Saturday, September 21, 2013

Charismatic Gifts, Division of 1 Corinthians 12

Recently I've talked with many who associate themselves with the "charismatic" movement in the Church. Seeking clarity in understanding, I go to St. Thomas to see what he has to say... The following is from his commentary on First Corinthians, the place in Scripture that deals most with the charismata. Outlines will now commence.

After the greeting, the main division is:
  • Things pertaining to all: the sacraments (ch. 1-15)
  • Things pertaining to some (ch. 16)
Under that first heading is considered:
  • The sacraments themselves (1-11)
    • Baptism (1-4)
    • Matrimony (5-7)
    • Eucharist (8-11)
  • The thing signified and contained by them: grace (12-14)
    • Charismatic graces (12)
    • Charity, which is prefered above all these (13)
    • Comparison of charismatic graces (14)
  • The thing signified but not contained: glory (15)
All right, things to notice: Whoever would have characterized the sacraments as the main purpose and the ordering principle of this whole letter? This is intersting and worth considering more later. As for our present purposes (which are chapters 12-14), we should probably note one translation detail.

What the translator calls "charismatic graces" are called "gratiis gratis data" by St. Thomas. Graces given by grace? Another translation I found was "gratuitous graces", which means about the same. The word "charismatic" comes from the Greek for gift or grace, so that's probably a good translation too. I'll keep calling them "charismatic graces", since that's easier and more normal sounding than the Latin or the phrase "gratuitous graces". Also, it will hopefully have a connection with what is meant by those in the charismatic movement.

Now the whole commentary on chapter 12 is about 20 pages (really 10, since the pages are Latin/English). First, I'm going to just copy and paste the text, outlining according to St. Thomas. This could be messy. I will provide explanation within it, in brackets. And I'll probably break up the outline as convenience requires.

  • [He states his intention]
    • 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed.  
  • [He follow his intention]
    • [He shows the need for spiritual graces]
      • 2 You know that when you were heathen, you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved.  
      • 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.  
    • [He presents the distribution of graces, v. 7-31]

[Distribution of graces]
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 
  • [Manifestation of the division of graces]
    • [Division of specific graces]
      • [Lays down condition of charimatic graces]
        • 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  
      • [Distinguishes them, v. 8-10] 
      • [Describes their action, responds to errors]
        • 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
    • [He applies a likeness]
      • 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25 that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
  • [Division of operations {ministrationum}]
    • [Assigns order of ministries]
      • [Principal ministries]
        • 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers,
      • [Secondary ministries]
        • helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.
    • [Manifests distinctions among them]
      • 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
    • [Orders their affections for ministries and graces]
      • 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Charismatic graces are ordered to the salvation of men. Only God can work this internally, but men can aid in this only by outwardly persuading.
[Distinction of specific graces, 12:8-10]
  • [Faculty of persuading]
    • [about divine things] 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,
    • [about creatures] and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
    • [about matters of faith] 9 to another faith by the same Spirit,
  • [Faculty of confirming persuasion through divine signs]
    • [Something only God can do]
      • [with benefit] to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
      • [without benefit] 10 to another the working of miracles,
    • [Something only God can know]
      • [future contingents] to another prophecy,
      • [the human heart] to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,
  • [Faculty of proposing persuasion intelligibly]
      • [to overcome language barrier] to another various kinds of tongues,
      • [to explain what is obscure in Scripture] to another the interpretation of tongues.
Later, I will probably gather together key passages on understanding the charismatic gifts in general. Verses 7-10 in this chapter are probably the most important for understanding the charismatic gifts in themselves, but chapter 13 is most important for understanding their worth--which is subordinate to that of charity. Most of chapter 13 is spent showing that charity (1) avoids all evil and (2) accomplishes much good. And he then considers the vision of God.

Chapter 14 and its commentary is somewhat longer, but goes into detail about two particular charismata: prophecy and speaking in tongues, comparing the two and explaining their proper use.

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