In an essay on The Holy Spirit and The Local Congregation, J. I. Packer turned to 1 Corinthians 12-14, the classical passage on the subject. Yet, before he begins his essay, he warns, “It is a passage which cannot but make painful reading for thoughtful evangelical Christians today.” Why would he say that?
“Because Corinthian public worship, as there described, was such a chaotic uproar? Because of the apparent unseemliness of services in which, as it seems, many talked at once, some in ecstatic gibberish, and women screeched to be heard above the general noise (cf. 14:26-35)? Because of the amount of rivalry and self-display that there was in connection with leading the prayers, and singing, and preaching? Do I mean that it is painful to contemplate a situation in which such disorders, liturgical and moral and spiritual, had become a matter of course? No, I do not mean that.”
What could he mean? What could be more painful reading than the chaotic confusion of the Corinthian congregation? Packer continues:
“What I mean is that these chapters make painful reading because, whatever evils they confront us with, they do in fact show us a local church in which the Holy Spirit was working in power. Reading this passage makes one painfully aware of the degree of impoverishment and inertia which prevails in our churches at the present time.”
Yet, it grows even more dire as he concludes his introduction to his discussion on 1 Corinthians 12-14:
“If our only reaction to reading these chapters is to preen ourselves and feel glad because our churches are free from Corinthian disorders, we are fools indeed. I fear that many of our churches today are orderly simply because they are asleep; and with some, one fears it is the sleep of death. After all, it is no great thing, is it, to have order in a cemetery? The Corinthian disorders were due to an uncontrolled overflow of Holy Ghost life. The real and deplorable carnality and immaturity of the Corinthian Christians, which Paul censures so strongly elsewhere in this epistle, must not blind us to the fact that they were enjoying the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a way in which we today are not.”
Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, that day in the Christian calendar when Christians celebrate the event that took place over 2000 years ago. What a great event, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the church. And this is underscored by the question raised in Acts 2 when these citizens of Jerusalem and others come and see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and ask, ‘What does this mean?’ For Peter and the other apostles this is the primary question. What does this mean? And that will be what we answer this Lord’s Day as we look at Acts 2:14-41.
Michelle and I enjoyed our time celebrating and visiting with family, and of course the beach. We are grateful for some time away to see family and old friends as well as to refresh.
Come Holy Spirit, Come,