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Friday, September 29th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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1 Corinthians 12

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-2


1, 2. He now proceeds to expound to them elaborately the grand theme of spiritual gifts, marking a very decisive transition from the disciplinary to the educational phase of his magisterial office.

Verse 3

3. Therefore I make known unto you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God can say Jesus is anathema, and no one is able to say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” This is conclusive from the fact that the Holy Ghost is the Successor and Revelator of Christ. “Lord” is applied to a man that rules, hence means the humanity of Christ, the legitimate ruler of the world, as God originally gave it to man. Though the devil has usurped it from Adam the first, Adam the Second has conquered Satan and taken it back. Hence He is destined to be “Lord over all, blessed for evermore.” This lordship must begin in the human heart, in which the Holy Ghost enthrones Jesus in sanctification. Since He is sent into the world to reveal Jesus and enthrone Him in the heart, whenever He sanctifies a soul He reveals Jesus sitting on the throne of the heart. The regenerated man knows Jesus as Savior because He has saved him, but does not know Him as Lord, i. e., Ruler, until He is enthroned in the heart in sanctification. Hence the fearful Unitarian trend of the popular churches. Without the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the churches not only become despiritualized into dead formality, but Unitarianized into deistic infidelity. This arises from the fact that Christ must be crowned within be fore you can say, “ Jesus is Lord.” It is the prerogative of the Holy Ghost to reveal and crown Jesus on the throne of the heart, which he always does in sanctification. Jesus sends the Holy Ghost, and He reveals Jesus. When you receive the personal Holy Ghost in sanctification, he reveals Jesus sitting on the throne of your heart. Then can you say, “Jesus is Lord.”

Verse 4

4. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Verse 5

5. There are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord.” The Holy Ghost bestows on appreciative sinners the gifts of illumination, conviction, justification, regeneration, adoption, and the witness of the Spirit. Without this beautiful group of gifts, no sinner would ever be saved. In sanctification the glorified Savior gives you the Holy Ghost Himself to sanctify, comfort, fill and keep you forever. After the Holy Spirit has moved into your heart, He has another cohort of inestimable gifts which He wishes to bestow on you, not only to fortify you against the adversary, but especially to panoply you for the Lord’s war and empower you to become instrumental in the salvation of others. There are nine of these gifts, all entirely different either from other. Hence there is quite a “diversity,”

developing infinite dissimilitude among their possessors. When Jesus is crowned Lord of all on the throne of the heart, He dispenses an infinite diversity of ministries to His saints, sending them in all directions on missions of love and mercy, doing His will on earth as the angels do it in Heaven.

Verse 6

6. There are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.” Here we see the beautiful and harmonious co-operation of the blessed heavenly Trinity. God works in us a vast diversity of operations, enlightening, transforming, renewing, upbuilding, sanctifying and glorifying, the Son sitting on the throne of the heart, dispensing the different ministries, and the indwelling Holy Ghost furnishing the potent and diversified gifts requisite to the different ministries and the variant operation performed by the same.

Verse 7

7. To each one the manifestation of the Spirit has been given to profit.” The omnipotent Trinity co-operate in the wonderful plan of salvation, give perfect victory to every humble, believing, appreciative soul, while all of these spiritual gifts are at your availability. Some will be manifested in great prominence in one, another in another, indefinitely, for the glory of God and the good of humanity. We now enter upon the catalogue of the wonderful nine. I read so much in Greek literature about the nine Muses, who inspired all the poets, scholars, philosophers and artisans, that when I was in Athens I visited the Hill of the Muses, where they were believed to abide in the romantic days of yore. Though heathen, it seems that the Holy Spirit permitted them to catch at least a few stray notes floating out from the golden harps of Heaven’s charming music, First in the glorious catalogue is “wisdom,” which is sanctified intelligence, and so much needed in the diversified emergencies of this life. One hundred and fifty years ago a poor Irish family migrated to America and floated off to the wild woods of Kentucky, and settled on the frontier. Ere long the baby dies. They are all superstitious Roman Catholics. No priest can be heard of in all the land to pray the poor little thing out of purgatory. They are all in deep sorrow. One day a backwoodsman says to them: “A fellow called a circuit rider comes round once a month; for ought I know, he may be a priest. I feel sure he is a man of that sort.” “By all means send him to our house.” Fortunately, Bishop Asbury’s blood-washed, fire baptized circuit-rider happened in that part of his monthly round in a day or two. Receiving the information, he goes at once to the Irish cabin, and calls on the heart-broken family. “I heard you were in trouble, and have called to see you. I am the circuit rider.” “Oh! But we want a priest to pray the baby out of purgatory. Are you a priest?” “Oh, yes, I am a priest.” “Are you a Roman Catholic priest?” “Not exactly, but I can do anything a Roman priest can.” The man concludes he is all right, the difference being simply in this new country, so they hail him welcome and turn over to him the job. “Oh,” says he, “the baby is not in purgatory, but in Heaven. It is the prettiest thing you ever saw. It has never cried since it got there, and the angels are all delighted with it.” This helped them wonderfully, so they break down with grateful tears. Now he interviews them about their souls asks them if they have ever been born again. All respond in the negative. Then he tells that the baby is in Heaven; that they are all on their way to Hell. They get convicted under his plain talk, and ask him to come again. This is all the excuse he wants to make their house one of his regular preaching-places, as he had no churches. So he publishes the appointment all round his circuit. The day arrives, the house is crowded with red-hot Methodists, singing, praying and shouting uproariously. The fire falls. They all get converted and join the Methodists, and turn preachers. They have gone preaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and are preaching yet. I am one of them; for I have given you an item from the history of my family. All originated from the spiritual gift of wisdom possessed by the pioneer circuit rider. Without this gift, he never could have turned priest and succeeded in converting that ignorant, superstitious family. I could write a volume on this wonderful gift. A good preacher of another church migrated into my circuit twenty- seven years ago, proposing to build a house in view of establishing a congregation. My members were alarmed at the prospect of competition. I visited him, helped him build it out four miles from any of my churches, but in my circuit. By the time it is done, he and myself are like David and Jonathan, side by side on the battlefield. I accept his invitation to hold the first protracted meeting for him. We ran a full month, witnessing the mighty works of God. At the close I tell them all to come down and give their hands to the good man who built the house. One hundred come and give him their hands, but tell him they want to belong to Brother Godbey’s pastorate. He decides to go with them. So I get the preacher, house and one hundred new members to swell the army roll of my circuit. To God be the glory! He managed the whole matter through the spiritual gift of wisdom happily enjoyed by your humble servant. You can not get along without this blessed gift from the Holy Ghost. It is absolutely indispensable. Without it you will begin at the wrong end, or in the middle, and try to run both ways simultaneously. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all cheerfully, and upbraideth not.”

