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1 Corinthians 12

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-31

1 Corinthians 12:1-2 . Now concerning spiritual gifts, and gifts promised to old men, to young men, and to handmaids, according to Joel 2:28, I would now speak, in the third part of this epistle, and apprise you that those endowments are altogether divine, and are the emanations of celestial glory; the adornings of God our Saviour, peculiar to the christian church. Proofs demonstrative of the divine authority of our religion. While you bowed before dumb idols, all around you were the desolations of winter; now in the church, all is the verdure and beauty of summer.

1 Corinthians 12:3 . No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. The Jew or the Greek who does this, speaks by an evil spirit, execrating him as an impostor, and a false Christ. On the other hand, no man can say, like Stephen, Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost; for the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 19:10. How can we call him Lord, when we serve another lord? It is the Spirit of adoption which cries Abba, Father, and testifies that we are the children of God. When demons and bad men have confessed him, the confessions have been coercive, and their mouths were soon shut.

1 Corinthians 12:4 . There are diversities of χαρισματων , chrisms, unction, divine endowments, gifts of grace. But it is the same Spirit, it is the gift of God, and of Christ, and of the same Lord, indicative that the same unity subsists in the mystical body as in the adorable Trinity.

1 Corinthians 12:5 . There are differences, distinctions, of administrations, but the same Lord; and he is called Lord here from the work of redemption, as in other places. Romans 7:4; Romans 14:9. 2 Corinthians 5:15. Titus 2:14. Malachi 3:1.

1 Corinthians 12:6 . There are diversities of operations, for this unction attends all the labours of the ministry; but it is God the Father, the fountain of deity, working the same thing. And assuredly, if a Trinity be not here revealed, language is devoid of meaning.

1 Corinthians 12:7 . But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man, for utility and edification in the church. Ostervald says that father Cheminai’s sermons have much unction. Chrysostom, he adds, raises us up to heaven, even in his exordiums. A good man has a fountain of eloquence in his own breast. He who thus speaks has demonstrations that he promotes the conversion of his hearers, together with the peace and concord of the church. If the preacher’s heart burn with love, all these heavenly effects will follow.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 . The word of wisdom. On these twelve gifts see the reflections below; only I would add here, that critics, as is usual, give various expositions. Some think that the word of knowledge designates the knowledge of future things by the Spirit of prophecy. The gift of tongues is to be noted as peculiarly admirable, and most convincing to unbelievers, who were the proper judges, and especially in the city of Corinth, where very many languages were spoken. They saw that God did aid the utterance of the speakers in a supernatural manner. The gift of discerning of spirits not only respects the admission of members to communion, but also the selection of officiating ministers.

1 Corinthians 12:13 . By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, the church, the spiritual body of Christ. This is rising in a climax, for the gifts are but the adornings of the body. In this celestial family a new order, a divine organization subsists. The distinctions of jew and gentile, of rich and poor, subsist no longer. Seeing things in the same light, they love with the same flame. This baptism of conformity to the Saviour’s death, indicates a cessation from our own works, the works of iniquity, and a resurrection to seek the things that are above. If this be the unity of the heavenly family, where now, oh ye Corinthians, is your party spirit of Paul, of Apollos, and of Cephas. We have all drank into one spirit of concord, of love, of worship, and zeal to evangelize the world: in all these views we are of one mind, of one accord.

1 Corinthians 12:24 . God hath tempered the body together. The head cannot say of the weakest member, even of a little finger, I have no need of you. Admirable inference to teach us fellow-feeling for the poor, the weak, and the sick. They were all made in the image of God, redeemed with the Saviour’s blood, and made heirs of the same hope. The poor widow may do us unspeakable good by her prayers.

1 Corinthians 12:28 . God hath set some in the church first, apostles, as stated in the tenth of Matthew. These different orders held their rank by divine appointment; and all this exterior dignity in the church, though often followed with hunger, exile, and martyrdom, was real dignity in the eyes of heaven. We must account those that rule well, worthy of double honour. If christianity have conquered in the fight, let the princes of the congregation wear their laurel. Let them enjoy all the mitred honours for which dignified writers, and especially the Latin critics, contend. On the other hand, the truth must be declared. If those bishops, as in many instances is delicately apparent from their works, have abandoned Christ the Son of God, for Jesus the son of Mary; if revelation be substituted by philosophy, their apostolic claims are all nugatory. The divine right of episcopacy must be covered with crape. “The salt has lost its savour; it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden underfoot of men.”


