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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 12

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


This very blessed Chapter, from beginning to end, is directed to one and the same Subject; namely, to describe the Oneness and Union of Christ and his Church. The Apostle from thence shews that all the spiritual Gifts and Graces which Christ's Members enjoy, flow from their glorious Head, through the blessed Ministry of God the Holy Ghost.

Verses 1-3

(1) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (2) Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (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.

Under the similitude of the human body, the Apostle, in this chapter, sets forth the beautiful order there is in the Church, as the body of Christ. For, as in the human frame every part, ministers to the very situation appointed, in promoting the welfare and harmony of the whole; so the members of Christ's mystical body have each their distinct and separate stations, and under the influence of their great Head, mutually act together in accomplishing the sacred purposes of his will. With this, as the leading object he had in view, the Apostle opens the chapter on the subject of spiritual gifts, which he desires the brethren, (as he calls the Church brethren of Christ and of each other,) that they should not be ignorant of, but, have a suitable apprehension concerning. And, in order that the whole body of the Church might at one moment learn, that all and every spiritual gift must have been received from the Lord, and neither created, nor increased by themselves, he reminds them of the state of heathenism and idolatry from whence the Lord had called them. Reader! I pray you not to overlook this, as it relates to your own instance. Nothing can tend more effectually to hide pride from the eyes, than to be frequently led by the Holy Ghost back to see our awful state of blindness, ignorance, and corruption, when in the days of our unregeneracy. Hence, the Lord bids the Church, while following after righteousness and seeking the Lord, to look unto the rock whence they were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence they were digged, Isaiah 51:1 . See 1 Corinthians 4:6-7 .

I consider the third verse in this chapter as a very striking passage, and eminently designed, after what the Apostle had said before, to enable not only those Corinthians to whom he wrote, but the Church of God in all ages, to ascertain the state of their faith in Christ by this standard. If the Reader will look at the word with a suitable attention, he will discover, under divine teaching, that they afford a double testimony for the child of God to know himself by, in his apprehension of the Person and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. It was a very common thing with the Jews, nationally considered, to speak of Christ as the Tolah, or man hanged on a tree; and, as their law declared, that he which was hanged was accursed of God; Deuteronomy 21:23 , so they added to it; concerning Christ, accursed of God, They knew not, for their eyes were blinded that they could not,) how to enter into the apprehension of what the Holy Ghost taught all his own people that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us, Galatians 3:13 . But, as the blinded Jews, and the prejudiced Gentiles, while in a state of unconverted nature, both joined in this reproach of Christ; yet the Church being now enlightened by divine teaching, gives this testimony, no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. They are blessedly taught by that Almighty Teacher, to behold Christ as being made both sin and a curse for his people, and by which he hath redeemed all his people from the whole, and by which they are made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Corinthians 5:21 . Yet, though made both sin and a curse, he himself was both holy and blessed. The sins of his people were put upon him, not in him; as his righteousness is put upon us, not in us. Reader! do observe the distinction. As our sins could only be laid on Christ, and not enter Christ, though becoming a curse for his Church, as his Church's surety; yet all the while, he himself was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, Hebrews 7:26 . And, in like manner, Christ's righteousness is unto all, and upon all that believe: Romans 3:22 , not in, but upon, not arising out of themselves, but unto them from Christ. This is one precious testimony of the believer's speaking by the Spirit of God. And the other is like it.

No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. By which the Apostle did not mean, that the mere saying of it was impossible, but from divine influences. For, many a man from historical knowledge, may both say it and believe it. Devils believe and tremble, Luke 4:34 ; James 2:19 . But, the Apostle's meaning is, that no man can know Jesus to be the visible Jehovah, but from the Spirit's work in the heart. The real heartfelt, and heart-enjoyment of Christ, is only attainable by the quickening and enlightening grace of God the Holy Ghost in the soul. When a man hath received a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, he can then, and not before, truly say, that Jesus is the Lord; yea, his Lord, the Lord his righteousness, Ephesians 1:17 ; Jeremiah 23:6 ; 1 Corinthians 1:30 . Reader! hath the Lord blessed your soul with this double testimony of Jesus, and to the truth as it is in Jesus? Be very cheery of such precious gifts. They are rare mercies in the present God-dishonoring, Christ-despising, Holy Ghost-disowning generation. The knowledge of Christ, the belief in Christ, the dependence upon Christ, and the walking a life with Christ, are sweet proofs of an interest in the Covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure, 2 Samuel 23:5 . The Lord Jesus speaks to all such in those sweet words, Luke 10:23-24 , and of all such to the Father in those sweet words, Matthew 11:25-26 .