“Let him ask in faith, without doubting” (James 1:0).

You need entire sanctification to save you gloriously from all doubt. Then you will be in constant attitude to receive all of these wonderful gifts.

Verse 8


8. This gift was so prominent in the apostolic age, that one of the first sects ever founded when the apostasy began to prevail was named for this gift, i. e., the Gnostics, who like all other sectarians soon digressed into fanaticism and heresy. The meaning of the Greek word gnosis, translated “knowledge,” is insight into Divine truth. Therefore this is the gift which we all need to understand the Bible. It qualifies us to read the precious Word and look down into the deep interior of revealed truth, and see not the lexical definition but the spiritual meaning. It was this gift that made Bob Burkes a powerful exegete before he learned his alphabet, his sister reading the Scripture and he expounding it. I have known illiterate old colored people in the South, full of the Holy Ghost, enjoying this gift so wonderfully that they were better exponents of Divine truth than the most learned theologians without it. Early in the Holiness Movement, when the doctrine was new and strange, an illiterate old Ethiopian entered into Beulah land. When the curious multitude called on him to define sanctification, he responded: “It is just to go limber in de han’s of de Lord.” A very devout colored man in Texas, getting wonderfully baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, responsive to the kind invitation of a highly cultured metropolitan pastor to come to his church, that he might preach all of that foolery out of him, was a patient auditor in the gallery. After the benediction the pastor, beckoning to him to tarry until he can have a word with him, says: “Ben, how did you like my sermon?” “I likes it well, boss, it was a good sermon; but I tell you, boss, you did not go furd enough; you said dar’ was no sanctification; you stop too soon; you had ought to go furder and say, ‘ not dat you knows of, ‘ but me knows dar is, for I’se got it, glory to God!” When an ignorant boy, listening to my preaching father, I received a call, trembled under the Divine voice and responded, “Amen.” I was utterly ignorant of spiritual experience, therefore I took it for granted that I had to learn the Bible from others, oral and written. When I graduated at college, feeling that I then had the golden key with which to unlock the world’s learning, sacred and secular, hidden away in the dead languages, consequently I ransacked all the world for books, not only American resources, but bringing many from the old world, especially from Germany and England, meanwhile having preached fifteen years. Then God in His great mercy poured on me the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, sanctifying me to Himself, soul, mind and body, for time and eternity, giving me the Apocalyptic wings, which I could not forbear to spread, flying to the ends of the earth and blowing the silver trumpet, proclaiming the wonders of full salvation. That was thirty years ago. Of course I flew away from my great library, which subsequently at different times I have given away to young preacher’s, especially those identified with my own household. When I reached bottom-rock consecration, of course I laid the preacher on the altar, turning over all of my clerical aspirations, and sinking away into God, utterly losing sight of self and glad to be anything or nothing for Christ’s sake; of course, giving up all idea of ever knowing the Bible, for I thought I had to learn it from those books for which I had ransacked the libraries of the ages, and was delighted with the simple privilege of being a soul-saver in the most humble capacity. The years rolling on, I am constant on the battlefield, preaching day and night, and witnessing the mighty works of God. Behold! I find myself in the great Holiness camps, surrounded by hundreds and thousands of the Lord’s bright pilgrims, clerical and laity, with their open Bibles, pencil and paper, and your humble servant standing in their midst, reading and expounding the Scriptures in the inspired original. This I have done from ocean to ocean, from the Gulf to the Lakes, working in the cities during the winter and the camps in the summer, to my own unutterable surprise, teaching God’s precious Word. What is the solution? To God be all the glory! It is because the blessed Holy Spirit gives me the benefit of this unutterable gift, “knowledge,” i. e.. , insight into the deep spiritual meaning of His precious Word. I have used the Greek constantly and exclusively, from the same fact that this gift in my case is on the very Word which the Holy Ghost revealed, in that beautiful and inimitable Greek. For this reason I would be at sea without it. Of course, the Holy Ghost is just as willing to impart this gift on the Scriptures in other languages, e. g., your own beautiful English, as it is my privilege, in the good Providence of God, to read the identical words which the Holy Ghost revealed, unadulterated by uninspired translators. I am not surprised that this gift in my case is identified with the Greek. It is your glorious privilege to enjoy this wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost, enabling you to read God’s precious Word and see the deep, sweet and beautiful spiritual truth there revealed, and hear the voice of God talking to you. You need not expect this gift unless you utterly and eternally die to all of your creeds, confessions, dogmatisms, and preconceived notions and hereditary intuitions. Though I have been a Methodist preacher all my life, I am as dead to Methodism as to Romanism or Mormonism. You must say like little Samuel, “Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth.” The reason why preacher’s are abandoned by the Holy Ghost and left to paddle their own canoe, shamefully ignorant of the Bible, is because they want to bend it to their creed, and the Holy Ghost will not be bent to anything. If they would only die out to everything but God’s truth and sink away into Christ, the Holy Ghost would teach them more in a minute than men can teach them in a year. Long ago when I was in the howling wilderness preaching the best I could, I heard an old Methodist bishop make this statement. I did not believe it; but the time came when I knew it was so. Ever and anon the Holy Spirit has flashed a whole sermon into my mind in a minute, utterly new and before unheard of, and yet as true and real as Jehovah’s throne.

Verse 9


9. Both of these nouns are in the plural numbers because there is a diversity of gifts, as well as an infinite multiplicity of diseases to be healed; some gifted in the healing of one disease, and some in another. Of course, the body is not perfectly healed until this mortal puts on immortality, and we enter the glorified state either by translation or the resurrection. Therefore all bodily healing in this life is but the earnest of the glorious complete healing which is to come, mortality itself being the very quintessence of disease, final and perfect healing utterly and eternally eliminating it. Neither is our failure to get healed an argument against our spirituality, as we are healed by the gift, and saved by grace. It is our glorious privilege, as a Christian duty, to appreciate and utilize the gifts of healings in order that we may be a blessing to the suffering thousands on all sides. As the apostles and primitive saints went from house to house, preaching the gospel and healing the sick, let us remember that we are in the succession, and the gospel has lost none of its power. It is one of the glories of the present Holiness Movement to restore the great Bible truth of Divine healing for the body, which was so prominent in the apostolic age, and, like the other great cardinal truths, went into eclipse during the dark ages, following the great Constantinian apostasy. God used Martin Luther to rescue from the rubbish of Romanism the great fundamental Bible doctrine of justification by the free grace of God in Christ, received and appropriated by faith without works. He used John Wesley to restore the great and glorious doctrine of entire sanctification, wrought by the Holy Ghost, through the cleansing blood, instantaneously received by simple faith for that mighty work. In a similar manner the present Holiness Movement has restored to the Church the great and inspiring truth of the Lord’s return on the throne of the glorious Theocracy, also the beautiful and encouraging doctrine of bodily healing and woman’s ministry. As the present age is flooded with illustrative examples of Divine healing innumerable everywhere, I presume the reader of these pages is a believer in this precious truth. Twenty-six year’s ago I was given up by physicians to die of pulmonary congestion. I had even reached a point where all pulsation had ceased, and so remained eight hour’s, physicians standing over me, having desisted from all remedies and simply waiting my departure, which they said was bound to come, liable every minute and could not tarry. I had then been a citizen of Beulah land fourteen year’s, having a little light on Divine healing, which was then scarcely heard of. Though my beloved wife had not yet entered the sanctified experience, God in His great mercy bestowed on her this gift for the healing of her husband. When the physicians took hands off and refused to administer any more remedies, certifying that death was certain and very nigh, the report having gone abroad that I was already dead, she, though naturally timid and unaccustomed to any public exercise, immediately superseded the physicians, taking command of the situation as bold as Julius Caesar, and announced to the audience of about fifty saintly sympathizers standing round: “Though these doctors have given up my husband to die, the Great Physician has not given him up; he has yet much work to do for God. All down on your knees; take hold of the Omnipotent Healer.” At that time all pulsation had ceased six hours, the physicians observing that no case of survival had ever exceeded the eighth hour; consequently, though liable to die every minute, I was bound to die at the expiration of the two hours.

Such was the rhapsody which my spirit had enjoyed, already several hours, in a heavenly vision in which it seemed that I was looking into the New Jerusalem flying round on the outside while tied to my body, which I could see lying down there on the bed, every moment expecting the string to break, when I would sweep into Heaven; consequently, though vividly conscious of everything and perfectly free from delirium, I was simply too happy to realize a thing. Therefore the two hours told by the clock on the mantle seemed to me not more than two minutes, but I remember my good wife kept all those people on their knees all that time. When the moment arrived predicted by the physicians as the last minute I could possibly stay in the body, having survived pulsation eight hours, suddenly the healing came. My lungs were relieved from the inundations of blood accumulated in my chest, and circulation was restored in its vigor, the blood coursing out through my arteries to the extremities of my members and back through my veins, as distinctly realized as water flowing on the exterior of my body. I said to our family physician: “Doctor, I am healed.” Leaping, he seized my arm, and said: “Pulsation is not only restored, but is regular and all right. Truly the crisis of the disease is passed, and you are a well man.” I left the bed, and have been on my feet ever since, in three days going away from home and engaging in a protracted meeting in which I did all the preaching day and night. I have consulted many physicians with reference to my ailment at that time, i. e., congestion of the lungs. They all tell me that while it is seldom and with difficulty cured, it is nearly certain to come back. I seriously doubt whether another man in all the world has spoken as much as your humble servant since that time, and I have never had the slightest symptom of lung trouble. To God be the glory! He healed me and did a thorough work. Since that time I have had other ailments frequently, and the Lord healed them ever and anon. I am now sixty-five year’s old, and have been a hard worker’ all my life. Hence I have reached a period when bodily organs are wearing out and failing; yet the Great Physician most wonderfully keeps my failing organs in good repair. Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Jesus from the dead will quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit dwelling in you.” The true economy of Divine healing is by the overflow of the spiritual life, filling the human spirit and flowing out inundating the body. When the Holy Spirit has made your body His temple, and is dwelling in you, it follows as a legitimate sequence that the normal condition of your body will be that of health and vigor adequate to the work He has for you to do. We watch the houses in which we live, diligently repairing the breaches and keeping the house in condition to repel the storms and render us comfortable. Yet the time comes when we no longer spend money and labor repairing the house, from the simple fact that it is not worth repairing. Then, however, we soon evacuate it and take it down, preparatory to building a new one on the spot. At present, glory to God! The Holy Ghost is dwelling in my body and keeping it in good repair. Some of these days He will cease to repair it, from the simple fact that it will not be worth repairing. When that time comes I will shout louder than ever, knowing that Heaven is nigh. Bear in mind, all bodily healing is subordinated to the spiritual interest. If the poor wicked people in this fallen world were not alarmed and humbled by aches and pains, admonishing them that death and judgment are close on their track, they would live in hilarity and improvidence, until they dropped suddenly into Hell. I never pray for the healing of wicked, impenitent persons, as perhaps their sickness is the only hope of their awakening and salvation. When the soul is saved all right and filled with the Holy Ghost, it is normal for Him to flow out into the body, restoring ailments and imparting life and vigor. In all my travels since the Lord gave me light on Divine healing, I have witnessed His mighty works healing diseases of all sorts, even the most formidable, where all the physicians had abandoned the patient to die. While holding a protracted meeting in Georgia, and preaching sanctification, I was having serious trouble, the pastor publicly and in the meetings antagonizing me. I realize his absence and make inquiry. They tell me he is sick in the parsonage and unable to be present. I hold the afternoon Bible reading and go to see him, finding him attacked by a terrible fever not uncommon in the South. I tell him about the wonderful Healer. He said he believed in Divine healing, and wanted me to pray for him. So, kneeling by his bedside, with my hand on his burning brow, I turn him over to the Great Physician, impleading His immediate rebuke of the fever and its dismissal from his tortured body. In less than two hours he was with us in the evening meeting, testifying that every symptom of the fever was gone and a healthful perspiration soothed his body. Suffice it to say he gave me no more trouble opposing sanctification, but, tumbling down at the altar, earnestly sought and entered in. On another occasion, when preaching in a very wicked community, amid awful opposition, my life threatened and believed to be in jeopardy, the healing of a young man in the immediate vicinity turned the tide in my favor, giving me more friends than I knew what to do with, and an immediate impetus to the revival. You must not depreciate the gifts of healings, as you will find them a powerful auxiliary to your soul-saving work, to which they are always subordinated. When you pray for the sick, you have a right to believe that God will either heal the body or give the person something better. Spiritual blessings in this life are better than bodily healing, and Heaven better than all. Hence there is no reason why your faith should fail in any case. Millions of poor sufferers all around you open wide the door of infinitesimal usefulness in the interest of body and soul. When God makes you a blessing to the body, the door is wide open for you to be a blessing to the soul. The Church has lost millions of victories by her depreciation of Divine healing as an auxiliary of soul- saving.

