Different Similarities

Once again, back to my typical analytical approach to Scripture, I found something I think is cool. It may bore you to death (or stupor). It was during a sermon yesterday on spiritual gifting, and it was enlightening to me regarding the spiritual gift of “miracles” (as some refer to it). It begins with Paul’s opening setup in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
(1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NASB)

Notice that, in the NASB translation, the word ‘varieties’ is repeated. That word in Greek is diairesis (Strong’s G1243), which refers to distinctly different “distributions”, or the idea that not everyone gets the same things or the same amount of the same things. Leave it to the Greeks to have a word for that.

Now notice the different words in each phrase, they are in sets of 2. In the NASB, they are “gifts” and “Spirit”, “ministries” and “Lord”, “effects” and “God”. Notice that in each case, gifts, ministries, and effects are “different”, while Spirit, Lord, and God are the same. Side note: if you want a nicely laid out Trinitarian passage, few are neater than this one. Same, same, same.

Don’t miss Paul’s point here: not everyone gets the same gift, ministry or effect, but the same God works in all of them regardless of differences. Let that be clear, up front, and on top.

“Under the hood”, though, I found that “effects” in the NASB was tied to the Greek word, energema (Strong’s G1755), where you can actually see our English word, “energy” right there inside it. So, essentially this is energy. But, think about this word for a second. What actually is energy? Well, to answer that, let’s compare it where it’s compared in Scripture (or, in this case coupled with another, similar, word).

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:8-11 NASB, emphasis mine)

The bolded text is what I want to focus on, not that the other isn’t important. In the NASB, word “effecting” is the Greek word, energema (a noun, not a verb), and in the Greek text it is plural. The word, ‘miracles’, in the NASB is the Greek word, dynamis (Strong’s G1411), where you can see the English word, dynamo. This word is also plural in the Greek text. That Greek word is normally translated as “power” in English translation. So, together, energies of powers.

Back to my question, what is “energy”? So, let’s compare “energy” to “power”. Are they synonyms? Let me put it this way, what is the most powerful source of energy in our world today, and I mean in a practical sense, where we get electricity to power anything? Arguably, nuclear power is the most powerful. We harness atomic fission to produce electricity. But how? How does a contained nuclear explosion produce electrical current? 

It’s produced in one of the earliest mechanical inventions, the water wheel. Think it through, water over a wheel produces motion harnessed to something else, usually stones grinding wheat or a saw cutting wood, or something. But that’s not how a nuclear power plant  works, right? Well, not exactly, but similarly.

Later development of the “water wheel” made it “portable” in the form of a steam engine. Development from that led to the steam turbine, and suddenly we have a lot of power from boiling water, even using nuclear energy. Now, notice how I used those two words, power and energy above?

So, in a sense, power is the application, or harnessing, of energy. That’s a gross oversimplification, but the idea relating the two is still expressed. Now to harness the energy of this passage to empower us.

The Spirit of God somehow uses human creatures to harness the energy of our Creator to accomplish powerful  things in this word He created. Let that statement rattle around a bit. Think of the nuclear power plant. Think of the person seated next to you at church. What’s the connection?

We, frail, fault-ridden, imperfect creatures are used as “power plants” by our Creator. But for what? We’re not producing electricity, and remember, it’s not everyone. Different people get different distributions from the same God, Lord, Spirit. But it all is for the same purpose:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB)

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:11 NASB)

Once again, it’s not about you. Of course it isn’t. Why start now? The power is for our fellow disciples, those people in the pew next to you. Or, if they’re the ones the Spirit uses as a “power plant”, then it’s for you. I suppose then, it would be about you – along with everyone else…

I always thought of this “gift” as something like “signs and wonders”, and it may not be. It may be as dramatic as stopping the sun, or as simple as enabling a group of disciples to work through the night in a service project. Could the person delivering coffee at midnight be the “effects of power” person? I don’t know, maybe that’s “service”. Or encouragement, or “helps” (whatever that is).

Or maybe we’re looking at it too closely, and should step back. What does our congregation need to do what our Savior has called us to do? What has to happen to meet that need? Where will we find the power to see that happen? Does that make more sense? You may be able to think of better questions. Just ask our Creator and chances are good, He will answer. And answer with POWER.


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