Verses 4-6

(4) Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (5) And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. (6) And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

The Apostle here enters upon the great subject of spiritual gifts to the Church of God. And, he begins at the fountain-head, in calling them gifts. All which sets at nought the idea of all merit. For what is of gift, or of grace, cannot be of debt. And what makes the subject so truly blessed is that he refers the whole unto one and the same Almighty Being, the Holy Ghost. However diversified, numerous, or extensive, God the Spirit is the Author and Giver of all. And what, if possible, is yet more endearing, He who anoints the whole of Christ's members, is the same who anointed also the head. It is the same Almighty Spirit who works in all, and upon all, the whole family, who wrought in Christ, and upon Christ, when He was anointed with the oil of gladness for, or above his fellows, Psalms 45:7 ; Hebrews 1:9 . In Christ, indeed, as a fountain. In his members, as in vessels. For the Spirit was not given by measure unto Him, John 3:34 . But to everyone of us, (saith the Apostle, speaking to the Church,) is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, Ephesians 4:7 . Reader! cherish the thought, for it is truly blessed!

Verses 7-11

(7) But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (8) For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; (9) To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; (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: (11) But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Very blessedly we are told, that those manifestations of the Holy Ghost are given to every child of God, for their spiritual improvement in the knowledge of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:2-3 . This should be well considered. Our union with Christ, which the Spirit shews; under his quickening influences, leads the regenerated soul to improve that knowledge into occasions of comfort and holy joy, through the whole of our walk of faith. Christ as our Head and Husband, is continually manifested to us by the Spirit, on purpose to shew, that whatever our wants are, or our exercises are, however circumstanced, or however tried, the Holy Ghost manifests Christ to us for our profit. This manifestation preached Christ, shews Christ, proclaims Christ in all his suitableness and all-sufficiency. And this one office alone, of God the Holy Ghost, most loudly testifies his person and agency, and that in the Covenant, his ministry was, and is, to be carried on through the whole time-state of the Church, until grace is finished in glory.

If the Reader will count over the several gifts, here said to be the work and grace of the Holy Spirit, he will find no less than nine distinctly enumerated. Neither are those the whole which are in the creation and gift of the Lord the Holy Ghost. Numberless others are spoken of in the word of God. Be is a spirit of judgment, and a spirit of burning; Isaiah 4:4 , a spirit of grace and of supplication, Zechariah 12:10 , an ambassador, John 16:7 . advocate, John 16:8-10 , teacher, Romans 8:26-27 , the, glorifier of the Lord Jesus, John 16:14 . In short, his graces and gifts in the (economy of the Covenant, are so many, and various; that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to particularize all. But these are marked down in this chapter; to shew how gracious the Lord is, and how much depends upon his efficient ministry in the church of Christ, for spiritual knowledge, improvement, and consolation. Not a single act of faith can a child of God exercise upon the Person or work of Christ, but by his immediate power. Not a promise can the child of God apprehend, much less plead, but from the Lord the Spirit's opening it to his view, and prompting him to present it for acceptance, and for payment, before the throne. And, notwithstanding God the Spirit hath regenerated that soul, and brought all his newborn faculties forth to life and light in Christ; yet the actions of the renewed nature can only be kept alive, and in sweet enjoyment upon the Person, work, blood-shedding, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the quickening graces of God the Holy Ghost, Hence, the Apostle prays for the Church to this amount. The Lord (saith he) direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ, 2 Thessalonians 3:5 .

