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1 Corinthians 12

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Verses 1-31

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1-31


1. A contrast between the spiritual and the carnal in Abram and Lot (Genesis 18:1-33 and Genesis 19:1-38 ).

2. A contrast between the spiritual and the carnal in 1 Corinthians 3:1-5 .

3. A contrast between the spiritual and the carnal as seen in Hebrews 5:12-14 ; Hebrews 6:1-3 .

1. A contrast of the Spiritual and the Carnal in Abram and Lot. This contrast is found in Genesis 18:1-33 and Genesis 19:1-38 .

(1) Abram dwelt in the plains of Mamre (fatness); Lot dwelt in the gates of Sodom. What a difference! The one was a tent dweller; the other a city dweller. The one had time to talk with God; the other had time to talk with the Sodomites. The one was separated from the crowds, where he had a chance to walk and talk with God; the other was mixing and mingling with the crowds, and could, with difficulty, get alone with his God.

(2) Three men came to Abram, two only came to Lot. The one missing in Lot's case was Jehovah Himself. Here is sad contrast. Christ does not manifest Himself to wandering Christians. Even the two angels who did go to Lot, said, "Nay; but we will abide in the street all night." The carnal Christian cuts himself off from comradeship with the Lord.

(3) Abram ran to meet the three who came from Heaven; Lot merely rose up to meet the two that came to him in Sodom. With the one there was a cordial and happy welcome from a life made ready for their coming; with the other there was a lack of cordial joy and deep welcome. The carnal Christian rather dreads the coming of God's holy ones into his presence.

(4) To Abram God said, "For I know him, that he will command his children * * after him," to Lot God said, through the angel, "Hast thou here any besides?" Lot even seemed as one who mocked to his sons-in-law. God grant that we may be spiritual and not carnal.

2. A contrast between the carnal and the spiritual in 1 Corinthians 3:1-5 .

(1) The carnal are fed with milk; the spiritual with meat. It is still true that carnal Christians cannot bear the strong meat of the Word. The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians: "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal." He also said: "When I came to you, [I] came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

To the spiritual, on the other hand, Paul could speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory.

(2) The carnal were filled with envying and strife and divisions. They walked as men. One was saying, "I am of Paul," another, "I am of Apollos," and yet another, "and I of Cephas." Such carnality is still seen in the churches of the present hour.

The spiritual dwelt together in love. They had fellowship one with another, they centered their troth in Christ, and their love in Him; He was the One in whose Name they met, and in whose presence they gloried. All men, even the chief among them, were "brethren," while Christ was their Chief.

3. A contrast between the spiritual and the carnal as seen in Hebrews 5:12-14 ; Hebrews 6:1-3 .

(1) In Hebrews 5:1-14 , the carnal are "babes," but not babes newly born. They are babes who should have been long since grown to maturity in Christ. They needed yet to be taught, while they should, themselves, have been teachers. Even the things they knew about the beginnings of the doctrines of Christ, they needed to learn yet again.

To the contrary, the spiritual were those who had left the beginnings of the doctrine of Christ, and had gone on unto perfection. Instead of being babes, they were full grown in Christ. They were not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

God grant that believers may be numbered always among the spiritual in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I. VARIETY AND UNITY (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 )

1. There are diversities of gifts, but one Spirit.

2. There are diversities of administrations, but one Lord.

3. There are diversities of operations, but one God.

1. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit is One and the same. He gives many gifts, but all of the gifts emanate from the same source. Remember, therefore, that no man can say that his special gift, whatever that gift may be, is the one and only sign that a believer is Spirit-filled.

Neither can anyone truthfully say that every believer must have any one of the Spirit's many gifts, in order to be announced Spirit-filled.

What we do need to understand is that the Holy Spirit gives gifts severally as He wills, and that the Holy Spirit is behind all spiritual gifts.

2. There are diversities of administrations, but the same Lord. Jesus Christ risen, ascended and seated at the Father's right hand, is the Head of the Church; and He is Lord. All we be brethren; howbeit, all of us do not have the same gifts, neither do all have the same methods of ministration.

We dare not say that everything must be done, as we do it. When it comes to administrations, there is a multiplicity in unity. One may teach, another evangelize, another pastor the flock, another prophesy, but all are working under one Lord, for the perfecting of saints; or for the salvation of the lost, and unto the edifying of the Body of Christ.

Here is another place where diversity blends into a perfect unity, and where no one may seek to force a conformity to any one method of ministration.

3. There are diversities of operations, but the same God. It is God who worketh in us to will and to do His good pleasure. We are to work out what He works in us; and we are to work it out with fear and trembling. We are to do whatsoever we do without murmurings and disputings.