When a prince has built a palace, he surrounds it with woods, lakes, temples, and all the retiring graces which are thought eligible to adorn his mansion. God has done the same with regard to the human body, here set forth as a figure of the church. He has supported it with pillars, defended it with arms, elevated the head, and adorned it with a countenance whose beauty surpasses all his works. The church which is his body, he has adorned with his own glory of the Spirit, that she might reflect his lustre on a benighted world, and be distinguished from those exorcists and vagabond jews, who pretending to the superior gifts of the Spirit, imposed on the credulous, and execrated the Lord Jesus. This Holy Spirit commissions the various ministrations by deacons, presbyters, &c.; and their first qualifications to serve the church are the spirit of faith and prayer, to call Jesus Lord by the Holy Ghost. Romans 8:15-16. Now, the gifts and adornings of the Holy Spirit are about twelve in number, as distinguished in the sacred writings.

(1) The word of wisdom, founded on a profound insight into the work of redemption. It is a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God’s holy will, with a power to unfold the mystery hid in ages past; for the apostles spake wisdom among them who were perfect.

(2) The word of knowledge. The apostles and apostolic men were scribes instructed into the kingdom of God. They astonished the world by their knowledge of letters, when, like their Master, they had never learned. And though men now acquire this by the labour of a whole life, it is the greatest lustre which can adorn the human mind; for this kind of learning is not to be classed with pagan and scholastic knowledge, which shall vanish away.

(3) Faith is the next endowment here laid down. The faith which justifies grew to a faith of courage, which emboldened primitive believers to despise a thousand dangers, in telling the world of God’s redeeming love. The mob, the magistrate, the apparatus of martyrdom, could not deter them from publishing the joyful news to their poor fellow-sinners, all seeking death in the error of their way.

(4) Miracles, a temporary luxury of grace, were added to faith. The public mind were so prejudiced against salvation by the cross, that they would not stoop to investigate the all convincing evidences of christianity. The storms which fell on Paul, and on the infant churches, were so tremendous that they could not have subsisted, and conquered, unless they had been sheltered under a supernatural arm. Hence God, who is rich in mercy, endured their prejudices, and awed their fury by displays of omnipotent power. Miracles were therefore evidences of a divine mission, for the man to whom nature was subject must be sent of God. Our Saviour therefore said, Believe me for the very work’s sake.

(5) Gifts of healing are here distinguished from miracles, as in Mark 6:5; Mark 16:17-18. They imply the asking of health for the sick in prayer, and healing them by imposition of hands.

(6) The gift of prophecy, in its highest acceptation, implies an ability to foretel future events, immediately by that Spirit to whom futurity is known. The interpretation of dark and obscure prophecy is also a high gift; and praying and preaching is distinguished by that name: 1 Corinthians 11:4.

(7) Discerning of spirits was another divine endowment on the holy apostles. St. Peter perceived that the lame man had faith to be healed. Acts 3:0. He perceived also that Simon Magus was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. This was a happy endowment, when crowds were hastily rushing into the church. It likewise enabled them to discern who were the best qualified for office and mission; and equally so to distinguish who spake by the Spirit of Christ, and who spake by his own spirit, or the spirit of Satan. The word is also understood of prudence, counsel, and profound discernment.

(8) The gift of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, were likewise very happy and well-timed endowments of the primitive church, as explained in Acts 2:0. They removed the curse of Babel by the superabundance of the blessings of truth and grace.

(9) To this we may add three gifts elsewhere enumerated, but implied in what the apostle has already said. The spirit of grace and of supplication, an aptitude to teach, and helps and governments; all of which highly tended to the glory and edification of the church. We may hence infer the great happiness and lustre of the primitive church, when she first bloomed in this desert world, as the fairest flower of paradise. She had many ministers in the same church, who enjoyed the unfettered liberty of prophesying. This church was edified by all possible variety of talents, and drank into the excellent spirit of those who maintained sacred converse with God. The saints resembled the trees of righteousness, watered with the river of life from the throne of God and of the Lamb. We need scarcely wonder that they conquered the world, and that the darkness, the crimes, and the idols of the age, fled before the hallowed banners of the cross.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-corinthians-12.html. 1835.
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