Click here to join the effort!
1 Corinthians 12:1-31.—1 Corinthians 14:1-40.—ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS, AND THE DANGER WHICH AROSE FROM THE ABUSE OF THE "GIFT OF TONGUES."
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
On spiritual gifts in general.
1 Corinthians 12:1
Now concerning spiritual gifts; rather, things spiritual. The context, however, shows that St. Paul is thinking almost exclusively of the gifts (charismata) of the Spirit. I would not have you ignorant (see 1 Corinthians 10:1). The Corinthians had doubtless inquired in their letter as to the views of the apostle on this important and difficult subject.
1 Corinthians 12:2
That ye were Gentiles. The undoubted reading is, that when ye were Gentiles. The sentence is then in form an anacoluthon; in other words, it is not grammatically finished. The ancients were much less particular about these small matters of precision and symmetry than the moderns; and writers who are deeply moved by their subject, and hurried along by the strength of their feelings, often fall into these unfinished constructions (see Romans 2:17-21; Romans 15:25-27; Galatians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, etc., in the Greek). Dumb idols. This characteristic of idols (Habakkuk 2:18; Psalms 115:5; Psalms 135:16) is fixed upon to show that their "oracles" were mere falsity and pretence. We find an illustration of the epithet in the statue of Isis at Pompeii, where the ruined temple shows the secret stair by which the priest mounted to the back of the statue; and the head of the statue (preserved in the Museo Borbonico) shows the tube which went from the back of the head to the parted lips. Through this tube the priest concealed behind the statue spoke the answers of Isis. Even as ye were led; rather, howsoever ye might be led, as in the Revised Version. The Greek phrase shows that, under the oracular guidance of dumb idols, the Gentiles had been, as it were, drifted hither and thither "as the winds listed."
1 Corinthians 12:3
Wherefore. Their previous condition of Gentile ignorance rendered it necessary to instruct them fully respecting the nature and discrimination of the charisms of the Spirit. By the Spirit of God; rather, in the Spirit; i.e. in the state of spiritual exaltation and ecstasy. The phrase is a Hebrew one to describe inspiration. Jesus accursed. It may well seem amazing that the Corinthians should need instructing that such awful language could not be uttered by any one speaking "in the Spirit of God." It is evident, however, that such expressions had been uttered by persons who were, or seemed to be, carried away by the impassioned impulse which led to "glossolaly." (It is better to use this technical word in order to dissipate the cloud of strange misconceptions as to the true nature of this charism.) So terrible an outrage on the conscience of Christians could never have passed unchecked and unpunished, except from the obvious inability of the young community to grapple with the new and perplexing phenomena of an "inspiration" which appeared to destroy the personal control of those possessed by it. Among Jewish converts glossolaly was regarded as a form of that wild mantle "inspiration" of which we find some traces in Jewish history (1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 10:11; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1Sa 19:23, 1 Samuel 19:24, etc.), and which was alluded to in the very name Nabo, which implied a boiling energy. Among Gentile converts the glossolaly would be classed with the overmastering influences of which they read, or which they witnessed, in the Sibyls, the Pythian priestesses, and the wild orgiastic devotees of Eastern cults. They would not like to call any one to task for things spoken in a condition which they regarded as wholly supernatural. As to the speakers,
(1) some of them, not being sincere, might have really fallen under the influence of impulses which were earthly and demonish, not Divine;
(2) others, not duly controlling their own genuine impulse, may have been liable to the uncontrolled sway of utterances for which they were at the moment irresponsible;
(3) or again, being incapable of reasoned expression, they may have audibly expressed vague Gnostic doubts as to the identity of the "Jesus" who was crucified and the Divine Word; or
(4) they may have been entangled in Jewish perplexities rising from Deuteronomy 21:23, "He that is hanged" (which was also the expression applied by Jews to the crucified) "is accursed of God;" or finally,
(5) by some strange abuse of the true principle expressed by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16, they may have asserted in this fearful form their emancipation from the acknowledgment of Jesus "after the flesh." Similar phenomena—the same intrusions into worship of downright blasphemy or of blasphemous familiarity—have constantly recurred at times of overwhelming spiritual excitement, as for instance m the adherents of the "everlasting gospel" in the thirteenth century, and in various movements of our own day. Is accursed; rather, is anathema. The word corresponds to the Hebrew cherem, which means "a ban," and "what is devoted or set apart by a ban;" and to the Latin sacer, which means not only "sacred," set apart by holy consecration, but also "devoted to destruction." No man can say that Jesus is [the] Lord, but by [in] the Holy Ghost. It involved a strong rebuke to the illuminati, who professed a profound spiritual insight, to tell them that no man could make the simple, humble confession of the divinity of Jesus (for "Lord" is here an equivalent of the Hebrew "Jehovah") except by the same inspiration as that which they so terribly abused. There is a very similar passage in 1 John 1:2; but there the "test" of the inspiration is a confession of the humanity of Jesus as against Gnostics, who treated his human life as purely phantasmal. Here the test is the confession of his divinity as against Jews and Gentiles. (For a parallel passage, see Matthew 16:17, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.")
1 Corinthians 12:4
Diversities. This word is used in each of these verses. Gifts; charismata; endowments imparted by the Holy Spirit. The word is rendered "free gift" in Romans 5:13. The same Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are not uniform, but display diversity in unity Just as the sunlight playing on different surfaces produces a multiplicity of gleams and colours, so the Holy Spirit manifests his presence variously, and even sometimes with sharp contrasts, in different individualities.
1 Corinthians 12:5
Administrations. Different individuals render different services, and even apply the same gifts in different ways, as we see in Romans 12:6-8. The same Lord. Who, as Head of the Church, directs all ministries and assigns all functions.
1 Corinthians 12:6
Operations. Manifestations of Divine power. The same God which worketh all in all. God is the Source of all gifts in all men. He is the Sun of the whole universe, and always in the meridian; and from him, as the Father of lights, flows every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). It will be seen that this is one of the many passages which teach with perfect clearness the doctrine of the Trinity in unity. All in all (for this expression, see 1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:23). There are very similar passages descriptive of the diversity in unity of God's dispensations, in Ephesians 4:4-6, Ephesians 4:11,Ephesians 4:12; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 4:11.
1 Corinthians 12:7
To profit withal. With reference, that is, to the general profit.
1 Corinthians 12:8
The word of wisdom… the word of knowledge. In modern usage, "knowledge" is the learning which we by use and effort acquire; "wisdom" is the insight which gradually dawns upon us from thought and experience. In the language of the New Testament, the distinction between the two words is not so clearly marked, but" wisdom" seems to belong more to the human spirit, and "knowledge "to the intellect. The "discourse of wisdom" would be that which sets forth the truth of the gospel persuasively to work conversion (1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 2:7); the "discourse of knowledge" would be that which enters into the speculative and theoretical elaboration of systematic theology. The first might find its illustration in the 'Imitatio Christi;' the second in the 'Summa Theologiae.'
1 Corinthians 12:9
To another. Various attempts have been made to classify the gifts thus enumerated, as:
(1) The word of wisdom;
(2) the word of knowledge.
2. Pertaining to exalted faith (tides miraculosa).
(4) discrimination of spirits.
(1) Tongues; and
(2) their interpretation.
These attempts are not very successful. St. Paul probably uses the phrases "to one" and "to another" (ἂλλῳ δὲ … ἑτέρῳ δὲ) merely for variety of style (as in Hebrews 11:35, Hebrews 11:36), with no very definite classification in view, as he does not mention all the charisma (see 1 Corinthians 12:28). Faith. Faith in its highest energy, as a supernatural power; the faith that removes mountains (Matthew 17:19, Matthew 17:20). The gifts of healing. Not, that is, by medical knowledge, but by supernatural power (Mark 16:18; Acts 5:15, Acts 5:16; James 5:14, James 5:15).
1 Corinthians 12:10
The working of miracles; literally, active, efficacy of powers; such as "the signs of an apostle," to which St. Paul himself appealed in 2 Corinthians 12:12, which included "wonders and mighty powers" (comp. Romans 15:18). Prophecy. Not "prediction," but elevated and inspired discourse; the power of preaching to edification. Discerning of spirits; rather, discernings, or powers to discriminate between true and false spirits. It was necessary in those days of intense enthusiasm and spiritual awakenment to "test the spirits, whether they be of God" (1 John 4:1). There were such things as "deceitful spirits" which spoke "doctrines of devils" (lTi 2 Corinthians 4:1; Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:2; see 1 Corinthians 14:29). Divers kinds of tongues. There is no need for the word "divers." The particular variety of the ecstatic, and often entirely unintelligible, utterance known as "the tongue" differed with the individuality or temperament of the speaker. Recent lines of research, by that historical method which can alone furnish correct results, have led to the conclusion that, whatever may be thought of the "tongues" on the day of Pentecost, the "tongue" spoken of (for the most part with relative disparagement) by St. Paul as a charism of the Spirit was closely analogous to that wild, rapt, unconscious, uncontrollable utterance which, with varying details, has always occurred in the religious movements which stir the human soul to its utmost depths. The attempts to explain the word "tongues" as meaning "foreign languages," or "the primeval language,'' or "poetic and unusual phraseology," etc., are baseless and exploded. The notion that by this gift the early Christians knew languages which they had never acquired, is not only opposed to the entire analogy of God's dealings, but to every allusion in the New Testament (except a prima facie but untenable view of the meaning of Acts 2:4) and to every tradition and statement of early Christian history. The apostles (so far as we have any record of their missionary work in the New Testament) had not the slightest need to acquire foreign languages. Since Palestine was at this epoch bilingual, they could all speak Aramaic and Greek, and therefore could address Jews and Gentiles throughout the civilized world. Every single allusion which St. Paul makes to this subject excludes the possibility of the supposition of a miracle so utterly useless and meaningless, so subversive of every psychological consideration, and so alien from the analogy of all God's methods, as the talking in unacquired foreign languages by persons who did not understand them. The interpretation of tongues. Sometimes, but not always (1 Corinthians 14:13), the speaker, on relapsing from his ecstasy, was able to express his outburst of unintelligible soliloquy in the form of reasoned thought When he was unable to do so, St. Paul ordains that another should convey in ordinary language the impressions left by the inspired rhapsody (1 Corinthians 14:27-29).
1 Corinthians 12:11
One and the selfsame Spirit. The unity of the source from which all the charisms flowed ought to have excluded the possibility of a boastful comparison of gifts, arid all depreciation of those gifts which, because they were less dazzling, were deemed inferior. St. Paul afterwards shows that the less dazzling might be infinitely the more valuable for purposes of spiritual edification.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
The Church compared to a body and its members.
1 Corinthians 12:12
As the body is one, and hath many members. To this favourite image St. Paul reverts several times (Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:19). It is probable that he was familiar with the image from the fable of Menenius Agrippa, who had used it as a plea for civil unity (Liv., 2:32). So also is Christ. Christ and the Church form one body, of which Christ is the Head; one Vine, of which Christians are the branches (John 15:1-27.); one building, of which Christians are the living stones.
1 Corinthians 12:13
By one Spirit; rather, in one Spirit. The diffusion of one spirit is the clement of unity. Are we all baptized; rather, we were all baptized. Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free. Moreover, as these were national and social differences, they were all obliterated by baptism, which made us all equal members of one holy brotherhood (Galatians 3:28). Have been all made to drink into one Spirit. The word "into" is probably spurious. We have all been given to drink of one Spirit, which is as the outpouring of living water (Acts 10:45; John 7:37).
1 Corinthians 12:15
If the foot shall say, etc. So Seneca says, "What if the hands should wish to injure the feet, or the eyes the hands? As all the members agree together because it is the interest of the whole that each should be kept safe, so men spare their fellow men because we are born for heaven, and society cannot be saved except by the love and protection of its elements" ('De Ira,' 2:31). And Marcus Aurelius: "We have been born for mutual help, like the feet, like the hands, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. To act in opposition to cue another is therefore contrary to nature" ('Enchir.,' 1 Corinthians 2:1). And Pope—
''What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame," etc.
