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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. δέ. Here the particle is equivalent to ‘and next.’

πνευματικῶν. Spiritual agencies. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1. This is obviously St Paul’s second point. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18. The χαρίσματα had also, as this whole chapter shews, been a source of jealousy.


Verses 1-11

1 Corinthians 12:1-11. SPIRITUAL GIFTS THEIR ORIGIN AND CHARACTER

‘We have often to remind ourselves that this Epistle was addressed to a Church in a state of faction. One cause of rivalry was the merits of their respective teachers; another was the endowments of various kinds given to the members of the Church.’ Robertson. This and the next two chapters, which form one connected whole, are concerned with the great outpouring of spiritual energy which followed the preaching of the Gospel. St Paul deals with it in his usual manner. He characteristically lays down broad principles in this and the next chapter before he proceeds to the details of ch. 14. He is specially solicitous to do so here because of the danger, so often since experienced in the Church (see ch. 1 Corinthians 14:32), of the belief that a condition of great spiritual exaltation absolved men from the necessity of consulting their reason. The Apostle teaches that spiritual gifts are no less to be restrained in their exercise by considerations of decency, of order, of what is due to others, than gifts of a more ordinary kind. Therefore he takes occasion to shew (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) that all gifts proceed from one source, and that miraculous powers are no more gifts of the Spirit than some others not supposed to be miraculous, and then (1 Corinthians 12:12-30) that neither he who possesses them has any right to despise him who does not, nor he who does not possess them to envy him who does, since ‘each has his own proper gift of God.’ He goes on further (ch. 13) to point out the ‘more excellent way’ of love, and finally, in ch. 14, proceeds to lay down the regulations necessary for the preservation of order in the Christian assemblies. Chrysostom remarks on the difficulty of the whole chapter, which is caused, he observes, by the cessation of these spiritual phenomena.


Verse 2

2. ὅτι ὅτεἀπαγόμενοι. The sentence ends in an anacolouthon, if we adopt the reading in the text—‘that when ye were Gentiles being led away,’ &c. Anacoloutha similar, though not precisely identical, may be found in 2 Corinthians 9:10 (rec.); Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:16. They may also be found in the best classical authors. Thus we have in Thuc. IV. 37 γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Κλέων καὶ Δημοσθένης ὅτι, εἰ καὶ ὁποσονοῦν μᾶλλον ἐνδώσουσι, διαφθαρησομένους αὐτοὺς (instead of διαφθαρήσονται). The omission of ὅτε, it may be remarked, would lead to the conclusion that the Corinthian Church was an exclusively Gentile community, which would contradict Acts 18:8; Acts 18:13, and possibly ch. 8 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 (where see notes).

τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα. Literally, ‘unto the dumb idols.’ The word dumb (see note on next verse) draws attention to the contrast between the voiceless idol and the delusive utterances of its pretended priests or priestesses, as at Delphi, Dodona and elsewhere. Cf. for the expression Habakkuk 2:18-19. Also Psalms 115:5; Wisdom of Solomon 13:17-19; Baruch 6:8.

ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε. By those who pretended to give forth the utterance of the really voiceless idol.


Verse 3

3. διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν. Because in your unconverted state you were liable to such delusions, it is my duty to provide you with the means of forming a sound judgment on such matters. The essential principle of all true inspiration is the confession of Jesus as Lord. This inspiration may shew itself in different ways. But the confession of Jesus must underlie all. Cf. an extremely similar passage in 1 John 4:1-3. This caution was very necessary in the infant Church. In spite of the warnings of St Paul and St John, many were entrapped by the extraordinary and incomprehensible ravings of men like Simon Magus, Menander and the Ophites (or Naassenes, worshippers of the serpent), as we learn from the writings of Irenaeus and Hippolytus. Cf. 1 John 2:19.

ἐν πνεύματι. In the Spirit; i.e. inspired by Him.

ἀνάθεμα. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 16:22.

κύριος Ἰησοῦς. Jesus is Lord.

ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. Literally, in the Holy Ghost (or Spirit), see above. Not a Single true word can be spoken but by the agency of the Spirit of God. As far as the confession that Jesus is Lord goes, he who makes it is under the influence of the Holy Ghost. It is remarkable that St Paul has in mind in this passage those who deny the Divinity of Christ; St John, in the similar passage just quoted, the sects, which arose afterwards and denied His Humanity.


Verse 4

4. διαιρέσεις. This word is variously translated in the A.V., according to the custom of the translators, differences and diversities, in this passage. It signifies originally the act of dividing. But it comes to mean the results of such division. Thus in 1 Chronicles 26:1; 2 Chronicles 8:14; Ezra 6:18 (LXX.) it is applied to the classes or courses into which the Priests and Levites were divided for the temple service just as we use the word division. Marcus Aurelius (Medit. IV. 21) uses it for the division of things into their various species; τίς ἐπὶ τοῦτον ἡ ἱστορία τῆς ἀληθείας; διαίρεσις εἰς τὸ ὑλικὸν καὶ τὸ αἰτιῶδες. Thus here it means not the act, but the fact of distribution, not the difference between the gifts in themselves, but the fact that they are variously apportioned. Translate, there are various kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are various kinds of ministries, but the same Lord, and there are various kinds of operations, &c. The word only occurs here in the N. T.

χαρισμάτων. See ch. 1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Corinthians 7:7. The word is of N. T. origin. It usually signifies something granted in consequence of peculiar grace or favour, a special gift from God, a favour, as we say. It applies to any gift whatever over and above the gift of life in Christ which is the common property of all. See for instance Romans 12:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10. But in Romans 5:15-16; Romans 6:23, it is applied to the gift of life in Christ itself, as flowing from the Divine χάρις or goodwill towards man.

τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα. The unity of the source is strongly insisted upon, to put an end to the mutual jealousy of the Corinthians. And it is remarkable that each person in the Blessed Trinity is introduced to emphasize the argument, and in contrary order (as Estius remarks), in order to lead us step by step to the One Source of all. First the Spirit, Who bestows the ‘gifts’ on the believer. Next the Lord, to Whom men render service in His Church. Lastly God the Father, from Whom all proceeds, Whose are all the works which are done to Him and in His Name. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6.


Verse 5

5. διακονιῶν. Ministries, i.e. services rendered to Christ and His members by His disciples.


Verse 6

6. ἐνεργημάτων. Worchyngis, Wiclif. Calvin renders by facultas, but explains this to mean effectus. The Apostle here is speaking of active power (ἐνέργεια), not latent as in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (where see note). The influences to which he now refers are actually at work, and producing results, in obedience to an impulse received from Him. Cf. Romans 7:5 and Matthew 14:2. The distinction between ἐνέργεια and ἐνέργημα is this. The latter means the effect of the energy, the former the energy itself.

τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. Every one of them in every person. Not of course that all of them are given to each person, but that they are all given, and every one has his own particular gift or gifts. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 3:11.


Verse 7

7. φανέρωσις. Properly, the act of manifesting. But here it means the manifestation itself.

πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. God’s object is ever the well-being of man. If man is to become one spirit with God (ch. 1 Corinthians 6:17), his object must be the same. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, 1 Corinthians 10:23. The Editors read συμφέρον here, σύμφορον in ch. 1 Corinthians 7:35, 1 Corinthians 10:33.


Verse 8

8. λόγος σοφίαςγνώσεως. λόγος seems to be used here of the capacity for speaking in a certain way. Thus λόγος σοφίας means discourse prompted by wisdom, λόγος γνώσεως discourse characterized by knowledge. Wisdom I venture to regard as the power of insight into principles, knowledge the result of a process, the comprehension of facts. See ch. 1 Corinthians 8:1. This was the view taken by St Paul’s contemporary Philo, and by the Gnostics who immediately succeeded him. Wisdom, according to Philo, was the highest of the Divine attributes, and human wisdom a reflection of the Divine. καὶ γὰρ ἀρχὴν καὶ εἰκόνα καὶ ὅρασιν θεοῦ κέκληκε· ταύτης δὲ ὡς ἂν ἀρχετύπον μίμημα τὴν ἐπίγειον σοφίαν νυνί παρίστησι διὰ τῆς τοῦ παραδείσου φυτουργίας. Sacr. Leg. Alleg. Bk I. So also Quis Rer. Div. Haer. [ed. Mangey, vol. I. p. 498]. In his De Praem. et Poen. [ed. Mangey, vol. II. p. 420], he distinguishes between σοφία and φρόνησις. The former, he says, relates to the service of God: the latter to the problems of human life. Wisdom, according to the Gnostics, was an Aeon or emanation from Divinity; Gnosis or knowledge the process whereby man attained to the comprehension of things Divine. Clement of Alexandria, however, reverses the definition. Knowledge, according to him, comes directly from God, wisdom is the result of teaching. Stromata VII. 10. Chrysostom takes the view which has been taken above. It is supported by the following considerations. [1] σοφία is spoken of as an attribute of God (as in Proverbs 8:22). γνῶσις has never been so dignified, although of course He possesses it. [2] γνῶσις is described by St Paul as coming to nought (ch. 1 Corinthians 13:8 : see note). Wisdom is never so spoken of. Aristotle (Nic. Eth. VI. 7) defines it as a compound of νοῦς and ἐπιστήμη, and describes the σοφός as one who must not only εἰδέναι but also ἀληθεύειν περὶ τὰς ἀρχάς, so that σοφία is ἡ ἀκριβεστάτη τῶν ἐπιστημῶν. Bishop Lightfoot takes a somewhat different view on Colossians 2:3. With him ‘γνῶσις is intuitive, σοφία ratiocinative also.’ ‘γνῶσις applies chiefly to the apprehension of truths, σοφία superadds the power of reasoning about them and tracing their relations.’ The definition of σοφία given above does not exclude the ratiocinative faculty—the power of following principles to their results—but regards its action as descending from the higher to the lower, whereas γνῶσις ascends from the lower to the higher. In other words σοφία in exercise is deductive, γνῶσις inductive. The one applies principles it has intuitively perceived, the other rises to principles from facts it has gathered. Man’s wisdom (see ch. 1 Corinthians 2:7) would be the same faculty in relation to human affairs, quickness of apprehension in regard to them. Of course it is not to be supposed that perfect wisdom or knowledge is given to any one (see ch. 1 Corinthians 13:9), but that there are those who have a special measure of either, as God sees fit. See ch. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 3:10. The first of these passages is worth noting. Jesus Christ is said to have ‘become to us wisdom.’ He could hardly be said to have become to us knowledge, though this also we receive from Him.

λόγος γνώσεως. See last note. See also ch. 1 Corinthians 13:2, where knowledge is distinguished from the perception of mysteries. For other interpretations consult Alford’s note.


Verse 9

9. πίστις. Not the rudimentary principle which was the essential condition of all Christian life, but that higher realization of things Divine which enables a man to remove mountains (Matthew 17:20; ch. 1 Corinthians 13:2).

ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι. The meaning of these three prepositions, διά, κατά ἐν, applied to the Spirit’s work, is as follows. Διά refers to His instrumentality, κατά to His will (see 1 Corinthians 12:11), and ἐν to the fact of His inward union with those in whom He works. See Winer, Gr. Gram. § 50, Horsley’s Sermons, p. 170.

ἰαμάτων. As in Mark 16:18; Acts 3:7-8; Acts 5:15-16; Acts 9:18; Acts 9:34; Acts 19:11-12; James 5:14-15.


Verse 10

10. ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων. Literally, results produced by the active exercise of supernatural powers, as in Acts 5:1-11; Acts 9:40; Acts 13:11; Acts 16:18. For δύναμις in the sense of miracle, i.e. mighty work, see Matthew 7:22; Matthew 11:20.

προφητεία. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1.

