Enlightened by His Gifts

We confess in the Small Catechism that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in the Lord Jesus, but that the Holy Spirit “calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith with Jesus Christ.”  He calls, enlightens, and sanctifies us.

What does it mean to be enlightened?  It means to be brought into the light.  The Spirit brings us into the light by His gifts.  What are His gifts?  St. Paul writes, “Concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be misinformed … I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.  The Apostle begins his preaching on the Spirit’s gifts with the premier gift: the confession of the truth, Jesus is Lord.  This confession is a gift.  It enlightens us.

The Apostle goes on to say that there are a variety of gifts but one Spirit.  The Apostle never nails down a definitive number of gifts (Romans and 1 Corinthians (and Ephesians) have some different ones between themselves), but the point of the gifts of the Spirit is clear: to build up the Body of Christ.  These gifts – prophecy, healing, tongues, miracles, etc. – are all used by the Spirit to build up the Body of Christ, “for the common good,” the Apostle writes (1 Cor. 12:7).  They are the Spirit’s gifts.  They are not ours.  And He gives His gifts according to His grace to build up the Body.

Now comes Eph. 4:12ff.  The Lord gave gifts among men, apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers.  Why? To build up the Body, to equip the saints, and to do the work of the ministry (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18).  This office, the apostolic office, the Office of the Holy Ministry, is itself a gift to the saints so that the Lord may enlighten us with His gifts.

When the Gospel is read in the Divine Liturgy, you are being enlightened by the gifts of the Spirit.  When you receive Holy Absolution, you are being enlightened by the Spirit.  The calling and enlightening, though perhaps differing in some aspects, are largely the same.  The Spirit calls and enlightens and gathers by the Gospel in its many and various forms, such as healing.  Hmm … such as healing.  Wherefore art thou, O divine healing? Is this not a gift of the Spirit?  Perhaps it is of us that our Lord said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief (Mk. 6:4-6).

Why is it that prophecy, tongues, and other such vocal gifts are tied to the Office but not healing?  And what of miracles?  I’m not so sure that we should be so sure that miracles were only in apostolic times.  Maybe we should do some more research in this area.  Maybe we need to do some more confessing and believing in this area.  Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!  Is this not said of the father who was awaiting the healing of his son?


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