1 Corinthians 12:17
If the whole body were an eye, etc. In the body there is between the members an identity of common interest and a perfection of separate functions. All are not equal in strength and delicacy, but each is happy, and each is necessary to the well being of all. There could be no better image of the ideal relation of Christians to each other and to the Church.
1 Corinthians 12:18
As it hath pleased him. Not arbitrarily, but in furtherance of one wise and beneficent design, so that each may be honoured and indispensable, and therefore contented in its own sphere.
1 Corinthians 12:19
And if they were all one member, where were the body? The interests of the individual must never overshadow those of the Church. In the Church, as in the body, the hypertrophy or the atrophy of any one member is injurious, not only to itself, but to the whole.
1 Corinthians 12:21
I have no need of thee. A rebuke to the pride of those who thought their own gifts to be exclusively valuable.
1 Corinthians 12:22
Are necessary. This is the point of the fable of the belly and the members.
1 Corinthians 12:23
Which we think to be less honourable. The shelter and ornament of clothing are used to cover those parts of the body which are conventionally regarded as the least seemly. The whole of this illustration is meant to show that rich and poor, great and small, high and low, gifted and ungifted, have all their own separate and indispensable functions, and no class of Christians can wisely disparage or forego the aid derived from other and different classes. The unity of the members in one body corresponds to "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" which should prevail in the Church.
1 Corinthians 12:25
No schism in the Body. What is exclusively called "schism" is not necessarily such. There may be difference of fold in the one flock. There may be no real discord or dissension, though there may be varieties of ecclesiastical government. Unity, as the whole argument shows, does not demand the existence of uniformity. That the members should have the same care one for another. Thus the early believers "were of one heart and of one soul;" and the moment that a complaint arose that one of the weakest and smallest interests was neglected, the supposed neglect was amply remedied (Acts 4:32; Acts 6:1-6).
1 Corinthians 12:26
Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, etc. St. Chrysostom illustrates this verse by saying that if a thorn runs into the heel, the whole body feels it and is troubled; and that, on the ether hand, if the head is garlanded, the whole man is glorified.
1 Corinthians 12:27
Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. Each Church is a sort of microcosm of the whole Church. St. Paul does not mean that the Corinthian Church is a member in the body of all the Churches, but that each Corinthian Christian is a member of the Church.
1 Corinthians 12:28
Hath set; rather, appointed. First apostles. Apart from the twelve (Luke 6:13) and Paul and Barnabas, the name was in a lower sense extended to leading and eminent Christians, especially to those who had taken part in founding or ruling Churches (Romans 16:7). Prophets. Wise spiritual preachers. It is instructive to note that St. Paul places the gifts of wisdom and knowledge which these preachers require above those which we are apt to regard as exclusively miraculous. The "wonders" stood in a lower, not in a higher, position when compared with the ordinary gifts of grace. Teachers. Those who have the minor gifts of instruction and exposition (Acts 13:1). Helps. All the services rendered by the power of active sympathy; by the work of deacons, sisters of mercy, etc. (Acts 6:3, Acts 6:4). The word occurs in 2 Macc 8:19; Ecc 11:1-10 :12, and the corresponding verb in Act 20:35; 1 Timothy 6:2; Luke 1:54; see Romans 16:3. Governments. Powers of leading and organization. Diversities [kinds] of tongues. Ranked as last in value. They are emotional gifts, which had only a very subordinate part in the work of edification, and are, therefore, placed below the gifts of knowledge, of power, and of practical life, which sum up the previous enumeration.
1 Corinthians 12:29
Are all apostles? etc. It is God's providence which "has appointed divers orders in his Church," and has "ordained and constituted the services of angels and of men in a wonderful order."
1 Corinthians 12:31
Covet earnestly; literally, be zealous for, strongly desire. That which we aim at we usually attain; and we should aim at that which really is, not at that which seems, the most splendid charism. And yet show I unto you a more excellent way. The "more excellent way" is the way of love, which he sets forth in the next chapter, and which lies open to all Christians without distinction. The verse means either, "And further" (besides bidding you aim at the better gifts), "I show you one supreme way of attaining them;" or, "And I show you a still more eminent way." I bid you desire the best gifts, and further show you a truly royal road (viam maxime vialem), a road par excellence, which leads to their attainment. The way of love would lead to them, and it was itself the best of them. "All the way to heaven lies through heaven, and the path to heaven is heaven."
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
The Christly assembly.
"Now concerning spiritual gifts," etc. All throughout this chapter refers to the Christly assembly. I use this word in preference to the word "Church," for what are now called Churches are not always assemblages of genuine Christians. Overlooking the more minute parts of this remarkable chapter, and taking a broad glance at the whole, there are three important subjects very suggestive and capable of amplification, which are discoverable. These are that every member of this Christly community has passed through a radical change; that every member has received special endowments from God; and that every member should regard these endowments as parts of a vital whole.
I. Every member of this Christly community has PASSED THROUGH A RADICAL CHANGE. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led." The change here spoken of, it is to be observed, is a change from the spirit of the Gentiles, or the world, to the Spirit of Christ. The most radical change that can take place in a man is a change in his predominant disposition, or moral spirit. Such a disposition is in truth man's moral heart. This change is here described:
1. Negatively. No man who has experienced it has anything irreverent or profane in his spirit towards Christ. "No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed."
2. Positively. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." "Can say," not of course merely the words, for all could easily do that, but with the heart and life. This change is the production of the Divine Spirit—of "the Holy Ghost." Now, no man is a member of the true Church who has not experienced this transformation; who has not renounced the spirit of the world and come under the control of the Spirit of Christ. There are such who are found in connection with no conventional Church, and there may be conventional Churches where no such are found. All such, however, wherever found, belong to the Church of the "Firstborn written in heaven."
II. Every member of this Christly community has RECEIVED SPECIAL ENDOWMENTS FROM GOD. "NOW there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," etc. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 1 Corinthians 12:12). Without pausing to interpret the meaning of these endowments, I simply remark that they seem capable of being divided into three classes:
(1) Those of intellect. "Wisdom," "knowledge," etc.
(2) Those of "faith," operating faith in words, in deeds, and in "discernment."
(3) Those of language. "Tongues," speaking and interpreting,
Now, all responsible men have intellect of some kind and amount. All men have faith of some sort. Man has an instinctive tendency to believe; hence his credulity is proverbial. And he is necessitated to believe; he could not carry on the business of life without faith. All men also have a language of some kind or other. What, then, do we mean when we say that the endowments here refer to intellect, faith, and language? Simply this, that the man who has come into possession of the Christly Spirit and purpose, and is thus a member of the genuine Church, will receive
(1) a new force and elevation of intellect;
(2) a new object and energy of faith;
(3) a new style and emphasis of expression—a new tongue. This great variety of endowments reveals:
1. The sovereignty of the Spirit. Why did he bestow any at all? Still more, why so different to different men? The only answer is because it pleased him so to do. "He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
2. The affluence of the Spirit. All these great and varied spiritual and mental endowments came from him. He is the inexhaustible Fountain, not only of all life, but of all spiritual endowments.
3. The benevolence of the Spirit. All these varied endowments bestowed for what purpose? To "profit withal." All for the highest usefulness; spiritual happiness is the end of the creation. Since all our endowments are the free gifts of God, there is no reason for those of the humblest to be dissatisfied, nor for those who have the most splendid to be exultant.
III. Every member should regard these endowments as PARTS OF A VITAL WHOLE. The whole is here called the "body of Christ." As the soul resides in the body, directs the body, reveals itself in the body, so Christ in the true Church. "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," etc. Great is the variety in the various faculties, organs, and parts of the human body. Some are larger and more comely than others, but each, even the most insignificant and uncomely, are equally essential. "Those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary," etc. How preposterous would it be for one vital part of the body to contend with another for importance and supremacy! Yet not more absurd than for one member of a Church to contend with another. This is Paul's argument against the divisions that were rampant in the Corinthian Church.
"What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame:
Just as absurd to mourn the task or pains,
The great directing Mind of all ordains.
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the soul."
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
A transition occurs here to a class of topics most important and interesting, since they involve the character and glory of the new dispensation. It was the special economy of the Holy Ghost which St. Paul was now to consider. All along we have had an insight into mistakes and disorders, into disputes and wranglings and, at times, into shameful vices. A quarter of a century had little more than passed since Christ ascended to the throne of the Father as the God Man of the universe, and the Spirit had descended as the promised Paraclete. Yet what strife and confusion! The marvellous gifts were strangely misunderstood. Once these Corinthians—so the apostle reminds them—had been Gentiles, "led away unto dumb idols, howsoever they might be led." But for them the age of "dumb idols" had ended and the great dispensation of speech had opened. No man sharing this speech from heaven—"speaking by the Spirit of God"—could call "Jesus accursed;" and only such as were enlightened and directed by the Holy Ghost could say from the heart of love and faith that "Jesus is the Lord." At the outset, this principle is laid down as fundamental to the economy of gifts; it is a Divine economy; it is the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. Something was gained whoa this was made clear. Inspiration was no wild, spasmodic, frantic thing. It was not individuality unloosed and driven into gross eccentricity. Whatever mysteries were connected with these manifestations, there was a grand system to which they appertained, and it was upheld, applied, administered, by the Holy Ghost. Such, then, is the position assumed, and it commands the whole question. This done, the places occupied by different parties, the diversity of gifts, their number and multiformity, the relativity of each to a controlling general idea, and the unity sought as a final end, could be ascertained. Naturally, then, diversities of gifts would be the first to attract attention. Difference between objects begins our perceptive education, difference in our moods of mind cultivates our consciousness, difference must be seen before the higher intellect can perform the processes of abstraction and generalization. Accordingly St. Paul starts with "diversities of gifts." It was not a new idea. The Prophet Joel had it substantially, along with the conception of universality, when he spoke of prophesyings, of dreams, of visions, and declared that servants and handmaids should rejoice in the possession of this power. Christ had closed his earthly revelation of the Father by unfolding the manifoldness of the Spirit's office. Pentecost had made good the promise, and had shown as the firstfruits of the harvest the recovery of the world's languages to the service of Christianity. St. Paul, however, handles the idea in a way altogether new. Genius passes old truths through its transforming brain, and they charm the world as fresh and wondrous disclosures. Inspiration honours individuality; nothing treats the personality of the man with such respect; and hence St. Paul's specialization of the fact of diversity. Mark how he treats it. Gifts themselves, as relative to men who are their recipients, are very unlike. Capacity in each case is a pre-existent fact of providence, and the Spirit consults providence. But in the next place, gifts are ministries, and the diversities (distributions)are for various spheres. Functional work is of many kinds, offices have each its speciality, and, as earthly industry must achieve its results by division of labour, so the economy of the Holy Ghost must differentiate one form of energy from another. Ministers are servants, and these ministries are serving forces. And again, the gifts are represented as operations by whose effects, as incorporated in society, the kingdom of God is built up. "These are not to be limited to miraculous effects, but understood commensurately with the gifts of whose working they are the results" (Alford). If, in other passages of Scripture, the person of the Father or of the Son is prominently displayed, the personality of the Holy Ghost, as proceeding from the Father and the Son, is here set forth with a distinctness and emphasis characteristic of his relations to the plan of salvation. Just before (verse 3), St. Paul had declared the presence of the Holy Ghost in the confession of Jesus as Lord, and the name, by which he was known among men (Jesus of Nazareth) and recognized in his trial, condemnation, and crucifixion, is borne up from earth and glorified in his exaltation. And here he is the "same Spirit" in the opening thought, "diversities of gifts." There are "differences of administrations," but the "same Lord;" "diversities of operations," but the "same God that worketh all in all;" nor will the apostle specify the fulness of the Spirit's gifts and the greatness of his presiding agency over the Church without connecting him with the Father and the Son. The mystery of the Trinity remains. But the doctrine becomes a very real and practical fact, and, as such, assimilable in Christian experience, when thus identified with grace in all its workings through the Church. And so true is this that the very mystery is essential to the effect the doctrine produces, by forming an infinite background, against which the fact stands in relief. Under these circumstances, mystery commends itself., not simply to reverence, but to experimental appreciation. Reason, if made conscious of its own instinct, finds a basis for itself and a vindication of its functions in the exercise of faith, and, by means of this illumination, reason is assured that the faculties of the human mind have their laws and are bound in obedience thereunto, because the law of mystery is the primal law whence they draw their lift and support. No marvel, then, that the apostle presents God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit with such prominence in the initial stage of his argument on spiritual gifts, Most closely is the doctrine identified with the experimental and. practical truths he was about to enforce. From no lower source than the mystery of all mysteries will he bring the awe, the sense of responsibility under trust, and the greatness of Church duties arising from the diversities of gifts. It is not this or that gift alone, nor this or that office bearer alone, nor this or that outwrought result alone, but their union in one economy and their combination in a totality, which he wished to emphasize. Most impressively is this done by presenting Father, Son, and Spirit as the one God of these diverse gifts, the Trinity itself being the very ground and source of the diversification. The broad scope of the diversities in the Church is indicated in the statement that the "manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." The character of the Divine communication to "every man" is defined by the word "manifestation," which expresses the agency of the Spirit in these human instruments. First of all, the Spirit is manifested to the man and then through the man. As a condition precedent to his office, the man has an experience, and it consists in his own conscious knowledge that God has come to his soul and imbued it with the Spirit. Herein, herein only, lies his capacity for usefulness; herein his safeguard against failure. And the measure of the one