διακρίσεις. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:29. Here it signifies the faculty of forming a correct judgment on the nature of spiritual utterances. Cf. 1 John 4:1. The word only occurs here and in Romans 14:1 and Hebrews 5:14. In the former place, it is rendered in A.V. by an adjective, ‘doubtful’; literally, discerning of disputations; in the latter by a verb.

γένη γλωσσῶν. These were either [1] outpourings of prayer and praise in a language unknown to the speaker or [2] (as Dean Alford in loc.) in a language not ordinarily intelligible to any man. The gift of tongues may possibly have included both (see notes on ch. 14). But it is impossible—with Acts 2:9-11 before us, and bearing in mind the fact adduced by Bishop Wordsworth in his commentary on that passage, that we never hear of any one of the Apostles sitting down to learn a foreign language, whereas with all other missionaries this is generally the first thing of which we are told—to exclude the idea of foreign languages here. ‘Qui multis gentibus annunciaturus erat, multarum linguarum acceperat gratiam.’ Jerome.

ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν. See ch. 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:13; 1 Corinthians 14:26-27. Thus men receive the gift of intellect, the gift of acquaintance with facts and the thoughts of men, the gift of strong reliance on God, the gift of supernatural powers, the gift of eloquence, the gift of sound judgment, the gift of language either as a speaker or an interpreter—all gifts most useful to the Church. In the list of offices in 1 Corinthians 12:28 sqq. the same order is followed. See Appendix to Horsley’s Sermons, Vol. I. Serm. XIV.


Verse 11

11. πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ. This consideration absolutely excludes all boasting, all possibility of setting up one gift as essentially superior to another. It is worthy of remark that what is predicated of God in 1 Corinthians 12:6, is here predicated of His Spirit. The word translated worketh is the same in both places. ‘The Spirit worketh, not is worked. He worketh as He will, not as He is bidden.’ Chrysostom.

διαιροῦν. Portioning out. Cf. Epictetus, Enchir. c. 50 τὸν διαιροῦντα λόγον, i.e. the reason which assigns to each its part. Cf. Hebrews 2:4.

ἰδίᾳ. This word is used adverbially. A.V. severally.


Verse 12

12. καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν. This simile is a very common one. It is used on several occasions by the Apostle. See Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 2:19. It was even familiar to Gentile minds from the well-known apologue of Menenius Agrippa in Livy II. 32. Cf. Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act I. Sc. 1. For other examples see Alford in loc. The point here is somewhat different. The unity of the body in the fable above-mentioned centres in the idea of the body politic. In the Christian scheme the unity is found in Christ, of Whose life all His members partake.

οὕτων καὶ ὁ χριστός. The Apostle, like Christ Himself in the parable of the Vine in John 15 (as also in ch. 17), identifies His members with Himself. The life they live (Galatians 2:20) is no longer theirs but His. They have put on the new man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), the second Adam (ch. 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47) Who was created afresh in the Image of God. And the result is the identification of themselves with Him. So that they are His Body (Ephesians 1:23), as filled with Him, Who filleth all things. So Beza on Ephesians 1:23, ‘Hinc etiam illud in Christo toties repetitum, quod multo expressius aliquid significat quam cum Christo, vel per Christum.’ And Colet on 1 Corinthians 1, ‘Unum quiddam sub Deo ex multis et variis membris constituunt; qui ab una commune unctione unus Christus rite potest appellari. Quod hoc compositum ex Deo et hominibus in Deum vocatis, Paulus non modo Christum, sed etiam in Epistola ad Ephesios virum perfectum vocat.’


Verses 12-31

12–31. COMPARISON OF THE UNITY OF THE BODY AND THE UNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH


Verse 13

13. ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι. Literally, in one Spirit, i.e. in virtue of His operation.

εἰς ἓν σῶμα. ‘Does baptism teach of a difference between Christians? Does it not rather teach that all the baptized are baptized into one body?’ Robertson.

ἐβαπτίσθημεν. Literally, were we all baptized. All is the work of the Holy Spirit—the first arresting of the thoughts and awakening the dormant instincts of the spirit of man, the gradual process whereby conviction is produced and strengthened, until at last the inquirer formally enrolls himself as a member of the Church of Christ, ‘which is His Body,’ Ephesians 1:23, and becomes entitled to all the privileges which belong to the members of that body. Cf. John 3:3-5, and notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:5. It must be remembered that those whom St Paul was addressing had been baptized as adults.

Ἕλληνες. Greeks. Cf. Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:12-17; Colossians 3:11. The Gospel of Christ was intended to abolish all national animosities, and to unite all men in one brotherhood, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 7:21-22.

ἐποτίσθημεν. The omission of εἰς here fixes the meaning of this word, which has two significations in this Epistle. In ch. 1 Corinthians 3:2 it signifies to give to drink. Cf. also Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:35, &c. It takes a double accusative, of the person, and of the thing, as in the first cited passage. In ch. 1 Corinthians 3:6-8 it signifies to water. Here we must render we were all given to drink of one Spirit. For ποτίζω does not appear to have been used with an accus. of the material with which anything is watered. Chrysostom gives a double explanation of the passage. He first of all explains it of Holy Communion and then of Confirmation.


Verse 14

14. οὐκ ἔστιν ἕν μέλος. The same leading idea is kept in view—the diversity of functions, offices, gifts, but the unity of the body. No more complete or apposite illustration could be given. The body is one thing, animated by one soul, belonging to one being, yet with an infinity of various parts, each contributing by their action to the fulfilment of one and the same purpose, the life and usefulness of the man.


Verse 15

15. ἐκ τοῦ σώματος. ἐκ has either here [1] the ordinary meaning of proceeding from, or [2] it has the more unusual sense of belonging to. See Winer, Gr. Gram. § 47. Donaldson, Gr. Gram. p. 507, cites in favour of [2] Soph. Trach. 734 ἐκ τριῶν ἕν ἂν εἱλόμην (where ἐκ has the sense of a part of). Jelf, Gr. Gram. § 621, cites Luke 2:4; Acts 10:45; Romans 4:16.

οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο. It is not for this reason not of the body. The best Editors do not punctuate this as a question. We have here an instance of a double negative, one portion of which corrects the other. See Acts 4:20.


Verse 17

17. εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός. ‘Observe here the difference between the Christian doctrine of unity and equality, and the world’s idea of levelling all to one standard. The intention of God with respect to the body is not that the rude hand should have the delicacy of the eye, or the foot have the power of the brain.’ Robertson. ‘To desire such an equality as this,’ says Calvin, ‘would produce a confusion which would bring about immediate ruin.’ The duty of each is to do his work in the place in which God has set him, with a proper consideration for the rights and the needs of his brother Christians who occupy other positions in the world. ‘If each man,’ continues Robertson, ‘had the spirit of self-surrender, the spirit of the Cross, it would not matter to himself whether he were doing the work of the mainspring or of one of the inferior parts.’


Verse 18

18. νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο. But now (that is, as the case stands) God placed, i.e. at creation.

ἓ ἕκαστον αὐτῶν. Every one of them, A.V. Rather, each one of them. In later English every one has become an equivalent for all.

καθὼς ἠθέλησεν. As He willed. St Paul would have us draw the inference that our own peculiar disposition and talents are appointed us by God, that we may perform the special work in the world for which we were designed. We are not therefore to repine because we do not possess the qualifications which we see possessed by others, but to endeavour to make the best possible use of the gifts we have.


Verse 19

19. εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος. The Christian Church, as St Paul continually teaches, was a body; that is, an organism which contained a vast number and variety of parts, each one with its own special function. But if all had the same purpose and work, the body would cease to exist.


Verse 22

22. τὰ δοκοῦντα. Not those which are, as Chrysostom remarks, but those which are thought to be so. This remark applies with still greater force to the next verse.

ἀσθενέστερα. The more feeble parts of the body, those, that is, which are most delicate, least able to take care of themselves, are by no means the least valuable. The eye or the brain, for instance, are more necessary to the well-being of the body than other stronger and ruder organs.


