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Bible Commentaries

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Of Spiritual Gifts — 1 Corinthians

The ancient prophets had clearly predicted that the Messianic period should be attended by a remarkable effusion of the Holy Spirit. "And it shall come to pass in those days," it is said in the prophecies of Joel, "saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Our Lord, before his crucifixion, promised to send the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, to instruct and guide his church, John 14, etc. And after his resurrection he said to his disciples, "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," Mark 16:17, Mark 16:18. And immediately before his ascension he said to the disciples, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence," Acts 1:5. Accordingly, on the day of Pentecost, these promises and prophecies were literally fulfilled. The peculiarity of the new dispensation consisted, in the first place, in the general diffusion of these gifts. They were not confined to any one class of the people, but extended to all classes; male and female, young and old; and secondly, in the wonderful diversity of these supernatural endowments. Under circumstances so extraordinary it was unavoidable that many disorders should arise. Some men would claim to be the organs of the Spirit, who were deluded or impostors, some would be dissatisfied with the gifts which they had received, and envy those whom they regarded as more highly favored; others would be inflated, and make an ostentatious display of their extraordinary powers; and in the public assemblies it might be expected that the greatest confusion would arise from so many persons being desirous to exercise their gifts at the same time. To the correction of these evils, all of which had manifested themselves in the church of Corinth, the apostle devotes this and the two following chapters. It is impossible to read these chapters without being deeply impressed by the divine wisdom with which they are pervaded. After contrasting the condition of the Corinthians, as members of that body which was instinct with the life-giving Spirit of God, with their former condition as the senseless worshippers of dumb idols, he, First, lays down the criterion by which they might decide whether those who pretended to be the organs of the Spirit were really under his influence. How do they speak of Christ? Do they blaspheme, or do they worship him? If they openly and sincerely recognize Jesus as the Supreme Lord, then they are under the influence of the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. Secondly, these gifts, whether viewed as graces of the Spirit, or as forms of ministering to Christ, or the effects of God's power, that is, whether viewed in relation to the Spirit, to the Son, or to the Father, are but different manifestations of the Holy Ghost dwelling in his people, and are all intended for the edification of the church, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. Thirdly, he arranges them under three heads,

1. The word of wisdom and the word of knowledge.

2. Faith, the gift of healing, the power of working miracles, prophesying, and the discerning of spirits.

3. The gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Fourthly, these gifts are not only all the fruits of the Spirit, but they are distributed according to his sovereign will, 1 Corinthians 12:11. Fifthly, there is therefore in this matter a striking analogy between the church and the human body.

For,

1. As the body is one organic whole, because animated by one spirit, so the church is one because of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the principle of its life.

2. As the unity of life in the body is manifested in a diversity of organs and members; so the indwelling of the Spirit in the church is manifested by a diversity of gifts and offices.

3. As the very idea of the body as an organization supposes this diversity in unity, the same is true in regard to the church.

4. As in the human body the members are mutually dependent, and no one exists for itself alone but for the body as a whole, so also in the church there is the same dependence of its members on each other, and their various gifts are not designed for the exclusive benefit of those who exercise them, but for the edification of the whole church.

5. As in the body the position and function of each member are determined not by itself, but by God, so also these spiritual gifts are distributed according to the good pleasure of their author.

6. In the body the least attractive parts are those which are indispensable to its existence, and so in the church it is not the most attractive gifts which are the most useful.

Sixthly, the apostle draws from this analogy the following inferences.

1. Every one should be contented with the gift which he has received of the Lord, just as the hand and foot are contented with their position and office in the body.

2. There should be no exaltation of one member of the church over others, on the ground of the supposed superiority of his gifts.

3. There should, and must be mutual sympathy between the members of the church, as there is between the members of the body. One cannot suffer without all the others suffering with it. No one lives, or acts, or feels for itself alone, but each in all the rest, vv. 12-27.