manifestation is the measure of the other; for in the degree that a man feels his own soul alive to God will he impart vitality to his ministrations. Preacher, Sunday school teacher, Bible reader, tract distributer, Paul on Mars' Hill or in the prison at Rome, Bunyan writing in gaol, Hannah More at Barleywood, John Pounds with his ragged school; no matter what the manifestation, as to where made and bow modified by individuality, it is divinely human to its subject before it is made divinely human in him as an instrument. Finally, the broad scope (every man.) and the quality of the influence (manifestation) are carried forward to the object and end, viz. to profit withal. For the common advantage these gifts were bestowed; the greater the bestowment, the nearer its human connections; and the more of a recipient the man, the more of a man must he be in the outgoings of his intelligence, love, and zeal in behalf of others. "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" Such was the argument (John 4:1-54.) to check partisanship in the Corinthian Church; but in this passage, "to profit withal" is exhibited in its positive aspect as the inspiration of motive and purpose and end of all Christian working. Is it not, then, remarkable that Christianity approaches man at a point where he is most sensitive to self, and where he is quickest and boldest to assert his unyieldingness to the claims of others, and at this very point to demand of him "the common profit"? Make any analysis of human nature you please, pride of intellect is the most lordly of all its imperious qualities. Particularly in the case of fine gifts, men who are the possessors of them are instinctively disposed to assert a despotic sway over others, or, if not that, to indulge a feeling of self gratulation and its counterpart of self isolation because of their superiority. Yet it is just here Christianity requires humility and enforces the claims of a most vigorous sympathy. How this "common profit" is to be subserved, St. Paul proceeds to show in verses 8-11. There is no large accumulation in one man, no fostering of the spirit of self aggrandizement no such exaltation of one as to prove a humiliation to another. Talents are divided out, and each talent bears the seal of God, and comes authenticated, not to the intellect, but to the spiritual sense of a redeemed man hood. Go through this catalogue as drawn out by the apostle; dwell on the significance of each specification; avail yourself of the helps afforded by our most critical scholars in the explication of "wisdom" as intuition, of "knowledge" as acquired information, of "faith" as transcending its ordinary limits as the grace of salvation, of the "gifts of healing" as adapted to various diseases, of the "working of miracles" as time and occasion called for, all these charisms proceeding from the same Spirit; continue the enumeration that includes "prophecy" or the illumination cf the mind by the Spirit and the exalted activity of its faculties, after that the eye of watchful judgment, "discerning of spirits," so as to discriminate between genuine inspiration and its alloys and counterfeits, then the "divers kinds of tongues," and the power to interpret or translate the unknown language; and all these the works of "one and the selfsame Spirit" that distributes the charism to each one in harmony with the law of individuality, and, at the same time, exercises the Divine sovereignty so that the distribution is made "severally as he will" (Alford, Hodge, Lange); and when you have thus expanded your views to the dimensions of this spiritual provision for the Church and the exquisite symmetry of its organism tell us if any interest possible to man's present attitude, if any craving of true life in its mortal and immortal relationships, if any outreachings toward the infinite when body, soul, and spirit have interblended their instincts, and become one in the heirship of an eternal inheritance, have been left neglected or meagrely provided for? To bring this variety and unity more vividly before the Corinthians, St. Paul employs a most apt illustration taken from the human body as an organism. Already he had argued the diversity of gifts in adaptiveness to the capacities and wants of the Church. Left at that point, the argument would have been incomplete. It was needful to see what the Church itself was as an organization, and how its wholeness stood related to its individual parts. In the earlier portion of the Epistle he had combated the unhappy tendency towards an excessive individualism. Theoretic speculations had been kept out of sight, and practical questions, lying within immediate range and urgently demanding treatment, had been scrutinized. Was the work done when domestic morals had been pleaded for, when social companionships were set in a true light; when the betrayals of a lax and over accommodating sympathy in public intercourse were exposed; when the corruptions growing out of an abuse of love feasts and extending to the Holy Communion had been faithfully dealt with; when, in addition thereunto, he had expounded the Divine import and sacredness of the Lord's Supper? Was the work done when he had opened the treasures of grace and taught his brethren how the Divine munificence had enriched their souls? Was he content to stop after delineating the correspondence between the bestowments of the Spirit in his multiformity of gifts, and the complexity of the Church as the witness to the Trinity? By no means was the subject exhausted. Specific as he had been—direct, resolute, pungent—how much remained to be said (as we shall see hereafter), to reflect back on what had been said, and bring out half latent meanings of truths stated which the argument, in its direct connections, did not exact of his logic at the instant! At this point, then, he introduces a felicitous illustration. It is done in a business like style. Image it can scarcely be called, since it has no poetic element addressed merely to the aesthetic sense, and is quite as much the product of the reason as of the imagination. We have spoken of St. Paul as one who studied the human body and was profoundly interested in considering its present and prospective condition in the light of the Christian revelation. The illustration here used extends through a large portion of the chapter, and, as a figure, is for him elaborated with unusual fulness and painstaking. Evidently it is not a creation of the moment, for there is not a mark of sudden impulse. Tracing the analogy between the Church and the human body, and recognizing the Spirit of the earlier creation in this later and more glorious one, the inspired author evinces that delight in similarity of relations which is the infallible sign both of high endowment and broad culture, and he proceeds with a quiet and steady gait till the ground has been fully traversed.
1. The human body is an organism. It is "one, and hath many members." By an organism we understand "a whole consisting of parts which exist and work each for all and all for each; in other words, which are reciprocally related as means and end" (Dr. Kling). The principle of life is a principle of organization, weaving a form for itself, shaping that form to itself, and impressing thereupon its own distinctive image. The principle assumes various organizations—simple in some, complex in others—and, in every case, the life power is the animating and determinative force. "So also is Christ" (verse 12). In the Church, which is his body, Christ is the constituting Power. He is its Life, and without him it is nothing. Through the Spirit he maintains those operations which impart vitality to all the institutions and agencies of the Church. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (verse 13), whether "Jews or Gentiles;" such is the almighty energy of the Holy Ghost in begetting vitality and transforming national and race distinctions into its own likeness, that they are made one. This is also true of "bond or free." The characteristics of individuality as to races and social positions remain, but whatever is incapable of unity is removed and the organism subdues to itself every element and constituent it adopts. All are made "to drink into one Spirit." Viewed externally, we see Jews and Greeks, bond and free, with their peculiarities derived from the past and respected as the signs of Providence in the ages preparatory to Christ's advent. A rich and picturesque mosaic is thus presented by the Church. Along with this, the Church is also a type of the future man, from whom all selfish antagonisms have gone and over whom the sentiment of brotherhood is supreme.
2. The human body has various correlated parts. "For the body is not one member, but many" (verse 14). Each constitutent or "member" must be recognized as something in itself, as having an autonomy, as created for a distinct function and ordained to do its own special work. Not else could the body be worthy of its place as the head of the physical world and represent the mind of man. In this wondrous organism, which may be likened to a community, every cell is an independent activity, a citizen with rights of its own and entitled to protection against all hostile influence. The fable of Menenius is introduced, and the classic reader of our day is reminded of Coriolanus as the representative of the haughty patricians and yet more of the haughtier statesman, and of the fierce contempt felt for the people. St. Paul has given due prominence to this idea of each organ as performing its functions and as essential to the whole. If the unity is brought about from within, then it follows that every member must share the animating principle. Food must be provided for blood, blood must nourish the organs, the organs must be tributary in specific ways to the organism, or the organism must perish. So in the Church, different men are different organs. Such are the numerous offices of the Holy Ghost as the Executive of Father and Son; such are his relations as Remembrancer, Testifier, Convincer; that there must needs be much diversity of gift; and hence there are gifts of healing, helping, governing, extraordinary faith, and "divers kinds of tongues." Light is distributed in colours, and colours in tints and hues, and tints and hues multiply themselves in minute differences. Sound breaks up in notes. Form assumes multitudinous shapes and attitudes. The ocean rolls in restless lines and the earth curves to a curving sky. "Not one member, but many," and the manifoldness in the magnificence of the universe is repeated, as far as may be, in the complexity of the human organism, and, in turn, this exists for the Church. But:
3. Reciprocity of action must be fully maintained. The organs of the body are distinct but not separate, since they combine in one organism and are subordinate to a unitary result. They are supplied with blood by the same heart and they are all dependent on nerves running from nervous centres. Spinal cord, medulla, cerebellum, cerebrum, are local in position, but not local in function. Not an organ, though independent in structure and functional operation, can insulate itself and be independent of the whole. Our pleasures and pains alike testify to this dominant mutuality. A beautiful landscape is not limited to the retina; a musical sound enters the rhythm of heart and lungs, and the ear is only a fragment of the joy; so that localized sensibility, however intense, becomes generalized feeling. The special senses exist for a sensorium. St. Paul regards the body, therefore, as an assemblage or confederation of organs, and enlarges (verses 15-26) on the idea in its several aspects. The section has been fitly spoken of as a colloquy in a highly dramatic style." The body itself is thoroughly dramatic. It represents and interprets mind. It acts the soul. Downward it may go and imitate the beast, even descend below the beast. Upward it may go, and go so high that the faces of Moses and St. Stephen glow with a light never on shore or sea. Now, this colloquy presents one member of the body arrayed against another and vainly asserting its independence. If a discontented foot envy the hand, or the ear envy the eye, "is it therefore not of the body," participating in its fights, enjoying its privileges, ennobled by the organism? They are for the sake of each other, so that "the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you? Furthermore, in the case of feeble organs, does the body turn vindictively against them?—in the case of those less honourable, are they despised? in the case of the uncomely parts, are they treated with contempt? Nay, in the well ordered commonwealth of the body, where the instincts, endowed by the Almighty with a measure of his sovereignty, retain their sway, parts that are feeble, less honourable, less comely, appeal to pity and sympathy and taste to be cheered and comforted. The whole glandular system, though assigned to the functions of secretion and excretion, is yet a wonderful provision for emotion, not only for emotion as respects others, but as self regarding and self relieving. A whispered. need of assistance from the very humblest organ is heard in every recess of the corporeal structure. Temple it is even in ruins, and its ministers, inhabiting dim vaults and mysterious crypts, hear the prayer for compassion and aid, and hasten to give sympathy and assistance. Beyond all this, what vicarious work the organs do in their considerate kindness to one another? No doubt we are open to the charge of reading between the apostle's lines and of going beyond his intended meaning. Be it so; on the lines or between them, no matter, if the philosophy and spirit of the thought he observed. St. Paul's inspiration was for our day as well as his own, and perhaps it would not be very extravagant to say that the Christian scholarship of the nineteenth century sees depths in some of his conceptions that he never saw. For it is the nature of inspiration to be ever unfolding its manifoldness of meaning, holding tenaciously to its original ground, and yet pressing back its horizon to embrace fresh territory, and thus making itself a specially quickening power to successive ages. One thing, however, is very clear, namely, St. Paul saw the analogy between the Church and the human body. By virtue of the connection of its organs, he takes occasion to urge on the Church very weighty and solemn duties. Mutual forbearance, respect, honour, must be sacredly cherished. The organic life of the Church makes it Christ's body. "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." The main thought is restated and re-enforced as to apostles, prophets, etc. (verses 28-30); and surely nothing has been left unsaid which could convince and persuade the Corinthians that their spiritual organization was not a thing to take care of itself, nor to be trusted to haphazard, nor to be surrendered to self-appointed leaders. It was a life, a sphere, a discipline and culture, a joy and blessedness, for all. Were the weakliest among them to be overlooked as useless? If there were poor widows with only two mites to cast into God's treasury, they had their place and vocation. If there were little children, their looks and ways told of the kingdom of heaven. Were there uncomely parts? Grace was strong enough to do them abundant honour. One of the invaluable blessings of Church life is to show respect and regard for such as society excludes from its esteem, and alas! too often treats with disdain, and thereby dooms them to a fate more wretched than poverty. In honouring them, the Church teaches these persons to honour themselves, and that, once secured, improvement outward and inward is made far easier. In brief, wherever anything was lacking, there "more abundant honour" should be bestowed. And why all this? That none be neglected, that all be partakers of one another's sufferings and pleasures, and that the community be indeed a communion of one heart and mind. "That there should be no schism." This was the dread that hung over St. Paul: "schism;" this was the terror that darkened his path far more than the enemies and persecutors that pursued his steps. "Members should have the same care one for another." Brotherhood should sanctify individuality, and consummate and crown all the gifts of the Divine Giver. What a wonder this, to set before a city like Corinth! What an ideal to lift up in its resplendent glory in a period such as the first century! And this by the "ugly little Jew," a wandering tent maker, who had nothing and would have nothing to commend him to the carnal philosophy and popular tastes of the age, and who could only speak from his own soul and the Spirit in that soul to the souls of men. Yet the doctrine of Christ's headship of humanity was his stay and strength, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost were his tokens and pledges of victory for his cause. He would have others share his assurance and participate with him in the infinite blessedness. Therefore, he argues, "covet earnestly the best gifts," and the best way to secure these best gifts he will proceed at once to show them.— L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 12:12
If this be a true representation, what an honour, what a happiness it is to be a Christian! It is to be joined to the Lord of life and glory, and to be associated with the noblest, the purest, the best of mankind.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST AND HIS MEMBERS ARE ONE. The expression used by the apostle is remarkable: "So also is Christ." He says, "Christ;" yet he means Christ s people; from which it appears that, in the view or the apostle, as in the view of the Lord himself, all who are his are identified with and comprehended in his own Divine personality.
