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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1 Corinthians 12:1. For the heading of the new topic, which runs on to the end of ch. 14., see note on 1 Corinthians 7:1. τῶν πνευματικῶν is neut.—“concerning spiritual things (gifts, powers),” as in 1 Corinthians 14:1 (cf. πνευμάτων, 1 Corinthians 12:12) and 1 Corinthians 8:1; not “spiritual persons” (1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Corinthians 2:15), as Hf(1813) and some others would have it: not the status of the persons spiritually endowed, but the operations of the Spirit who endows them are in question. “ δὲ is transitional, with a shade of antithesis to τὰλοιπὰδιατάξομαι: ‘Whatever subject I postpone, I must not delay to explain the nature of spiritual gifts’ ” (Ed(1814)). On οὐ θέλω ἀγνοεῖν, cf. note to 1 Corinthians 10:1 : the Ap. has something to explain not quite obvious and highly important.


Verses 1-11

1 Corinthians 12:1-11. § 39. THE VARIOUS CHARISMS OF THE ONE SPIRIT. In treating of the questions of Church order discussed in this Div. of the Ep., the Ap. penetrates from the outward and visible to that which is innermost and divinest in the Christian Society: (1) the question of the woman’s veil, a matter of social decorum; (2) the observance of the Lord’s Supper, a matter of Church communion; and now (3) the operation of the Spirit of God in the Church, wherein lies the very mystery of its life. The words διαιρέσεις in 1 Corinthians 12:4 and πάντα ταῦτα in 1 Corinthians 12:11 give the clue to Paul’s intent in this §. Many Cor(1812) took a low and half superstitious view of the Holy Spirit’s influence, seeing in such charisms as the “tongues”—phenomena analogous to, though far surpassing, pagan manifestations (1 Corinthians 12:2)—the proper evidence of His working, while they underrated endowments of a less striking but more vital and serviceable nature (1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Corinthians 14:12). For the moment, Paul’s object is twofold: first, to lay down a general criterion of the presence of Christ’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), and then to show the wide manifoldness of His working in the community of believers (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 12:2. On the critical reading, οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτεὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι, there are two plausible constructions: (a) that of Bg(1815), Bm(1816) (pp. 383 f.), Ed(1817), who regard ὡς as a resumption of the ὅτι, after the parenthetical ὅτε clause, and thus translate: “You know that, when you were Gentiles,—how you were always led to those voiceless idols, being carried away”. There are two reasons against this construction—(1) the improbability of ὅτι being forgotten after so short an interruption; (2) the inversion of the proper relation between ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε and ἀπαγόμενοι, the former of which is naturally construed as subordinate and adverbial to the latter, the “leading to idols”supplying the condition under which the “carrying off” took place. (b) We are driven back upon the alternative construction, adopted by Est., Mr(1818), Hn(1819), Ev(1820), Bt(1821), Gd(1822), El(1823) (see his note, and Krüger’s Sprachl., § 354 b, Anm. 1 f., for similar instances), who regard ἀπαγόμεμοι as chief predicate after ὅτι, and complete the ptp(1824) by ἦτε, which is mentally taken up from the interposed temporal clause: “You know that, when you were Gentiles, to those voiceless idols, however you might be led, (you were) carried away”. Since οἶδα with ptpl. complement occurs but once besides in N.T. (2 Corinthians 12:2, and there with acc. ptp(1825), not nom(1826) as here), the confusion between the ptpl(1827) construction and the ὅτι construction after οἶδα, by which Mr(1828) accounts for the grammatical irregularity, is not very probable. The emendation of W.H(1829) (see txtl. note) is most tempting, in view of Ephesians 2:11; it wholly obviates the difficulty of grammar: “You know that once ( ὅτι ποτέ) you were Gentiles, carried off to those dumb idols, howsoever you might be led”.—The Cor(1830), now belonging to the λαὸς θεοῦ, distinguish themselves from the ἔθνη (see 1 Corinthians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 10:20); to be “led away to the (worship of the) idols” is the characteristic of Gentiles (1 Corinthians 8:7). ἀπάγω implies force rather than charm in the ἀπάγων; P. is not thinking of any earlier truth from which the heathen were enticed, but of the overwhelming current by which they were “carried off” (abreptos, Bz(1831)), cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Timothy 2:26, Matthew 12:29. With this agrees the qualifying ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε (not ἀνήγεσθε, as Hf(1832) and Hn(1833) read; this gives an irrelevant sense—“led up,” “led in sacrifice”), indicating the uncertainty and caprice of the directing powers—“pro nutu ducentium” (Est.). For the right sort of ἄγεσθαι, see Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18.—On the εἴδωλα, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4; the voicelessness of the idol is part of its nothingness (cf. Psalms 115:4-7, etc.); the Pagans were led by no intelligent, conscious guidance, but by an occult power behind the idol (1 Corinthians 10:19 ff.).