In conclusion the apostle shows that what he had said with regard to these spiritual gifts, applies in all its force to the various offices of the church, which are the organs through which the gifts of the Spirit are exercised, 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.

Now concerning spiritual (gifts), brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Instead of beginning with, in the second place, in continuance of the enumeration begun in 1 Corinthians 11:17, he passes to the second ground of censure, by the simple now ( הו ́) as the particle of transition. The misuse of the spiritual gifts, especially of the gift of tongues, was the next topic of rebuke. Concerning spiritual, whether men or gifts, depends on the context, as the word may be either masculine or neuter. The latter is the more natural and common explanation, because the gifts rather than the persons are the subject of discussion; and because in 1 Corinthians 11:31, and 1 Corinthians 14:1, the neuter form is used. I would not have you ignorant, i.e. I wish you to understand the origin and intent of these extraordinary manifestations of divine power, and to be able to discriminate between the true and false claimants to the possession of them.


Verse 2

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

Here, as in Ephesians 2:11, the apostle contrasts the former with the present condition of his readers. Formerly, they were Gentiles, now they were Christians. Formerly, they were the worshippers and consulters of dumb idols, now they worshipped the living and true God. Formerly, they were swayed by a blind, unintelligent impulse, which carried them away, they knew not why nor whither; now they were under the influence of the Spirit of God. Their former condition is here adverted to as affording a reason why they needed instruction on this subject. It was one on which their previous experience gave them no information.

Ye know that ‹22› ye were Gentiles. This is the comprehensive statement of their former condition. Under it are included the two particulars which follow. First, they were addicted to the worship of dumb idols, i.e. voiceless, comp. Habakkuk 2:18, Habakkuk 2:19, "Woe unto him that saith unto the wood, Awake; unto the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach," and Psalms 115:5; Psalms 135:16. To worship dumb idols, gods who could neither hear nor save, expresses in the strongest terms at once their folly and their misery. Secondly, they were carried away to this worship just as they were led, i.e. they were controlled by an influence which they could not understand or resist. Compare, as to the force of the word here used, Galatians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:17. It is often spoken of those who are led away to judgment, to prison, or to execution. Mark 14:53. John 18:13. Matthew 27:21. Paul means to contrast this ( ב ̓ נב ́ דוףטבי) being carried away, as it were, by force, with the ( ב ̓́ דוףטבי נםוץ ́ לבפי), being led by the Spirit. The one was an irrational influence controlling the understanding and will; the other is an influence from God, congruous to our nature, and leading to good.


