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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 12





I. The Test For Alleged Inspiration: 12:1-3

II. The Unity Behind The Various Gifts: 12:4-7

III. The Gifts Enumerated: 12:8-11

IV. An Appeal For Unity/The Body And It's Members: 12:12-31


This chapter begins a discussion of the problems that the Corinthians were having with the spiritual gifts given them (1:4-7). In this section we will find: (1) Their variety. (12:4-11; 28-30) (2) Their interdependence. (12:12-27; 1427-29) (3) The proper motive for their use, which was more important that the actual gifts. (12:31-13:8) (4) Their duration. (13:8-13) (5) Their regulation in the assembly. (Chapter 14)

In chapters 12-14, we observe that the Corinthians had some specific problems in relation to these gifts. (1) They seemed ignorant of the interdependence of the various gifts. (2) They were exercising such gifts in a very unloving and prideful way. (3) Those who didn't possess such gifts or the more flamboyant among the various gifts, were looked down upon (12:21-25). And such "ungifted" members were thinking that they were unneeded. (12:14-20) (4) A spirit of competition had developed in the assembly over who would be allowed to speak. (14:26-33) (5) They had lost sight of the main purpose of such gifts, i.e. the edification of the whole body and not merely the individual who possessed them. (12:7; 13:5; 14:3-5)

'These supernatural endowments were being regarded by the Corinthian Christians as ends in themselves . They were being displayed for the pride and gratification of their possessors.' (Erdman p. 118)

'And the gifts of God which were given to upbuild and bring benefit to the whole community of believers became another occasion of stumbling...Arrogance was present in the gifted, jealousy and feelings of uselessness lived in the ungifted..Some wished to dominate the assembly time in the exercise of their ministry..' (McGuiggan p. 165)

Willis cites an interesting point of view, when he says, 'Several commentators are of the opinion that the Corinthian problem was caused by the pagan influences in Corinth . The idolatrous religions in Corinth are reported to have experienced ecstatic utterances as well..No doubt the pagan converts tended to look upon the miraculous spiritual gifts in terms of their past experiences..The Corinthian who was used to seeing a pagan priest in ecstacy undoubtedly tended to view the miraculous spiritual the same way..Hence, he probably did not think that it made any difference whether what one said was understood or not by the congregation..' (pp. 412-413)

Before we proceed into this section, let us consider two points:

1. The spiritual gifts had divine purpose: (a) To demonstrate that the speaker was from God and what he said was truth, especially important when no New Testament as yet had been compiled. ( Joh_3:2 ; Act_2:22 ; Heb_2:4 ) (b) They aided in the spread of the gospel. ( Act_2:6 ff) (c) They gave the church a body of revealed truth, in the absence of a completed New Testament. ( 1Co_13:9 ) (d) 'They assured weak converts that God was indeed in that church for which they had abandoned their former religions.' (McGarvey p. 120) (14:25)

2. 'The principles which Paul sets forth in discussing these gifts apply to those natural and providential talents and abilities which are granted at the present time to equip men for the propagation of the gospel and for the upbuilding and extension of the church.' (Erdman p. 118)


Verse 1

1Co_12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

'spiritual gifts' -their origin is God not man. Possibly their letter also contained questions on this subject also. (7:1)

'I would not have you ignorant' -'is a characteristic formula of Paul's which he employs when he introduces important instruction.' (Lenski p. 490)

'Whatever subject I postpone (11:34), I must not delay to explain the nature of spiritual gifts.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 885)

Point to Note:

Those that actually had such gifts, could be ignorant of their proper use. Throughout this section, be impressed with the fact that the possession of a spiritual gift, didn't necessarily make a Christian any more "spiritual" or "knowledgeable." Attitude is so important. The same is truth applies to those who possess the Bible.

Verse 2

1Co_12:2 Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might led.

'that when ye were Gentiles' -i.e. before their conversion. 'when you were pagans.' (NASV) Indicating that a large portion of the Corinthian Church had come from a pagan background. (6:9-10)

'led away' -'led astray' (NASV)

'dumb idols' -i.e speechless. God often ridicules these man made "gods" in the O.T. ( Psa_115:4-7 ; Isa_46:7 ; Jer_10:5 ; Hab_2:18-20 )

'howsoever ye might led' -'wherever you might be led.' (Wms) 'As often as ye were led.' (Robertson p. 167) 'i.e. helplessly led at any time by those who had you in hand.' (Lenski p. 491) ( Eph_4:14 )

Verse 3

1Co_12:3 Wherefore I make known unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.

'Wherefore I make known unto you' -'For this reason I must impress upon you.' (NEB)

Because of their past in the worship of idols, the Corinthians knew that other "claimed" inspired utterances insisted. 'Dumb idols were often made to speak by priests concealed in or behind them, who made use of speaking-tubes which led to the parted lips of the idol. Hence, converts from paganism needed to be reminded that idols were indeed dumb..' (McGarvey pp. 120-121)

'There were those who gave out messages from the gods in Corinth. They had their sacred shrines in Greece. Egypt had its Oasis of Siwa, Greece its Delphi and Corinth...They all claim to speak from "God". They sounded impressive...What's the criterion by which oracles are to be judged? How can you tell who speaks the truth? I'm bewildered at times, how can I be sure? And Paul says: "How do they view Jesus Christ your Lord?"' (McGuiggan pp. 166-167)

The people of God have always battled "competitive" claims given by other religions. ( 2Ti_3:8 ; Deu_13:1-11 ; Deu_18:20-22 ; 1Ki_18:21 ff; Act_13:6-8 )

'no man speaking in the Spirit of God' -'speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God.' (NEB); 'if you are moved by God's Spirit, you don't say, Jesus is cursed.' (Beck)

'In one undeniable truth, Paul cuts away, immediately , the bulk of all the trash of Corinth..Do the messages you hear genuinely exalt and promote the Lordship of Jesus Christ?..God never led any man to denounce Jesus or his word.' (McGuiggan p. 167)

'Jesus is anathema' -'accursed' (NASV); 'Something delivered up to divine wrath, dedicated to destruction and brought under a curse..the accursed thing.' (Fee p. 580)

Points to Note:

1. Paul himself, before he became a Christian had tried to get Christians to say something like this. ( Act_26:11 ; 1Ti_1:13 )

2. Corinthian Christians probably faced this view of Jesus from the local Jewish synagogue. ( Act_13:45 ; Act_18:6 'they resisted and blasphemed.')

3. False teachers among them, might have adopted this view of Jesus. ( 2Co_11:13-15 ; 1Co_15:12 )

'and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.' -'And no one, miraculously ( as in this context) or otherwise , magnified the Lordship of Jesus without getting his material, ultimately, from the Spirit.' (McGuiggan p. 167)

'Paul is not discussing the physical impossibility of a man saying, "Jesus is Lord" unless he is inspired; Mat_7:21-23 shows that cannot be his meaning. Rather, he is saying that anyone who exalts Jesus Christ while claiming to be exercising a spiritual gift is genuine.' (Willis p. 418)

Points to Note:

1. Jesus Himself had said that the Spirit would glorify Him. ( Joh_16:13-14 )

2. 'Ecstasy or enthusiasm is no criterion of spirituality: attention must be paid to the words spoken.' (F.F. Bruce p. 118)

'No man, however cultured and admired, can be rightfully called spiritual or godly who speaks evil of Jesus Christ.' (Erdman p. 121)

'This verse reminds me of Deu_13:1-5 in which passage Moses said that one's doctrine is more important than the physical signs which the prophet might perform.' (Willis p. 417)

3. Modern Applications: To say that 'Jesus is Lord' means that one believes that Jesus has the ultimate say ( Mat_28:18 ) and that His word is final for any and all topics that His word touches upon. Such a conviction would lead one to obey all that Jesus taught. ( Joh_14:15 ) And avoid adding or subtracting from what Jesus taught. ( 2Jn_1:9 ; 1Co_11:23 ) Those that truly believe that Jesus is Lord today, accept such facts as: (1) Baptism is necessary for salvation. ( Mar_16:16 ) (2) Jesus is the only way to God. ( Joh_14:6 ) (3) Hell is real and it is also eternal. ( Mat_25:46 ) (4) God must come before everything. ( Mat_6:33 ) (5) A Christian can end up lost. ( Mat_13:20 ) (6) The OT is the inspired Word of God ( Mat_22:31 ) (7) Man does exist apart from the body. ( Mat_10:28 ) (8) Jesus is God. ( Joh_5:18 ; Joh_5:23 ) (9) The writings of the apostles would contain all truth. ( Joh_14:26 ; Joh_16:13 ), i.e. the NT is the inspired word of God.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit has never moved "any man" to teach error. ALL INSPIRED TEACHING, WILL AGREE WITH AND COMPLEMENT INSPIRED TEACHING GIVEN IN THE PAST! ( Mat_5:18 ; Act_17:1-3 ; Act_17:11 ; Luke 24:25-27;44 )

4. The Spirit would glorify Christ:

'There are those today who speak endlessly of the Spirit of God. And, even then, it isn't the Spirit of God so much as it is the Spirit of God in them, at work in them , doing marvellous things in them...In the NT those who received the Holy Spirit went about speaking of Jesus Christ and not the Spirit..' (McGuiggan p. 167)

5. Christians Cannot Afford To Be Gullible:

( Act_17:11 ; 1Th_5:21-22 ). Other tests for "claims of inspiration" also are given. ( 1Ti_4:1-4 ; 1Ti_6:3 ; 1Jn_4:1-3 ; Gal_1:6-9 )


Verse 4

1Co_12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

'diversities' -'varieties' (NASV); 'Old word for distinctions, differences, distributions' (Robertson p. 168) Gifts differ, or different gifts are given to different persons.

'gifts' -5486. charisma khar'-is-mah; from 5483; a (divine) gratuity, i.e. deliverance (from danger or passion); (specifically) a (spiritual) endowment, i.e. (subjectively) religious qualification, or (objectively) miraculous faculty: -(free) gift.

-'means a favour..bestowed or received without any merit.' (Robertson p. 168)

'but the same Spirit' -'but the same Spirit gives them all.' (Con)

Points to Note:

1. The Spirit didn't confer the same gift on all believers.

2. Since all the gifts proceed from the same Spirit, none of the gifts should be depreciated.

3. The gifts are given, hence there is no room to boast. No Christian has ever earned or merited these gifts.

4. A diversity of gifts was needed for the NT Church.

'Paul's concern here is to offer a considerable list so that they will stop being singular in their own emphasis.' (Fee p. 585)

Verse 5

1Co_12:5 And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.