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 12:3. Their old experience of the spells of heathenism had not prepared the Cor(1834) to understand the workings of God’s Spirit and the notes of His presence. On this subject they had asked (1), and P. now gives instruction: “Wherefore I inform you”. They knew how men could be “carried away” by supernatural influences; they wanted a criterion for distinguishing those truly Divine. The test P. supplies is that of loyalty to Jesus Christ. “No one speaking in the Spirit of God says αναθε΄α ιησουσ, and no one can say κυριοσ ιησουσ except in the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is anathema, Jesus is Lord, are the battlecries of the spirits of error and of truth contending at Cor(1835) The second watchword is obvious, its inclusiveness is the point of interest; it certificates all true Christians, with whatever διαιρέσεις χαρισμάτων (1 Corinthians 12:4 ff.), as possessors of the Holy Spirit, since He inspires the confession of their Master’s name which makes them such (see 1 Corinthians 1:2, Romans 10:9, Philippians 2:11, etc.). Not a mystical “tongue,” but the clear intelligent confession “Jesus is Lord” marks out the genuine πνευματικός; cf. the parl(1836) cry ἀββᾶ πατήρ, of Galatians 4:6. “He shall glorify Me,” said Jesus (John 16:14) of the coming Spirit: this is the infallible proof of His indwelling.—But who were those who might say at Cor(1837), “Jesus is anathema”? Faciebant gentes, says Bg(1838), sed magis Judœi. ἀνάθεμα (see parls.) is Hebraistic in Biblical use, denoting that which is cherem, vowed to God for destruction as under His curse, like Achan in Joshua’s camp. So the High Priest and the Jewish people treated Jesus (John 11:49 f., Galatians 3:13), using perhaps these very words of execration (cf. Hebrews 6:6), which Saul of Tarsus himself had doubtless uttered in blaspheming the Nazarene (1 Timothy 1:13); this cry, so apt to Jewish lips, resounded in the Synagogue in response to apostolic preaching. Christian assemblies, in the midst of their praises of the Lord Jesus, would sometimes be startled by a fierce Jew screaming out like a man possessed, “Jesus is anathema!”—for unbelievers on some occasions had access to Christian meetings (1 Corinthians 14:24). Such frenzied shouts, heard in moments of devotion, affected susceptible natures as with the presence of an unearthly power; hence the contrast which Paul draws. This watchword of hostile Jews would be taken up by the Gentile mobs which they roused against the Nazarenes; see Acts 13:45; Acts 18:6, where βλασφημοῦντες may well include λέγοντες ἀνάθεμα ἰησοῦς. Gd(1839), ad loc(1840), and W. F. Slater (Faith and Life of the Early Church, pp. 348 f.) suppose both cries to originate in the Church; they ascribe the anathema to heretics resembling Cerinthus and the Ophites, who separated Jesus from Christ (cf. 1 John 2:18 ff; 1 John 4:1-6); but this identification is foreign to the situation and context, and is surely an anachronism.—The distinction between λαλέω and λέγω is well exemplified here: λαλεῖν ἐν is “to speak in the element and sphere of, under the influence of” the Holy Spirit.


Verses 4-6

1 Corinthians 12:4-6. “But,” while the Spirit prompts in all Christians the simultaneous confession Jesus is Lord, this unity of faith bears multiform fruit in “distributions of grace-gifts, services, workings”. These are not separate classes of πνευματικά, but varied designations of the πνευματικὰ collectively—a trinity of blessing associating its possessors in turn with the Spirit, the Lord, and God the fountain of all. What is a χάρισμα (see 1 Corinthians 1:7) in respect of its quality and ground, is a διακονία in view of its usefulness (see 1 Corinthians 12:21-25), and an ἐνέργημα in virtue of the power operative therein. The identity of the first and second of the syns. rests on that of “the Lord” and “the Spirit” (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:17 f.), and that of the second and third upon the relation of Christ to the Father (see John 5:17 ff; John 14:8-14). For the Trinitarian structure of the passage, cf. 2 Corinthians 13:13, Ephesians 4:4 ff.— κύριος and διακονία are correlative; all Church-ministry is directed by “the Lord” and rendered primarily to Him (1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 7:12, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Romans 12:11; Romans 14:4-9, Matthew 25:40, etc.). διακονία embraces every “work of ministration” (Ephesians 4:12): gradually the term narrowed to official and esp. bodily ministrations, to the duties of the διάκονος (Philippians 1:1, etc.); see 1 Corinthians 16:15, and cf. Romans 15:31 with 1 Corinthians 11:13 for the twofold use.— ἐνέργημα (effectus, rather than operatio, Vg(1841))—the result of ἐνεργέω; this favourite Pauline vb(1842) signifies an effective, and with ἐν an immanent activity.— τὰ πάντα covers the whole sphere in which spiritual charisms operate: cf. Ephesians 4:6. 1 Corinthians 12:2 refers the same πάντα ἐνεργεῖν to “the Spirit,” who is God indwelling; Power, in its largest, ultimate sense, “belongeth unto God” cf. Ephesians 1:11, etc., Philippians 2:13)—“the same God, who works … in all” (Romans 3:29 f.), knowing no respect of persons and operative in the doings of every Christian man; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30 a, and note.— διαιρέσεις appears to be act(1843), dividings, distributings, rather than pass(1844), differences, varieties; see 1 Corinthians 12:11. The pl(1845) points to the constantly repeated dealings out of the Spirit’s store of gifts to the members of Christ’s body.


Verse 7

1 Corinthians 12:7. ἑκάστῳ δὲ κ. τ. λ.—distributive in contrast with the collective τ. πᾶσιν of 1 Corinthians 12:6; cf. Ephesians 4:6 f., and the emphatic ἕκαστος of 1 Corinthians 3:5-13 : “But to each there is being given the manifestation of the Spirit with a view to profiting”; cf. Ephesians 4:7-16, where the δωρεὰ τ. χριστοῦ is similarly portioned out amongst the members of Christ, for manifold and reciprocal service to His body. The thought of mutual benefit, there amply expressed, is here slightly indicated by πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον (ad utilitatem, Vg(1846)): see 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 10:33, on this word.— δίδοται, datur (not datum est), indicates continuous bestowment; so in 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff.: these charisms, blossoming out in rich, changeful variety, disclose the potencies of the Spirit ever dwelling in the Church.— φανέρωσις (opp(1847) of κρύψις) governs τ. πνεύματος in obj(1848) gen(1849): to each is granted some personal gift in which he shows forth the Spirit by whose inspiration he calls Jesus Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3); for the constr(1850), cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2 For the general idea, Matthew 5:14 ff., Luke 12:1 f., 1 Peter 2:9.


