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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-31

(e) Spiritual Gifts

(i) Their Nature and Relations

1-3. The test of the Spirit's presence is the confession of Jesus as the Lord. It would seem that some members of the Church, carried away by their excitement when speaking in the congregation under the power of the Spirit, as they said, had called Jesus accursed, as if they had been unbelievers. No such utterance, says the Apostle, can proceed from any one who speaks by the Spirit.

2. Gentiles] and so ignorant of all spiritual gifts, and requiring guidance now.

3. Wherefore] i.e. because these gifts differ from any experience you had when heathens. Calleth Jesus accursed] RV 'saith, Jesus is anathema,' as unbelieving Jews would say. Jesus is the Lord] cp. Romans 10:9 (RV). This sincere confession is the essence of Christianity, and proves the presence of the Holy Spirit, the possession of a gift from Him. For a similar test cp. 1 John 2:1-3. Prof. Stevens paraphrases thus: 'The very first thing to be understood is that the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord is the keynote of all inspired speech. The primary test of the Spirit's inspiration is: Do you acknowledge the Lordship of Christ?'

4-11. There are many gifts, but all are bestowed by one Spirit.

4, 5, 6. Spirit.. Lord.. God] The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is implied here. Administrations] RV 'ministrations'; ways in which the Lord is served. Operations] RV 'workings.' Which worketh all in all] i.e. who is the author and instigator of all these activities in all who possess them.

7. The gift by which the Spirit manifests His presence is given to each for the common good of all.

9. Faith] i.e. (probably) a great wonder-working faith (1 Corinthians 13:2; Hebrews 11:33).

10. Prophecy] i.e. inspired utterance of God's mind; not only 'foretelling,'but 'forth-telling': see on 1 Corinthians 14:1; Discerning of spirits] power to recognise whether a man were a true or a false prophet. Tongues.. interpretation] cp. intro. to chapter

11. As he will] Notice the personality and the freedom of the Spirit.

12-31. The Church is like the human body. It consists of many members, with different functions, but all intended to promote the good of the whole. Thus there is no room for selfish display, envy of others' gifts, contempt of one's own: cp. Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:15-16 and the Roman fable of the belly and the members.

12, 13. Stevens paraphrases thus: 'The unity of those who possess the various gifts is analogous to the unity of the body; they are all one in Christ. Their baptism into Christ signifies their unity in Him, whatever their nationality or social condition.'

12. Are] i.e. constitute one body. So also is Christ] Christ is regarded here as the personality whose body is the Church. He is so closely connected with the Church that He is almost identified with it. He infuses His Spirit into it, and His Presence interpenetrates it. Every Christian is a member of Christ's body—head, hand, foot, eye, ear, or some other equally essential member.

13. Into one body] i.e. so as to become one body: cp. Ephesians 4:4. Have been all made to drink into (RV 'of') one Spirit] or, perhaps, 'been watered with one Spirit.' He has poured His gifts into us all.

15. A warning against being envious of others' gifts, negligent of our own. Is it therefore not of the body?] RV 'it is not therefore not of the body'; it does not on this account cease to belong to it.

17f. If the whole body] Just as the differences of powers and functions are a great advantage to the body, so the existence of different gifts benefits the Church. The position of each individual, his possession of this or that gift, has been ordered by God.

21. I have no need of thee] a rebuke to those who despised those not possessing their gifts.

23. Bestow more abundant honour] i.e. by clothing them.

24. No need] of clothing.

Tempered.. together] wrought all into harmony. Given more abundant honour] by implanting in men the instinct of 1 Corinthians 12:23.

25. No schism] contrast 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 11:18, where see note.

26. All the members suffer with it] What is true of the human body, through the nervous connexion of all. its parts, should be true of the Church: cp. Romans 12:5.

27-31. Application. The various offices and functions in the Church, Christ's Body. These are by God's assignment; all do not possess the same gift.

27. Ye are the body of Christ] true of individual Churches, as here; and of the Church universal (Ephesians 1:23).

Members in particular] i.e. each in his place; RV 'severally members thereof.'

28. First apostles, etc.] cp. similar list, Ephesians 4:11. It is a list not so much of distinct offices as of functions and gifts, some of which may be combined in the same man. St. Paul was Apostle, prophet, teacher (Acts 13:1), worked miracles, and spoke with tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).

Apostles] commissioned witnesses of Christ's Resurrection, founders or organisers of Churches. Prophets] cp. 1 Corinthians 12:10, inspired revealers of God's mind. Teachers] who gave instruction regarding the faith and the bearing of religion upon life and conduct (1 Corinthians 12:8).

Helps] including the original work of deacons, ministration to the poor and sick.

Governments] i.e. powers of organisation and administration, including much of the work of presbyters. Tongues] are perhaps put last, because overvalued at Corinth.

30. Interpret] i.e. the tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10).

31. Covet (RV 'desire') earnestly the best (RV 'greater') gifts] The lowest have their place, but it is right to aim at possessing the higher. And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way] RV 'a still more excellent way show I unto you,' i.e. in which to possess and use them. To have them is good, but it is still more important to use them in a spirit of love.


Verses 1-40

(e) Spiritual Gifts

In the early Church various powers, faculties, and graces were bestowed on individual Christians by the Holy Spirit. Some of these were distinctly miraculous, such as prophecy, tongues, power to work miracles; others were less extraordinary gifts, such as teaching or wisdom; or special graces of Christian character, such as love. The Apostle does not distinguish between these classes; all alike come from the same Source, and are to be exercised for the good of all. The Corinthians were inclined to overvalue the more showy gifts, especially that of tongues. Those possessing this gift were tempted to use it for mere display; those not possessing it envied these others, and undervalued their own gifts.

St. Paul first (1 Corinthians 12) shows that all these gifts come from the same Spirit, and all alike contribute to the well-being of the Church. But love (1 Corinthians 13) surpasses them all; without it they are of no avail. Of these gifts, prophecy (i.e. inspired preaching, revelation of God's will) is better than tongues because it builds up the Church, and produces a better effect upon unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14). But the exercise of both gifts must be so regulated that all things may be done, (a) 'to edifying'; (6) 'decently and in order.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-corinthians-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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