'diversities of ministrations' -'varieties of service.' (RSV) 'As to their purpose, they are "ministrations" intended for the service and help and strength of the church.' (Erdman p. 122)

Verse 6

1Co_12:6 And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.

'diversities of workings' -'varieties of effects' (NASV) 'As to their effect, they are workings or operations or manifestations of divine power.' (Erdman p. 122) 'Outward manifestations and results of spiritual gifts.' (Vincent p. 256)

Points to Note:

1. Here we have another set of passages that mention three persons in the Godhead. Spirit, Lord, and God are not synonyms in these verses, compare- Eph_4:4-6 . But rather refer to three distinct persons.

2. 'the Godhead acts in concert to bring these gifts so you can be sure the gifts aren't intended to divide the assembly.' (McGuiggan p. 167)

3. The Corinthians were tending to focus on the gifts, even particular gifts above others, rather than focusing on the God who gave them. To the Corinthians, the gifts had become "an end" in themselves. It appears they were worshipping the gifts, instead of the source of these gifts.

'who worketh all things in all' -'who works all things in all persons' (NASV) 'who works (or effects) all of them (meaning the "gifts" and "ministries" as well) in all people.' (Fee p. 588) God was the source of each gift, and hence no one among the gifted could boast that God was working through him any more than another Christian with a different gift.

Verses 4-6 should of taken some of the arrogance out of certain gifted Corinthians. (1) The gifts were free, undeserved and unearned. (2) They were meant to serve others rather than calling attention to the person exercising the gift, i.e. if you had a gift you were supposed to 'serve'. (3) The power for the gifts didn't reside inherently in the Corinthians.

Verse 7

1Co_12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal.

'is given' -'to each of us is given whatever gift we have--a point that was very necessary for the instruction of the Corinthians who liked to boast about their gifts and forgot that they were given.' (Lenski p. 498)

'manifestation of the Spirit' -'is Paul's way of saying "the gift which makes the work of the Spirit known. To each one is given a gift from the Spirit (which manifests the presence of the Spirit).' (McGuiggan p. 168)

Point to Note:

'There is no warrant for saying that one such gift manifests his presence more than another. Some gifts may be more extraordinary and spectacular than others, but it does not follow on that account that those who receive them are more spiritual than others.' (F.F. Bruce pp. 118-119)

'to profit withal' -'that he may use it for the common good.' (Phi) (6:12; 10:23,33)

'he anticipates the concern of chapters 13 and 14, that the gifts are for the building up of the community as a whole, not primarily for the benefit of the individual believer.' (Fee p. 589)

This last phrase sets the gifts in their proper role. Contrast Paul's instruction here to modern day 'faith-healers'. Who really "profits" from modern day healing services?

Verse 8

1Co_12:8 For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:

Nine forms of the manifestation of the Spirit are now mentioned.

'the word of' -indicating that this is a teaching gift.

'wisdom' -'message of wisdom' (Ber); 'the ability to speak wisdom.' (Beck) 'Wisdom is intelligence, then practical action in accord with it.' (Robertson p. 169) 'a message/utterance full of wisdom.' (Fee p. 592)

'Wisdom as a gift of God is mentioned as far back as Exo_31:1-6 ; Exo_35:30-35 ; Exo_36:1-2 . In those places it speaks of skill to handle the complex problems of making the tabernacle and all that went with it.' (McGuiggan p. 168)

Points to Note:

1. It doesn't appear that this is an exhaustive list. Compare with 12:28

2. 'the fact that we have not witnessed these gifts in 1900 years also makes the definite identification of them difficult.' (Willis pp. 421-422)

'the word of knowledge' -'power to express knowledge' (Gspd); 'a word of insight.' (Mon)

The often asked question is, 'what was the difference between these two teaching gifts?' Various views exist: (1) 'The word of wisdom and the word of knowledge refer to divinely imparted faculties, first of discovering, and second of making practical application of truth.' (Erdman p. 123) (2) 'Wisdom' deals with the revelation of God's wisdom, i.e. the gospel (2:6-13); 'knowledge' with 'a supernatural endowment of knowledge, factual information that could not otherwise have been known with the Spirit's aid.' (Fee pp. 592-593) (3) 'The man with the word of wisdom is a biblical counsellor and the man with the word of knowledge is a biblical exegete' (i.e. draws out the meaning found in passages of Scripture.) (McGuiggan p. 169)

Various "teaching gifts" did exist, in Rom_12:7-8 Paul draws a distinction between one who exhorts and one who teaches.

'according to the same Spirit' -the Spirit is the channel for both gifts, hence the "content" revealed by both gifts will be the same.