Verses 8-10

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 exhibit by way of example ( γάρ) nine chief manifestations in which the Holy Spirit was displayed: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healings, powers, prophecy, discernings of spirits, kinds of tongues, interpreting of tongues. The fourth and fifth are specially marked as χαρίσματα and ἐνεργήματα respectively; the first is said to be given “through,” the second “according to,” the third and fourth “in the same” (or “the one) Spirit,” whose operation in the whole is collectively reaffirmed in 1 Corinthians 12:12. In distinguishing the recipients, P. begins with the colourless μέν (for the rel(1851) pr(1852) in this use, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:21); but in continuation ἄλλῳ δέ (to another) is varied with ἑτέρῳ (to some one else); the latter seems to mark a more specific, qualitative difference: cf. the interchange in 1 Corinthians 15:39 ff., also in 2 Corinthians 11:4, and ἕτερος in 1 Corinthians 14:21, Romans 7:23; ἕτερος moreover dispenses with the contrastive δέ, as conveying its own antithesis (Hn(1853) however, against Mr(1854), takes the prons. to be used indifferently). Accordingly, the third (faith) and eighth (tongues) in the chain of gifts indicate points of transition, in the writer’s thought, from one sort of endowment to another; and the nine thus fall into three divisions, of two, fire, and two members respectively, with λόγος, πίστις, γλῶσσαι for their titles, the first of which exhibits the πνεῦμα working through the νοῦς, the second in distinction from the νοῦς, and the third in supersession of the νοῦς: for this basis of discrimination, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:14-20; also 1 Corinthians 13:8, where the like threefold distinction appears in another order. The above arrangement is that of Mr(1855); Ed(1856) gives a more elaborate and somewhat diff(1857) analysis.—(a) λόγος σοφίας and γνώσεως were the charisms most abounding at Cor(1858): see 1 Corinthians 1:5, and the relevant notes on 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 2:1, “Wisdom” is the larger acquisition,—the truth of God wrought into the man; “knowledge” is that truth intellectually apprehended and objectified: see Ed(1859) ad loc(1860), who says, “The παρέκβασις of σοφία is mysticism, of γνώσεως is rationalism”. Expressed in λόγος, both gifts serve the Church πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον (1 Corinthians 12:7); they are the qualifications of pastor and teacher respectively. “The Spirit” is the channel ( διά) conveying Wisdom; “the same Spirit” is the standard ( κατά) regulating Knowledge.—(b) πίστις impresses its character on the whole second series: standing alone, with emphasis, it implies an energy and demonstrativeness of faith (cf. πᾶσα πίστις 1 Corinthians 13:2), ein Glaubensheroismus (Mr(1861)): ἰάματα and δυνάμεις are operations of such faith in the material sphere, by way of miracle; προφητεία and διάκρισις πνευμάτων, in the purely spiritual sphere, by way of revelation. Faith however may be exhibited in conspicuous degree apart from these particular demonstrations (cf. Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21, Mark 16:17 f.). The first two of the five are imparted “in (i.e., grounded upon, exercised in the sphere of) the same (the one) Spirit”; what is said of these is understood of the other three (cf. ἐν in 1 Corinthians 12:3): “in the same Spirit” dwell the endowments of a fruitful understanding and of a potent faith; “in the one Spirit”—in His power and bestowment alone—all “gifts of healings” lie (cf. Mark 3:28 ff.). The ἰάματα (acts of healing; see parls.) are χαρίσματα by eminence—gracious acts (cf. Luke 7:21, ἐχαρίσατο): the δυναμεις (powers; see parls.) display strength rather than grace, e.g., in the sentence of 1 Corinthians 5:5 above, or that contemplated in 2 Corinthians 13:2 ff., 2 Corinthians 13:10; they are “acts of energy”.— προφητεία, as an edifying gift of speech, is akin to the λόγος graces of (a); it is contrasted with γλῶσσαι (c) in 14, as being an intelligent exercise. But prophecy, while employing the νοῦς, has a deeper seat; it is no branch of σοφία or γνῶσις as though coming by rational insight, but an ἀποκάλυψις of hidden things of God realised through a peculiar clearness and intensity of faith (2 Corinthians 4:13 f; Hebrews 11:1; Hebrews 11:13; Luke 10:2 f., etc.), and is in line therefore with the miraculous powers preceding; hence “the prophet” is regularly distinguished from “the teacher”.—“Discernment of spirits” is the counterpart and safeguard of “prophesying,” demanding the like super-rational penetration; the true critic may not have originative faculty, but his mind moves in the same region with that of the originator and tracks his steps. διακρίσεις, pl(1862), for this gift had many and various occasions of exercise: see parls., also for διακρίνω, 1 Corinthians 6:5, etc.; as to the power itself and the need for its exercise; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 ff., 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 ff., 1 John 2:18 ff; 1 John 4:1-6, Matthew 24:11 f. P. exhibits this διάκρισις admirably in 1 Corinthians 12:3 above; it displays itself in Acts 13:8 ff., along with ἐνέργημα δυνάμεως; cf. Acts 5:1-11.—(c) The “kinds of tongues,” with their attendant “interpretation,” constitute the third order of specific charisms; in this exercise the intelligence of the speaker is suspended. The γλῶσσαι, ranked first by the Cor(1863) because of their sensational character, P. enumerates last in regard of “profiting” (1 Corinthians 12:7); ch. 14 will justify this relative depreciation. The “tongues” of this Ep. cannot have signified the power to speak strange languages in missionary preaching, as many have inferred from the terms used in the account of the manifestation of the Day of Pentecost; see notes on Acts 2:4-11. γένη implies that this ecstatic phenomenon was far from uniform; the “new tongues” of Mark 16:17, together with the indications of Mark 16:1, and 1 Corinthians 12:14 of this Ep., point to the breaking out of an exalted and mystical utterance differing from all recognised human speech; this utterance varied at diff(1864) times and places in its mode and attendant conditions, and in the impression it produced on the hearers; it is regularly spoken of in the pl(1865) The necessity of ἑρμηνεία for the extraction of any benefit to the Church from the Tongues will be shown in ch. 14; sometimes the possessor of the Tongue became interpreter also (1 Corinthians 14:13). On the γλῶσσαι generally, see Ed(1866), ad loc(1867); also Hn(1868)


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 12:11 sums up the last par. (1 Corinthians 12:4-10), impressing on the Cor(1869) with redoubled emphasis the variety in unity of the “gifts,” and vindicating the sanctity of each: “But all these things worketh the one and the same Spirit” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9). In the qualifying clause, “dividing separately (seorsim) as He wills,” διαίρουν takes up the διαιρέσεις of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; ἑκάστῳ is resumed from 1 Corinthians 12:7; ἰδίᾳ adds the thought that the Spirit deals with each recipient by himself, individually and appropriately (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Corinthians 3:8, 1 Corinthians 15:23); while καθὼς βούλεται signifies that He acts in the distribution upon His choice and judgment, where lies the hidden reason for the giving or withholding of each particular gift.—For βούλομαι, see parls.; and for its difference from ἐθέλω, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18; also 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 4:21, and parls. Eurip., Hippol., 1329 f., supplies a good example of the distinction, οὐδεὶς ἀπαντᾶν βούλεται προθυμίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θέλοντος, ἀλλʼ ἀφιστάμεθʼ ἀεί: “None of us likes to cross the purpose of one that is bent on anything, but we always stand aside”. No predicate could more strongly imply personality than does βούλεται.


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 12:12. “The one Spirit,” the leading thought of § 39, suggests the similitude of “the body” for the Church (called in ch. 3 the tillage, building, temple of God), since this is the seat of His multifarious energies. In the Eph. and Col. Epp. τὸ σῶμα becomes a fixed title for the Christian community, setting forth its relation both to the inhabiting Spirit and to the sovereign Head; as yet it remains a plastic figure. Aristotle had applied this image to the State, the body politic; and the idea was a Gr(1870) commonplace. The Ap. is still insisting on the breadth of the Holy Spirit’s working, as against Cor(1871) partisanship and predilection for miraculous endowments; hence the reiterated ἓν and πολλά, also the emphatic πάντα of the second clause: “but all the members of the body, many as they are ( πολλὰ ὄντα), are one body”. In applying the comparison, Paul writes not as one expects, οὕτως ἐκκλησία or οὔτως ἡμεῖς, but with heightened solemnity οὕτως καὶ χριστός, “so also is the Christ!” “Christ stands by metonomy for the community united through Him and grounded in Him” (Hn(1872)). This substitution shows how realistic was P.’s conception of believers as subsisting “in Christ,” and raises the idea of Church-unity to its highest point; “all the members are instinct with one personality” (Ed(1873)): cf. Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 13:5, for this identification in the case of the individual Christian. The later representation of Christ and the Church as Head and Body is implicit in this phrase. For χριστὸς with art(1874), cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 10:4, etc.; also Ephesians 5:23 ff.


Verses 12-20

1 Corinthians 12:12-20. § 40. THE ONE BODY, OF MANY MEMBERS. The manifold graces, ministries, workings (1 Corinthians 12:4 ff.), that proceed from the action of the Holy Spirit in the Christian community, stand not only in common dependence upon Him (§ 39), but are mutually bound to each other. The Church of Christ is “the body” for the Spirit of God; and these operations are its correlated functional activities (1 Corinthians 12:12 f.). Differentiation is of the essence of bodily life. The unity of the Church is not that of inorganic nature,—a monotonous aggregation of similars, as in a pool of water or a heap of stones; it is the oneness of a living organism, no member of which exercises the same faculty as another. Without “many members,” contrasted as foot with hand or sight with smell (1 Corinthians 12:14-17), there would be no body at all, but only a single monstrous limb (1 Corinthians 12:19). In God’s creative plan, it is the integration and reciprocity of a multitude of distinct organs that makes up the physical and the social frame (1 Corinthians 12:18 ff.).


