Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 12

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

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

This is the second subject for correction in the Corinthian assemblies: the 'first' was discussed, 1 Cor This is the second subject for correction in the Corinthian assemblies: the 'first' was discussed, 1 Corinthians 11:18-34.

Spiritual gifts - the signs of the Spirit's efficacious presence in the Church, which is Christ's body; the complement of His incarnation, as the body is the complement of the head. Foremost the gift of tongues is referred to here, as being the gift overrated by the self-sufficient, excitable, and loquacious Corinthians. By love pervading the whole, the gifts of the several members, reciprocally complementing each other, tend to perfect the one body of Christ. The ordinary and permanent gifts are comprehended with the extraordinary without distinction, as both alike flow from the indwelling Spirit of life. The extraordinary gift, so far from making professors more peculiarly saints than in our day, did not always even prove that such persons were saved at all (Matthew 7:22). They were needed at first:

(1) As a pledge to Christians who had just passed over from Judaism or pagandom, that God was in the Church;

(2) For the propagation of Christianity in the Church; (3.) For edifying the Church.

They continued down to the third century, when the Church rose on the decline of paganism. They were rare after the apostolic age. Now that we have the whole written New Testament, which they had not, and Christianity established by miracles, we need no further miracle to attest the truth. So the pillar of cloud which guided the Israelites was withdrawn when they were sufficiently assured of the divine presence, the manifestation of God's glory being thenceforward enclosed in the Most Holy place. Paul sets forth:

I.The unity of the body (1 Corinthians 12:1-27).

II.The variety of its members and functions (1 Corinthians 12:27-30).

III.The grand principle for rightly using the gifts-namely, love, (1 Corinthians 12:31, and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.)

IV.The comparison of the gifts, (1 Corinthians 14:1-40.)

I would not have you ignorant - with all your boasts of "knowledge." If ignorant now, it will be your own fault, not mine (1 Corinthians 14:38).

Verse 2

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

That ye were. (Ephesians 2:11) So B G f. But 'Aleph (') A C Delta g, Vulgate, read 'that WHEN ye were:' thus "ye were" must be supplied. "Ye were" blindly "carried away" at the will of your false guides.

These dumb idols - Greek, 'the idols which are dumb,' contrasted with the living God, who 'speaks' in the believer by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3, etc.): and who then gave "tongues." Their past pagan ignorance of spiritual powers is why they needed instruction as to spiritual gifts, especially as to the tongues. When blind, ye went to the dumb.

As ye were led. The Greek is, rather, 'as ye might (happen to) [ an (G302)] be led.' You had no criterion of truth. The pagan oracles led their votaries at random.

Verse 3

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Negative and positive tests of inspiration by the Spirit-the rejection or confession of Jesus' Lordship, not the possession of "tongues" (1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 John 4:2; 1 John 5:1). Paul gives a test of truth against the Gentiles; John against the false prophets.

By the Spirit - Greek, 'IN the Spirit,' that being the power and element in which he speaks (Matthew 16:17; John 15:26).

Of God ... Holy. The same Spirit is called at one time "the Spirit OF GOD," at another, "the HOLY Ghost," or 'Holy Spirit.' Infinite Holiness is almost synonymous with Godhead. The saying, 'Jesus is accursed' cannot emanate from "the Spirit of God," but from the evil Spirit. The saying, 'Jesus is Lord,' cannot emanate from man's natural spirit, but from "the Holy Ghost." 'Aleph (') A B C read the nominative, 'accursed Jesus!' and 'Lord Jesus!' Delta G read the Received Text.

Speaking ... say. 'Speak' implies utterance; "say" refers to that which is uttered. Here "say" means a continued spiritual and believing confession of Him.

Jesus - not merely the doctrine, but the historical "Jesus" (Romans 10:9) - that He is the Divine Lord incarnate.

Accursed - as the Jews and Gentiles treated Him (Galatians 3:13; cf. 'to curse Christ,' in Pliny's letter, Ep. 10: 97). Not the mere once-execration, but stedfast rejection. The spiritual man feels Him to be the Source of all blessings (Ephesians 1:3); that to be severed from Him is to be accursed (Romans 9:3).

Lord - acknowledging himself His servant (Isaiah 26:13). "Lord" is the Septuagint translation for the incommunicable name Yahweh (H3068).