Verse 9

1Co_12:9 to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;

'faith' -the faith that results in salvation comes by hearing the word of God. ( Rom_10:17 )

It appears to me that this was a faith which was associated with miracle-working. ( 1Co_13:2 ; Mat_17:20 ; Mat_21:21 ) McGuiggan offers an interesting comment:

'all faith is faith. There was nothing miraculous about the faith of those who walked around Jericho's walls. It was plain old trust that existed on the basis of God's promise. And when they trusted, God condescended to honor his word and work a miracle. Read Heb_11:1-40 and see this truth illustrated. Faith, ordinary mustard-seed type faith or ordinary faith in a greater measure is one moment associated with a miracle and the next with hiding a baby in an ark of bulrushes. What is "miraculous" faith? What's it made of? How does it come? Is it simply a man believing that God will honor his promise and enable him to work miracles? Why, if that's what we mean, then it's just plain old-fashioned faith. Why don't we say so?' (p. 166)

'gifts of healings' -'power to cure diseases.' (TCNT) 'Distinguished from ordinary medical skill.' (F.F. Bruce p. 119) 'Gifts of healings seem to suggest (both in the plural) that some people had the gift to heal one disease and not another.' (McGuiggan p. 170)

Points to Note:

Due to the various religious groups that claim such gifts today. We need to remind ourselves that the "healings" recorded in the NT (the result of this gift) had specific qualities: (1) Faith was not always required of the person being healed. ( Act_3:5-6 ) (2) The healing was immediate (3:7). (3) No rehabilitation was required. (3:7-8) (4) The tough cases were healed, and not overlooked or weeded out. ( Act_4:22 ; Act_9:33-34 ; Act_28:8-9 ; Act_14:8-10 )

Verse 10

1Co_12:10 and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues:

'workings of miracles' -1411. dunamis doo'-nam-is; from 1410; force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself): -ability, abundance, meaning, might(-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle(-s), power, strength,violence, mighty (wonderful) work.

While all of the above could be considered 'miracles', this word is given to cover a group of non-healing wonders. This category might include casting out demons, raising the dead, and wonders that harmed instead of healed ( Act_13:9 ff).

'prophecy' -'to speak forth' (Robertson p. 169) At times this gift was used to foretell future events. ( Act_11:27-28 ; Act_21:10-11 )

Points to Note:

1. God recognized that all who claimed to be prophets, were not. ( 2Pe_2:1-3 ) When a prophet was predicting, accuracy was a must. ( Deu_18:20-22 ) But even beyond that, the content of his teaching (did it agree with previous revelation) was even more important. ( Deu_13:1-4 ) The Scriptures were an absolute authority and standard, even for the inspired. ( Act_17:11 ; Gal_1:6-9 )

2. Prophets were much more than "foretellers", they were "forthtellers", i.e. men who spoke the utterances of God. ( 2Pe_1:20-21 ; Exo_7:1-2 )

3. 'Although the prophets often performed symbolic acts...had very little to do with "ecstasy", especially "frenzy" or "mania". For the most part the prophets were understood only too well!' (Fee p. 595)

The point being that the prophets in the Bible, were individuals who were "under control" ( 1Co_14:29-33 ). Compare the prophet Elijah, with the false prophets of Baal. ( 1Ki_18:25-40 ) Elijah is "in control", compared to the false prophets who were in an emotional frenzy.

'discernings of spirits' -'distinguishing of spirits' (NASV) 'that gift of spiritual discernment by which, in particular, genuine and counterfeit "prophecy" could be recognized for what they were.' (F.F. Bruce p. 119) 'the gift of distinguishing between true and false inspiration.' (TCNT)

'In those days marvellous claims flowed as copiously as water. There were those who were gifted by God to infallibly discern between the spiritual motivations behind the claims and words. Prophets also sat in judgement of what people taught (14:29)' (McGuiggan p. 170)

Points to Note:

1. God created a 'checks and balances' system. The utterances of the prophets were to be examined. God even commended the Bereans for checking the teaching of one of His own apostles. ( Act_17:11 )

2. Uninspired Christians, in possession of the Scriptures could check the messages of the prophets also. ( Act_17:11 ; 1Th_5:20-21 ; 1Jn_4:1 ) And yet, "certain hard cases" probably arose from time to time.

3. Teachers of truth aren't offended when their messages are examined in light of Scripture.

'divers kinds of tongues' -'various kinds of tongues' (NASV)

'tongues' -1100. glossa gloce-sah'; of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one naturally unacquired): -tongue.

Points to Note:

1. 'In recent years, there has been an almost universal tendency to treat this gift as ecstatic utterance.' (Willis p. 424)

'It was the gift enabling men to speak in foreign languages, languages which were unknown to them. (This is why the KJV added the word "unknown". The translators didn't mean the languages were not known languages but that the languages were unknown to the speaker.)' (McGuiggan p. 171)

2. The following evidence convinces me that the gift of tongues was the ability to speak in a foreign language, which you had never learned. (a) The passages in Acts chapter 2. Especially 2:6-11. (b) Act_10:46 : Again, the message being delivered by the tongues was understandable to others, i.e. 'they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God'. If the tongues were 'ecstatic utterances', then how did the bystanders know they were exalting God? (c) The tongue-speakers in Corinth 'were not uncontrollably emotional as are those who are in a state of ecstasy (14:27-33).' (Willis p. 425) (d) Tongue-speaking did reveal truth ( Act_19:6 ; Act_2:11 'speaking of the mighty deeds of God.' (e) The very fact that a gift existed for the interpretation of tongues, demands that the tongues could be interpreted, i.e. they were intelligent languages. (f) The term itself means "language".