Reader! I beseech you pause over this view of God the Holy Ghost, and his divine ministry, which, the Apostle hath here given in these few words. All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. Hence, then it must undeniably follow, that all spiritual life and action come from Him. Creating work, renewing work, quickening at first the soul, which was before dead in trespasses and sins, and keeping alive the soul when quickened by his daily, hourly, minutely communications, must be His, Ephesians 2:5 ; Psalms 22:29 . Say then, Reader, can any facts upon earth be more plain and palpable, than that God the Holy Ghost is a Person whose Almighty Agency creates all spiritual blessings, divides all spiritual blessings, and gives to everyone severally as he will? Can anything manifest the will and act of a Person more plainly and fully, than by what is here said? Oh! the blindness, folly, and daring presumption of the present Christ despising, Holy Ghost-disowning generation!

Verses 12-26

(12) 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. (13) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (14) For the body is not one member, but many. (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? (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? (17) If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? (18) But now hath God set the members everyone of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (19) And if they were all one member, where were the body? (20) But now are they many members, yet but one body. (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. (22) Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (23) And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. (24) For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: (25) That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (26) And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

The Apostle here enters upon that beautiful illustration, which he had all along in view, to shew the oneness of Christ and his Church, and which he explains by the similitude of the human body. For, as the human frame, made up of an infinite number of parts, is, after all, but one complete whole; so is Christ's mystical body. Christ's Church is but one. Though some of his members are in heaven, and some on earth, and some yet unborn; yet the whole forms but one and the same complete body. So Jesus himself declares, Song of Solomon 6:9 . And it is a sweet thought. Wherever any of his members are, whether in Heaven or earth, born or unborn, they must be equally dear to Jesus; being equally the gift of his Father, equally betrothed before all worlds by the Son, Hosea 2:19-20 , and equally redeemed during the time-state of the Church upon earth, and equally the objects of the regenerating grace of God the Holy Ghost.

And this precious truth is read to us very blessedly, by what the Apostle hath here said, in relation to the equality of baptism, by which all are baptized by one Spirit into one body. Not water baptism, but by one Spirit. Numbers may be baptized in water, (and it is to be feared there are,) who were never baptized by the Spirit: witness Simon Magus, Acts 8:9-24 . And numbers may be baptized by the Holy Ghost, who never were baptized in water, witness the Thief on the Cross. In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, Galatians 6:15 . Oh! for that sweet promise of Jesus which he gave to his disciples, to be my daily mercy, of being baptized with the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5 .

How very beautiful the Apostle hath set forth the different parts of the human frame, by way of representing the different members of Christ's mystical body? It is really blessed to see, what an analogy there is, between the body corporal, and the body spiritual; and which by the way, becomes a proof, that both is produced by the same Almighty Architect and Builder.

First: the body is not, as the Apostle saith, one member, but many. It is made up of many and various parts, all beautiful in their various offices and characters, all equally useful in their several purposes and designs; and all ministering alike in their respective situations, and circumstances, to the general welfare of the whole. Now such is the mystical body of Christ. The body of Christ, his Church, is not one member, but many. There are some great, some small, some of larger abilities, some smaller, some weak, some strong; some more wise, others less so. But the humblest, as well as the greatest, is alike necessary, to form the body complete : neither would the body be complete, if the smallest, and apparently the most inconsiderable member was wanting.

And secondly: The highest cannot reproach the lowest, as if useless. The foot cannot say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body. Neither can either tell another that he hath no need of him. So, in like manner, the humblest of Christ's members are as important in their apparently lesser offices, as the highest and the best. The Lord, the Maker, hath tempered all, to make all minister in the department to which the Lord hath appointed them, and all to act in the station the Lord hath marked, to their mutual happiness, and to his glory.