Verse 4

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Diversities of gifts - i:e., the one Spirit is refracted into various spiritual endowments unique to the several members (1 Corinthians 12:11); some altogether superhuman, as tongues, healing, etc.; others based on natural capabilities. Same Spirit - the Holy Trinity; the Holy Spirit in this verse; Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:5; the Father in 1 Corinthians 12:6. "Gifts," "administrations," "operations," respectively correspond to the Divine Tree. The Spirit is treated of, 1 Corinthians 12:7, etc.; the Lord, 1 Corinthians 12:12, etc.; God, 1 Corinthians 12:28. Compare Ephesians 4:4-6.

Verse 5

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

Administrations (the various functions and services of those having the "gifts" of 1 Corinthians 12:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28), and "operations" (the effects resulting from both) are the same things viewed in a different aspect. They are "gifts" of the same Spirit of holiness and knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:10); 'minis- trations' in the service of the same Lord of love, and "operations" derived from the same Source, the omnipotent Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), omnipotence.

Same Lord - whom the Spirit glorifies by these ministrations.

Verse 6

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

Operations - (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10.)

Same God which worketh - by His Spirit working (1 Corinthians 12:11).

All in all - all of the "gifts" in all the persons who possess them.

Verse 7

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

But. Though all the gifts flow from the one God, Lord, and Spirit, the "manifestation" by which the Spirit, though hidden in Himself, acts, varies in each.

To every man - to each of the church members severally. To profit withal - with a view to the profit of the whole body.

Three genre of gifts are distinguished, with their respective species; alloo (G243) marks the species, heteroo (G2087) marks the genre (cf. Greek, 1 Corinthians 15:39-41).

Verse 8

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

To one Class I: [ hoo (G3757) men (G3303)] gifts of intellect-namely:

(1) wisdom;

(2) to another individual [ alloo (G243)], knowledge.

To another Class II: [ heteroo (G2087)] - to a distinct class gifts dependent on a special faith-namely, that of miracles (Matthew 17:20):

To another:

(1) individual [ alloo (G243)], healings;

(2) Workings of miracles;

(3) Prophecy of future events;

(4) Discerning of spirits-the divinely-given faculty of distinguishing between those who are really inspired and the pretenders.

To another Class III: [ heteroo (G2087)] - to a distinct class gifts referring to the tongues:

(1) Divers kinds of tongues;

(2) To another individual [ alloo (G243)] interpretation of tongues.

The catalogue, 1 Corinthians 12:28, is not meant to harmonize with the one here, though some particulars correspond. The three genre are summarily referred to by single instances in 1 Corinthians 13:8. "by ... by ... by." The first [ dia (G1223)] is, 'by means of,' 'through the operation of;' the second [ kata (G2596)] is, 'according to' the disposing of (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:11); the third is, 'in' - i:e., under the influence of (so Matthew 22:43; Luke 2:27, Greek).

Word of wisdom - ready utterance of (for imparting to others, Ephesians 6:19) wisdom-namely, NEW revelations Word of wisdom - ready utterance of (for imparting to others, Ephesians 6:19) wisdom-namely, NEW revelations of the divine wisdom in redemption, contrasted with human philosophy (1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 2:6-7; Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 2:3).

Word of knowledge - ready utterance, supernaturally imparted, of truths ALREADY REVEALED (in this it is distinguished from "the word of wisdom"). Compare 1 Corinthians 14:6, where "revelation" (corresponding to "wisdom" here) is distinguished from "knowledge." Wisdom or revelation belonged to "prophets;" knowledge, to "teachers." Wisdom penetrates deeper than knowledge. Knowledge relates to things to be done; wisdom, to things eternal: hence wisdom does not, like knowledge, "vanish away" (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Verse 9

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

Faith - not of doctrines, but confidence in God, by the impulse of His Spirit, that He would enable them to perform any required miracle (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:2; Mark 11:23; James 5:15). Its principle is the same as that of saving faith-reliance upon God; the producing cause is the same-a power altogether supernatural (Ephesians 1:19-20). But the objects differ respectively. Hence, saving faith does not save by its intrinsic merit, but by the merits of Him who is its object.

Healing - Greek, 'healings'; different kinds of disease need different kinds of healing (Matthew 10:1).