Unfortunately, when many people encounter chapter 14 of this letter, all of the above information is forgotten or discarded. We must remember that chapter 14 is an assembly context, an assembly in which all the members spoke the same language. Using your gift of tongues in such a assembly without an interpreter would result in zero edification for the assembly. Seeing that no one was present who spoke that particular language.

'the interpretation of tongues' -'Another can tell the meaning of languages.' (Beck)

'interpretation' -2058. hermeneia her-may-ni'-ah; from the same as 2059; translation: -interpretation.

( Joh_1:38 ; Joh_1:42 ; Joh_9:7 ; Heb_2:7 ), 'to translate from one language to another.' (Willis p. 425)

Points to Note:

1. This enabled the gift of tongues to be used in settings beyond it's best use, i.e. in an assembly where everyone spoke the same language and a foreign language was unnecessary.

2. Apparently the same person could have both gifts. (14:5,13)

3. Some have attacked the "foreign language" view of tongues, by saying, 'how could one speak in a foreign language and yet be unable to interpret what they just said.' But the same argument equally applies to the "language of heaven/the angels/or ecstatic utterances" view.

Verse 11

1Co_12:11 but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.

'but all these' -i.e. all these gifts.

'worketh the one and the same Spirit' -note the emphasis on unity. 'So they're not given to set people apart from one another. No clubs were to be formed for prophets or tongue-speakers.' (McGuiggan p. 171)

'dividing to each one severally' -'distributing to each individual' (Ber)

'even as he will' -'just as He wills.' ( Heb_2:4 ) It was the Spirit Who decided who received which gift.

Points to Note:

1. The Spirit "wills", indicating that the Spirit is not an impersonal force.

2. 'And they were given as the Spirit willed so there was to be no jealousy and there was to be no arrogance as though someone's super-piety just demanded that he get the gift of his choice.' (McGuiggan p. 171) 'Even as he wills' should remove all complaint on our part and thus all envy, on the one hand, and all boasting, on the other.' (Lenski p. 512)

3. Each gift was important, noble and spiritual


'The exercise of the various gifts of the Spirit by members of the church "for the common good" is now compared to the functioning of the various parts of the body for the health of the whole.' (F.F. Bruce pp. 119-120)

This is a "unity in diversity", and yet not in doctrine (12:3), but in function or area of service. Paul's point is that 'diversity' in the body is vital for the health of the body, and that diversity of function or area of service among the members is a greater argument for unity than for division. In fact, the gifts were designed to secure unity, to increase interdependence, to draw people closer together, rather than cause division.

'To illustrate this important truth, Paul employs the familiar figure or parable of the human body. It had been used frequently by Greek writers in reference to the state, or the "body politic."' (Erdman p. 126)

Verse 12

1Co_12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.

'For' -'The "for" with which this sentence begins indicates that what follows is intended to offer further explanation of the point made in vv. 4-11.' (Fee pp. 601-602)

'as the body is one' -essential unity in the body doesn't demand uniformity in function or the exact same area of service for all members.

'so also is Christ' -i.e. the body of Christ, the Church. (12:27; Rom_12:5 )

'No one regards the body as divided ( or intended to be divided) because it has many different parts (fingers, feet, ears). As a body it cannot be all one member .' (McGuiggan p. 171)

'The unity of the Church is not that of inorganic nature, --a monotonous aggregation of similars, as in..a heap of stones; it is the oneness of a living organism..Without "many members"..there would be no body at all.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 889)

Verse 13

1Co_12:13 For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.

'For' -another proof of the unity purposed and intended behind the gifts. The same Spirit which bestows the gifts (12:11), is the same Spirit which inspired men such as the apostles to preach the same conditions of entrance into the body of Christ, to all (regardless of gender, race or social rank).

Point to Note:

The Spirit accomplished the above through revelation. All were told the same conditions of entrance into the body. ( Mar_16:16 ; Joh_3:5 ; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 35-38; 10:47-48; 15:9; 16:15; 30-34; 18:8 )

And every member in Corinth had been baptized!

'were we all' -individuals are baptized into the one body, not congregations or religious bodies. The Church is composed of individuals.

'baptized' -must be water baptism. This is the baptism that is commanded ( Act_10:47-48 ); therefore the "one baptism" required of all men everywhere ( Eph_4:5 ; Mar_16:16 ); the baptism that accompanied the preaching of Jesus ( Act_8:35-36 ); the baptism placed prior to salvation ( Act_8:36-38 ; Joh_3:5 ; 1Pe_3:21 )

'But why "baptized in one Spirit" rather than "baptized in water" if water baptism was in view? Because it suited Paul's purpose in his call for unity to stress the agent (by)..of their immersion rather than the element (water). The same Spirit, the one Spirit, who gave them their gifts was the one who led them to submit to one baptism..' (McGuiggan p. 172)

'into one body' -water baptism stands between one and being a member in the body of Christ. Can one be saved outside the body of Christ? No. ( Eph_5:23 ) Therefore, being saved and being a member of the body of Christ (church) occur at the same time, i.e. the moment of one's baptism. ( Act_2:41 ; Act_2:47 )

Points to Note:

1. The phrases "kingdom of God" and "Church" refer to the same relationship. ( Joh_3:5 ; Eph_1:22-23 ; 1Co_12:13 ) Compare Act_2:41 ; Act_2:47 with Col_1:13-14 .