Verse 10


10. This gift is the necessary counterpart of the preceding. You need it to enable you to understand the Bible and the good books which explain the Bible, and everything you hear as well as read. You need the “gift of interpretation” to enable you to comprehend the spiritual meaning; e. g., I have that gift in the Greek language so that in my daily teaching I use not only the language, but the interpretation. I look at it, and, instead of speaking it to people who would not understand it, I translate it, serving them as an interpreter. The reason why it is so difficult to interest the wicked in a gospel sermon is because, in the first place, they do not understand the language of Canaan, and, in the second place, they are incompetent to interpret it. Consequently the glorious gospel is a bore to them, affecting them as if you were speaking to them in a foreign language. That is the great reason why the preacher’s yield to the temptation to fill up their little sermons with temporal matter’s so they may reach and edify the unspiritual; but suppose they do reach them, they will never get them saved in that way. The true spiritual gospel is a riddle to worldly people, which they can not understand. Hence we are to convict them by prayer and convert them by exhortation:

“And the church was multiplied by the exhortation of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).

The word of God is for His people, to feed, arm and equip them. Then we pray a knockdown conviction on the wicked, and exhort them in a plain, simple way till we get them converted. If you would intelligently take in the Bible and good books and the edifying utterances of God’s people, you must have this gift of interpretation. It is perfectly wonderful how illiterate Ethiopians and other poor people, when filled with the Holy Ghost, can understand God’s truth. In 1849 Bishop Kavanaugh, preaching in the first camp-meeting in California, as related by Bishop Fitzgerald, an eye- witness, got off one of the happiest efforts of his life; for two solid hours his impressive countenance literally illuminated with the Holy Ghost, the multitude spellbound on all sides, the silence only broken by weeping and shouting. Meanwhile an old Indian chief, who did not know a word the preacher said, but knew the Lord, became a conspicuous figure in the congregation, his eyes sparkling, his face radiating with supernatural brilliancy, while he leaped and shouted aloud. When the people asked the Bishop to explain it, as the Indian did not know a word he said, he observed: “The Holy Ghost revealed it to him.” This I verily believe; and so will He, to your happy astonishment, become the Revelator of His own precious truth.

Verse 11


11. “But all these things worketh in you one and the same Spirit, dispensing unto each one severally as He willeth.” In this verse you have the golden key which unlocks the mystery and solves the problem. The Holy Ghost Himself possesses the gifts perpetually, and is the custodian of the same. But do not forget that He has them on hand, not for Himself, for He does not need them, but for you. Consequently you may rest assured that you can have them as you need them, remembering that He commands you to earnestly seek them (1 Corinthians 12:31). A military general, approaching a city, first needs the cannons, to burst up the citadels and oust the enemy from their fortifications. Then, when they meet him in the open plain, he needs the rifle and plenty of ammunition. Finally, when the collision comes, he needs bayonets, swords and revolvers, for the hand-to-hand combat of man with man. So, when you need a cannon to fire on the devil, it is your privilege to enjoy such an attitude to the Holy Ghost that, responsive to your humility, faith and obedience, He puts the cannon in your hand. So also with the rifle, the bayonet, the sword and the revolver. N. B. The Holy Ghost Himself is your Armor-Bearer, carrying these nine invincible weapons of the Christian warfare, and ready every minute to give you the very one you need in so quick succession as to impress you that you just have them all on hand simultaneously. The reason why Jonathan could stampede a whole army when he went out alone with an armor-bearer was a verification of the grand symbolic truth that his armor bearer represented the Holy Ghost. So you go out accompanied by the Holy Ghost alone, and you can put to flight a whole army of devils. Hence you see that these gifts are not constant. You have one today, another tomorrow, and still another the next day, or you may enjoy them all in very quick and rapid succession. These gifts constitute the grand panoply of the Christian warrior, and are indispensable to his full efficiency on the Lord’s battlefield, while they are not at all necessary to personal salvation. The reason why so many sanctified people manifest such little spiritual power is because they do not utilize this wonderful spiritual panoply as it is their privilege. I give glory to God that He permits me to be a personal witness of all these gifts, some of them predominating at one time and others at another. I pray God, reader, that you may receive and enjoy them all in greater and more efficient manifestation than your humble servant. This is an open door to illimitable efficiency for God and souls. N. B. The availability of these gifts is simply illimitable, the proportion in which you participate in them constituting the measure of your efficiency as a soul- saver. If it were only possible to convince the people touching this interest, it would move three worlds and bring on the Millennium. Perfect humility, consecration, faith and obedience are the conditions of utilizations of these gifts. We should go forth constantly on the battlefield, accompanied by the Holy Ghost, our omnipotent Armor-Bearer, who has all of those gifts ready to bestow as we need them.

