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1 Corinthians 12

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-14

The nature and use of spiritual gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1-14

1 Corinthians 12:1 . The church at Corinth evidently abounded in special, God-given spiritual gifts, such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Some were discouraged because they did not have these gifts, others were elated and puffed up by their offices and abilities, and some abused and misused them. Paul writes concerning the Author of gifts, the excellency of them and the nature and true use of them, and says, ‘I don't want you to be misinformed about this matter.’

1 Corinthians 12:2 . ‘None of you has any reason to be proud or lifted up with your knowledge and gifts. God found you in heathen idolatry; so that, if you are favored with any spiritual wisdom or gift, it is owing to his grace, not to your merit’ (l Cor. 4:6, 7). Let us ascribe all to the free grace of God and be humble under a sense of unworthiness.

1 Corinthians 12:3 . Every believer has the Holy Spirit, who regenerated us, called us, sanctified us and who indwells us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:12). Whether we have unusual gifts or not, we have the Spirit of God, evidenced by the fact that we acknowledge with our lips, hearts and lives that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. No man has this knowledge or confesses this truth except under the power and influence of the Spirit of God (John 16:13; John 16:15).

1 Corinthians 12:4 . There are different gifts; none have all, but all have some and, while we are not all alike, it is the same Holy Spirit who gives gifts and graces as he pleases (vv.11, 18). Let those who have much be humbled and let those who have little be thankful.

1 Corinthians 12:5 . There are different offices or ministries in the church. One ministers as pastor, another as elder, another as deacon, another in this or that capacity; but all serve the same great Lord of the church. It is his church, his vineyard and his will that we seek.

1 Corinthians 12:6 . There are different effects, workings, or accomplishments (2 Corinthians 2:14-16), but it is the same God who uses us, when he will, where he will and in the way that he will.

1 Corinthians 12:7 . The gifts, offices and operations of the Spirit are not to make gain of (like Simon Magus), nor to encourage pride and envy, nor to cause division, but for the glory of God and the profit and good of the whole church.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 . In these verses Paul identifies some of those spiritual gifts.

1. ‘The word of wisdom’ a knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel and the ability to explain them. It might also mean good judgment in decisions.

2. ‘The word of knowledge’ a universal knowledge of Scriptures wrapped up in the types, prophecies and doctrines of the Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

3. ‘Faith’ the faith of miracles, or faith in the divine power and promises, whereby they are enabled to work miracles.

4. ‘The gifts of healing’ the healing of the sick, either by laying on of hands, or anointing with oil, or with a word.

5. ‘The working of miracles’ power to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, or even to raise the dead.

6. ‘Prophecy’ the ability to foretell future events or to explain scripture.

7. ‘Discerning of spirits’ power to distinguish between true and false prophets, or to discern what is of God and what is of Satan.

8. ‘Tongues’ ability to speak the gospel in a language they had not learned.

9. ‘Interpretation of tongues’ when a discourse was delivered in another language, some had the power to interpret it to the people.

1 Corinthians 12:11 . These gifts and abilities are given by the Holy Spirit, not to all believers, but one gift to this man, another gift to another man, as the Holy Spirit pleases. He is sovereign in the distribution of gifts and grace.

1 Corinthians 12:12 . The human body has many parts, such as hands, feet, ears and eyes. As numerous and different as these members are, they are, nevertheless, parts of the same body. They make up one body. So it is with the church, the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 . Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, old or young, male or female, every believer has been baptized into the body of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Head and we are his body. We are all partakers of one spirit, one life, and one goal the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16-18; 1 Corinthians 10:17).

1 Corinthians 12:14 . ‘The body is not one member,’ however important, such as the eye, the ear, or the arm. The body consists of many members, different but necessary to form a complete body. So the body of Christ is not one person nor one sort of person; but there are many members, some in a high station, some low; some of great gifts, some less; some Jew and some Gentile; but all are one in Christ and all are related to, and needful of the others.

Verses 15-31

The body of Christ the church

1 Corinthians 12:15-31

1 Corinthians 12:15-16 . It appears from this statement that these special spiritual gifts, offices and operations had caused divisions in the church. Some of the members felt inferior, unnecessary and slighted, because they were not gifted and did not have a prominent ministry. Others who preached, taught, or were especially gifted looked down upon those who did not have certain gifts and abilities. This is unreasonable, says the apostle, for the body is not made up of only one member, but many members, all different but all performing their necessary duties. The foot is not a hand and does not serve in the same manner, but it is necessary to the body's function. The ear is not an eye, but it is as necessary as the eye!

1 Corinthians 12:17 . What if every believer were a preacher? There would be no hearers! If every believer were an organist, there would be no singers! If every believer were an elder, there would be no custodian! If every believer were an overseer, there would be no workers, no givers, no teachers, no children! If everyone were young and zealous, there would be no patient counsel which only experience and age can provide.

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 . The infinitely wise God made the body of man and put every member of man's body where it is, doing what it does for the proper functioning of the body. So the Lord has put us, as members, in his mystical body, the church, in such a place and part as it pleased him. Every member ought to be content with his place, gift and usefulness because it is God's will for him and because, without all of the necessary members, there would be no body. Now we are different in parts, places, gifts and service, but one body in Christ!

1 Corinthians 12:21 . The eye is vital to the body's well-being, but it cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.' Nor can the head say to the foot, 'Because you are a lowly member which does not speak, reason, or hear, I do not need you.’ Every member is of use to the whole body.

1 Corinthians 12:22 . Actually those parts of the body such as the liver, intestines and stomach, which are not displayed, recognized, or talked about, are as necessary to the body's life and usefulness as any other part. Even so, all believers in the church, the strong and the weak, the recognized and the unrecognized, the leaders and the followers, are necessary (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

1 Corinthians 12:23 . There are parts of the human body which are considered less comely and less honorable, which we do not expose to the public, but upon which we bestow honour and recognition, for we clothe them carefully and attractively; and to us they are important and beautiful as God's creation. So, in the church body, let those who appear less honorable and less out-going be clothed with love, grace and kindness.

1 Corinthians 12:24 . Our eyes, ears, hands and face have no need of special adornment or attention, for they are constantly seen, honored and cared for. But don't forget or neglect those other parts of the body without which we have no life. God has composed the church in such a way that all members are beneficial and necessary to the life of the church, and he bestows his honour and glory to all equally (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). He will humble the gifted and lift up the lowly.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 . By ‘schism’ is meant division. Though members differ in office, honour, gifts, personality, etc., yet all should have the same care and love for each other as though they were of equal importance, for, indeed, they are. When one member suffers, all suffer with him; when one member is honored, all rejoice. As with the human body, a broken arm is felt by the whole body. We are members of the body of Christ, therefore we are one body joined together. How can we not be affected by the pain or rejoicing of a part of ourselves?

1 Corinthians 12:28-30 . In his sovereign purpose God has given to the church apostles, prophets, teachers, men and women with this gift and that gift, with this ability and that ability. Are they all the same? Are they all alike? No more than the human body can be all eyes, or ears, or hands. There must be the presence of all organs, faculties and members to make a human body; so there must be many different members in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:31 . This verse must be joined with the first verse of chapter 13, so will be covered in the next lesson.

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/1-corinthians-12.html. 2013.
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