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 12:13. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑβὶ πνεύματι κ. τ. λ.: “For indeed in one Spirit we all into one body were baptized—whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or freemen—and we all of one Spirit were made to drink,”—were drenched (Ev(1875)). An appeal to experience (cf. Galatians 3:2 ff; Galatians 4:6; also Acts 19:2-6): at their baptism the Cor(1876) believers, differing in race and rank, were consciously made one; one Spirit flooded their souls with the love and joy of a common faith in Christ.—For βαπτίζω ἐν and εἰς, see parls.: ἐν defines the element and ruling influence of the baptism, εἰς the relationship to which it introduces. P. refers to actual Christian baptism, the essence of which lay in the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5 ff., Titus 3:5 f.); baptism represents the entire process of personal salvation which it seals and attests (Ephesians 1:13, Galatians 3:26 ff., Romans 6:2 ff.), as the Queen’s coronation imports her whole investiture with royalty. That Jews and Greeks, slaves and freemen, had received at the outset an identical Spirit, shows that they were intended to form a single body, and that this body was designed to have a wide variety of members (1 Corinthians 12:11 f.).— ἐποτίσθημεν (see parls.) has been referred by Cm(1877), Aug(1878), Cv(1879), Est., and latterly by Hn(1880), to the ποτήριον of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:25), as though καὶ coupled the two consecutive Sacraments (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:2 f., and notes); but the tense, parl(1881) to ἐβαπτίσθημεν (otherwise in 1 Corinthians 10:16, etc.), points to a past event, not a repeated act; and it is “the blood of Christ,” not the Holy Spirit, that fills (symbolically) the Eucharistic cup. The two aors. describe the same primary experience under opposite figures (the former of which is acted in baptism), as an outward affusion and an inward absorption; the Cor(1882) were at once immersed in (cf. συνετάφημεν, Romans 6:4) and saturated with the Spirit; the second figure supplements the first: cf. Romans 5:5, Titus 3:5-6.— ποτίζω, which takes double acc(1883) (1 Corinthians 3:2), retains that of the thing in the passive.


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 12:14 recalls, under the analogy of the σῶμα, the reason given in 1 Corinthians 12:12 for the diversity of spiritual powers displayed in the Church: it is not “one member,” but “many” that constitute the “body”. This thesis the rest of the § illustrates.


Verse 15-16

1 Corinthians 12:15-16 represent with lively fancy the foot and ear in turn—organs of activity and intelligence—as disclaiming their part in the body, because they have not the powers of the hand and eye: an image of jealous or discouraged Cor(1884) Christians, emulous of the shining gifts of their fellows. In each case it is the lowlier but kindred organ that desponds, pars de parte quam simillima loquens (Bg(1885)): cf. 1 Corinthians 12:21.— οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, “I am not of the body”—not a mere partitive expression; it signifies dependence (pendens ab: cf. Galatians 3:10, Titus 1:10, etc.; Wr(1886), p. 461), hence derived status or character.—Paul contradicts, in identical terms, the self-disparagement of the two chagrined members: οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο κ. τ. λ. must be read as a statement—“it is not therefore not of the body” (R.V., Bg(1887), Mr(1888), Hn(1889), Hf(1890), Ed(1891), El(1892), Bt(1893), Sm(1894)); not a question (A.V., Cv(1895), Bz(1896), Est., D.W(1897), Al(1898), Gd(1899)), which would require μὴ instead of οὐ—“is it for this reason not of the body?” For παρὰ with acc(1900) of reason (along of this), see parls.: “in accordance with this,” viz., the disclaimer just made (so Mr(1901), Hn(1902), Hf(1903), Ev(1904), El(1905), Er(1906)deplorans sortem suam). The foot or ear does not sever itself from the body by distinguishing itself from hand or eye; its pettish argument ( ἐὰν εἴπῃ κ. τ. λ.) leaves it where it was. Gd(1907), Ed(1908), and others, less aptly refer τοῦτο not to the saying of the foot, etc., but to the fact that it is not hand, etc. For double οὐ, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:9.


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 12:17 expostulates in the vein of 1 Corinthians 12:15 f. with those who exalt one order of gifts (either as possessing it themselves or envying it in their neighbours) to the contempt of others; the despised function is as needful as the admired to make up the body: “If all the body (were) eye, where the hearing? if all (were) hearing, where the smelling?” The senses are set in order of dignity; the ear wishes to be the eye (1 Corinthians 12:16), but then its indispensable service of hearing would be undischarged; so the nose might desire promotion to the rank of an ear, leaving the body impotent to smell. The discontent of the lower members and the scornfulness of the higher are alike signs of a selfish individualism, indifferent to the welfare of the body ecclesiastic.— ἦν (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9) is understood here.— ὄσφρησις is “the sense of smell”—not odor, but odoratus (Vg(1909)).


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 12:18. “But now (argumentative νῦν, ‘as things are’: see 1 Corinthians 5:11) God has appointed the members, each single one of them, in the body as He willed.” It is God’s will that has ranged the physical organs—and by analogy the members of the Church—in their several places and offices (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 3:5). Dissatisfaction with one’s particular charism, or contempt for that of another, is disloyalty towards Him and distrust of His wisdom. This is Paul’s ultima ratio: ἄνθρωπε, σὺ τίς εἶ κ. τ. λ.; Romans 9:20.—For τίθημι in mid(1910) voice, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28 and other parls.; the tense refers the Divine appointment constituting the body to past time generally—“has set” rather than “set”. The prefixed ἓν singles out the individual for the Divine regard, distributed by ἕκαστον; each limb by itself has its part assigned by God.— ἠθέλησεν signifies determining will, as βούλεται (1 Corinthians 12:11, note) discriminating choice.


Verse 19-20

1 Corinthians 12:19-20 rehearse the doctrine of 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, now vividly illustrated by 1 Corinthians 12:15 ff., viz., that a manifold variety of organs is indispensable for the existence of the Church. First the principle is suggested by a rhetorical question, in the strain of 1 Corinthians 12:17 : “But if all were one member, where (were) the body? “Secondly, it is affirmed, with grave conclusiveness: “But as the case stands ( νῦν δέ)—Many members, yet one body”.— πολλὰ μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα sums up the whole exposition in a concise epigram, which was perhaps already proverbial (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24).— ἐστὶν hardly needs to be supplied. cf., for the thought, 1 Corinthians 10:17, and notes on 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:14 above.


