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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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1 Corinthians 12

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Now concerning spiritual gifts (περ δε των πνευματικων). Clearly one of the items asked about in the letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1) and introduced precisely as the problem of meats offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1). This question runs to the end of chapter 14. Plainly much trouble had arisen in Corinth in the exercise of these gifts.

Verse 2

Ye were led away (απαγομενο). The copula ητε is not expressed (common ellipsis) with the participle (periphrastic imperfect passive), but it has to be supplied to make sense. Some scholars would change οτε (when) to ποτε (once) and so remove the difficulty.

Unto those dumb idols (προς τα ειδωλα τα αφωνα). "Unto the idols the dumb." See Psalms 95:5-7 for the voicelessness (α-φωνα, old adjective, without voice, φωνη) of the idols. Pagans were led astray by demons (1 Corinthians 10:19).

Howsoever ye might be led (ως αν ηγεσθε). Rather, "as often as ye were led." For this use of ως αν for the notion of repetition, regular Koine idiom, see Robertson, Grammar, p. 974. Cf. οπου αν in Mark 6:56.

Verse 3

Wherefore I give you to understand (διο γνωριζω υμιν). Causative idea (only in Aeschylus in old Greek) in papyri (also in sense of recognize) and N.T., from root γνω in γινωσκω, to know.

Speaking in the Spirit of God (εν πνευματ θεου λαλων). Either sphere or instrumentality. No great distinction here between λαλεω (utter sounds) and λεγω (to say).

Jesus is anathema (αναθεμα Ιησους). On distinction between αναθεμα (curse) and αναθημα (offering Luke 21:5) see discussion there. In LXX αναθημα means a thing devoted to God without being redeemed, doomed to destruction (Leviticus 27:28; Joshua 6:17; Joshua 7:12). See 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8; Romans 9:3. This blasphemous language against Jesus was mainly by the Jews (Acts 13:45; Acts 18:6). It is even possible that Paul had once tried to make Christians say Αναθεμα Ιησους (Acts 26:11).

Jesus is Lord (Κυριος Ιησους). The term Κυριος, as we have seen, is common in the LXX for God. The Romans used it freely for the emperor in the emperor worship. "Most important of all is the early establishment of a polemical parallelism between the cult of Christ and the cult of Caesar in the application of the term Κυριος, 'lord.' The new texts have here furnished quite astonishing revelations" (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 349). Inscriptions, ostraca, papyri apply the term to Roman emperors, particularly to Nero when Paul wrote this very letter (ib., p. 353f.): "One with 'Nero Kurios' quite in the manner of a formula (without article, like the 'Kurios Jesus' in 1 Corinthians 12:3." "The battle-cries of the spirits of error and of truth contending at Corinth" (Findlay). One is reminded of the demand made by Polycarp that he say Κυριος Χαεσαρ and how each time he replied Κυριος Ιησους. He paid the penalty for his loyalty with his life. Lighthearted men today can say "Lord Jesus" in a flippant or even in an irreverent way, but no Jew or Gentile then said it who did not mean it.

Verse 4

Diversities (διαιρεσεις). Old word for distinctions, differences, distributions, from διαιρεω, to distribute, as διαιρουν (dividing, distributing) in verse 1 Corinthians 12:11. Only here in the N.T.

Of gifts (χαρισματων). Late word and chiefly in Paul (cf. Romans 12:6) in N.T. (except 1 Peter 4:19), but some examples in papyri. It means a favour (from χαριζομα) bestowed or received without any merit as in Romans 1:11.

Verse 5

Of ministrations (διακονιων). This old word is from διακονος and has a general meaning of service as here (Romans 11:13) and a special ministration like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection (1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 8:4).

Verse 6

Of workings (ενεργηματων). Late word, here only in N.T., the effect of a thing wrought (from ενεργεω, to operate, perform, energize). Paul uses also the late kindred word ενεργεια (Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:12) for efficiency.

Who worketh all things in all (ο ενεργων τα παντα εν πασιν). Paul is not afraid to say that God is the Energy and the Energizer of the Universe. "I say that the magnet floats in space by the will of God" (Dr. W. R. Whitney, a world figure in science). This is his philosophic and scientific theory of the Cosmos. No one has shown Paul's philosophy and science to be wrong. Here he is speaking only of spiritual gifts and results as a whole, but he applies this principle to the universe (τα παντα) in Colossians 1:16 (of Christ) and in Romans 11:36 (of God). Note the Trinity in these verses: the same Spirit (verse 1 Corinthians 12:4), the same Lord (Jesus) in verse 1 Corinthians 12:5, the same God (the Father) in verse 1 Corinthians 12:6.