1. This is a fact which is exhibited in various manners and especially by various metaphors, Not only are Christ and his people the Head and the body; they are the Vine and the branches, the Foundation and the stones, the organism and the Soul.
2. The union as spiritual is formed and sustained by faith. There are sacramental symbols of the union, but the real and vital connection is of spirit with spirit, i.e. is of faith. As mutual, it is depicted by the Lord himself, when he says, "I in you, and you in me."
3. The character and the aim of the Head and the members are identical. "As he is, so are we in this world."
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST'S MEMBERS ARE SUBORDINATE TO HIM.
1. He is the Giver of the life which his people have in common with him.
2. He is the Source of authority, issuing the commands which govern their activity.
3. He is the Centre of harmony; they who are his revolve around him as planets round the sun; and their orbits resemble one another, because all are drawn by the same attractive force.
4. He confers upon them the glory which is their prerogative—the moral glory which is conferred here and now, and the glory to be revealed hereafter.
III. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST'S MEMBERS ARE RELATED ONE TO ANOTHER. All are "one body."
1. Their dependence upon the one Head is the same. The unity is not simply in the organization; it is in the life.
2. They are bound by Christian law and drawn by Christian impulse to mutual affection and confidence. Love is the law of Christian social life, as in the following chapter is so exquisitely shown.
3. They have each his several service to render to the one Master; the gifts are alike consecrated, the ministrations are alike devoted, to the Divine Lord.
4. They have mutual ability and obligation to help. As in the body each member, each sense, supplies the other's lack of service, so in the Church it is not simply the case that the gifted and the powerful render help to others less favourably endowed, but the feeblest and the most obscure may render some service for which his brethren may have reason to be for ever grateful.
5. In the blessings conferred by the Church upon the world around, each may be said to supply the other's deficiency; and the work of evangelization, in which each performs his proper part, is advanced by the cordial cooperation of all whom Providence has qualified and grace has inclined for the work.—T.
1 Corinthians 12:15, 1 Corinthians 12:16
Contentment is better than envy.
Where party spirit is rife, as it was in the Corinthian Church, there is always danger of hatred, envying, and jealousy. The rebuke to these dispositions, administered by the apostle, is founded upon the deepest principles of Christianity. The Church is not a club which each member joins for his own advantage and convenience, but a body in which each member is incorporated for mutual cooperation in common subjection to the Divine Head.
I. THERE MUST NEEDS BE, IN RELIGIOUS AS IN CIVIL SOCIETY, DIFFERENT POSITIONS CORRESPONDING TO VARYING GIFTS AND SERVICES. As the body needs all its members, they must occupy their appointed positions for which they are severally fitted and to which they are severally called. It is so in the Church of God; and, according to the office filled, the duties performed, will be the position occupied in the regard and esteem of men.
II. THOSE IN INFERIOR POSITIONS SHOULD REMEMBER THAT INFERIORITY IN THE VIEW OF MEN IS NOT NECESSARILY SUCH IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. That there is a scale of excellence cannot be questioned, but that God's graduation agrees with man's is not to be for a moment supposed. He judgeth not as man judgeth. Not always do those who fill most space in men's eyes stand first in the view of God.
III. AN ENVIOUS SPIRIT IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE UTMOST MISERY TO HIM WHO CHERISHES IT. All painters and poets who have dealt with the subject have agreed in depicting envy as consumed and tortured with wretchedness. The envious man cannot enjoy his own blessings or exercise his own powers, for the sight or thought of what he deems the choicer blessings or the rarer powers of his neighbour.
IV. ON THE OTHER HAND, A CONTENTED SPIRIT IS PRODUCTIVE OF TRUE HAPPINESS. When "the sun of sweet content" has risen in the eyes, the light is upon every feature. A holy and calm conviction that his lot is ordered by Divine wisdom gives a deep peace, an abiding cheerfulness, to a good man's life. If one were to have regard only to his own happiness, he would do well to beware of discontent.
V. IT IS TO BE REMEMBERED THAT AN APPARENTLY LOWLY SERVICE MAY BE IMPORTANT AND EVEN ESSENTIAL. The foot has not so complex a structure, has not the same adaptation to a varied service, as the hand; yet, with no power of locomotion, the man would be crippled and pitiable, notwithstanding the marvellous manual mechanism of which he is master. The ear does not afford the same range of knowledge, perhaps not the same gradation of pleasure, as the eye; but the man who loses hearing is shut out from many of the joys and very much of the information which this life affords. And in the Church of Christ, what work has been done by the lowly, the feeble, the illiterate! and in how many cases do they put to shame the gifted and the eminent!
VI. IF THE TRUST BE SMALLER, THE RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE LESS. Instead of looking up to the great, the learned, the eloquent, and sighing because we have not their gifts, let us be grateful that we have not their account to render. To whom much is given, of him will much be required.—T.
1 Corinthians 12:21
Respect is better than contempt.
In previous verses the apostle has expostulated with those in lowly stations and with inferior gifts who give way to the temptation to repine because of what is their own and to envy the higher position and the larger gifts of others. In this verse he exemplifies his justice and impartiality, rebuking those who despise such as are beneath them in mental or spiritual endowments.
I. PRIDE FOLLOWS UPON FORGETFULNESS OF THE DIVINE SOURCE OF ALL GIFTS. The man who looks down upon his fellow Christian virtually boasts of whatever he himself has which he deems a ground of superiority. Now, this is in contradiction to the precepts of the Bible and the spirit of Christ. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Who hath made thee to differ?"
II. CONTEMPT IMPLIES FORGETFULNESS OF THE RULE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. Can we say to a brother, "I have no need of thee"? whilst we remember that the Head of the Church has stationed him where he is, and has given him what he possesses? To question his place in the Church, his function in the body, his service to the Head, is to dispute the wisdom and the authority of Christ himself.
III. CONTEMPT IS SELF DESTRUCTIVE. It rebounds upon the head of him who casts it at his neighbour. For the fact is that we are members one of another in such a sense that each one's efficiency and usefulness is to a large extent dependent upon those of his brethren. In the figure used by the apostle, the eye and the head in which it is so pre-eminently and regally stationed, are taken as representing the great and notable among the members of a Christian society. And it is laid down as evident that they cannot say to hand, to foot, to the trunk and all the vital organs, "I have no need of you." For the fact is, they have such need. The well known fable of Agrippa may be quoted, as in Shakespeare's 'Coriolanus,' in illustration and proof of the mutual dependence of all parts of the organism. So is it in the Church of God. The great controversialist, the great episcopal administrator, the great Biblical scholar, the great church builder, are all doubtless and undeniably of great importance, and fill a large place in men's eyes. But the obscure pastor, the lowly Scripture reader, the unnoticed Bible woman, the patient and unrewarded teacher of the young,—these and many others like them are the rank and file of the army, and cannot be dispensed with. To look down upon them with disdain would be a proof of folly as well as of sinful self conceit. Happily, the truly great are ever foremost to recognize the value of the labours of the humble, ever foremost to do them honour. They know full well that their own work would fall to pieces were it not for the unnoticed work of others who may be less known to fame.
IV. MUTUAL RESPECT IS PROMOTIVE OF SPIRITUAL UNITY. Let there be murmuring among the lowly and disdain among the great, and there follows at once a "schism." But when each renders due honour to his brother, the society is compacted, and is made strong for its united work and witness in the world.—T.
1 Corinthians 12:26
The desirableness and preciousness of sympathy are unquestionable. Selfishness is the curse of human nature and human society. There is a tendency towards absorption in individual interests, pleasures, and sorrows, which needs to be counteracted. Sympathy is as natural a principle as selfishness, though not so strong. Christianity tends to strengthen it for the conflict; and in the new humanity the love of the Saviour awakens and fosters regard for all those for whom Christ died.
I. CHRIST HIMSELF IS THE DIVINE FOUNDATION OF SYMPATHY.
1. Christ's words are the law of sympathy. It was he who uttered admonitions which have been so potent to affect the heart and influence society; e.g. "Do unto others," etc.; "Love one another," etc. And his apostles' words are his; e.g. "Bear ye one another's burdens;" "Look not every man," etc.; "Rejoice with them," etc.
2. Christ's life was the model of sympathy. In the Gospels we behold him sympathizing with sufferers, mourners, doubters, and inquirers, the ignorant and uncared for, sinners who repented of sin, and others. He is still the High Priest touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
3. Christ's cross is the motive to sympathy. It presents the Redeemer suffering with and for mankind; and those who can say, "He gave himself for me," feel the constraint of the cross, the love of Christ.