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 12:21 personifies again the physical members, in the fashion of 1 Corinthians 12:15 f.: there the inferior disparaged itself as though it were no part of the body at all; here the superior disparages its fellow, affecting independence. “The eye (might wish to say but) cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee! or the head in turn to the feet, I have no need of you!” The eye and head are imagined looking superciliously on their companions; in 1 Corinthians 12:15 f. the ear and foot play the part of discontented rivals.— οὐ δύναται—a moral and practical impossibility (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:21): at every turn the eye wants the hand, or the head calls on the foot, in order to reach its ends; the keen eye and scheming head of the paralytic—what a picture of impotence! The famous Roman fable of the Belly and the Members is recalled by the Apostle’s apologue. There is no such thing in the physical, nor in the social, fabric as independence.— πάλιν (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:20, 2 Corinthians 10:7, Romans 15:10), vicissim (Hn(1911)), rather than iterum (Vg(1912)) or rursum (Bz(1913)), adduces another instance of the same kind as the former.


Verses 21-31

1 Corinthians 12:21-31 a. § 41. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE OF THE BODY’S MEMBERS. Multiformity, it has been shown, is of the essence of organic life. But the variously endowed members, being needful to the body, are consequently necessary to each other—those that seem “weaker” sometimes the more so (1 Corinthians 12:21 f.), while the less honoured have a dignity of their own; thus all the members cherish mutual respect and fellow-feeling (1 Corinthians 12:23-26). This holds good of the Church, with its numerous grades of personal calling and endowment (1 Corinthians 12:27 f.). No one charism belongs to all Christians (1 Corinthians 12:29 f.). There is choice and purpose in God’s distributive appointments, which leave, moreover, room for man’s personal effort. We should desire the best of His gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).


Verses 22-24

1 Corinthians 12:22-24 a. “On the contrary” ( ἀλλά), instead of the more powerful and dignified (1 Corinthians 12:23) bodily parts dispensing with the humbler (1 Corinthians 12:21), it is “much more” the case that these latter—“the weaker” or “less honourable as they may seem to be” ( τὰ δοκοῦνταἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν)—“are necessary” in themselves (1 Corinthians 12:22), and treated with “more abundant honour” in our care of the body. By πολλῷ μᾶλλον (cf Plato, Phœdo, 80 E, ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον), multo potius (Bz(1914)) or a fortiori (Ev(1915)), the position of 1 Corinthians 12:21 is more than negatived; the inferior members are not merely shielded from contempt, but guarded with exceptional respect. By the “weaker” and “ignobler” parts P. cannot mean the hands or feet spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:21, for these are strong and usually uncovered (see περιτίθεμεν, 23); but members in appearance quite subordinate and actually feeble—viz., the more delicate vital organs. Amongst these the ἀσχήμονα signify definitely τὰ αἰδοῖα, quœ inhonesta sunt (Vg(1916)); cf. Revelation 16:15, τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην.—The ἀσθενέστερα and ἀτιμότερα, the “comparatively weak” and “feeble” (comparativus molliens, Bg(1917)), are wide categories applicable to the same members from diff(1918) points of view. Weakness, in the case, e.g., of the heart, is compensated by needfulness; ignobility, as in the viscera, by careful tendance shown in ample clothing—“we put about them (clothe them with) a more abundant honour” (for the use of τιμή, cf. ἐξουσία in 1 Corinthians 11:10). The unseemliness (indecency) attaching to certain organs, always guarded from sight, “brings with it ( ἔχει, cf. Hebrews 10:35) a more abundant seemliness”. Against most commentt. (Gd(1919), e.g., thinks only of “les soins de la toilette”!), Ed(1920) maintains that εὐσχημοσύνη (1 Corinthians 12:23) has a moral sense, looking beyond the honour of apparel; “the greater comeliness relates rather to function”. Is any office more responsible than that of parenthood, anything more sacred than the mother’s womb and mother’s breast? (cf. Luke 11:27; also Hebrews 13:4).— τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα κ. τ. λ.: But our seemly parts”—head and face, e.g. (the human face divine)—“have no need,” their distinction being conspicuous; see 1 Corinthians 11:7 a, where this visible, but also moral, εὐσχημοσύνη is raised to its highest grade. From this text Bg(1921) inferred the impiety of patches!—On ὑπάρχειν, see note to 1 Corinthians 11:7; δοκέω has in 1 Corinthians 12:22 f. its two meanings—non-personal and personal—of seem and suppose; like methinks and I think, Germ., dünken and denken.