Verse 3

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and (that) no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Wherefore, i.e. because I would not have you ignorant on this subject. The first thing which he teaches is the criterion or test of true divine influence. This criterion he states first negatively and then positively. The negative statement is, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. To speak by (or in) the Spirit, is to speak under the influence of the Spirit, as the ancient prophets did. Matthew 22:43. Mark 12:36. No one speaking ( כבכש ͂ ם, using his voice), calleth ( כו ́ דוי pronounces) Jesus to be accursed. Or, according to another reading, utters the words, "Jesus is accursed." By Jesus, the historical person known among men by that name is indicated. And, therefore, Paul uses that word and not Christ, which is a term of office. Accursed, i.e. anathema. This word properly means something consecrated to God; and as among the Jews what was thus consecrated could not be redeemed, but, if a living thing, must be put to death, Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29, hence the word was used to designate any person or thing devoted to destruction; and then with the accessory idea of the divine displeasure, something devoted to destruction as accursed. This last is its uniform meaning in the New Testament. Romans 9:3. Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 16:22. Hence to say that Jesus is anathema, is to say he was a malefactor, one just condemned to death. This the Jews said who invoked his blood upon their heads. The affirmative statement is, no man can say Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. The word ךץ ́ סיןע, Lord, is that by which the word Jehovah is commonly rendered in the Greek version of the Old Testament. To say Jesus is the Lord, therefore, in the sense of the apostle, is to acknowledge him to be truly God. And as the word Jesus here as before designates the historical person known by that name, who was born of the Virgin Mary, to say that Jesus is Lord, is to acknowledge that that person is God manifest in the flesh. In other words, the confession includes the acknowledgment that he is truly God and truly man. What the apostle says, is that no man can make this acknowledgment but by the Holy Ghost. This of course does not mean that no one can utter these words unless under special divine influence; but it means that no one can truly believe and openly confess that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh unless he is enlightened by the Spirit of God. This is precisely what our Lord himself said, when Peter confessed him to be the Son of God. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 16:17. The same thing is also said by the apostle John. "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God," 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:3; and in 1 John 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." To blaspheme Christ, maledicere Christo, Plin. Epist. X. 97, was the form for renouncing Christianity before the Roman tribunals; and saying, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God," Acts 8:37, was the form of professing allegiance to Christ. Men acknowledged themselves to be Christians, by acknowledging the divinity of Christ. These passages, therefore, teach us first, whom we are to regard as Christians, viz., those who acknowledge and worship Jesus of Nazareth as the true God; secondly, that the test of the divine commission of those who assume to be teachers of the gospel, is not external descent, or apostolic succession, but soundness in the faith. If even an apostle or angel teach any other gospel, we are to regard him as accursed, Galatians 1:8. And Paul tells the Corinthians that they were to discriminate between those who were really the organs of the Holy Ghost, and those who falsely pretended to that office, by the same criterion. As it is unscriptural to recognize as Christians those who deny the divinity of our Lord; so it is unscriptural for any man to doubt his own regeneration, if he is conscious that he sincerely worships the Lord Jesus.


Verse 4

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

The second thing which the apostle teaches concerning these gifts is, their diversity of character in connection with the unity of their source and design. He is not, however, to be understood as here dividing these gifts into three classes, under the heads of gifts, ministrations, and operations; but as presenting them each and all under three different aspects. Viewed in relation to the Spirit, they are gifts; in relation to the Lord, they are ministrations; and in relation to God, they are operations, i.e. effects wrought by his power. And it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God who are concerned in them all. That is, the same Spirit is the giver; it is he who is the immediate and proximate author of all these various endowments. It is the same Lord in whose service and by whose authority these various gifts are exercised. They are all different forms in which he is served, or ministered to. And it is the same God the Father, who having exalted the Lord Jesus to the supreme headship of the church, and having sent the Holy Ghost, works all these effects in the minds of men. There is no inconsistency between this statement and 1 Corinthians 12:11, where the Spirit is said to work all these gifts; because God works by his Spirit. So in one place we are said to be born of God, and in another to be born of the Spirit. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity underlies the whole scheme of redemption in its execution and application as well as in its conception.

Those who understand this passage as describing three distinct classes of gifts, one as derived from the Spirit, the other from the Son, and the other from the Father, suppose that to the first class belong wisdom, knowledge, and faith; to the second, church-offices; and to the third, gift of miracles. But this view of the passage is inconsistent with the constant and equal reference of these gifts to the Holy Spirit; they all come under the head of "spiritual gifts;" and with what follows in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, where a different classification is given. That is, the nine gifts there mentioned are not classified in reference to their relation to the Father, Son, and Spirit; and therefore it is unnatural to assume such a classification here. They are all and equally gifts of the Spirit, modes of serving the Son, and effects due to the efficiency of the Father.


