without medicine or did not dream prophetic dreams, that person had not really received the Holy Spirit.

It is true, the Holy Spirit still has to power to work miracles. However, power visible to the whole world is not part of God's promises to us. We do not have a contract with God for magical powers if we follow Christ. The miracles of the Bible had one purpose above all, to verify the truth of a new revelation from God. That is why the Apostle John, in his Gospel, does not use the word "miracle", but rather speaks of the signs of Jesus.

In the beginning, when there were no more than 200 disciples of Jesus and the church did not have the complete New Testament in writing, the Spirit gave the apostles power to work miracles to verify the truth of their revelation. Nowadays we have the entire written Word of God and the promise that it contains all that we need to know for our salvation. The Bible is clear and sufficient. There is no need for further revelations until the Second Come of the Son of God in His glory.

In the last book of the New Testament, which speaks of the future of the church until Christ returns, St. John writes, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).

In addition, there are two visible signs given to us until the end, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. In baptism we receive the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit. What a miracle! And in the Lord's Supper we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus as spiritual food. God has promised that the Holy Spirit always will be active in the preaching of the Word and the sacraments until the end of the world.

In today's text, St. Paul says, "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit." What does this mean?

Our text is an introduction to a very long, but very important section of 1 Corinthians, which includes all of chapters 12, 13 and 14. To sum it all up, we all receive the same Spirit in baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the fruits of the Spirit that are the same in all of us are good workds, patience, perseverance, hope, faith and love, but the most important of these is love. That is to say, in all of us the activity of the Spirit is shown in love of God and our neighbors.

However, there are a variety of gifts. That is to say, every one of you are special in God's eyes and have your own gifts according to the will of God for your life. Perhaps God calls some of you to the public ministry, while others receive the gift of music, others the gift of hospitality and still others the ability to work with their hands. If you believe in Jesus Christ, all of you are valued members of the church, the body of Christ. In this sense, no one is more important than anyone else. In your own way, each one of you is a gift of God for the church.

Therefore, let us give thanks to God for our own gifts, not looking for glory or personal power, but for the advance of God's kingdom. Amen.

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