1 Corinthians 12:24 b, 1 Corinthians 12:25. “But God compounded ( συν- εκέρασεν, mixed together; Vg(1922) contemperavit) the body.” The assertion of God’s workmanship in the structure of the physical organs (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18) was necessary, when many thinkers affirmed the evil of matter and regarded physical appetites as degrading (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3, Colossians 2:23; also 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 6:18 ff. above). This accounts for the adversative ἀλλά—“Nay but”: P. tacitly contradicts those who saw nothing but ἀτιμία and ἀσχημοσύνη in vital bodily functions. For θεὸς συνεκέρασεν, cf. Psalms 139:13-16 (where the womb is “God’s laboratory,” Delitzsch), Ecclesiastes 11:5, Job 10:8-11. Ed(1923) reads the assertion as directed against philosophy; “where Aristotle says ‘nature,’ P. says ‘God’ ”.— τῷ ὑστερουμένῳ περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν, “to the part which suffers lack (opus habenti, Cv(1924): cf., note, 1 Corinthians 1:7) having assigned more abundant honour”; so that the human instinct respecting the ignobler organs of the body (1 Corinthians 12:23) is the reflex of a Divine ordinance: cf. 1 Corinthians 11:14 f., to the like effect.—“That there may not be division ( σχίσμα: see parls.) in the body”—the manifestation of the jealousy or scorn depicted in 1 Corinthians 12:16; 1 Corinthians 12:21, which have their counterpart at present in the Cor(1925) Church (1 Corinthians 1:10 ff., 1 Corinthians 4:6, etc.).—The opposite state of things ( ἀλλά), so desirable in the spiritual organism, is realised by Divine art in the natural: “God tempered the body together” in this way, “that … the members might have the same solicitude for one another”. The physical members are obliged, by the structure of the frame, to care for one another; the hand is as anxious to guard the eye or the stomach, to help the mouth or the foot, as to serve itself; the eye is watchman for every other organ; each feels its own usefulness and cherishes its fellows; all “have the same care,” since they have the same interest—that of “the one body”. This societas membrorum makes the physical order both a parable of and a basis for the spiritual. For τὸ αὐτό, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 2:2, etc.— μεριμνῶσιν (see esp. 1 Corinthians 7:32 ff., for this shade of meaning) is in pr(1926) sbj(1927), of habitual feeling; in pl(1928), despite neut. subject, since the μέλη have been individually personified (1 Corinthians 12:15 f., 1 Corinthians 12:21).


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 12:26 illustrates the unselfish solicitude of the bodily organs; the nervous connexion makes it a veritable συμπάθεια ( συμπάσχει). Plato applies the same analogy to the State in a striking passage in his Politicus, 462C.see also Cm(1929), ad loc(1930)δοξάζεται (glorificatur, Cv(1931); not gloriatur, Vg(1932)) goes beyond nervous sympathy; “ δόξα is more than εὐεξία” (Ed(1933)): for δοξάζω, applied to the body, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:40 ff., Philippians 3:21. Cm(1934) says finely, “When the head is crowned, the whole man feels itself glorified; when the mouth speaks, the eyes laugh and are filled with gladness”.


Verse 27

1 Corinthians 12:27. The figure of the body, developed from 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 with deliberation and completeness, is now applied in detail to the Church, where the same solidarity of manifold parts and powers obtains (1 Corinthians 12:4 ff.): “Now you are ( ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε) a body of (in relation to) Christ, and members severally”—scarcely “the body of Christ” specifically (El(1935)), as if P. might have written τὸ σῶμα τοῦ χριστοῦ (as in Ephesians 4:12, etc.); this has not yet become the recognised title of the Church (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:12 above); nor is the anarthrous σῶμα to be read distributively, as though the Cor(1936) Church were thought of as one amongst many σῶματα. P. is interpreting his parable: the Cor(1937) are, in their relation to Christ, what the body is to the man.— χριστοῦ is anarthrous by correlation (cf. note on θεοῦ σοφίαν, 1 Corinthians 2:7).— ἐκ μέρους signifies the partial by contrast, not as in 1 Corinthians 13:9 with the perfect, but with the whole (body)—particulatim (Bz(1938)): ἐκ of the point of view—“from (and so according to) the part (allotted to each)”; see 1 Corinthians 12:11; cf. also μερίζομαι in 1 Corinthians 7:17, etc.; similarly, ἐκ μέτρου in John 3:34, ἐξ ἰσότητος in 2 Corinthians 8:13.


Verse 28

1 Corinthians 12:28 expounds the μέλη ἐκ μέρους.— οὓς μὲν (cf. 8 ff.) should be followed by οὒς δέ; but πρῶτον intervening suggests δεύτερον, τρίτον in the sequel—“instead of a mere enumeration P. prefers an arrangement in order of rank” (Wr(1939), pp. 710 f.); and this mode of distinction in turn gives place to ἔπειτα, at the point where with δυνάμεις abstract categories (as in 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff.) are substituted for the concrete—a striking instance of P.’s mobility of style; the last three of the series are appended asyndetically.—The nine functions of 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff. are replaced by eight, which may be thus classified: (1) three teaching orders, (2) two kinds of miraculous, and (3) two of administrative functions, with (4) the one notable ecstatic gift. Three are. identical in each list—viz., δυνάμεις, χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, and γένη γλωσσῶν, taking much the same position in both enumerations (see the earlier notes). The apostles, prophets, teachers (ranged in order of the importance, rather than the affinity of their powers) exercise amongst them the word of wisdom, prophecy, and word of knowledge—“the Apostles” possessing a rich measure of many gifts; these three will be expanded into the five of Ephesians 4:2. The ἑρμηνία γλωσσῶν (1 Corinthians 12:10), omitted at this point, appears in the sequel (1 Corinthians 12:30); and the διάκρισις πνευμάτων (1 Corinthians 12:10) is tacitly understood as the companion of προφητεία, while the πίστις of 1 Corinthians 12:9 pervades other charisms. Nothing is really wanting here that belonged to the χαρίσματα of § 39. while ἀντιλήμψεις and κυβερνήσεις—“helpings, governings”—enrich that previous catalogue; “helpings” stands in apt connexion with “healings”. The two added offices became the special functions of the διάκονος. and ἐπίσκοπος of a somewhat later time (Philippians 1:1; cf. Romans 12:7 f.).—No trace as yet appears of definite Church organisation at Cor(1940); but the charisms here introduced were necessary to the equipment of the Christian Society, and the appointment of officers charged with their systematic exercise was only a question of time (see Introd., chap, i., p. 732; ii. 2.4). A sort of unofficial ἀντίλημψις and κυβέρνησις is assigned to Stephanas and his family in 1 Corinthians 16:15 f. These vbl(1941) nouns, from ἀντιλαμβάνομαι and κυβερνάω, mean by etymology taking hold of (to help) and steering, piloting, respectively. The figurative use of the latter is rare outside of poetry; so κυβέρνησις πολίων in Pindar, Pyth., x., 112, and in the newly discovered Bacchylides, xiii., 152. “Government” of the Church implies a share of the “word of wisdom” and “knowledge” (1 Corinthians 12:8); see 1 Timothy 5:17, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:9.—For ἔθετο θεός, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18 : “God appointed (set for Himself) in the church”—meaning the entire Christian Society, with all its “apostles” and the rest. The earliest N.T. example of ἐκκλησία in its ecumenical sense; see however Matthew 16:18, and note on 1 Corinthians 1:2 above.