4. Christ's Spirit is the power of sympathy—an unseen, but mighty and gracious force.
II. THE VAST RANGE OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY.
1. The whole Church of the Redeemer demands its exercise. Christians are members of the one body, and subject to the one Head. Their mutual relations to one another are consequent upon their common relations to their Lord. Hence their interdependence and sympathy. When the head is crowned, the whole body is glorified; when the eyes brighten, all the features respond; when a limb aches, the whole frame is depressed. In such sympathy the body is a picture of the Church as it should be, and as it is just in proportion as it is pervaded by the Spirit of the Lord.
2. The whole race of mankind is included in its scope and action. Christianity alone can attack human isolation, and serve as the bond of universal brotherhood. The wanderers have to be gathered into the fold, and to this end they must first be pitied and yearned over and sought.
III. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. These are especially:
1. Sympathetic suffering with the sad and distressed, as opposed to indifference or malicious pleasure in others' misfortunes.
2. Sympathetic joy in the advancement and honors of others, as opposed to envy and jealousy.
3. Sympathetic action; for emotion leads to practical interposition and help. Aid, gifts, self denying effort, may prove the reality of the feeling expressed in words.
IV. THE ADVANTAGES AND BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY.
1. To those who display it, it is advantageous as developing and fostering spiritual qualities.
2. To those who partake of it, whose cheerfulness is augmented and whose sorrows are relieved.
3. To society in general, which is thus leavened by Christian spirit and influence.—T.
1 Corinthians 12:27
Body and members.
At Corinth there was much of the spirit of self assertion: "I," said one, "am for Paul!" "I," said another, "for Apollos!" "I," said a third, "for Cephas!" This was a selfish partisanship; and with it was conjoined a disposition on the part of many to magnify their own gifts and powers and to depreciate those of their neighbours and fellow members. To all this the apostle furnishes the true corrective. Let Christians but regard themselves in the true light, as Christ's body collectively, and as individually living members of that body, and then inconsiderateness, selfishness, envy, and jealousy will flee away.
I. COLLECTIVELY, CHRISTIANS FORM THE BODY OF CHRIST. Not, of course, the body of flesh and blood which he assumed and wore; not the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which he called his body and blood; but the human representation of his presence which he has left on earth.
1. This assertion cannot be made of any one outward, visible, organic society. All these, because composed of human beings and consequently of imperfect and faulty characters, and because doubtless including within their boundaries unspiritual persons and hypocrites, are themselves far from reaching the Divine ideal. If one "visible" Church cannot claim to be the body of Christ, neither, for the same reason, can any association of such communities. They may be admirable, and their existence may be most important for the conservation of the gospel and the evangelization of the world, but they are not to be confounded with the body of Christ.
2. But it is true of the Church as it exists in the view of the omniscient Lord. The spiritual Church, sometimes called invisible, because its boundaries cannot be traced by human eyes, is penetrated by Christ's Spirit, is a living witness to his mind and doctrine, and is ever offering a service of obedience to his will. In these respects it is the Body, of which Christ himself is the living, inspiring, directing Soul.
II. INDIVIDUALLY, CHRISTIANS ARE MEMBERS OF CHRIST.
1. This comes to pass through individual spiritual union with him. Though each Christian is indebted beyond measure to the teaching, influence, and spirit of the consecrated society in which he has been trained, still a spiritual process must, through the reception of the means of grace, take place in his conscious nature.
2. Each Christian has his several functions to discharge in the Church and for the Lord. There are diversities of gifts and consequent diversities of ministries; and this diversity is itself a witness to the individual, the personal nature of the membership of every one in him who is the Source of all true blessing and power.
3. All cooperate for the same end. That this is so is evident; and how can it be so, except as a result of such common subjection to the one Head as secures the mutual harmony and coordination of all the members? Each is selected for his own part and qualified for his own position.—T.
1 Corinthians 12:28
There are degrees of eminence, not only in the state, but in the Church. In the hierarchy which Heaven has appointed, the highest station was occupied by a class of men, few in number, eminent in qualifications, and honourable in office. Their functions were special, being in some particulars incapable of transmission to successors. In what did this pre-eminence consist? The answer to this question may serve to increase the reverence with which we receive their teaching and submit to their authority.
I. THE PRE-EMINENCE OF THE APOSTLES IS OWING TO THE DIGNITY AND MAJESTY OF THE LORD WHO GAVE AND SENT THEM. Christ himself was sent, and came forth from God. He had "all power in heaven and in earth," and he had consequently authority to commission the twelve and those associated with them. There was an authority in his word sending them forth, which they at once recognized and obeyed.
II. TO THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH THEY WERE SENT. Their mission was to preach Christ, to make converts, to gather those converts together into societies, to govern and administer the affairs of the congregations, to provide instruction in doctrine by speech and by writing, and to make provision for the permanent welfare of the whole Church. Such a mission was in many respects peculiar and unique; those entrusted with it could not but come first in the hierarchy.
III. TO THE POWERS WITH WHICH THEY WERE ENTRUSTED. To their natural gifts spiritual endowments were added; and over and above these were the supernatural possessions and trusts peculiar to their age, such as the gifts of tongues, of miracles, of healing, etc. Above all there was Divine inspiration, displayed in their supernatural wisdom both in doctrine and in government. From the day of Pentecost these men were entrusted with every high and sacred qualification which could tend to the suitable discharge of the honourable and responsible duties of the apostolate.
IV. TO THE BREADTH OF THEIR COMMISSION. Though so few, they may be said to have portioned the world among them. They were sent to neighbours and to strangers, to Jews and to Gentiles, to cities and to villages, to the civilized and to barbarians. To a commission so vast and extensive there attached honour altogether special and unrivalled.
V. TO THE WONDERFUL RESULTS OF THEIR APOSTOLIC LABOURS. The immediate and rapid spread of the gospel was such as could not have been anticipated by human wisdom, and such as has not been paralleled in after ages. They laid the foundations upon which the toilers and builders of after ages have reared a glorious superstructure.
1. Let hearers of the gospel consider the claims upon them of such a message as that communicated by ambassadors so gloriously authenticated as were the apostles of the Lord.
2. Let those who labour for Christ feel the summons which is addressed to them by the spirit and the example of predecessors so illustrious and so efficient.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The spiritual gifts of the Church.
I. THESE ARE VERY VARIOUS. In the early Church there were many supernatural gifts, in fulfilment of the prophecy, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28), and of the more remarkable utterance of Christ, "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover". We have in this passage an enumeration of some of these gifts. The "word of wisdom"—further disclosure of Divine wisdom in redemption. The "word of knowledge"—ready utterance of truth already revealed. "Faith"—not for salvation, but for the performance of miracle in any special case. "Gifts of healing"—restoring the sick miraculously. "Working of miracles"—generally, or those of more striking character. "Prophecy"—here probably not inspired teaching of matters already revealed, but the foretelling of events. "Discerning of spirits"—power to determine between God's operation and Satan's or man's. Peter's dealing with Ananias and Sapphira furnishes an illustration. "Kinds of tongues"—speaking various languages or in the "unknown" spiritual language (1 Corinthians 14:2). "Interpretation of tongues"—interpreting the foregoing. In the modern Church there are many spiritual gifts, though we do not speak of them as supernatural. As the former were fitted for the needs of former days, so the latter are for the requirements of the present age. The variety of the gifts in each case is stamped with Divine wisdom and is of large advantage; for
(1) there are various positions to be filled;
(2) various work has to be done; and
(3) one gift often supplies the defect of another.
II. THEIR OBJECT IS ONE—"TO PROFIT." (1 Corinthians 12:7.) They are not:
(1) For mere display.
(2) For personal aggrandizement.
(1) For the welfare of the Church.
(2) For the welfare of the individual members.
(3) For the welfare of the world.
The Church has a large mission to those outside her pale. She is made rich very largely that she may make them rich. She is placed in a world parish, that she may carry the gospel of the grace of God to all within the bounds. Her strengthening and enrichment are for the world's weal; her special endowments fit her for this grand enterprise.
(4) For the glory of God. This is the ultimate object. As the Church's endowments come from God, so should they return to him. The Church is for itself, is for the individual, is for the world,—but these only comparatively; supremely and specially the Church is for God. And all her gifts and graces should redound to the Divine honour and glory.
III. THEIR ORIGIN IS ONE—GOD. They should be used, then:
1. With reverence. Our qualifications for Christian service as truly come from God as the ancient gifts of tongues or miracles. We feel that the latter should have been used very reverentially; not more so than the former: both are equally of God. We are God endowed now as truly as were any of the early Christians, and God endowments should be used with utmost reverence.
2. With care. Lest the good gift be perverted by ill use. Our gifts may do as much harm if wrongly used, as good if rightly used.
3. With diligence. The value of the earlier gifts we can easily perceive; we need to realize that modern gifts are equally valuable for modern times. If we felt the value of that which is entrusted to us, we should be more likely to use it diligently. "Stir up the gift of God which is in thee" (2 Timothy 1:6).
4. With the thought that they will have to be accounted for. These are talents, and the reckoning day will surely come. The time is short in which they car, be used. The need of their employment is stupendous. Let none suppose that they are unendowed. "To every man his work;" and never yet was work given without gift for the work.
IV. THEIR DISTRIBUTION IS OF ONE—OF GOD. (1 Corinthians 12:11.) The choice of our spiritual gifts does not rest. with us. What rests with us is the right employment of those we possess. To murmur because we are not endowed as others are is worse than foolish; it is criminal, for it impugns the wisdom and the goodness of God. Some five talent men will do nothing because they are not ten talent men. They mourn and complain because of what they lack, and certainly they appear to have a large lack—of common sense. We are not the Lord; we are servants, and the great Spirit "divideth to every man severally as he will." Let us take our talents thankfully, use them diligently, and never wrap them up in the napkin of repining and discontent. Our condition was once akin to that of the Corinthians, who were carried away unto "dumb idols "(1 Corinthians 12:2). From the idolatry of sin we have been brought into the Church of the Redeemed, and made the worshippers and servants of the true God. Abounding gratitude should leave no room for the faintest murmur. In truth we have nothing to murmur over, but everything to be devoutly thankful for.
V. THEIR TEST IS ONE. They are tested by their relation to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3). Spurious gifts may appear, or good gifts may be perverted. In early days the test of utterance was, "What saith it of Christ?" Did it declare him to be anathema—accursed? Then it declared itself to be not of God. "By their fruits ye shall know them." And this test applies to all spiritual gifts ancient and modern. Unless they tend to the exaltation and honour of Christ, they are not what they profess to be. If genuine, they are under the control and administration of the Holy Ghost, and he who was sent to glorify Christ (John 16:14) will never abase and dishonour him. If men have all other credentials, yet cast reproach upon the Head of the Church, we must instantly reject their testimony and regard them as charlatans. Here is the supreme end of our spiritual gifts—"that he may be glorified." "Try the spirits."
VI. THEIR CONTROL AND EXERCISE ARE ONE. They came from God and they are still in the hands of God. They are very various, but they are unified in the One who gave them and the One who directs their use. "Diversities,... but the same Spirit,… the same Lord,... the same God" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The control and exercise of spiritual gifts are of the Triune Jehovah—"God," "Lord," "Spirit." When our spiritual gifts are rightly employed, God works through us. As we have the gifts from God, so it is only as we have God with the gifts that they can be rightly and usefully employed. We are channels for Divine power to run in. Our impotence apart from God is strikingly shown in 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by [or, 'in'] the Holy Ghost." We may use the words, but we cannot feel their power, receive their truth, or bear the effective witness to Christ, apart from the Divine Spirit. How ennobled and inestimably precious do spiritual gifts appear in this light! How careful should we be not to resist the working of God through us! And we may profitably remember that he uses the smaller gifts as well as the larger; nay, sometimes uses the former the more. The more dazzling gifts are not always the most useful.—H.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The body of Christ.