2. The Holy Spirit doesn't cause people to reject baptism. The Holy Spirit doesn't teach that the Church (body of Christ) is unnecessary; or that church membership is an option for Christians. Neither does the Spirit teach or cause people to be baptized into differing religious bodies. The teaching delivered by the Holy Spirit, when followed only produces Christians, it only directs men and women towards "one body". If people simply followed the teachings of the Spirit, only one body of believers would be seen in the religious world that claims to be "Christian." The teachings of the Spirit aren't the cause behind the division manifested in the denominational world.

'whether Jews...' -( Gal_3:28 ). 'And if, in being baptized into that saved Body ( Eph_5:23 ), the divisions which they had known all their lives (Jews, Greek, bond and free) were destroyed, they could hardly think that the Spirit intended them to break up into clubs in light of the diversity of gifts.' (McGuiggan p. 172)

'all made to drink of one Spirit' -sounds a lot like (10:2-4). They had definitely drank of the Spirit when they had received the spiritual gifts which He bestowed. 'The one who had the gift of tongue-speaking drank of the same Spirit as the prophet. Hence, there should be no spirit of rivalry among the Corinthians.' (Willis p. 431) In addition, every member at Corinth had partaken of His teaching and had embraced it. ( Act_18:8 )

Verse 14

1Co_12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

While the body is one (12:13), it is a mistake to think that the body is composed of one member. But, by elevating the gift of tongues over all other gifts, this is precisely what some of the Corinthians were saying, i.e. the only important function or member in the body is the tongue-speaker. 'The whole body is not to assemble and only speak in tongues.' (Fee p. 609)

Verse 15

1Co_12:15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body.

Verse 16

1Co_12:16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body.

Points to Note:

1. It appears that these verses are directed towards the ungifted, or at least, those that didn't have the gift of tongues. Things were such in Corinth, that such people had received the impression that they were unimportant and therefore completely useless to the Church.

2. Others might have been jealous or hurt. 'The Spirit didn't give me a gift, or the gift of tongues, or the gift that I wanted , therefore I don't belong or fit in.'

3. It might have been taught (as it is taught in some religious bodies today) that unless you spoke in tongues, God hadn't really accepted you, i.e. you weren't a real Christian and hence didn't belong in the body of Christ. Even in the First Century, non-tongue speakers were "real" Christians too!

But, let us suppose that the ear (12:16) really got it's wish to be the eye:

Verse 17

1Co_12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

'If the whole body were an eye' -'The eye is the most wonderful organ and supremely useful, the very light of the body. And yet how grotesque it would be if there were nothing else but a great round rolling eye! A big "I" surely!' (Robertson pp. 171-172)

Points to Note:

1. This verse is aimed directly at those who contended that one gift was the best, or who envied a certain gift in others.

2. If all the members were tongue-speakers, think of all the work that would be neglected! Is a big eye-ball, worth the sacrifice of hearing, smelling, walking, talking, etc..? Does it make sense for God to make all tongue-speakers, thus leaving no one to heal, work miracles, interpret the tongues, prophesy, etc..?

3. Modern Application: Neither can all be song-leaders, teachers, elders, deacons, preachers, etc...Instead, members need to be encouraged to serve God in the area where their talents happen to be.

There is a great lesson here. We need to stop envying the talents of others and complaining about our lack of abilities in certain areas. Rather, we need to focus in on what talents we do have. And everyone has at least one. ( Mat_25:14 ff) Start concentrating on serving God with the talents that you do have.

Verse 18

1Co_12:18 But now hath God set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased him.

'But now' -'But as it is' (RSV); 'But as things are, in contrast to that absurdity.' (Robertson p. 172)

'hath God set' -'God has placed' (NASV) 'The emphasis is on the fact that each member is there by divine placement.' (Fee p. 611)

'even as it pleased him' -referring back to 12:11. What is true concerning the placement and arrangement of the parts of the human body, is also true of who received which gift in the body of Christ. Divine purpose is behind every gift, not just the gift of tongues.

Points to Note:

1. 'Dissatisfaction with one's particular charism (gift), or contempt for that of another, is disloyalty towards Him and distrust of His wisdom.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 891)

'Do any of us presume to find fault with what God did? Does envy, false humility, self-disparagement, or whatever else may blind us or lead us to think that we can improve on God's act?' (Lenski p. 523)

2. The same truth would seem to apply to the natural talents and abilities that we were born with and those we weren't born with. We need to be careful concerning what we complain about, i.e. our height, hair color, etc..or that we lack various abilities that we envy in others.

Verse 19

1Co_12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

Same point as found in 12:17. The very definition of the word body, demands that a "body" consist of more than one "type" of member.

Verse 20

1Co_12:20 But now they are many members, but one body.

'But now' -the way that God has set things up in His wisdom. (12:11,18) in contrast to the foolishness displayed by human thinking when it is driven by jealousy, envy, selfishness, pride and hurt feelings

Verses 15-20 appealed to those who felt inferior, hurt, envious or jealous because they lacked what "others" said was the most important gift of all. Verses 21-24 appear to rebuke those who considered themselves superior to other members, in view of the particular gift they possessed. In fact, this feeling of superiority seems to have lead to such arrogance, that they almost considered other "no-gifted" members to be virtually useless.