Verse 23

23. τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν. These we surround with more abundant honour, i.e. [1] by our admission that they are necessary to us, and [2] by the care we take of them. ‘The meanest trades are those with which we can least dispense. A nation may exist without an astronomer or philosopher, but the day-labourer is essential to the existence of man.’ Robertson. St Paul makes a distinction between the feebler and the less honourable members of the body.

ἀσχήμονα. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:36. Many of the most important, or at least the most necessary, functions of the body are performed by the parts which we thus regard.


Verse 24

24. συνεκέρασεν. Literally, mingled together.

ὑστερουμένῳ, which comes short of any other.


Verse 25

25. σχίσμα, i.e. discordance of aims and interests. See notes on 1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 11:18. God had specially provided against this by giving to those who occupy the less honourable and ornamental positions in society the compensation of being the most indispensable portions of it. The ‘comely parts’—the wealthy, the refined, the cultivated, the intellectual—obtain honour and respect by the very nature of their gifts. God has signified His Will that due honour and respect should be paid to those to whom it is not instinctively felt to be owing, by so ordering society that we cannot do without them. But our class distinctions and jealousies, our conflicts between capital and labour, shew how little Christians have realized this obvious truth.

ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων. All wars, insurrections, conflicts between class and class, arise from forgetfulness of the fact that the interests of all mankind are identical. Nor can this forgetfulness be charged upon one nation or one class of society. ‘The spirit and the law of the Life of Christ is to be that of every member of the Church, and the law of the Life of Christ is that of sympathy. How little, during the eighteen hundred years, have the hearts of men been got to beat together! Nor can we say that this is the fault of the capitalists and the masters only. It is the fault of the servants and dependents also.’ Robertson.

μεριμνῶσιν. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:32. Here, again, the A.V. ‘have the same care’ has ceased to express the meaning of the translators. The Apostle’s expression is stronger, ‘have the same anxiety.’ The troubles of one member should be the troubles of all.


Verse 26

26. καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἕν μέλος. This is a matter of the most ordinary experience in the human body. A pain in any portion, even the most remote from the seats of life, affects the whole. A glance at history will shew us that it is the same with the body politic. Whatever is physically, morally, or spiritually injurious to any one portion of society, or of the Church of Christ, is sure in the long run to produce injury, moral and spiritual deterioration to the rest.

εἴτε δοξάζεται μέλος. Chrysostom eloquently remarks here, ‘Is the head crowned? All the man is glorified. Do the lips speak? The eyes also laugh and rejoice.’ This part of the verse is as true as the former. Whatever tends to exalt the character and purify the aims of any one class, or even individual member of society, is sure in a greater or less degree to affect every other. If the one thought is calculated to alarm us by calling our attention to the infinite mischief which may be wrought by one act of thoughtlessness or selfishness, it is an immense encouragement to be reminded by the other that no work for good, undertaken from unselfish motives and carried out in an unselfish spirit, can possibly be without effect.


Verse 27

27. ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ. We here return to the proposition of 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, rendered more definite and intelligible by what has since been said. The Apostle now says [1] that collectively, Christians are the body of Christ, individually they are His members; [2] that of these members each has its several office (1 Corinthians 12:28); and [3] that none of these offices is common to the whole Christian body, but each belongs only to those to whom it has been assigned (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). ‘Est universa ecclesia nihil aliud nisi organum et instrumentum Dei Spiritus, uti corpus animae suae; quam ecclesiam cogit in unum, vivificat et perficit Spiritus, ut in ea suas vires exerceat.’ Colet.


Verse 28

28. οὕς μέν. St Paul evidently (see Winer, Gr. Gram. § 63) meant οὕς δὲ to follow. But he breaks off the construction by πρῶτον, and, instead of the simple enumeration he had intended, he arranges the offices in order of rank.

ἔθετο ὁ θεός. Literally, placed, i. e. when He founded the Church. See 1 Corinthians 12:18, of which this is the application.

πρῶτον ἀποστόλους. The Apostles, the founders and rulers of the Church, were first placed in their responsible office. Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:13-14; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1. The call of other disciples to a less responsible post is recorded in Luke 10:1. Cf. also Ephesians 4:11.

δεύτερον προφήτας. Secondarily, i.e. in the second rank in the Church. It may however be translated secondly. Prophets were those who by special gifts of inspiration (see ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1, and note) enlightened the Church on the mysteries of the faith.

τρίτον διδασκάλους. Those who with more ordinary gifts, by the exercise of the reason and judgment, expounded the oracles of God. Chrysostom remarks that they taught with less authority than the prophets, because what they said was more their own, and less directly from God. It would seem from the 15th chapter of the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ that the three orders ἀπόστολοι, προφήται, διδάσκαλοι, related to the missionary founders of the Church, and that, when a Church was once settled, the powers of the two latter descended on the ἐπίσκοποι and διάκονοι.

δυνάμεις. Literally, powers, or faculties (virtutes, Vulgate). See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:18. Here it no doubt includes miracles. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, 1 Corinthians 5:4, and notes.

ἰαμάτων. Properly, medicines. See the account of the plague in Thucyd. II. 51 ἕν τε οὐδὲν κατέστη ἵαμα, ὡς εἰπεῖν, ὅ τι χρῆν προσφέροντας ὠφελεῖν. Here it means, with χαρίσματα, various gifts of healing power, medicinal virtue, as we should say.

ἀντιλήμψεις. Literally, reciprocal seizure or hold. Hence an objection, Plat. Phaed. 87 A. ἀντιλαμβάνομαι is found in Luke 1:54; Acts 20:35; 1 Timothy 6:2. In the last place it means share. In the other two passages it means help. Hence it probably means here the power to help others in various ways, perhaps with the idea of sharing their burdens (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2). In Classical Greek this sense is not found.

κυβερνήσεις. Gubernationes, Vulgate. This would naturally mean the powers which fit a man for the higher positions in the Church. But Stanley [1] for the reason above assigned, as well as [2] from its position and [3] from the fact that it is employed in the Septuagint (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 24:6), as the rendering of a Hebrew word signifying wise foresight, would refer it to the discerning of spirits. But the Hebrew word is derived from a word signifying a rope, and the proper signification of the word, as of the word here used, is the steersman’s art, the art of guiding aright the vessel of Church or State.

γένη γλωσσῶν. See note on 1 Corinthians 12:10. ‘Seest thou where he hath set this gift, and how he everywhere assigns it the last rank?’ Chrysostom.


Verse 29

29. μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; The common priesthood of every Christian (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9) no more precludes the existence of special offices of authority in the Christian Church than the common priesthood of the Jewish people (Exodus 19:6) precluded the existence of a special order of men appointed to minister to God in holy things. The Apostle appeals to it as a notorious fact that all were not apostles or prophets, but only those who were called to those offices. Accordingly there is scarcely any sect of Christians which has not set apart a body of men to minister in holy things and to expound the word of God. ‘Were all teachers,’ says Estius, ‘where were the learners?’ The question here, however, is rather of gifts than of the offices to which those gifts lead.


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 13:13. THE EXCELLENCIES OF LOVE

καὶ ἔτι καθ' ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι. And moreover I shew you a way of superlative excellence. This, St Paul would have us understand, is the best gift of all. Even faith and hope come short of it. How much more then, those inferior gifts (however useful in their way) about which Christians at Corinth were wrangling. And the search after this gift of infinitely higher value will effectually prevent all jealousies about the lesser gifts by which the natural man is inclined to set store. For καθ' ὑπερβολήν in the sense of the superlative see Polyb. IX. 22. 8, of Hannibal, τινὲς μὲν γὰρ ὠμὸν αὐτὸν οἴονται γεγονέναι καθ' ὑπερβολήν. Calvin complains, and not without cause, of the ‘inepta capitis sectio’ here. The words at the head of this note belong to what follows, rather than to what goes before.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-12.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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