How sacred is the thought "We are labourers together with God." We are called into a holy comradeship, yea, a holy partnership.


1. The gifts of the Spirit are according as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 ).

2. The gifts of the Spirit are for our profit (1 Corinthians 12:7 ).

3. The gifts specified:

1. The gift of wisdom,

2. The gift of knowledge.

3. The gift of faith.

4. The gift of healing.

5. The gift of miracles.

6. The gift of tongues.

7. The gift of interpretation of tongues.

1. The gifts of the Spirit are according as He wills. We may covet earnestly the best gifts, but we may not demand of the Spirit any gift. We are to be channels, not lords. We are to be used by Him, but never are we to use Him. Woe be to the one who imagines that he can buy the Holy Ghost to enhance his own purposes and plans.

2. The gifts of the Spirit are for our profit. Apart from Him we cannot do anything, even the things that He orders done. We first have a call to a definite word or work, then, as we enter His call and obey His orders, we will be given His power.

3. The gifts of the Spirit specified.

(1) There is the gift of wisdom. The Holy Ghost is "The Spirit of wisdom." Therefore He giveth us the gift of wisdom, lest we make a botch of our calling, by unwise words or work.

(2) There is the gift of knowledge. The Spirit wrote the Word, therefore He can give us knowledge in the Word. He knows the things of Christ, therefore He can give us knowledge of Christ, in the revelation of Him. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, but He opens the eyes of our understanding, that we may know the things that are freely given us of God.

(3) There is the gift of faith. The same Spirit who gives wisdom and knowledge also gives faith. This is a marvelous gift, and as much a gift as any other gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of God knows the will of God and the power of God, and He therefore imparts faith in God to fulfill His will and work. Each one must study for himself the other gifts listed above.

In all of your study, mark the words, "To one is given * * to another * * to another * * to another," etc. Thus two things are true: first, no one person can claim all the gifts, and each is dependent on the other.

III. THE UNITY OF A DIVERSIFIED BODY (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 )

1. The physical and spiritual body compared (1 Corinthians 12:12 ).

2. One Spirit certifies one body (1 Corinthians 12:13 ).

3. Drinking into the one Spirit.

1. The physical and the spiritual body compared. Here is an analogy that is most striking. Our own mortal bodies are used by the Spirit as a picture of the workings of His Body, which is the Church.

In Ephesians the Spirit speaks of the husband and wife, and of that sacred inter-relationship of the one body. Then He says: "For we are members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones."

In the Epistle to the Corinthians the Spirit says: "For as the body is one, * * and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."

It is a sacred fact that by one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body. Let us, therefore, remember that when we meet other believers, they are members of the same Body with us, even though they may not be members of the same local church.

2. One Spirit certifies one Body. If there is but one Spirit, there is but one Body, for we are all baptized into that one Spirit; and have also been made to drink of the one Spirit. Another passage in Corinthians says that we should have the same care one of another. In another Scripture it is written, "that they may be one, even as We are one."

The present-day divisions, or schisms, in the Body are all out of harmony with the plan and purpose of God. When one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," we are walking as men, and are carnal.

3. Drinking into the one Spirit. On the last great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." Then He said: "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of Living Water." All of this Christ said of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive. If we are made to drink of one spirit, the inflow into our hearts is one. Should not, therefore, the outflow be the same. The one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit, one God and Father of all make the one body a sequence. Our unity does not depend on any humanly devised scheme or man made organization. We are one because we are baptized into the one Spirit, into the one body, and are made to drink of the one Spirit.


1. No member of the body can act independently of the head.

2. No part of the body should act independently of one another.

3. Diversity of gifts a prime necessity of the body.

1. No member of the body can act independently of the head. "If the foot shall say, * * I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?" Nay, every member must remember that he is a part of the Body, because he is under orders from the Head.

2. No part of the body should act independently of one another. When we say we are not of the Body, we at once begin to act not alone independently of the Head, but independently of one another. When unity or oneness with the Head is broken, oneness with the other members of the Body is broken, and unity is gone.

If we act in perfect obedience to the Head, we will, of necessity, act in full unity with every other member of the Body. We are one in Christ. If we are out of fellowship with our Lord, we are sure to be out of fellowship with saints.

3. Diversity of gifts a prime necessity of the body. "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?" Thus we see that diversity of gifts, differences in administrations and diversities of operations are all necessary, but all of these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit.

Here, then, is our responsibility we must all faithfully fill up our calling and work out our part in the Body of Christ, in perfect unity with Christ.

The failure of one part of the Body cripples the usefulness of the Body. Remember, "To every man his work." Therefore, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."


