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12:1-14:40 SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE CHURCH
The variety of gifts (12:1-11)
Some unusual spiritual gifts operated in the early church. One of these caused people to speak with strange sounds (commonly referred to as ‘tongues’) that neither they nor the hearers understood unless someone interpreted them. Some at Corinth, still influenced by attitudes from former idolatrous days, were impressed by such things and considered those who so spoke to be spiritually superior. However, the situation got out of control and people said things that were wrong, such as ‘Jesus be cursed!’ This shows, says Paul, that speaking in tongues is not necessarily speaking by the Holy Spirit (12:1-3).
Different gifts and different types of service do not indicate different levels of spirituality. Nor should they produce competition or jealousy, for the same triune God works through a variety of people for the spiritual development of all (4-7).
Whatever the gifts, they are all given by the Spirit of God. Some people have gifts of wisdom and knowledge (8). Others have unusual abilities, such as faith to do the apparently impossible and power to heal sickness and disease (9). Further gifts enable various people to work miracles, to speak words from God, to tell the difference between those gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not, to speak in tongues, and to interpret tongues so that they become understandable to the hearers (10). The one God gives all these gifts, and he gives them according to his will (11).
Unity in spite of many gifts (12:12-31)
The human body is made up of many parts, all with different functions, yet there is a basic unity throughout the body. So it is in the church which is Christ’s body. All believers, without distinction, are introduced into and united in that body through the baptism of the Spirit. The same Spirit dwells within each one (12-13).
Many parts make up the body, and all are necessary for its proper functioning. Those without more obvious gifts should not think there is no place for them in the church. In the body of Christ, as in the human body, each part has its own special task (14-20).
God has so designed the body that no matter how important one part may be, it cannot function properly without dependence upon all the other parts (21). People with more obvious gifts should not look down on others. Certain parts of the body may appear at first to be less important, but the body cannot do without them (22). Other parts of the body are less presentable, but they are the parts we clothe more attractively. Just as there is harmony between the various parts of the body, so there should be in the church (23-25). In addition, there should be unity. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers; when one part is honoured, the whole is honoured. There is no competition (26).
It is clear, then, that all Christians are part of the body but their gifts vary widely, from the more important gifts to the less important (27-28). All gifts are necessary, but not everybody can do everything (29-30). Christians should desire the higher gifts, but there is something greater than even the highest gift that all, whether great or small, can have, and that is love. Paul will explain what he means in the next chapter (31).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent