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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 12

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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1 Corinthians 12. Diversities of Gifts but the Same Spirit.— The question of spiritual gifts had apparently been raised in the church letter. The tendency at Corinth was to estimate gifts by their showy rather than their solid character. Paul reverses the scale of values, and argues that the true criterion is edification rather than display. He is also concerned to plead for differentiation of function as necessary for the body’ s health, and to protect from disparagement the lowliest member, the most commonplace function, as, equally with the highest, indispensable to the welfare of the whole. But in his crowning utterance he urges that all gifts are worthless apart from love.

Verses 1-3

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 . He begins by distinguishing true gifts of the Spirit from their counterfeit. Unhappily 1 Corinthians 12:2 is far from clear, and the text is perhaps corrupt. Paul may appeal to their experience of ecstasy in their heathen condition. You will remember how completely you were under control of the demon, you were a mere voice through which he spoke. So it is with him who speaks in the Spirit. He has no volition, and we can thus argue from the utterance to the character of the control. If it is “ Jesus Anathema,” the Holy Spirit cannot be the source of inspiration, if “ Jesus Lord” then He must be. Therefore the speaker does not deceive; he has no choice, but is at the mercy of his control. Two difficulties might be raised. The ecstasy might be simulated, or, if not, the demon control might use the true Christian formula. If these objections are not fatal (and Paul would perhaps have refused to admit their validity) the sense is excellent. Otherwise the point may be that since their pagan experience gives them no guidance ( 1 Corinthians 12:2), he lays down a principle ( 1 Corinthians 12:3) for them. The question could be raised only about those who professed to be Christians; pagans or Jews, who would naturally say “ Jesus is Anathema,” were obviously not speaking in the Holy Spirit, but if a member of the church said it, was he? That a Christian should pronounce a curse on Jesus would seem unthinkable. But certainly it was necessary quite early to test the spirits ( 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1 *). The point is not discussed how far one could argue from the character of the control, as disclosed in the utterance, to the genuineness of the man’ s Christianity; could a sincere Christian be subject to invasion by an evil spirit? It is to be observed that the confession “ Jesus is Lord” is to be traced to the Holy Spirit with certainty only when spoken in ecstasy. In his normal condition a man might say it insincerely.

Verses 4-11

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 . Having given a criterion for detecting the spurious, Paul proceeds to discuss the gifts. There are diversities in the manifestation but none in the source. The same Spirit is manifested in manifold gifts, the same Lord in manifold ministrations, the same God in manifold activities. Unity in the source is accompanied with rich diversity in the effects. The gift is imparted to each; none is passed by, but it is given not for self-gratification but for the benefit of the church. It is to one and the same Spirit that are due the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, power to work miracles, prophecy, discrimination of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. All are operations of the same Spirit, who imparts to each of His own unshackled will. The collocation of Spirit, Lord, God should be observed; cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 should be compared with 1 Corinthians 12:28, Romans 12:6-8 *, Ephesians 4:11.

Verses 12-31

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 . Paul now elaborates an illustration from the body and its members. Here we have organic unity with diversity of function and interdependence of the whole and its parts, interdependence also of the parts themselves. All are essential to the welfare of every other part and of the whole; none, however important or beautiful, can affect to despise the humbler or unseemlier; all sympathetically respond to the pain or honour of the other. The illustration does not call for detailed exposition. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Christ is not regarded as the head of the body, but as the body itself of which Christians form part. The Spirit in whom all received baptism is not many but one, so its effect is to constitute them all one body, thus cancelling distinctions of race and social condition even in their extreme forms ( Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). And this Spirit not simply enfolds them, it saturates and penetrates them. In the application the readers are called “ body of Christ,” i.e. such is their intrinsic quality; they are individually members, each in his sphere. God has appointed various members in the Church to exercise various functions ( 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8 *, Ephesians 4:11, cf. pp. 645 f.), those of apostleship, prophecy, teaching, working of miracles, healing, helping, direction, and, as last of the list, speaking with tongues; the gift of interpreting tongues is added in 1 Corinthians 12:30. None of these functions is exercised by all, they are distributed among the members. They should desire the higher gifts. What he means is explained in 1 Corinthians 14. But before he pursues the theme, he points them to love as something better than all the gifts, in a panegyric which is the pearl of his writings. He had studied to some purpose the character and career of Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-corinthians-12.html. 1919.
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