Verse 12

12. The body of Christ is one, as He is one,” yet innumerable have been the saints of all ages. Unification of God’s people is in the baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Verse 13

13. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, bond or free, and we have all imbibed one Spirit.” The Jews and Greeks differed more widely than any of the religious denominations, either from other: yet they were indiscriminately mixed in the Corinthian church, worshipping together in perfect harmony. You see here the bond of Christian union for all ages and nations. It is not ordinances, creeds nor confessions. It is the baptism with the Holy Ghost. Before the Constantinian apostasy they had no denominations. The restoration of the baptism with the Holy Ghost to the Church will do away with them. How strange that a truth so patent is not hailed by all the churches as a Godsend, and made the battle-cry to run the devil out of the world! Christian union would economize millions of missionary money, curtail the expenses of the home church as least three-fourths, besides bringing a spiritual Pentecost on the world. As the ages go by, God raises revival after revival, calling the churches to the altar to receive the baptism which our Savior gives with the Holy Ghost and fire, and they reject. In this verse we have God’s positive word for this great truth, which ought to be sufficient for all calling themselves Christians; besides, we have this truth attested by millions of witnesses, living and dead. In all of my peregrinations by land and sea, I see this verified. The baptism which our Savior gives actually obliterates all lines of sect, race, color, and nationality. Here is the remedy for ten thousand human woes; aye, for a Hell on earth and a Hell for many through all eternity. God help us to appreciate it. I have heard the preachers all my life wearing themselves out to effect a union on their creed. Many have been vociferous for union, as they say, on the Bible, which sounds exceedingly plausible. But you must remember the only way to unite on the Bible is to take the Bible for our guide in the proposed union. There we are brought back to the starting-point, as the Bible positively presents the baptism by one Spirit into one body as the only feasible basis of Christian union. In that case, we drink in or imbibe one Spirit, which gives us all one disposition. God is in perfect harmony with Himself, hence all the people in whom the Holy Ghost, i. e., God, dwells, and whom He rules, are in perfect spiritual harmony. They differ physically and intellectually, but are sweetly one in Jesus, as He is one in God. There is no defalcation about this problem. It is true in the Bible and corroborated by universal experience.

Verses 14-27


14-27. Here Paul sets forth the fact that every regenerated soul is a member of the body of Christ, and, so far as the mere question of membership is concerned, all equally honorable in the sight of God. He beautifully and forcibly illustrates this truth by the human body; e. g., the foot is down in the mud and, from a superficial standing, dishonorable compared with the hand, which is carried aloft and kept clean. Yet we expend ten dollars on the foot to one on the hand, and we are much more careful to keep it from exposure. I would much rather have my hand amputated than my foot. The little nerves, so fine we can not see them, impart all the power to the muscles, so they would be utterly motionless if they were paralyzed. These reflections throw a flood of light on the body of Christ. I know a presiding elder who has a cleft palate, a very serious vocal deficiency. Yet God more than compensates for it. I was introduced to a man many years ago, as the Methodist pastor, who stammered so awfully that it was a consummate bore to talk to him. I observed to a brother: “Why, this man can’t preach.” “Do you go and hear him once, and if you do not want to go again, I will excuse you.” I went through Curiosity. When he began he stammered abominably. I felt exceedingly sorry for him. In five minutes I saw him getting out of the brush. In ten minutes I forgot all about his stammering and began to get deeply absorbed in his message. In twenty minutes every trace of the stammering had evanesced. Before he got through I did not know whether I was there or somewhere else. He was one of the most powerful preachers I ever heard. I heard a man tell about visiting our Congress, and seeing a little, ugly, deformed old man sitting among the members with his hat on (weak eyes), but he soon observed that he was quite a center of attraction, the great, fine-looking members frequently going to him for information. It was Alexander Stephens, of Georgia, one of the greatest statesmen of his day. If you have a deficiency in some way, look out, God will make it up with compound interest. How frequently do people who have never enjoyed a collegiate education put the cultured literate in total eclipse! Grace is the most wonderful equalizer in all the world. Are you deficient in any way? Check on God.

Verse 28


28. First, apostles.” It is a mistake to think we have no apostles at the present day. The Bible is finished, and the plenary inspiration necessary to reveal it is, of course, at an end, having finished its work. Apostle apo, “from,” and stello, “send” simply means “one sent,” i. e., the pioneer into any field of labor, e. g., Bishop Taylor, the apostle of Africa, and Hudson Taylor, of interior China. “Secondly, prophets.” The prophet is properly the preacher. After the apostle has explored the field and opened it, then we need the Spirit-filled preachers to go and get the people saved.” Thirdly, teachers.” We can not teach dead men, since the resurrection must come before teaching, which is so indispensable to the establishment, after they have been converted and sanctified. “Then dynamites.” After the apostle has opened the field, the preachers have gotten a lot of the people converted and sanctified, and the teachers have thoroughly taught them the precious Word, then they are ready for the dynamite, that wonderful gift from the Holy Ghost which qualifies them to blow up the devil’s kingdom. These dynamiters are to go for all of the people in the community not yet saved and sanctified, and push the work on to a glorious victory, running Satan and his myrmidons out of the country. “ Then gifts of healings.” As the body is subordinated to the soul, the gifts of healings are specified in this concatenation after the consummation of the spiritual work. First the apostles, i. e., the pioneers, must explore and open the field; secondly, the prophets, i. e., the preachers properly so called, e. g., the evangelists and pastors, must follow and get all of the elect saved. Then the dynamiters turn loose on the whole community, literally blowing it up with Holy Ghost powers, running the devil out, and rolling the revival tide over every opposition, being more than a match for Satan on all lines, as I have often seen in my circuit, when a member of the Kentucky Conference. We used to just about reach everybody with the revival dynamite, getting all the drunkards and saloonkeepers saved, running whisky out of my bailiwick, and voting local option throughout the county. After these mighty spiritual victories, the people are in good fix to receive Divine healing, well prepared to take hold of the Lord, for the body as well as the soul. So, wonderful miracles of healing ensue; God’s order is wonderfully beautiful, glory to His name! “Helps.” Amid these mighty works, God raises up hosts who are ready to do valuable service as helpers in soul-saving and bodily healing; so preachers have no trouble to command all the help they want to press a revival campaign anywhere. Oh! the infinite value of the humble gospel helpers! Thousands of people who have no gifts as leaders are number one helpers, and beat the preachers working in the audience and at the altar. How grandly revival work moves along when red-hot platoons of fire-baptized helpers crowd around God’s heroic leaders of the embattled host.


Efficient leaders are indispensable in the Lord’s work. Though we can not do without them, yet we do not need many. We need a hundred flaming helpers to one revival leader. Hence the Lord gives us just about that proportion. If He makes you a leader of His embattled host, give Him glory; if you are only an humble helper, shout the louder, remembering that it was Jonathan’s armor-bearer who put to flight the Philistine army. The Holy Ghost is more humble than any of us, and He is our Armor-Bearer, verifying the office of the most humble helper on the battlefield. Lord, help us to accept His situation, and there abide, with the constant shout of gratitude!


See this beautiful concatenation of the Divine arrangement for the salvation of the world, as the Holy Ghost here specifies. In the first place, the apostles, i. e., pioneers, go, explore and open the field, like so many noble heroes are now exploring the dark jungles of Asia and Africa. Then follow the Spirit-filled prophets, evangelists and pastors who preach the living Word with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven. Then the people are ready for the extraordinary spiritual gifts, and God raises up dynamiters on all sides, to drill through and burst up all the devil’s rock in the whole country. Then Divine healing is everywhere preached, and since the Holy Ghost has come in and occupied many human bodies, it is pertinent that all of His temples be thoroughly repaired and fixed up in good order for His profitable occupancy. Finally in the catalogue we have the gift of tongues coming on the people. Now that salvation has flooded the community, and sanctification has rolled over them like a sea of glory, and God has raised up spiritual dynamiters on all sides, and bodily healing has so prevailed that the Lord’s saints have become physical as well as spiritual stalwarts, now is the time for a general aggressive movement into all the dark, destitute fields around about where the barbaric tribes speak dialects peculiar to themselves. Now, in order to expedite the work, what a wonderful auxiliary will be the Divine impartation of these different languages and dialects to those who propose to go among them as missionaries, and thus spread the gospel to the ends of the earth!