Verse 7

Manifestation (φανερωσις). Late word, in papyri, in N.T. only here and 2 Corinthians 4:2, from φανεροω, to make manifest (φανερος). Each instance of the whole (verse 1 Corinthians 12:6) is repeatedly given (διδοτα, present passive indicative of διδωμ).

To profit withal (προς το συμφερον). See on 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 10:33 for Paul's guiding principle in such matters.

Verse 8

To one (ω μεν). Demonstrative ος with μεν in dative case, to this one. The distribution or correlation is carried on by αλλω δε (verses 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:10), ετερω δε (verses 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:10) for variety, nine manifestations of the Spirit's work in verses 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

The Word of wisdom (λογος σοφιας). Old words. Λογος is reason, then speech. Wisdom is intelligence, then practical action in accord with it. Here it is speech full of God's wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:7) under the impulse of the Spirit of God. This gift is placed first (revelation by the Spirit).

The word of knowledge (λογος γνωσεως). This gift is insight (illumination) according to (κατα) the same Spirit.

Verse 9

Faith (πιστις). Not faith of surrender, saving faith, but wonder-working faith like that in 1 Corinthians 13:2 (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21). Note here εν τω αυτω πνευματ (in the same Spirit) in contrast with δια and κατα in verse 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Gifts of healings (χαρισματα ιαματων). Ιαμα, old word from ιαομα, common in LXX, in N.T. only in this chapter. It means acts of healing as in Acts 4:30 (cf. James 5:14) and Luke 7:21 (of Jesus). Note εν here as just before.

Verse 10

Workings of miracles (ενεργηματα δυναμεων). Workings of powers. Cf. ενεργων δυναμεις in Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4 where all three words are used (σημεια, signs, τερατα, wonders, δυναμεις, powers). Some of the miracles were not healings as the blindness on Elymas the sorcerer.

Prophecy (προφητεια). Late word from προφητης and προφημ, to speak forth. Common in papyri. This gift Paul will praise most (chapter 1 Corinthians 12:1). Not always prediction, but a speaking forth of God's message under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Discernings of spirits (διακρισεις πνευματων). Διακρισις is old word from διακρινω (see 1 Corinthians 11:29) and in N.T. only here; Romans 14:1; Hebrews 5:14. A most needed gift to tell whether the gifts were really of the Holy Spirit and supernatural (cf. so-called "gifts" today) or merely strange though natural or even diabolical (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1).

Divers kinds of tongues (γενη γλωσσων). No word for "divers" in the Greek. There has arisen a great deal of confusion concerning the gift of tongues as found in Corinth. They prided themselves chiefly on this gift which had become a source of confusion and disorder. There were varieties (kinds, γενη) in this gift, but the gift was essentially an ecstatic utterance of highly wrought emotion that edified the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4) and was intelligible to God (1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:28). It was not always true that the speaker in tongues could make clear what he had said to those who did not know the tongue (1 Corinthians 14:13): It was not mere gibberish or jargon like the modern "tongues," but in a real language that could be understood by one familiar with that tongue as was seen on the great Day of Pentecost when people who spoke different languages were present. In Corinth, where no such variety of people existed, it required an interpreter to explain the tongue to those who knew it not. Hence Paul placed this gift lowest of all. It created wonder, but did little real good. This is the error of the Irvingites and others who have tried to reproduce this early gift of the Holy Spirit which was clearly for a special emergency and which was not designed to help spread the gospel among men. See on Acts 2:13-21; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 19:6.

The interpretation of tongues (ερμηνεια γλωσσων). Old word, here only and 1 Corinthians 14:26 in N.T., from ερμηνευω from Hερμης (the god of speech). Cf. on διερμηνευω in Luke 24:27; Acts 9:36. In case there was no one present who understood the particular tongue it required a special gift of the Spirit to some one to interpret it if any one was to receive benefit from it.

Verse 11

Worketh (ενεργε). The same word that was used in verse 1 Corinthians 12:6 of God.

Severally (ιδια). Separately.

Even as he will (καθως βουλετα). Hence there is no occasion for conceit, pride, or faction (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Verse 12

So also is Christ (ουτως κα ο Χριστος). One would naturally expect Paul here to say ουτως κα το σωμα του Χριστου (so also is the body of Christ). He will later call Christ the Head of the Body the Church as in Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30. Aristotle had used σωμα of the state as the body politic. What Paul here means is Christ as the Head of the Church has a body composed of the members who have varied gifts and functions like the different members of the human body. They are all vitally connected with the Head of the body and with each other. This idea he now elaborates in a remarkable manner.