A striking figure. Christians are not separate, unrelated units; they are compacted together and form one whole, which is "the body of Christ." Of this body Christ is the Head (Colossians 2:19)—the central controlling and directing Power, and each believer is some member of the body. In this passage the apostle is speaking of the members of the body rather than of the Head—of Christians rather than directly of Christ. Note—
I. THE NUMBER AND VARIETY OF THE MEMBERS. This makes the body rich and beautiful. In scenery and in paintings we do not love monotony. A fair landscape possesses almost infinite variety of tint and form; that is not a painting which is composed of one colour, however brilliant. The Church is enriched by the diversities in condition, age, ability, of its members. Yet though one member differ strikingly from another, all are equally of the body (1 Corinthians 12:15). We must not despair because we are unlike some other Christians; if all the members of the body were as even the chief and most honoured members, the symmetry, usefulness, and beauty of the body would be greatly impaired (1 Corinthians 12:17). We must not seek to occupy a place for which we are not fitted. We are admitted to the body of Christ by God, and he places us (1 Corinthians 12:18). We must not move; if we are to be moved, he will move us. To choose a place for ourselves would be to put ourselves out of place.
II. THE VARIED DUTY. This explains the variety of place and power. The Church offers the utmost variety of work; there is something suitable for every capacity. As in the body all parts and members perform their special and appropriate duties, so in the Church each believer has his appointed task: "To every man his work." Some are troubled because they seem to be "inferior" members; but note, an inferior member can often do its work better than a superior member could do that work. Each member is specially adapted to perform its functions; each Christian in the Church is specially fitted for the performance of his duties. No man can fill your place as you can.
III. THE INTIMATE CONNECTION. In the human body what vital union there is between the several parts! There should be a corresponding connection between the members of the body of Christ. Christians are not to be like grains of sand, or isolated trees, or detached houses. We admit that our union with Christ should be real; equally real should be our union with fellow believerses The anomaly of Christians not speaking to each other, of the rich and poor being separated from common fellowship, is by this figure shown to be monstrous. The member of the body which will have no fellowship with other members is preparing to be lopped off. Our union with Christ cannot be very intimate if we have none with his followers. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another" (John 13:34).
IV. THE COMMON IMPORTANCE. Not the equal importance. All are important, but not equally so. But the least attractive and the least demonstrative may be the most important. The heart is more important than the tongue. Many of the Corinthians were madly elated with the gift of tongues; but there is something greater and better than talk. The lungs are more important even than the hand. The modest and unobtrusive are often of more value than those who ever will come to the front. And where true discernment obtains the former are likely to receive "more abundant honour" (1 Corinthians 12:23). Apparent feebleness is no criterion; some of the feeblest saints have been the strongest. And some of the weakest members of the body are much more necessary to its well being than the robust (1 Corinthians 12:22). And further, as it is an instinct of nature to adorn the less comely parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12:23), so in the Church, if a right spirit prevails, the humblest and least attractive will receive special care and attention. The sick child is the mother's favourite. All members are thus important. No member of the Church of Christ is non important except he makes himself so. And as with the physical body, the body of Christ cannot afford to dispense with the services of a single member, however obscure.
V. THE COMMUNITY OF FEELING. (1 Corinthians 12:26.) Sympathy should abound amongst Christians. "Bear ye one another's burdens." Every Christian should be a good Samaritan. Imagine one hand rejoicing in or being indifferent to the laceration of the other. Our union with believers should be so intimate and real that when they suffer we suffer, that when they are blessed we are. Their health is our health, their strength is our strength. Christians should remember that Christ pronounced a second commandment as well as a first. When true fellowship is attained we "rejoice with those who do rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
VI. THE HARMONIOUS WORKING. How beautifully this is illustrated in the physical body! So amongst Christians there is no necessity for collision. Contests indicate faultiness and derangement. If all did their appointed work in the appointed way, there would be completest harmony. And the more harmony the better working. What waste of power has been caused by divisions and strife! Note: One perverse member may do much harm. In machinery, if one part fails to perform its function, fracture and extensive derangement may ensue. There should be no schism in Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:25). The Church, the body of Christ, has a vast, complicated, infinitely important work to do: how essential that there should be the truest cooperation, the utmost faithfulness in discharge of duty, on the part of its members!
VII. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE. (1 Corinthians 12:21.) Christians are not independent of each other: they should not seek to be so. We are not the body of Christ individually, but we are collectively. We are not set to stand alone, but with others. We can help others and be helped ourselves. Another's work may be needful for the success of ours, ours for the success of another's.
VIII. THE COMPLEMENTARY CHARACTER. One supplies just what the other lacks. So that if all supply what they can, the body becomes perfect in working. The eye needs the ear; both the hand; all the foot.
IX. THE UNITY AMIDST DIVERSITY. "Many members, but one body" (1 Corinthians 12:20). In the body there is the greatest variety, but the greatest unity; one life pervades the whole. So with the Church—the members are one in Christ, vitally united to the one Head, pervaded by the one Spirit, joined in one baptism, sitting at one Supper of the Lord, engaged in one work, and going forward to the same destiny. There is the great spiritual life principle which pervades all true believers and makes them one.
X. THE VITAL UNION WITH THE HEAD AND SUBORDINATION TO IT. We may survive severance from some members of the body; we cannot severance from the head. We perish unless we are vitally joined to Christ. And as with the physical body, the head must rule or all sorts of disorders will be occasioned. We must be united to Christ as servants to a Master. He is the Head of the body; we are the members. It is for him to direct, it is for us to obey. Some seem sorely tempted to exercise lordship over Christ; they are wise above what is written. Were it polite to give them the appellation, we might well call them disloyal fools. Disloyal, because insubordinate to their Lord; fools, because they not only disorganize the work of the body and injure the other members, but are in the surest way of bringing immeasurable evils upon themselves.—H.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 12:12
The body of Christ.
The analogy the apostle here uses is broadly true of the whole fellowship of redeemed and regenerate souls—"the Catholic Church throughout all the world," which acknowledges Christ as its living Head. It also applies to the Corinthian Christians as a local society, a part of the grand whole. The principles on which the constitution of the whole depends are supposed to be illustrated in that of each particular part. The comparison of the Church with a living body is not one that we find in the teachings of Christ himself; but he employed an essentially similar image when he said to his disciples, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:5). Whether we take the figure of the body or of the tree, substantially the same ideas are presented. There is in each case an organization animated by a mysterious principle of life. And the hidden life is the cause of the organization, determines it, shapes it "after its kind." The life is the formative principle. The growth of the body or of the tree is not by addition from without, but by development from within. The materials that nourish and build it up lie without, but it is the life that appropriates them, assimilates them, transforms them into its own substance, turns them to its own proper uses. So with the form of Christian society. We believe in no "visible Church" which is not the spontaneous result of the free play of the Divine Spirit in the minds and consciences and hearts of men. Its beliefs, its worship, its fellowship, its work, all have real worth in them just so far as they are the spontaneous expression of the Spirit that dwells within, and no further. Note respecting the Church—
I. ITS UNITY. As the body with its many members is one, "so also is Christ." Here is unity in variety; variety of parts with a principle of unity underlying them, flowing through them, binding them into one connected whole. And Christ is that uniting power. It is the "body of Christ." The body that was "prepared" for him when he became "God manifest in the flesh" (Hebrews 10:5)—the human body in which the "fulness of the Godhead" dwelt, which grew from infancy to manhood, which was crucified and then transformed in the imprisoning tomb,—this body has been withdrawn from the earth. Men see it no longer. It is glorified and immortalized. "within the veil." But he has taken to himself another body, in which the Divine energy dwells, through which the Divine beauty reveals itself, which he is leading on gradually to a perfect manhood—"the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." That body is his Church. And just as the unity of our physical frame lies in the indwelling soul which holds all its parts together, and without which they would soon lose their organic form and dissolve into their primary elements, so the rarity of the Church is the presence of Christ by his Spirit in the whole and in every part (1 Corinthians 12:13). The sentient life pervades every fibre of our frame. Enthroned in the centre, it throbs and glows in the remotest part. But the members have no separate and independent life in themselves. Let any one of them be severed from the rest, and it is senseless, powerless, dead. So is it with our souls in relation to him who is to the spiritual body both as the heart and the head, the inspiring energy, and the living bond of unity. "Apart from me ye can do nothing," etc. (John 15:5). Thus it comes to pass that union with Christ and union with the Church, in the deepest and truest sense, are one and the same thing. The old dictum, "Out of the Church no salvation," has profound truth in it; but not as they imagine who by the "Church" mean any outward organization that is of human origin and under human control. The papal doctrine asserts, "Where the Church is, there is Christ." We rather say, "Where Christ is, there is the Church." To be in personal fellowship with him is to have a "part and lot" in it of which no power in the universe can ever rob us. This is the principle of unity—the living Christ dwelling by his Spirit in each and all.
II. THE RELATION ITS MEMBERS BEAR TO EACH OTHER. '"The body is not one member, but many." The context shows that the apostle has not mere number but variety also in view, variety as of the hand and the foot, the ear and the eye. The relation between Christian men is spiritual, not formal; one that lies in community of thought and affection and aim, not in any kind of external resemblance. (Note the difference between a body, a living organism, and any mere inert mass the particles of which are bound together simply by mechanical force or even by chemical affinity.) In every form of human society it is the sense of individuality combined with the sense of mutual sympathy that constitutes the real cementing principle. It is a fellowship of life that binds men together, and not the constraint of outward circumstance. The oneness of a family lies, not in the fact that its members dwell together under the same roof or bear the same name, but in the common sympathies and affections that grow out of their natural kinship. The oneness of an army lies in the enthusiasm of its devotion to the common cause, far more than in the force of military discipline. The oneness of a nation is not the mere accident of its coming within one geographical boundary, but the spirit of loyalty and patriotism that pervades its citizens. So in the Christian commonwealth, we cannot be too careful to distinguish between its formal aspects and associations, and those relations that are internal and spiritual and in which the living and enduring reality of it lies. The fact of men forming themselves into a visible society, calling themselves by the same name, meeting in the same place, consenting to the same creed, using the same language, joining in the same modes of worship, doing the same work, does not make them one in Christ. These are but the outward signs and symbols of unity. They may be the mocking semblances of it. They have no value unless they represent what is real and spiritual and divinely true. In this unity of spiritually related parts, each member has its own proper place and function, and the beauty and harmony of the whole structure lie in its faithfully fulfilling it Ephesians 4:16). We best serve the interests of others when we are most simply and honestly "ourselves;" when we think our own thought, speak our own word, do our own deed; when the whole outward form and habit of our Christian life is just the natural outcome of what is deepest and truest within us. Anything that tends to weaken the sense of individuality; anything that prompts us to play a part that is not "our own," anything that tends to obliterate natural differences and reduce all to one common level of artificial sameness,—is altogether evil (Ephesians 4:17-19). Some parts of the body are small, hidden, apparently insignificant. But those who are best acquainted with its structure know well that they are not for that reason the less important and even essential. Let them fall out of their place or cease to discharge their function, and it may be the whole frame would suffer dislocation or sink into decay. The true Christian spirit will teach us never to make light of our position, or the sphere we fill, or the influence it is given us to wield. It will make us "content to fill a little space," so that our Lord may but be glorified. And if true to the light that shines within us, and to the noblest impulses of which we are conscious, we only faithfully do our work in lowly allegiance to him and loving helpfulness towards our fellows, we may find in the end how true it is that "God hath given more abundant honour to that part that lacked" (Ephesians 4:24).