Verse 29


29. Whether are all apostles?” Of course the answer is in the negative. No age of Christendom has ever needed a very great number of pioneer’s to explore and plant the work in new fields, as it would be fruitless unless those fields are immediately occupied and permanently utilized. If God has not made you a pioneer, it does not follow that He has not called you into the work and has not for you a crown of glory waiting to greet you on the mount of victory. Sanctification kills out all your ambitions so you are as willing to be a most humble worker as the very “chief of the apostles.” If any one thinks that the apostolic office, in its original and literal signification as a pioneer, is not still a happy verity in God’s kingdom, read Ephesians 4:10-12. “Are all prophets?” i. e., Spirit-filled preachers of the gospel, evangelists and pastors? The answer is in the negative. As in the preceding exegesis, you see there is a symmetry in the body of Christ homogeneous to that in the human body, which would be ruined if it were all eye, or all ear, or all nose, or all foot, or all trunk, and no members. In a similar manner the Omniscient Creator of the body of Christ, which includes all the saints, has beautifully, symmetrically and proportionately supplied it with all the diversified members and infinitesimal constituencies of the infinitely diversified organism. Well has the human body been denominated “a harp with a thousand strings,” on which Jehovah alone can play and He alone keep it in tune. How prominently, even elaborately, in this chapter does the Holy Ghost specify the different members of the body constituting a mysterious unity and beautifully illustrating the mystical unity amid illimitable variety and diversity characterizing the body of Christ. How deplorably do the fallen churches illustrate the sad discomfiture of this Divine arrangement, and their deplorable deficiency of many organs which are indispensable not only to the efficiency, but even the life, of the body. These organs, however, the devil is prompt to supply, which makes the matter infinitely worse than the deficiencies. Of course we are not all “prophets,” i. e., fire-baptized evangelists and pastors. But that is no reason why we should conclude that we have been left out of the catalogue. The Holy Ghost honors and utilizes all the members of the body. He has no deadbeats. The devil supplies them. “Whether are all teachers?” James (James 3:1) commands us, “Be not many teacher’s,” E.V., “masters,” in harmony with the old style of calling a schoolteacher a schoolmaster. The Greek is didaskaloi, the very word we have here. Hence we find that “teacher’s” are not many, but few. I have spent years in other capacities of gospel work, but for’ some years have been used as a teacher in the school of Christ. Of this office I feel very unworthy, yet I must be true to the Holy Ghost by the grace of God. The cause of God in all ages, as abundantly and sadly illustrative ever and anon in the present Holiness Movement, has suffered much from incompetent teacher’s, propagating dangerous and damaging errors. Thousands of true saints, who could be eminently useful if they would go out in the office of prophet, i. e., edifying, exhorting and comforting the people (ch. 1 Corinthians 14:3), could win platoons for God and weave a crown of glory for their own brows in the coming eternity by reading the Word of God, proclaiming it to the people, exhorting them to receive it and prepare for death and judgment, and everywhere comforting the brokenhearted by reading and repeating the precious promises, at the same time corroborating all by their own happy experiences. Meanwhile, if they undertake to go down into the profundities of exegesis for which they are utterly incompetent, they will actually, though innocently, run into sad mistakes and propagate all sorts of errors which the enemy will use to break our heads, prejudice the people against sanctification and lead them down to Hell. While teaching is so exceedingly important and indispensable, we must admit that education, especially in the Greek and Hebrew, which form the inspired original Scriptures, is of infinite value. The saints of the Lord should move slowly, carefully, prayerfully and judiciously on the line of exegesis, and at the same time be bold as lions, everywhere ringing out the plain Word of God extemporaneously if you have a good memory, but if you do not remember and have the Word at your tongue’s end, praise the Lord! He has given you good eyes and your precious and infallible Bible, which shall judge you and all the people with whom you deal in the interests of their souls, consequently you are left without excuse. You can read God’s Word to the people, exhort them to obey it and comfort them with the precious promises, thus enjoying the honorable office of “prophet” if not that of teacher. The word prophesy means to “overflow.” So you can go around overflowing the Word of God as you read it in your Bible, and exhorting the people to obey it, at the same time reading and repeating the precious promises to the brokenhearted. “He that prophesieth speaketh to the people edification, exhortation and comfort” (ch. 1 Corinthians 14:3). Be sure you never lose sight of this definition of prophecy given by the Holy Ghost. It is so simple, easy and practical that by the help of the blessed Spirit you certainly can reach it. “Oh! I am so sorry I can not read the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew!” Do not please the enemy by talking that way. But shout aloud because you can read your Bible in one language. You are wonderfully fortunate. Five hundred years ago not one person in five hundred could read it. N. B. You will not be judged by Greek nor Hebrew, but by the plain English Bible, when you stand before the great white throne, so rest easy and press the battle for souls. If you are not prepared to be a teacher, shout the louder because God has given you the more felicitous office of an exhorter and comforter. “Whether are all dynamiters?” i. e., the honored participants of the fifth gift of the Spirit, as they stand in the preceding catalogue, denominated in E.V. “the working of miracles.” Perhaps God does not especially need you in that line. He has for you a fade less diadem in your own calling. Be true, and “ready to stand in your lot at the end of the days.” The church imperatively needs these dynamiters, to go around with their sharp, New Jerusalem steel drills and ponderous mallets, patiently drilling through the devil’s profound flinty strata, putting down the dynamite, igniting it with heavenly electricity, and blowing up the devil’s mountains. But remember, a few dynamite blasts will burst out rock enough to work in a year. Then what a grand open field for a regiment of stone sledgers to come, knock off the asperites, give each piece its requisite shape and dimension, and patiently chisel it out, preparatory to the occupancy of its necessary position in the grand superstructure of God’s temple. In Jerusalem they use neither wood nor brick, but build all the houses out of stone and calcareous cement, which quickly consolidate into a rock. When I was there a number of very magnificent edifices were in process of erection. As I passed along I saw many brown sons of Esau sitting around, each with a rock, hammer and chisel, diligently and patiently preparing his piece for the superstructure. So do not get blue if God has not made you a dynamiter. But shout the louder, because he has honored you with the privilege of dressing the rocks, blown up by his dynamiters, and locating them in the celestial temple to abide forever, the admiration of angels. I have seen much of this beautiful, Divine order manifested; some hard-fisted, clubfooted old dynamiter in a few lightning blasts blow up rock enough to keep a hundred Christian worker’s diligently employed for days and weeks.

Verse 30

30. Whether have all the gifts of healings.” The answer is in the negative. In my travels I have been frequently associated with people on whom it seemed that God had laid this gift in an especial manner. While conducting a camp-meeting in Mississippi among sanctified, foot-washing Baptists ten years ago, a brother from Mississippi and a sister from Alabama were present and giving prominence to the work of Divine healing. They were very spiritual, and splendid altar-workers, so they made it a rule never to interfere with the soul-saving work, but frequently announced publicly that the ministry of healing would receive attention during the intermissions. While preaching day and night, I saw the people coming, carrying the sick on beds and setting them down, getting ready for the ministry of healing when the time arrived. Then, the Lord’s faithful people kneeling round them, and turning them over to the Great Physician, either the brother or the sister above mentioned proceeded to anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). In many instances they arose from their beds with loud shouts of victory and attended the meetings to the end of the encampment. I was associated with several persons much used of the Lord on this line during my tours the last two years on the Pacific Coast. The persons most used in the ministry of healing in my observation are not eminent for their preaching ability; however, I have known many exceptions to this rule. The ministry of healing is very humble, laborious and responsible, whilst it is of invaluable utility. Perhaps the Lord wants to use you in this ministry, making you a blessing to many and giving you a crown of glory in the bright upper world. He has used your humble servant much in the ministry of healing; yet in my case I feel that it is only a blessed auxiliary to the spiritual work in which He is constantly using my humble instrumentality. “Whether do all speak with tongues?” The answer to this question is also in the negative. The gifts rendered prominent by these questions are held up before the reader in a preeminent and conspicuous light, there being a sense in which, as we see from the next verse, all the spiritual gifts may be possessed by the same person in a measure, most likely in every case some special one predominating. Paul was an example illustrating the gift of tongues or languages, having at his command Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and perhaps many others. It is my privilege to enjoy this gift, especially at the present time, in the Greek language, the original of the New Testament, to whose exposition I have been called by the Holiness people, as the media of the Holy Spirit, whose presence and leadership I very felicitously realize in the laborious and responsible work of writing these Commentaries. Truly, only one now and then is endued with this gift of tongues, in its primary sense, involving the ability to speak in unknown languages. If God does not call you to be a teacher in that prominent sense, or to go as a missionary to a heathen land, you do not need the gift of tongues in this primary sense. So be content with your lot, and rest assured that a crown of glory awaits you, if you will be a loyal, patient laborer in the Lord’s vineyard. “Whether are all interpreters?” The gift of interpretation is an indispensable concomitant of this gift of tongues. In heathen lands, interpreters are indispensable; I had to employ them when I traveled in the East. The Holy Spirit has wisely and graciously provided for every emergency in the evangelization of the world. When the Lord confers on us an unknown language, He simultaneously imparts to us the gift of interpretation, thus qualifying us to impart that language to others.