Verse 13

Were we all baptized into one body (ημεις παντες εις εν σωμα εβαπτισθημεν). First aorist passive indicative of βαπτιζω and so a reference to a definite past event with each of them of different races, nations, classes, when each of them put on the outward badge of service to Christ, the symbol of the inward changes already wrought in them by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:2).

And were all made to drink of one Spirit (κα παντες εν πνευμα εποτισθημεν). First aorist passive indicative of ποτιζω, old verb, to give to drink. The accusative εν πνευμα is retained in the passive as often with verbs that in the active take two accusatives. The reference is to a definite act in the past, probably to the inward experience of the Holy Spirit symbolized by the act of baptism.

Verse 14

Is not one member (ουκ εστιν εν μελος). The point sounds like a truism, but it is the key to the whole problem of church life both local and general. Vincent refers to the fable of the body and the members by Menenius Agrippa (Livy, II, 32), but it was an old parable. Socrates pointed out how absurd it would be if feet and hands should work against one another when God made them to cooperate (Xen., Mem. II. iii. 18). Seneca alludes to it as does Marcus Aurelius and Marcus Antoninus.

Verse 15

If the foot shall say (εαν ειπη ο πους). Condition of third class (εαν and second aorist subjunctive ειπη). In case the foot say.

I am not of the body (ουκ ειμ εκ του σωματος). I am independent of the body, not dependent on the body.

It is not therefore not of the body (ου παρα τουτο ουκ εστιν εκ του σωματος). Thinking or saying so does not change the fact. Παρα τουτο here means "alongside of this" (cf. IV Macc. 10:19) and so "because of," a rare use (Robertson, Grammar, p. 616). The two negatives (ου--ουκ) do not here destroy one another. Each retains its full force.

Verse 16

Points explained precisely as in verse 1 Corinthians 12:15.

Verse 17

If the whole body were an eye (ε ολον το σωμα οφθαλμος). The eye is the most wonderful organ and supremely useful (Numbers 10:31), the very light of the body (Luke 11:34). And yet how grotesque it would be if there were nothing else but a great round rolling eye! A big "I" surely!

The smelling (η οσφρησις). Old word from οσφραινομα, to smell. Here alone in N.T.

Verse 18

But now (νυν δε). But as things are, in contrast to that absurdity.

Hath God set (ο θεος εθετο). Second aorist middle indicative. God did it and of himself.

Even as it pleased him (καθως ηθελησεν). Why challenge God's will? Cf. Romans 9:20.

Verse 19

One member (εν μελος). Paul applies the logic of verse 1 Corinthians 12:17 to any member of the body. The application to members of the church is obvious. It is particularly pertinent in the case of a "church boss."

Verse 20

Many members, but one body (πολλα μελη, εν δε σωμα). The argument in a nutshell, in one epigram.

Verse 21

Cannot say (ου δυνατα ειπειν). And be truthful. The superior organs need the inferior ones (the eye, the hand, the head, the feet).

Verse 22

Nay, much rather (αλλα πολλω μαλλον). Adversative sense of αλλα, on the contrary. So far from the more dignified members like the eye and the head being independent of the subordinate ones like the hands and feet, they are "much more" (argumentum a fortiori, "by much more" πολλω μαλλον, instrumental case) in need of therm.

Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary (τα δοκουντα μελη του σωματος ασθενεστερα υπαρχειν αναγκαια εστιν). Things are not always what they seem. The vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys) are not visible, but life cannot exist without them.

Verse 23

We bestow (περιτιθεμεν). Literally, We place around as if a garland (Mark 15:17) or a garment (Matthew 27:28).

More abundant comeliness (ευσχημοσυνην περισσοτεραν). One need only mention the mother's womb and the mother's breast to see the force of Paul's argument here. The word, common in old Greek, from ευσχημων (ευ, well, σχημα, figure), here only in N.T. One may think of the coal-miner who digs under the earth for the coal to keep us warm in winter. So ασχημων (deformed, uncomely), old word, here only in N.T., but see 1 Corinthians 7:36 for ασχημονεω.

Verse 24

Tempered the body together (συνεκερασεν το σωμα). First aorist active indicative of συνκεραννυμ, to mix together, old word, but in N.T. only here and Hebrews 4:2. Plato used this very word of the way God compounded (συνεκερασατο) the various elements of the body in creating soul and body. Paul rejects the idea of the later Gnostics that matter is evil and the physical organs degrading. He gives a noble picture of the body with its wonderful organs planned to be the temple of God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) in opposition to the Epicurean sensualists in Corinth.

To that part which lacked (τω υστερουμενω). It is a true instinct that gives superior honour to the unseen organs of life.