1. God the sole authority in the Body.

2. A body with but one member an incongruity.

3. Many members, but one Body, a joy forever.

1. God the sole authority in the Church, which is His Body. The words "As it hath pleased Him," leave no room for caviling. He hath set every member the hand, the foot, the ear, the eye, etc., in the Body, as it pleased Him. If we had desired to dictate to God relative to the placing of the members of our physical bodies, what could we have said? His placing is perfect.

The truth is, He hath done that which is right; and we cry, Truly we are wonderfully made!

Thus, in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, each of us is set as it pleased Him, This by no means suggests that God showed certain members of the Body a preference, or that in the Church there is room for a just complaint on the part of one member as against another; because that which seems to be of the least use, upon such members God places a more abundant honor.

2. A body with but one member would be an incongruity. If the physical body, or the Body which is the Church, were but one member, where were the body? There is a necessity for different functionings. No one part of the Body can do every other part's work, for we read, "To every man his work." Again we read, "Every man shall bear his own burden."

3. Many members, but one body, a joy forever. Nothing is more glorious than, "The whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love."

We read of worldly organizations, under the caption of "Unity, fraternity, and comradeship"; but none of these organizations manifest a unity or fraternity or fellowship comparable to that of the Church. His Body, the Church is an organism, working under one Head, even Christ, and never an organization.


1. The exclusion of self-sufficiency in the Body leaves no place for boasting,

2. The necessity of the seemingly feeble member excludes schism in the Body.

3. The care of each member for the other members, and the suffering of each member with each other member.

1. The exclusion of self-sufficiency in the Body of Christ, leaves no place for boasting. There is, as we have already noted, so much interdependence upon one another, that one dare not boast himself against another. Even the members of the Body which are more feeble, are nevertheless necessary.

Imagine the fingers of the hand, boasting the one against the other. The one claims that he is the index finger, and points the way; and laughingly flaunts himself against the little finger. Where, however, is the hand that is willing to part with the despised "little finger"? etc.

2. The necessity of the feeble member excludes schism in the body. The marvel is that God has so knitted the members of the Body together, and so tempered them, that He has given more abundant honor to the part which lacked. Thus schism in the Body is done away; and thus each member of the Body exercises the same care one for another.

3. This same care one for another means a joint suffering and a joint honor.

(1) If one member of the body suffer, all the members suffer with it A hurt on any one part of the body brings the whole body into action in its behalf. If one member is seriously sick, the whole body falls down on the bed, in pain.

(2) If one member of the body be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Herein jealousy is excluded. If we share the honor, how can we be jealous of one another? If the members of the Body worked independently of one another, there might be boasting one against another. When, however, none of the members can do anything apart from Christ, the Head, and none of the members can do anything apart from every other member, then there is rejoicing together.

The sower, and the reaper, and God who giveth the increase, all sing in the day of harvest.

VII. PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS (1 Corinthians 12:28-31 )

1. The Divine placements of gifts.

2. The certain variance of gifts.

3. The seeking for particular gifts.

1. The Divine placement of gifts. We now come to the great climactic statements of the whole matter, Here is the first one: "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."

Mark you, "God hath set." Yet, in the seeming superiority of certain of these "callings" over the others, God hath before showed that in this, there is no place for boasting. So also in our natural bodies, God has set various members, with various and distinct gifts, yet there is no room for boasting.

2. The certain variance of Gifts. Are all apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or workers of miracles, etc.? We had as well have had all ears, or eyes, or hands, etc. Nay, each one, whether apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or what not, are members of the same Body, and each is dependent upon the Head, and in need one of another, yet, withal, each has a definite and distinct task.

3. The seeking for particular gifts. We present a very striking commendation "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

We should covet the best gifts, but not with the idea of lording it over God's heritage. To the shepherds God writes, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."

Some of the disciples wanted a seat on the right hand, etc., the other disciples were immediately envious. Christ said, however, "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."


There are many difficulties to unity among saints and to every other effort to spiritual growth and power.

"A heavy fog came over an aviation field near Boston. A professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started the mechanism of a new invention that shot many tiny streams of chemicals out over the field. The fog swirled, condensed, and fell in drops to the ground. Two thousand feet of air cleared long enough for a plane to land. Another one of aviation's great difficulties seems near solution.

The Christian has to face many dark times in life. Earthborn clouds arise which temporarily hide the Lord from the eyes of His children. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, pointing to the place where we may lay hold of the Lord's power and clear away the difficulty. The moment we confess our sins, the fog is dissipated. We see the Lord and can go forward with confidence, sure of His smile and of His will."

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/1-corinthians-12.html.
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