III. THE ENDS FOR WHICH IT EXISTS. The body is created to be the vehicle and organ of the indwelling soul, the channel through which its hidden virtues shall reveal them selves, the instrument by means of which it may work out its nobler purposes. The Gospel records in no way satisfy our curiosity in reference to the physical form and feature of Jesus. But we may be very sure of this, that the body in which he appeared was a fitting vehicle for the Divine soul that inhabited it. It was as a transparent medium, through which the radiance of the spiritual beauty within must often have streamed forth in a way that commanded the honour and admiration of men. Let the Church be true to its high calling, so shall the glory of the indwelling Christ shine through it upon the dark world, drawing all men to him. Upon every section of the Church, and every individual member of the body, according to its measure, this responsibility rests.—W.
1 Corinthians 12:21
These words indicate, not only the principles that ought to govern the Church of Christ, but also the Divine order and law of all human society. The New Testament Church, like the ancient Jewish commonwealth, bears a representative character. We have to regard it, not only as a spiritual fellowship distinct from the world, united by a different bond, ruled by different laws, inspired by a different spirit, living a different life, advancing to a different destiny, but also as a fellowship that is called to illustrate before the world the Divine idea of social human life. Taking this broader view of the passage, observe—
I. THE WAY IN WHICH CHRISTIANITY RECOGNIZES SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS. These are suggested by the "eye," the "hand," the "head," and the "feet." The distinctions that exist among men are of various kinds—natural and acquired, essential and conventional. There are distinctions intellectual, moral, educational, national, official, circumstantial. All these are recognized in some way or other by the religion of Christ. But they do not receive from it precisely the same recognition. They are not recognized by it to the same extent. There are certain social distinctions that are far too deeply rooted in the instinctive tendencies of our nature, or in the moral necessity of things, ever to be obliterated. If they could be levelled in one age they would inevitably rise again in the next. If levelled in a violent and repressive way, they only spring up afterwards in some exaggerated and extravagant form. The French Revolution began with glorious dreams of "liberty, fraternity, and equality;" it ended in a "Reign of Terror" in which every man's hand was against his brother, in a military despotism that crushed the hopes and energies of the people in the dust, in social separations broader and deeper than had been known before. The religion of Christ is in no way antagonistic to those radical and natural tendencies—it does but mould and regulate them. It seeks to control, but not to crush them, wisely to direct the current, but not to stay its course. Revolutionary as it is in its purpose and workings, it is truly conservative, gradually transforming the whole life of man, but demanding no violent changes, developing the form of the nobler future out of the crude, imperfect, and misshapen past. Hence what seems to some the strange silence of apostolic teaching in reference to many of the dark facts and phases of the social life of the world as then existing—slavery, polygamy, military tyranny, oppressive laws, etc. The chief lesson for us here, however, is this—that in the body politic, the living frame of society, each man according to his distinction has his own special function and special work to do. There is the eye—the discerning, perceptive, observant power; the head—the regulative, guiding, governmental power; the hand—the operative faculty, the power that does the finer and more skilful work of the world; and the feet—the part of the frame that bears the heavier burdens, does the drudgery, endures in the way of physical toil the more painful pressure of life. Each member has its own particular work to do, and which another cannot do. The eye cannot handle, the hand cannot see, the head cannot bear the heavy burdens, the feet cannot direct. There are men of fine speculative, philosophic thought, but who have little practical capacity; a nice discernment of the truth of things, but no power to embody even their own ideas in real and substantial forms. Again, there are men of great administrative ability, quick for all the practical business of life, "born to rule" or to manage affairs; place them where you will they will soon assert their power, and others will recognize it and follow their leading. While there are also men to whom physical toil is a natural instinctive delight, and whom the educational influences of life never have fitted or, perhaps, could fit for any other function. Distinctions that grow thus in a natural way out of radical qualities in men Christianity recognizes. Also those that belong to the parental and family relations, or that may be necessary to assert the majesty of law (Romans 13:1-6). But as to any further distinctions, any that rest upon a purely fictitious and conventional basis, having no foundation in nature, which merely feed the lust of power and the pride of life, it would seem to acknowledge none.
II. THE LAW OF MUTUAL DEPENDENCE THAT GOVERNS ALL PARTS OF THE SOCIAL FRAME. The conditions of our life in this world involve us all, in a thousand subtle ways, in the obligation to serve one another, and subject us all, whether we will or not, to the law of self sacrifice. All nature, in its purely physical aspects, is framed on this principle.
"Nothing in the world is single,
All things, by a law Divine,
In another's being mingle."
Every form of physical existence draws its life from those beneath it, and in its turn has to surrender its life to them. The lower forms exist for the higher, the highest can never assert its freedom from the law of dependence on the lowest. So in the complex system of human life, no grade in the social scale, no order of faculty, no kind of "interest," can claim exemption from the common bond. Take e.g. the relation that exists between the men of thought and the men of action, the theoretical and the practical. They are apt to think and to speak slightingly of each other; the one intolerant of being brought continually to a merely utilitarian test, the other always ready with the charge of speculative dreaming. This is a mistake. God has set the one over against the other, "that the one without the other should not be made perfect." Thought without action is worthless. Yet it is thought that rules the world, and if there were no "eye" to guide it the labour of the "hand" would soon cease. So also of social conditions. The tendency sometimes seen in those upon whom the burdens of toil and privation press most heavily, to look up enviously, suspiciously, and even defiantly towards those who occupy a higher level, may be very senseless; but, on the other hand, what more false and irrational than the tone of lofty superiority that social distinction sometimes assumes? Can the head, then, say to the feet, "I have no need of you"? What would become of the loftiest dignities of the world if there were none to bear the heavier burdens and do the rougher work of life? From what do the fairest forms of our civilization spring, our comforts and indulgences, and all the thousand pleasant associations of our life? of what are they the fruits, but of patient, life consuming labour in field and factory and mine? All the bright and beautiful things of the world, all the pride and glory of man's existence in it, have their roots more or less directly in the base earth. The eye and the head, with all their fine sensibility and lofty faculty, can do nothing without the hands and the feet. Christianity gives the utmost sanctity and force to this lesson. It is in the light of the incarnation, the sympathetic humanity, the lowly life, the beneficent ministry, the sacrificial death, of the Lord Jesus that we see what a wondrous bond of brotherhood it is that unites the whole human family together, and that we learn to understand the great law that God has formed us all to "live not unto ourselves." The gospel makes us more keenly sensible of our obligations than of our rights, of what we owe to others than of what they owe to us. It inspires us with the spirit of him who was "among us as one that serveth" and who "gave his life a ransom for many."
III. THE GROUND ON WHICH WE OUGHT TO PAY SPECIAL HONOUR TO OUR FELLOW MEN. The Law of Christ teaches us to reverence our common humanity in all its conditions. "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17). These utterances would seem to embrace all the points of Christian duty in this respect. But the whole drift of the apostle's teaching, in this as in so many other places, is to the effect that special honour is due to the faithful discharge of personal responsibility. Whatever station men occupy, whatever function they perform, it is the profitable use of faculty for the common good that confers upon them the noblest distinction.
"Honour and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part; there all the honour lies."—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 12:1-3
The presidency of the Spirit.
This passage does not direct us to this general topic, but to one particular point in relation to it. The presidency relates to, covers, and hallows every feature and every expression of Christian life and worship and fellowship. The whole life of the regenerate man is directly and fully within the Spirit's lead, so that he cannot even speak—if he be a Christian indeed—without the inspiration, the guidance, the toning, of the indwelling Holy Ghost. The apostle is giving these Christianized Gentiles a test by which they might know whether they had indeed the sealing and sanctifying gift of the Spirit. They could tell even by the character of their utterances. These found expression for the cherished feeling; and such was the natural depravity of man that they might be sure no man cherished admiring and loving thoughts of Christ, and found expression for them by saying, "Jesus is Lord," save as he was inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost. If it be true of so simple an expression of the Christian life as that, it is surely true of all other expressions. It is even the glory of the Christian man that nowhere and in nothing is he independent. The "Great heart Guide" is always with him. He speaks, he acts, as moved by the Holy Ghost. St. Paul is ted to the impression of this point by the false notion that might be so easily taken up—the notion that only great gifts and talents are under the presidency of the Spirit; that he bears no immediate and precise relation to the common life. The question of practical concern for each one of us is this—How much of daffy life can we recognize as being in God's lead, and under the Spirit's presidency? In answer we may say—
I. THE SPECIAL THINGS OF A MAN'S LIFE ARE IN THE SPIRIT'S LEAD. This may be opened by dwelling on:
1. The special things of personal experience.
2. Of Christian employment and use of gifts.
3. Of relationship and opportunity.
4. Of confession and witness, as in the case of apostles and martyrs.
II. THE COMMON AND LITTLE THINGS OF A MAN'S LIFE ARE IN THE SPIRIT'S LEAD. The "three fourths of life which is made up of conduct." Our sayings, our doings in home and in business. Every act which can express character is of interest to the sanctifying Spirit, and may be done, should be done, in his leadings and inspirations.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Diversity and sameness.
"Although conversion is identical in every case, yet afterwards there are spiritual gifts which vary according to individual capacity and character, but they all come from the one Spirit. There are varieties of ministration in which those spiritual gifts are employed, and the same Lord is served by these various ministries." Nature shows us the diversified forms and expressions of the common life. Science admits the diversity, and seeks to recognize the one great principle, the life, that lies within them all. The diversity lies in the expression in our human spheres. The sameness lies in the source, for all things are of God.
I. DIVERSITY IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. There are:
1. Diversities in endowments, or "gifts." Meyer's division of the early Christian gifts is suggestive.
(1) Gifts which have reference to intellectual power: divided into
(a) the word of wisdom;
(b) the word of knowledge.
(2) Gifts which depend upon special energy of faith: divided into
(a) the faith itself;
(b) operating in deeds, healings, miracles;
(c) operating in words, as in prophetic utterances;
(d) operating in distinguishing true and false spirits.
(3) Gifts which relate to tongues: divided into
(a) speaking with tongues;
(b) interpreting tongues.
2. Diversities in the service required, or in "ministrations" (margin, ministeries), that is, forms in which service may be rendered to Christ and his members by his disciples.
3. Diversities in the modes of fulfilling the service, or in the ways in which individual character and ability may find expression in carrying out various Christian duties. If many Christian men are engaged in the same form of service, each one will impress his individuality upon his method of doing it. No two workmen work exactly alike. In Christ's Church there is full, free room for all kinds of diversity and variety. No man's personal peculiarities need be crushed; all may be of use; only each man must see to it that the expression of his individuality, and the use of his gift, do not become in any way a hindrance or an offence to his fellow workers. Diversity is fully compatible with harmony and unity.
II. SAMENESS IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. There is one source of all Christian gifts; one president over the using of all Christian gifts; and one end to be served by the employment of all Christian gifts. "The unity of the source is strongly insisted upon, to put an end to the mutual jealousy of the Corinthians. And it is remarkable that each person in the blessed Trinity is introduced to emphasize the argument, and in contrary order (as Estius remarks), in order to lead us step by step to the one Source of all. First, the Spirit, who bestows the 'gifts' on the believer. Next, the Lord, to whom men render service in his Church. Lastly, God the Father, from whom all proceeds, whose are all the works which are done to him and in his name." The following, points may be illustrated—There is sameness
(1) in the distributer of gifts;
(2) in the purpose contemplated by the distribution;
(3) in the grace ready for those who are using the gifts;
(4) and in the dependence of every one who has a gift upon the aid and leading of the Divine Spirit.
Impress that the whole attention of the Christian should be occupied with the one motive and the one source of inspiration. All other motives and inspirations can but fulfil—can but be modes of operation for the one great motive and inspiration, which is that the Spirit of God dwelleth in us sealing us as Christ's, teaching us all truth, and leading us in all duty.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
The law of order in the human body.