Verse 10

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Working of miracles, Since 'healings' are miracles, those meant must be miracles of extraordinary POWER. Healings might be effected by human skill in course of time; but the raising of the dead, the infliction of death by a word, the innocuous use of poisons, etc., are miracles of special power [ energeemata (G1755)] (the same Greek as in 1 Corinthians 12:6 [ dunameoon (G1411)], energetic operations of powers: cf. Mark 6:5; Acts 19:11).

Prophecy - here not in the wider sense of public teaching by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 11:4-5; 1 Corinthians 14:1-5), but, as its position between "miracles" and "discerning of spirits" implies, the inspired disclosure of the future (Acts 11:27-28; Acts 21:11; 1 Timothy 1:18). It depends on "faith" (1 Corinthians 12:9; Romans 12:6). The prophets ranked next to the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11.) Since prophecy is part of the whole scheme of redemption, an inspired insight into the more obscure Scriptures was the necessary preparation for this miraculous foresight of the future.

Discerning of spirits - discerning between the operation of God's Spirit and the evil spirit, or unaided human Discerning of spirits - discerning between the operation of God's Spirit and the evil spirit, or unaided human spirit (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1).

Kinds of tongues - the power of speaking various languages (Acts 2:8-11); also, a spiritual language unknown to man, uttered in ecstasy (1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 2:12). This is a distinct genus (Greek) 'to another and a different class.'

Interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:13; 1 Corinthians 14:26-27).

Verse 11

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

As he will (1 Corinthians 12:18; Hebrews 2:4).

Verses 12-13

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

Unity, not unvarying uniformity, is the law of God in grace as in nature (Romans 12:4-5). As the body's many members compose an organic whole, and none can be dispensed with, so those variously gifted by the Spirit compose a spiritual organism-the body of Christ-into which all are baptized by the one Spirit.

Of that one body. So C Delta. But 'Aleph (') A B G g, Vulgate, omit "one."

So also is Christ - i:e., the whole Christ, the head and body. So Psalms 18:50, 'His anointed (Messiah or Christ), David (the antitypical David), and his seed.'

By one Spirit are we all baptized - literally, 'in' in virtue of; in the sphere or element of. The designed effect of baptism realized when not frustrated by man's unfaithfulness.

Gentiles - literally, Greeks. The Greeks had a susceptibility for the gift of tongues (on which the Corinthians prided themselves), the Romans for practical gifts, the Jews for spiritual. all made to drink into one Spirit. 'Aleph (') B C Delta G f g read 'made to drink one Spirit,' omitting "into" (John 7:37); an allusion to the Lord's supper (though including all channels of grace: of, the same Greek verb, 1 Corinthians 3:2), since there is an allusion to baptism in the beginning of the verse. So the 'spirit, the water, and the blood' (1 John 5:8) combine the two outward signs with the inward things signified, the Spirit's grace,

are have been rather as Greek 'were were' (aorists; past time) are ... have been - rather, as Greek, 'were ... were' (aorists; past time).

Verse 14

For the body is not one member, but many.

Translate, For the body also.' The analogy of the body, not consisting exclusively of one, but of many members, illustrates the mutual dependence of the various members in the one church. Menenius Agrippa's fable of the belly and the members to the seceding commons (Livy, 2: 32) was probably familiar to Paul's well-stored mind (Acts 17:28). But the manifold membership of the one bride, in Song of Solomon 7:1-5 (cf. Psalms 139:16), rather, is the germ of the Spirit-taught truth here set forth.

Verse 15

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

The humble ought not to disparage themselves, or to be disparaged by others more noble (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).

Foot ... hand. The humble speaks of the more honourable member which most nearly resembles itself: so the "ear" (Numbers 10:31). "As in life each compares himself with those whom he approaches nearest, not those far superior. The foot and hand represent active men; the ear and eye are contemplative people.

Verse 16

And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 17

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

Superior as the eye is, it would not do if it were the sole member.

Verse 18

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

Now - as the case really is.

Every one - each severally.

Verse 19

And if they were all one member, where were the body?

Where were the body? - which necessarily "hath many members" (1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:14).

Verse 20

But now are they many members, yet but one body.

Now - as the case really is; in contrast to the supposition (1 Corinthians 12:19: cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18).

Many members - mutually dependent.

Verse 21

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. The higher cannot dispense with the lower.

Verse 22

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

More feeble - more susceptible of injury; e. g., the brain, belly, eye. Their very feebleness, so far from doing away with the need for them, calls forth our greater care for their preservation, as being felt "necessary."