Verse 21

1Co_12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Paul's argument in the previous verses dealt with the member who wanted to be the eye. Now the reverse is dealt with. An eye that looks down upon the other members of the body.

'cannot' -'Pride is as much out of place in the body as is discontentment!' (Willis p. 435) An appeal to truthfulness, 'now be truthful, be honest, the eye can't say this to the hand..'

'I have no need of thee' -'at every turn the eye wants the hand, or the head calls on the foot, in order to reach it's end.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 892) Evidently some in Corinth had this attitude towards their "less gifted" brothers.

Point to Note:

A healthy body (church) is composed of members who see the great need for the various talents found among members. Unhealthiness happens when one gift (talent) is placed at the head of the list. This is one mistake seen in the modern discipling movement, where evangelism, or rather pure number of converts has been placed far above such things as training your children, husband-wife relationships, hospitality, benevolence, visiting the sick, benevolence, etc..

Verse 22

1Co_12:22 Nay, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary:

'Nay, much rather' -'On the contrary' (Lenski p. 528) The very opposite is true. 'It is much truer' (NASV). Paul is a man who is always interested in what is a true representation of reality. Some have scorned that Christianity is for those who are too weak to face reality. Rather, the opposite is true.

'which seem' -in the eyes of man, especially in the eyes of a man who is filled with pride.

'more feeble' -'to be weaker' (NASV) 'In terms of analogy Paul almost certainly has in mind the internal organs.' (Fee p. 613) 'Things are not always what they seem. The vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys) are not visible, but life cannot exist without them.' (Robertson p. 172)

What were viewed as "weaker" members (or gifts), happened to be very important. It appears that some in Corinth considered the gift of tongues as more important than that of prophesy. And yet, prophesy was very important to the body. (14:1-3)

Modern Application:

While preaching is important. The song service that leads up to the sermon is also very important. But so is the greeting of visitors after the sermon. What's the use of preaching a good sermon, if nobody extends friendliness, hospitality or the offer of a bible class to the non-Christian who just heard it?

'are necessary' -'indispensable' (RSV)

Verse 23

1Co_12:23 and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness;

'think' -'Those with the more prominent gifts were tempted to think they didn't need the others. This is loveless conduct. In loving our own bodies we do not despise the less important members..In a healthy person, the whole body is recognized as indispensable.' (McGuiggan pp. 172-173)

'less honorable' -'we think common' (Gspd); 'we regard almost devoid of honor' (Nor); 'unpresentable' (NIV)

'bestow more abundant honor' -'Lit., we place around as if a garland or a garment.' (Robertson p. 172) 'We surround with special honor' (TCNT) 'Elsewhere in the NT the word is used, without exception, of encircling with something.' (Vincent p. 259) 'The word is probably alluding to the practice of putting clothes over those parts of the body which we deem less honorable. By so clothing them and giving them more of our attention , we bestow more honor on those parts.' (Willis p. 436)

'uncomely parts' -'Paul is undoubtedly referring to the sexual organs, on which we bestow greater honor, and which therefore have greater decorum, because we cover them.' (Fee p. 613)

Verse 24

1Co_12:24 whereas our comely parts have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked;

'comely parts have no need' -'while the more decorous parts (e.g., the face) do not have such need...Bodily appearances are deceiving; all the parts are necessary , which is reflected in this case by the very way we treat some parts of our bodies that seem "lesser" to us.' (Fee p. 614)

'but God tempered the body together' -

'tempered' -'Lit., mixed together' (Vincent p. 259) 'All this bespeaks the providence with which God has arranged the various parts of the body and adjusted their functions and relations so that they are all interdependent.' (F.F. Bruce p. 122)

'giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked' -'by giving importance of function to the parts which lack apparent importance.' (Phi)

Point to Note:

Evolutionary theory in the past has argued that certain organs in the human body are "leftovers" from previous stages in human evolution, and hence serve no useful purpose for us today. Paul's argument or analogy, to be true, must assert that very part or organ in the human body has a use or function. Your not born with any useless parts!

Verse 25

1Co_12:25 that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

'that' -'God's purpose for creating the body in such a way that each gift depended upon the others in order to survive was that schism might not exist in the body.' (Willis p. 438)

'schism' -4978. schisma skhis'-mah; from 4977; a split or gap ("schism"), literally or figuratively: -division, rent, schism.

'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". ' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 894)

'same care' -'The more than "to have care" is "to be anxious".' (Lenski p. 532) 'have a common concern for one another.' (Mof)

Therefore, apathy or indifference in the body, is just as bad as strife.

Verse 26

1Co_12:26 And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

'one member suffereth' -'When a thorn..enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the back bends, the fore part of the body contracts itself, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze. When the head is crowned, the whole man feels honored, the mouth expresses and the eyes look gladness.' (McGarvey p. 126)

Verse 27

1Co_12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof.