And thirdly: What endears the whole and makes the whole truly blessed is, that as the Lord is the Maker of all, hath by his infinite wisdom appointed all, and by his power governs all; so all are equally dear to Him whose all they are, and from whom all receive what they all are, and act only when graciously conducted, to promote the ends for which they are created and made; his glory, and their happiness. And this is the very purpose of Christ's Church. This people (saith the Lord) I have formed for myself, they shall shew forth any praise, Isaiah 43:21 . Reader! do not pass away from this beautiful illustration by the Apostle, which he makes, from the wise and gracious order the Lord hath formed, in compounding the human frame as a body; without gathering from it, what the Holy Ghost by the Apostle evidently intended from the similitude, in explaining the yet far higher order in his ordination of the spiritual frame of the mystical members of Christ. All united to the One glorious Head, and every member deriving life, action, and influence, from Him, while sweetly ordered and governed by his unerring wisdom and love, they are supposed to be mutually ministering to His praise and their comfort. In the joy of one member, all partake. In the affliction of one, all sympathize. For as in the human frame, if the hand or arm be crushed, the whole body feels: so in the spiritual frame, the sufferings of any of Christ's members calls forth the fellow-feeling of the whole Church. Reader! is it so with you? Do you take part in the exercises of Christ's little ones? Do you rejoice in Zion's welfare, or mourn with them that mourn? Isaiah 62:1 ; Psalms 139:0 throughout.

Verses 27-31

(27) Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (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. (29) Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (30) Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? (31) But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.

Here the Apostle forms his conclusion from all that he had been advancing, in reference to the Church of Christ. He considers the whole mystical body of our Lord, under the same beautiful order as he had before done, in contemplating the human frame, and shews, as plain as words can make the subject, that as Christ and his people are one, so the different members, placed according to his infinite wisdom, though diversified as it necessarily became them to be, in higher, and lower departments, though some were Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers, and others called on to the humbler offices of being ministered unto; yet were all equally useful in their station, equally important in the state where the Lord had placed them, and equally interested in the Lord's affection and regard. Reader! there cannot be an higher proof upon earth, than is here given, of the equal attention the Lord Jesus bears to his mystical body, in all the several members of it. And it ought to be very sweet, both to the most exalted, and to the most humble of the Lord's people. The greatest hath nothing to boast, in respect to his movement in the higher departments of the Church; neither the humblest to be cast down, when at any time feeling conscious of a low, or more exercised station. For as in a large and complicated machine, the smallest part in the working of it, hath its special office, and without whose operations the whole could not be carried on: so in the mysterious government of the Church of God, the least of Christ's little ones, are by him placed to the general welfare of the whole body, and afford occasion for the unceasing displays of his love; and calling forth the graces of His Spirit, both in them, and in all his members. And when the whole comes to be unfolded to view, it will be seen, that all have been mere receivers only; the highest nothing to boast and the lowest nothing to mourn for not having received more. Christ's glory, as the Head of his body the Church, being the one grand and only design of the whole. The depth of the riches in the divine administration, though never to be fully explored, will in some measure be more opened to view. And the astonished Church of Christ, discovering her close connection with her Lord, and his everlasting union with her, and love towards her, will explain a thousand things, which now exercise faith and patience. And who shall calculate the joy and glory reflected by Christ on his Church, which will then fill the ravished soul, when at once beholding Him as the Head and fulness of all? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom, be glory forever and ever. Amen, Romans 11:33 to the end.