Verse 29-30

1 Corinthians 12:29-30. In this string of rhetorical questions P. recapitulates once more the charisms, in the terms of 1 Corinthians 12:28. He adds now to the γλώσσαις λαλεῖν its complementary διερμηνεύειν (see 10, and 1 Corinthians 14:13, etc.: διὰ in this vb(1942) imports translation); and omits ἀντιλήμψεις and κυβερνήσεις, for these functions had not taken articulate shape at Cor(1943): the eight are thus reduced to seven. The stress of these interrogations rests on the seven times repeated all; let prophet, teacher, healer, and the rest, fulfil each contentedly his μέρος in the commonwealth of grace, without trenching upon or envying the prerogative of another; “non omnia possumus omnes”. Thus by fit division of labour the efficiency of the whole body of Christ will be secured and all Church functions duly discharged.— δυνάμεις may be nom(1944) (Bg(1945), Hf(1946), Hn(1947), Al(1948), Bt(1949), Gd(1950), El(1951)), in the vein of the foregoing questions—“are all powers?” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24, Romans 8:38, etc., for the personification—applied elsewhere, however, to supernatural Powers); but these “powers” are in 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff. so decidedly separated from the teaching and associated with the healing gifts, that δυνάμεις appears to look forward, and to be obj(1952) (prospectively) to ἔχουσιν along with χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων: “do all possess powers? all grace-gifts of healings?” (so Bz(1953), Mr(1954), Ed(1955)). For δύναμιν ἔχω, see Revelation 3:8; also Luke 9:1, Acts 1:8, Matthew 14:2


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 13:3. § 42. THE WAY TO CHRISTIAN EMINENCE. Carefully and luminously Paul has set forth the manifoldness of the Holy Spirit’s gifts that contribute to common life of the Church. All are necessary, all honourable in their proper use; all are of God’s ordination. Some of the charisms are, however, more desirable than others. But if these “greater gifts” be sought in selfish emulation (as the ζηλοῦτε of 1 Corinthians 12:31 a, taken by itself, might suggest), their true purpose and blessing will be missed; gifts of grace ( χαρίσματα) are not for men actuated by the ζῆλος of party spirit and ambition (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4 f., 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20). While encouraging the Cor(1956) to seek larger spiritual powers, the Ap. must “besides point out” the “way” to this end (1 Corinthians 12:31 b), the way to escape the perils besetting their progress (1 Corinthians 12:4 ff.) and to win the goal of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 12:8-13). Love is the path to power in the Church; all loveless abilities, endowments, sacrifices are, frpm the Christian point of view, simply good for nothing (1 Corinthians 12:1-3).


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 12:31 a corrects the inference which an indolent nature or weak judgment might draw from 1 Corinthians 12:29 f., supposing that God’s sovereign ordination supersedes man’s effort. Our striving has a part to play, along with God’s bestowment, in spiritual acquisitions; hence the contrastive δέ. “But (for all that) be zealous after the greater gifts.” A man must not, e.g., be content to “speak with tongues” when he might “prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1 ff.), nor to work miracles when beside that he might teach in the “word of wisdom”.— ζηλόω (see parls.) implies in its good sense an ardent, in its bad sense (1 Corinthians 13:4) an emulous pursuit. The greater ( μείζονα) gifts are those intrinsically greater, or more beneficial (1 Corinthians 14:5)—conditions usually coincident.

1 Corinthians 12:31 b. καὶ ἔτι κ. τ. λ. (cf. ἔτι τε καί, Luke 14:26)—“And besides”—adds to the exhortation just given (1 Corinthians 12:31 a) an indication of the way to carry it out; the ζῆλος which aims at the μείζονα χαρίσματα must be that of ἀγάπη. This clause introduces and properly belongs to ch. 13. (W.H(1957)). καθʼ ὑπερβολήν (see parls.) is superlative, not compar.; P. is not pointing out “a more excellent way” than that of seeking and using the charisms of ch. 12. (with such a meaning he should have written ἔτι δέ: cf. Luke 24:41, etc.), but “a super-excellent way” (une voie souverainement excellente, Gd(1958)) to win them (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1 b, 1 John 4:7). δείκνυμι is “to point out” as with the finger.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-corinthians-12.html. 1897-1910.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019
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