Verse 23

And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

Less honourable. "We think" the feet and the belly "less honourable," though not really so.

Bestow ... honour - putting shoes on (margin) the feet, and clothes over the belly.

Uncomely parts - the secret parts. The poorest, though unclad in the rest of the body, cover these.

Verse 24

For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

Tempered ... together - by mutual compensation.

To that part which lacked - to the less honoured part (1 Corinthians 12:23) --

Verse 25

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

No schism - (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:21) - no disunion, referring to the "divisions," 1 Corinthians 11:18.

Care one for another - in behalf of one another.

Verse 26

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

And-accordingly-all ... suffer with it. 'When a thorn enters the heel, the whole body feels and is concerned-the back bends, the belly and thighs contract, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze' (Chrysostom).

Verse 27

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Members in particular - i:e. severally members of it. Each church is in miniature what the whole aggregate of churches is collectively - "the body of Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16): its individual components are members, every one in his place.

Verse 28

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Set some in the church - as he has "set the members ... in the body" (1 Corinthians 12:18).

First apostles - above even the prophets. Not merely the Twelve, but others; e.g. Barnabas, etc. (Romans 16:7; 2 Corinthians 8:23, Greek). Teachers - of truths already revealed. The prophets made new revelations and prophesying under the Spirit's influence. The teachers had the "word of knowledge," the prophets "the word of wisdom" (1 Corinthians 12:8). Under "teachers" are included 'evangelists and pastors.'

Miracles - literally, "powers" (1 Corinthians 12:10); ranked below "teachers," since teaching is more edifying, though less dazzling than performing miracles.

Helps, governments (Greek, helpings, governings) - lower and higher departments of 'ministrations' (1 Corinthians 12:5); as instances of the former, deacons, who helped in the relief of the poor, and in baptizing and preaching, subordinate to higher minister (Acts 6:1-10; Acts 8:5-17); also others helped, with their time and means, in the Lord's cause (Numbers 11:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3). Similarly, Americans use "helps" for 'helpers.' As instances of the latter, presbyters, or bishops, whose office it was to govern the church (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:24). These officers, though now ordinary and permanent, were originally specially endowed with the Spirit for their office; whence they are here classified with other inspired sanctions. Government [ kuberneeseis (G2941)] (guiding the helm of affairs) being occupied with externals, notwithstanding the outward status that it gives, is ranked with the lower functions. Compare "He that giveth" (corresponding to "helps"); "he that ruleth" (corresponding to "governments") (Romans 12:8).

Diversities of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10) - "divers kinds of tongues."

Verse 29

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

Are all ... ? Surely not.

Verse 30

Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 31

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Covet earnestly, [ zeeloute (G2206)] - 'emulously desire;' not with discontented 'coveting.' The Spirit 'divides to every man severally as He will' (1 Corinthians 12:11). This does not prevent our earnestly seeking, by prayer, watchfulness, and cultivation of our faculties, the greatest gifts. Beza explains 'highly esteem,' to accord with his distinction (1 Corinthians 14:1) between 'follow after charity ... zealously esteem spiritual gifts;' also, with 1 Corinthians 12:11; 1 Corinthians 12:18, the sovereign will of the Spirit precluding us from desiring gifts not vouchsafed to us. But the 'zealous desirer' meant is an earnest praying to God for the gifts the best gifts. So Delta G. But 'Aleph (') A B C read 'the greatest gifts.'

And yet, [ kai (G2532) eti (G2089)] - 'and, moreover.' Besides recommending zeal for the greatest gifts, I am about to show you in addition something most excellent-literally, 'a way most way-like' to desire, 'the way of love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1). This love, or "charity," includes both "faith" and "hope" (1 Corinthians 13:7); its fruits are the ordinary and permanent fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Thus, "long-suffering," cf 1 Corinthians 12:4; "faith," 1 Corinthians 12:7; "joy," 1 Corinthians 12:6 "meekness," 1 Corinthians 12:5; "goodness," 1 Corinthians 12:5; "gentleness" [ chreestotees (G5544)], 1 Corinthians 12:4; [ chreesteuetai (G5541)] "is kind." The Holy Spirit creates in the soul love to God, for God's love in Christ to us, and so love to man, especially to the brethren (Romans 5:5; Romans 15:30). This is more to be desired than even gifts (Luke 10:20).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.