Verse 25

That there should be no schism (ινα μη η σχισμα). Purpose of God in his plan for the body. Trouble in one organ affects the whole body. A headache may be due to trouble elsewhere and usually is.

Have the same care (το αυτο μεριμνωσιν). The very verb μεριμναω used by Jesus of our anxiety (Matthew 6:27; Matthew 6:31). Paul here personifies the parts of the body as if each one is anxious for the others. The modern knowledge of the billions of cells in the body co-working for the whole confirms Paul's argument.

Verse 26

Suffer with it (συνπασχε). Medical term in this sense in Hippocrates and Galen. In N.T only here and Romans 8:17 (of our suffering with Christ). One of Solon's Laws allowed retaliation by any one for another's injuries. Plato (Republic, V, 462) says the body politic "feels the hurt" as the whole body feels a hurt finger.

Rejoice with it (συνχαιρε). This is fortunately true also. One may tingle with joy all over the body thanks to the wonderful nervous system and to the relation between mind and matter. See 1 Corinthians 13:6 for joy of love with truth.

Verse 27

Severally (εκ μερους). See Romans 11:25 απο μερους (in part). Each has his own place and function in the body of Christ.

Verse 28

God hath set some (ους μεν εθετο ο θεος). See verse 1 Corinthians 12:18 for εθετο ο θεος. Note middle voice (for his own use). Paul begins as if he means to say ους μεν αποστολουσ, ους δε προφητας (some apostles, some prophets), but he changes the construction and has no ους δε, but instead πρωτον, δευτερον, επειτα (first, second, then, etc.).

In the church (εν τη εκκλησια). The general sense of εκκλησια as in Matthew 16:18 and later in Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:32; Hebrews 12:23. See list also in Ephesians 4:11. See on Matthew 10:2 for αποστολους, the official title given the twelve by Jesus, and claimed by Paul though not one of the twelve.

Prophets (προφητας). For-speakers for God and Christ. See the list of prophets and teachers in Acts 13:1 with Barnabas first and Saul last. Prophets are needed today if men will let God's Spirit use them, men moved to utter the deep things of God.

Teachers (διδασκαλους). Old word from διδασκω, to teach. Used to the Baptist (Luke 3:12), to Jesus (John 3:10; John 13:13), and of Paul by himself along with αποστολος (1 Timothy 2:7). It is a calamity when the preacher is no longer a teacher, but only an exhorter. See Ephesians 4:11.

Then miracles (επειτα δυναμεις). Here a change is made from the concrete to the abstract. See the reverse in Romans 12:7. See these words (δυναμεισ, ιαμητων, γλωσσων) in verses 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:10 with γλωσσων, last again. But these two new terms (helps, governments).

Helps (αντιλημψεις). Old word, from αντιλαμβανομα, to lay hold of. In LXX, common in papyri, here only in N.T. Probably refers to the work of the deacons, help rendered to the poor and the sick.

Governments (κυβερνησεις). Old word from κυβερναω (cf. Κυβερνητης in Acts 27:11) like Latin gubernare, our govern. So a governing. Probably Paul has in mind bishops (επισχοπο) or elders (πρεσβυτερο), the outstanding leaders (ο προισταμενο in 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Romans 12:8; ο ηγουμενο in Acts 15:22; Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:24). Curiously enough, these two offices (pastors and deacons) which are not named specifically are the two that survive today. See Philippians 1:1 for both officers.

Verse 29

Are all (μη παντες). The μη expects a negative answer with each group.

Verse 30

Do all interpret? (μη παντες διερμηνευουσιν?). He adds this query to the list in 1 Corinthians 12:28, but it is in 1 Corinthians 12:10.

Verse 31

The greater gifts (τα χαρισματα τα μειζονα). Paul unhesitatingly ranks some spiritual gifts above others. Ζηλοω here has good sense, not that of envy as in Acts 7:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4.

And a still more excellent way (κα ετ καθ' υπερβολην οδον). In order to gain the greater gifts. "I show you a way par excellence," beyond all comparison (superlative idea in this adjunct, not comparative), like καθ' υπερβολην εις υπερβολην (2 Corinthians 4:17). Hυπερβολη is old word from υπερβαλλω, to throw beyond, to surpass, to excel (2 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 1:19). "I show you a supremely excellent way." Chapter 1 Corinthians 12:1 is this way, the way of love already laid down in 1 Corinthians 8:1 concerning the question of meats offered to idols (cf. 1 John 4:7). Poor division of chapters here. This verse belongs with chapter 1 Corinthians 12:1.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-corinthians-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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