I must not close the Chapter, before that I have first called upon the Reader to remark with me, the meaning of the Apostle's expression, when he saith: ye are the body of Christ. Not the natural body of Christ, which he took into union with his Godhead. It is not Christ personal of whom Paul speaks, but Christ mystical. In that pure, and holy portion of our nature, which the Son of God assumed, and which, by the junction with the divine nature, formed one Person, thence called Christ; we contemplate the glorious Mediator, and God-Man, as He is in himself: in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9 . But when Paul, or any of the sacred Writers, speak of Christ's body the Church, is meant, not Christ personal, but Christ mystical; that is, Christ in his members. It is that body, which God the Father, in his Covenant-office gave him; and which God the Holy Ghost anointed, with Him, and in Him: and knit together with Him, in every individual member, which was given him; and in the time state of the Church, regenerates, and quickens, in Him. This is Christ's mystical body : his temple, his body, the Church. And it is blessed, yea, very blessed, when we behold, how the Apostle's account here given is fully proved, when he saith: Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Every child of God, given by the Father, Ephesians 1:4 , betrothed by the Son, Hosea 2:0 , and regenerated by the Holy Ghost, 2 Peter 1:3-4 , is to all intents and purposes, a part of Christ's mystical body; for the whole of that child of God, being of the seed of Christ, is united to Christ, both body and spirit; and interested in all that belongs to Christ, as Christ, both before all worlds, during the whole time-state of the Church, and in and through the whole eternity, which is to follow. Hence those multitudes of promises, with which the word of God abounds, Genesis 12:3 with Galatians 3:16 ; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 59:21 ; Psalms 89:29; Psalms 89:29 . And it is by virtue of this union, that the spirits of just men made perfect, are before the throne of God and the Lamb; when their bodies return to their original dust : Hebrews 12:23-24 , and their bodies sleep in Jesus, being one with Jesus, and will he quickened at the resurrection-morn, not by the naked power of God, but from the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; Revelation 14:13 ; John 11:25 ; Romans 8:10-11 . Reader! I beseech you ponder over the subject. It is indeed most sweet and precious. A union with Christ, brings up with it everything that is blessed in Christ. For as it is a spiritual union, be that is joined to the Lord being one Spirit: 1 Corinthians 6:17 , so is it opening a continual source of never ceasing joy and happiness. Living upon Christ, receiving all communications from Christ, and the whole springs of spiritual grace and refreshments being in Christ, the heart of the redeemed is made glad, whatever outward circumstances there may be; for Jesus hath said, because I live, ye shall live also, John 14:19 . Behold then, bow many blessed and precious things are contained in the Apostle's words, when he saith : Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I stay not to observe what Paul adds, concerning the diversity of offices in the Church. The Apostle's conclusion, calls us off from men, and the several gifts bestowed upon them for the Church, to look unto the Lord. Covet earnestly the best gifts, namely, what Christ hath promised, those durable riches, and righteousness, which he gives, Proverbs 8:17-21 . And yet (saith Paul) shew I unto you a more excellent way; namely, Christ himself, who is the way, yea, the only way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6 . Reader! what are all gifts, and graces, compared to Christ? Gifts, yea, Christ's gifts are not Christ. When Jesus comes to visit a soul, he doth indeed bring his gifts with him; as some great Prince, when he travels, is attended by his servants. But who would lose sight of the Prince, to look at his servants? Who would bestow their time at Court, in beholding the King's equipage, instead of beholding the King himself in his beauty? Isaiah 33:17 . Precious Jesus! be thou the more excellent way to my soul. And while I learn to value, and highly prize all thy love-tokens, as love-tokens of my Lord; may I know how to prize thee above all, my Lord, my life, my way, my portion forever!

Verse 31


BLESSED God the Spirit! suffer my poor soul never to be ignorant of spiritual gifts! I know, indeed, 0 Lord, through thy divine quickenings, and gracious teachings, that like those Corinthians, I was once an ignorant, blind, and senseless Gentile; carried away unto the idols, and stumbling blocks of sin, and iniquity, which a fallen nature, under the dominion of Satan, had set up in my heart, Blessed be the Lord the Spirit, which brought me out of darkness, and hath enabled me to say, that Jesus is Jehovah, and my Lord! And I do desire to bless God the Holy Ghost, for all his spiritual gifts to me, to every child of God, yea, to the whole Church, Blessed be the Lord, for the numberless, nameless gifts, with which he blesseth the people! All are his. From the first moment, in which the Lord quickens the poor sinner, through all the vast diversities of gifts he bestows upon every saint, whether Prophet, Apostle, or Teacher; until he brings home the whole Church, rich, for glory in Christ; well do I know, and with holy joy confess, that it is the same GOD, which worketh all in all. Yes! thou Almighty Minister of the Church! sure I am, that all these worketh that One and the self-self Spirit, dividing to every man severally as lie will.

And blessed be thy Name, sweet and precious Jesus! thou, and thy Church are one. Many are the members of thy mystical body; yet, whether in Heaven or earth, still but one. Our Lord Jesus, our glorious Head, hath but one body. Our faithful Husband, but our Wife. Oh! then, do thou own, and bless, and sanctify, and keep, and love, and delight in thy Spouse, the Church! Make her, Lord! what thou wouldest have her to be. And at length bring her home, as one espoused by thyself, and presented by thyself, and to thyself, a glorious Church: the body of Christ, and members in particular, to be holy, and without blemish, before thee forever.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/1-corinthians-12.html. 1828.
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