'This sentence, which ties all the preceding pieces together, spells out what the Corinthians must have known right along, that the foregoing analogies were all about them.' (Fee p. 617)

'Now ye are the body of Christ' -'That's (the above verses) how a healthy person is supposed to act. Now, make the application to the body of Christ. .' (McGuiggan p. 173)

'severally members therefore' -'individually members of it' (RSV)

Points to Note:

1. Paul has given us a description of a healthy congregation in these verses. One in which every member is viewed as necessary. In which each member contributes it's talent or function ( Eph_4:16 ). Where attention and respect is shown to every member, even those "considered" to be "least."

2. Many claim that the church can never find unity, because the church is composed of people, from all different backgrounds. It's interesting to note, that what man considers to be the "cause" of division, God considers to be "incentive" for unity. Our individual differences are an incentive to strive for unity. In order for the church to succeed and survive, it needs to be composed of people with various talents, abilities and personalities. The church needs people from different backgrounds.

It needs those skilled in music, public speaking, hospitality, compassion, confrontation, child-rearing, relationships, counselling, finance, organization, encouragement, etc...

3. We can never afford to develop an attitude towards our brethren, that in affect says, 'we don't need ..that family, member or couple..or..who cares if they leave or fall away.'

12:25 indicates that a healthy body realizes that the survival of the body is DEPENDENT upon the survival of the members. And my spiritual health will in some measure be affected by your spiritual health. ( 1Co_5:6-8 ; Gal_6:1 )

4. 'One member suffers with it'-Someone might say, 'Why should I..why should I invest my emotions in the troubles of another member.' The truth is, the troubles of others will affect us (they do already!) regardless of our willingness to get involved. Unfaithfulness in a member, will affect the rest of the body. Members will pray, they will worry, some will get frustrated, some will agonize, others will get angry.


Verse 28

1Co_12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues.

'And God hath set some in the church' -God is responsible for the diversity of gifts and areas of service in the church. (12:11,18,24)

Again the point is being made that "diversity" of gifts, areas of service and function are essential for the health of the body of Christ.

'first' -the question has been, are we to assume that this list places these various gifts and functions in an order of descending importance? Many are under the impression that the first three are listed in an order of importance. But the rest of the list isn't, seeing that some of the gifts are in a reverse order from the list given previously in this chapter. Compare 12:28 "miracles, then gifts of healings", with 12:9-10.

'apostles..prophets..teachers' -in a similar list, Paul will add 'evangelists and pastors.' ( Eph_4:11 )

'teachers' -inspired or uninspired. ( 2Ti_2:2 )

'helps' -484. antilepsis an-til'-ape-sis; from 482; relief: -help. 'those who help others' (Tay) 'May have been those who were specially deputed to attend to the poor, weak or sick members.' (F.F. Bruce p. 123) ( Rom_12:8 'he who shows mercy.') 'Since we have here a list of specific offices; what it means is 'help'..Inasmuch as the office of deacon was mainly aimed at the job of service, this could be a reference to the deacons.' (Willis p. 441)

'governments' -2941. kubernesis koo-ber'-nay-sis; from kubernao (of Latin origin, to steer); pilotage, i.e. (figuratively) directorship (in the church): -government.

-'a helmsman who steers a vessel, and thus this gift consists in managing and directing others' (Lenski p. 540) 'So a governing' (Robertson p. 174) This probably refers to the elders. ( Act_20:28 )

'divers kinds of tongues' -again, tongues ends up at the bottom of the list. (12:10)

'The very order of recounting these gifts may have been a rebuke to the Corinthians for disrespect to the apostle and for their almost childish delight in the spectacular gift of tongues.' (Erdman p. 129)

Verse 29

1Co_12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

Verse 30

1Co_12:30 have all gifts of healings? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

Grammatically, each question demands a negative answer.

Point to Note:

Even in the First Century, when the miraculous gifts were operational, all Christians didn't have the ability to heal, or speak in tongues. And yet today, we have religious bodies that make the claim that one really isn't a Christian until they have spoken in tongues. Paul disagreed!

Verse 31

1Co_12:31 But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you.

'desire earnestly' -'aim hard' (Ber); 'You should set your hearts on the best spiritual gifts.' (Phi)

'the greater gifts' -

Points to Note:

1. All the striving in the world would be futile for some of the gifts mentioned, i.e. apostles.

2. 'The greater gifts..shows that not every gift is of equal importance depending on the perspective. In the assembly, tongues are less fruitful than prophecy (14:1-5).' (McGuiggan p. 173)

'And moreover' -'And yet beyond all this I am showing you a way (a way to reach the highest goal, to achieve the noblest ambition.)' (F.F. Bruce p. 124)

'most excellent' -'I show you a way par excellence, beyond all comparison' (Robertson p. 174) 'but I shall show you a way which surpasses them all.' (Phi)

Points to Note:

1. Possession of the gifts didn't necessarily make you a better Christian (it made some worse.)

2. The "way", is the way of love discussed in the next chapter. It is not the way to better spiritual gifts. Rather it is: (1) The motive that the gifts must be exercised with, to be of any profit to the individual or the congregation (Chapters 13-14). (2) The way that will outlast such gifts. (3) The way, if followed, that will make you a better Christian.

People that exercised spiritual gifts, could end up lost. ( Mat_7:22-23 ) But Christians who exercised love (as defined by Paul), will end up saved.

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.