For other cases in which this simile is employed, see Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 2:19. The human body presents a very striking illustration of
(1) diversity of gifts, each member having its own endowment and use;
(2) unity amid diversity, since each member shares the common life;
(3) mutual dependence, as each member is efficient for its particular use only with the aid and support of all the others. "Unity, not unvarying uniformity, is the law of God in the world of grace as in that of nature. As the many members of the body compose an organic whole, and none can be dispensed with as needless, so those variously gifted by the Spirit compose a spiritual organic whole, the body of Christ, into which all are baptized by the one Spirit." Using the human body for illustration of the Church regarded as Christ's body, it may be shown that—
I. IT IS A WHOLE. Evidently for it there was a plan, an ideal. It is a complete thing. It has its appointed parts; nothing whatever can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it. Though it may be unrealized as yet, God sees his Church to be, as perfect, a whole.
II. IT IS A VARIETY. The sides of the body seem to match, but even the left and the right have their special functions. Every limb and member and joint has its individual mission. And so in the Church of Christ. No two of its members are really alike, and each has his fitted place and appointed work.
III. IT IS A SET OF RELATIONS. No member having any powers or abilities by itself; doing its own particular work only with the aid of all the other members. The whole being set in mutual dependence and helpfulness.
IV. IT IS A HARMONY. So long as each part and portion does its own particular work efficiently and well. Schism in the body is disease, common helplessness, and the beginnings of death.
V. EACH MEMBER CAN ONLY DO ITS PART BY VIRTUE OF THE COMMON LIFE. Use our Lord's illustration from the vine and the branches. The member must abide in the body, and the branch in the vine. Apply in each case to the Christian Church, and impress that, in the body and in the Church, there can be
(1) no unnecessary part;
(2) no idle member; and
(3) no dishonourable or unhonoured portion; since each has its particular use for the good of the, whole.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:26
The common bearing of a Christian Church.
"Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." "This is a matter of the most ordinary experience in the human body. A pain in any portion, even the most remote from the seats of life, affects the whole. A glance at history will show us that it is the same with the body politic. Whatever is physically, morally, or spiritually injurious to any one portion of society, or of the Church of Christ, is sure in the long run to produce injury, moral and spiritual deterioration, to the rest." "So whatever tends to exalt the character and purify the aims of any one class in society, is sure in a greater or less degree to affect every other. If the one thought is calculated to alarm us by calling our attention to the infinite mischief which may be wrought by one act of thoughtlessness or selfishness, it is an immense encouragement to be reminded by the other that no work for good, undertaken from unselfish motives and carried out in an unselfish spirit, can possibly be without effect." Chrysostom says, "When a thorn enters the heel, the whole body feels it and is concerned; the back bends, the belly and thighs contract themselves, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze." John Howe says, "It is a most unnatural thing to rejoice in the harm of another. In the body, when one member is suffering, all the members suffer with it. And to delight in the harm of others is as contrary to the spiritual nature which is diffused in the true body of Christ, as if the head or any other member should rejoice that the hand or foot is in pain." Two points may be fully treated.
1. As suffering in any part of the body disturbs the whole frame, exciting sympathetic feeling in the most distant parts, so suffering, and even more truly sin, in the lowest and lowliest member of a Christian Church, affects, injures, and grieves the whole. Every member ought to suffer and sympathize with the sufferer or the sinner.
2. As pain elsewhere in the body is really a sympathetic effort to relieve local pain, so sympathetic pain in other members of the Church finds its proper use in the help afforded, and relief given to the suffering or sinning member.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:27
The Church Christ's body.
Recall our Lord's own figure of the vine. The branches are the body through which the vine life finds its expression. Compare the human body which our Lord took upon him in his incarnation, which was the means of showing the Son of God to men, and setting him in relation with men, with the Church body which our Lord took when he ascended from this world, and became a living and spiritual Christ, which is the means of showing Christ to men now, and maintaining his relations with them. Illustrate the two following points by the comparison of the human body with the Church body of Christ:—
I. EVERY PART OF CHRIST'S BODY SHOULD MAKE ITS OWN IMPRESSION. Dealing with the human Christ, we show how every part, every feature and phase of his earthly manifestation, had its own power and influence. We are obliged to separate part from part for consideration. Sometimes we dwell on his moral character, or on his habits, or on his speech, or on his actions, or on his endurances. Taking his life piece by piece, we find meaning, mission, use, everywhere. And so with the Church, as Christ's body or earthly manifestation now—each part, each person, has characteristic place and influence. Each must make its or his own impression. From this impress the demand which Christ makes for loyal service from each part of his Church body; every member must be a faithful member.
II. THE CHURCH BODY, AS A WHOLE, MUST MAKE ITS IMPRESSION. Besides any precise impression produced by dwelling on any phase of the human life of Christ, there is a special impression which the whole figure of Christ makes upon us. Illustrate by the feeling of Christian people on seeing Dore's full-sized picture of "Christ leaving the praetorium." So the Church can get its proper impression on men only as it becomes a full unity, the one catholic and apostolic Church. For the securing of the Church wholeness, and its presentation to the world as Christ's complete body on earth, all earnest hearts will ever strive and pray.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:28-30
The order of offices in the Christian Church.
"Apostles" are set in the first place or rank, because they were called to their office by the Lord Jesus Christ himself; they had immediate personal knowledge of his life and character and teachings; and they were the actual founders and practical rulers and referees of the Church. Next come the "prophets," who were not persons merely endowed with the power of foretelling future events, but persons to whom direct revelations and communications from God came, and so were empowered to enlighten the Church upon the mysteries of the faith and upon the claims of duty. Compare the older Jewish prophets as directly inspired teachers. Then "teachers," regarded as those with ordinary powers of intellect, and the natural gifts of instructing others, who educated and trained the Church in Christian doctrine. After that "miracles," or the power of working miracles. This is set on a new and lower range, perhaps, because only exercised occasionally, and so not comparing with the more regular and orderly arrangements for the Church's culture. "Miracles" are distinguished from" gifts of healings," which we are to suppose were traceable to personal power on nervous systems, of which there seem to be modern instances. "Helps" may refer to such minor services as succouring the needy, tending the sick, etc. What the apostle meant by "governments'' is very difficult to decide. Stanley thinks that reference is intended to the faculty otherwise known as "discerning of spirits." The word used, however, means "guiding the helm of affairs," and reference may be to those officers who managed, or ruled, the temporal affairs of the Church, and answered, in some measure, to the elders, or rulers, of the synagogue. "Tongues" St. Paul puts last; for, from other passages, we know that he did not greatly value the mere power to express Christian feeling in ecstatic and incomprehensible language, or in some foreign and unknown tongue. He thought that it could bear a very feeble relation to the Church's edification unless it were properly interpreted. St. Paul constantly urges the variety of the gifts entrusted to the Church, and the common honourableness of them all; but he as earnestly impresses upon us that, from the human standpoint, and in view of the preservation of order and efficiency in Church relations, the gifts must set men in different positions, and bring on them different forms and degrees of responsibility. Three things may be unfolded.
I. SOME GIFTS NECESSITATE POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY. The man of gifts, as an apostle or as a ruler, can only use his gifts in offices of authority. So now a man may have the gift of organizing or of managing men, or the gift of mastership and business; then such men we must all be willing to set in the high places.
II. OTHER GIFTS AS TRULY NECESSITATE POSITIONS OF DEPENDENCE. They are gifts of dependence and service. They can only be put to use in lowly places. Those having them can only be faithful in what men may call lesser places. Ambition in men is limited by their gifts. A right ambition leads a man to press for the position in which he can use his gifts. A wrong ambition sets a man upon seeking offices and positions for which he has no gifts.
III. EVERY MAN IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST SHOULD HAVE HIS OFFICE BY VIRTUE OF HIS GIFTS, AND NOT OF HIS CLAIMS OR OF HIS AMBITIONS, The true idea of selection for office is the discovery of the men among us with the gifts related to the office. The injury of the Church comes by the pressing of men into offices upon other than this ground. God provides the fitted ones; we too often fail to wait on him for the right men, and foolishly fill Church offices on other than Divine grounds. The inquiry for each one to put to himself is first this: "What are the gifts entrusted to me?" And then this: "What is the sphere in which I may find exercise for these gifts?" The most honourable place that any man can occupy is that which is precisely fitted to his gifts, whether to man's view it seem to be lowly or seem to be high.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 12:31
The comparison of gifts and graces.
The most important aspect of religion is the practical one. It is a power working for good upon the whole of our human natures, effecting vital changes, and moulding our conduct and conversation to the pattern of a new model; a Divine power, quickening every right and good faculty our natures may possess, and consecrating to God their exercise; a power seeking to crush and kill all wrong within us and about us, checking every form of evil influence. The great Redeemer takes possession of our natures that he may fit them to be his own abode. And no view of Christ's work should be so precious to us as that which represents him, amid daily scenes and by daily sanctifyings, changing the desolated mansion of our nature into a palace of divinest purity and beauty, wherein the King of kings may dwell. This gracious work may be represented as the culture of the Christian graces, and our text reminds us how much more important for us are the graces of Christian character than the gifts of Christian ability. By a "gift" we understand something which enables us to do; by a "grace," something which enables us to be, A gift is something, as it were, put into our hands, that can be used by us; a grace is some change effected in our very natures, which makes us unquestionably better men and women. We observe the distinction more clearly in the similar words, "talent" and "character." Our text suggests that graces are better than gifts—they are "the more excellent way;" and even gifts are worth very little save as they are united with graces. It is very remarkable that St. Paul should be the one to set graces above gifts; since in personal endowments he surpassed all the other apostles.
I. WHAT HAVE GRACES AND GIFTS IN COMMON?
1. They have a common Divine origin. The apostle said of himself, inclusive of his great mental powers and cultivated capacities, and also inclusive of his beautiful moral qualities and high spiritual attainments, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
2. Graces and gifts have a common purpose to effect. Both are for the use of "edifying." That word is made from a Latin term which means "to build up," and it brings before us the Pauline figure of Christian life as a Temple in course of construction. We seem to see the gathered stones and material; we watch the toiling workmen; we discern some indications of the design of the eternal Architect; and, whether we be men of gifts or men of graces, we must not be mere lookers on; we must be adding something, either to the stability or the beauty of that uprising building. If we have gifts, we are to put them to use in kindly and wise actions, helping our brothers to carry their burdens, or teaching them how best to lay stone upon stone. If we have graces, then we are enabled to exercise a holy influence on those around us, inspiring and inspiriting their souls; throwing a Divine fragrance, like that from the flowers of paradise, over all our intercourse with others; helping our fellows to work more heartily and bear more cheerily.
3. Graces and gifts are alike in this—they both can grow and both can suffer loss.
II. WHAT HAVE GRACES WHICH GIFTS HAVE NOT?
1. Graces have power to come to all and enrich all. In any very large sense gifts can only come to the few. We almost feel as if we could count up the men and women who, in each department of gift, have risen high above their fellows. We have a special name for such—we call them "geniuses," and. we know that real genius is very scarce. But we may all have great graces; they are like the beams of God's sweet sunlight, that fall alike on the castle that crowns the hill and on the cluster of cottages that gathers at its foot.
2. Graces are better than gifts, because they last for ever. The things which we have must one day drop out of our hands; the dead hand holds nothing. What we are in ourselves we must be for ever, we cannot cease to be when death severs the mortal from the immortal.
3. Graces are better than gifts, because they have the power of working always. Gifts are dependent on men's wills, and those wills are so often wholly self ruled. We very seldom can get the full benefit of the gifts of the gifted. If a man be a gracious soul, he cannot help working for his fellow men and for Christ. The glory of our graces is just this—they are either independent of our wills, or they are simply and gloriously triumphant over our wills. Be beautiful, be gentle, be humble, be true, be generous, in a word, be Christ like; let only your soul be filled with the graces of the Spirit, and you will become, you cannot help becoming, one of God's most constant and most efficient workers, in nursery and kitchen, in home and friendship, in office and shop, in society and in the Church. Could we see deeply into the reality of things, we should be ready with one voice to acknowledge that goodness is the true greatness, and our supreme concern would be to become beautiful for Christ.—R.T.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29