However, especially in heathen lands, the gift of interpretation frequently obtains separate and distinct from the gift of tongues.

Verse 31

31. But seek earnestly the greater gifts;” E.V., “covet earnestly the best gifts.” This has direct reference to the catalogue of spiritual gifts above mentioned designated in the Greek, the greater contrastively with the minor gifts of the Spirit which He imparts to sinners to save them. Then, after they are saved, Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself in sanctification. After the Holy Ghost comes into your heart to abide, He has for you the glorious group of nine special, wonderful and extraordinary gifts, your essential equipage for the Lord’s war till you finish your work and go to glory. While, as above specified, every saint true to the Holy Ghost and walking in the light will receive some one of these nine gifts in an especial, an eminent manifestation; e. g., in the case of your humble servant, the gift of tongues and interpretation and teaching predominate while writing these commentaries. While some one of these gifts will come to the front and become the great, absorbing interest and availability of your life as the days go by, it does not follow that the same gift will always predominate. I preached fifteen years before I got sanctified, and, though enjoying a collegiate education, I had no light on these spiritual gifts. Since the Lord sanctified me thirty years ago, I have enjoyed all of them, different ones predominating ever and anon. The gifts of tongues and interpretation, in my case, came slowly to the front. But it seems now that they have come to stay; of this, however, I know not. There have been moments, hours, and perhaps days, in my life when each one of these gifts stood at the front. I may, of course, recognize the gift of knowledge, i. e., insight into Divine truth, as exceedingly prominent, in the mercy of God, in my present experience. Of these things I speak with the profoundest humiliation, as I am so unworthy. To the Giver be all the glory! He has the gifts. They are His and not mine. Yet He has them for me, as He does not need them. You see clearly in the above commandment that it is not only our privilege, but our duty, to seek all of these gifts, resting assured that the Giver is always faithful. Do not forget that commandment and promise are identical in the Greek Scriptures, one and the same word standing for both. This is in harmony with correct exegesis, from the simple fact that every commandment carries with it the promise of God to give us all the help we need to obey it; while it is equally true that every promise involves the full force of God’s commandment to receive appreciatively the blessing promised. Hence the commandment in this verse, “Seek earnestly the greater gifts,” i. e., these nine gifts of the Spirit above mentioned, not only makes it the inalienable duty of every sanctified person to seek them, but it carries with it the promise of God to bestow them. Is it not the duty of the unsanctified Christian to seek these gifts of the Spirit? It is; but it is his duty first to seek sanctification, and then these gifts which are normal to the sanctified. While this is true, yet you must remember that God is sovereign. He conferred the gift of Divine healing on my dear wife for me twenty-six years ago, and eleven years before she got sanctified. He conferred the gift of prophecy on Balaam, the wicked false prophet, who died without hope, fighting against Israel in the Moabitish war. He even conferred the gift of prophecy on the donkey which Balaam rode. He also conferred it on Caiaphas, the leader of the and-holiness people in Jerusalem, who assigned the death-warrant of our Savior. While these gifts may be conferred abnormally on unsanctified Christians, and even sinners, their normal sphere is with the sanctified. Hence it is the glorious privilege and imperative duty of all sanctified people to seek these gifts. This is the secret of so much inefficiency among the sanctified; you have actually crossed the Jordan, yet you only hold the territory on which you put your foot. If you would conquer the thirty-one giant kings, and possess the land, you must do some terrible fighting. This you can not do without the panoply, which is awaiting your appropriation in the Heavenly arsenal of these nine spiritual gifts. So go in and possess them. Because you have nothing on hand today but the big cannon, shout aloud, for it is all you need till you shell the enemy out of the citadel. Tomorrow you will be shooting with a Winchester rifle, next day you will wield the New Jerusalem sword, bathing it to the hilt in the blood of the enemy; when you need a six-shooter, you will have it, and it will monopolize all your strength and time. When your Captain gives orders to charge the devil’s batteries, you will have a bayonet fixed and ready to do execution. There is perfect consistency and harmony in these Scriptures throughout, so do not get blue and say you are counted out, for certainly in every case some one of these gifts, if you are true, is coming to the front, prompt and ready for the emergency every day of your life. Do not say you cannot have but one; the presumption is, you do not need but one now. Again, it is more than likely that some especial gift may be made prominent in your Christian work for years together, and perhaps through life, but at the same time do not forget that you are commanded to seek them all. God is not mocking you; He is certain to give you just what He commands you to seek, if you seek it diligently with all your heart. “Yet I show unto you a more excellent way.” We now have a new departure in the apostle’s wonderful exegesis of the spiritual gifts. It seems that he became apprehensive of at least a probability that some, carried away in their enthusiastic appreciation of the gifts, might lose sight of the graces which infinitely transcend the gifts in importance; from the simple fact that while I save others with the gifts, I myself must be saved by grace.

(Ephesians 2:8.) Hence he here halts in his grand elaboration of the gifts, and parenthesizes the thirteenth chapter on the graces, in which he gives them a most transcendent and hyperbolical elucidation and commendation, intensifying their importance infinitely beyond that of the gifts. This parenthesis, in point of orthodox, experimental, vital truth, involving the wonderful problem of full salvation, and sweeping away into the illimitable realities of coming glory, has charmed the heart of God’s people amid all the march of bygone centuries. John Wesley pronounced it the best chapter in the Bible, and said he wanted all the Methodists to live and die in it. Hence Paul exceedingly pertinently denominates it “ the more excellent way.”

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/1-corinthians-12.html.
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