Verse 5

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

The second thing which the apostle teaches concerning these gifts is, their diversity of character in connection with the unity of their source and design. He is not, however, to be understood as here dividing these gifts into three classes, under the heads of gifts, ministrations, and operations; but as presenting them each and all under three different aspects. Viewed in relation to the Spirit, they are gifts; in relation to the Lord, they are ministrations; and in relation to God, they are operations, i.e. effects wrought by his power. And it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God who are concerned in them all. That is, the same Spirit is the giver; it is he who is the immediate and proximate author of all these various endowments. It is the same Lord in whose service and by whose authority these various gifts are exercised. They are all different forms in which he is served, or ministered to. And it is the same God the Father, who having exalted the Lord Jesus to the supreme headship of the church, and having sent the Holy Ghost, works all these effects in the minds of men. There is no inconsistency between this statement and 1 Corinthians 12:11, where the Spirit is said to work all these gifts; because God works by his Spirit. So in one place we are said to be born of God, and in another to be born of the Spirit. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity underlies the whole scheme of redemption in its execution and application as well as in its conception.

Those who understand this passage as describing three distinct classes of gifts, one as derived from the Spirit, the other from the Son, and the other from the Father, suppose that to the first class belong wisdom, knowledge, and faith; to the second, church-offices; and to the third, gift of miracles. But this view of the passage is inconsistent with the constant and equal reference of these gifts to the Holy Spirit; they all come under the head of "spiritual gifts;" and with what follows in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, where a different classification is given. That is, the nine gifts there mentioned are not classified in reference to their relation to the Father, Son, and Spirit; and therefore it is unnatural to assume such a classification here. They are all and equally gifts of the Spirit, modes of serving the Son, and effects due to the efficiency of the Father.


Verse 6

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

The second thing which the apostle teaches concerning these gifts is, their diversity of character in connection with the unity of their source and design. He is not, however, to be understood as here dividing these gifts into three classes, under the heads of gifts, ministrations, and operations; but as presenting them each and all under three different aspects. Viewed in relation to the Spirit, they are gifts; in relation to the Lord, they are ministrations; and in relation to God, they are operations, i.e. effects wrought by his power. And it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God who are concerned in them all. That is, the same Spirit is the giver; it is he who is the immediate and proximate author of all these various endowments. It is the same Lord in whose service and by whose authority these various gifts are exercised. They are all different forms in which he is served, or ministered to. And it is the same God the Father, who having exalted the Lord Jesus to the supreme headship of the church, and having sent the Holy Ghost, works all these effects in the minds of men. There is no inconsistency between this statement and 1 Corinthians 12:11, where the Spirit is said to work all these gifts; because God works by his Spirit. So in one place we are said to be born of God, and in another to be born of the Spirit. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity underlies the whole scheme of redemption in its execution and application as well as in its conception.

Those who understand this passage as describing three distinct classes of gifts, one as derived from the Spirit, the other from the Son, and the other from the Father, suppose that to the first class belong wisdom, knowledge, and faith; to the second, church-offices; and to the third, gift of miracles. But this view of the passage is inconsistent with the constant and equal reference of these gifts to the Holy Spirit; they all come under the head of "spiritual gifts;" and with what follows in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, where a different classification is given. That is, the nine gifts there mentioned are not classified in reference to their relation to the Father, Son, and Spirit; and therefore it is unnatural to assume such a classification here. They are all and equally gifts of the Spirit, modes of serving the Son, and effects due to the efficiency of the Father.


Verse 7

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

But, i.e. notwithstanding these gifts have the same source, they are diverse in their manifestations. To each one, i.e. to every believer, or every recipient of the Holy Ghost, is given a manifestation of the Spirit. That is, the Spirit who dwells in all believers as the body of Christ, manifests himself in one way in one person, and in another way in another person. The illustration which the apostle subsequently introduces is derived from the human body. As the principle of life manifests itself in one organ as the faculty of vision, and in another as the faculty of hearing, so the Holy Ghost manifests himself variously in the different members of the church; in one as the gift of teaching, in another as the gift of healing. This is one of those pregnant truths, compressed in a single sentence, which are developed in manifold forms in different parts of the word of God. It is the truth of which this whole chapter is the exposition and the application. To profit withal ( נסן ̀ ע פן ̀ ףץלצו ́ סןם), i.e. for edification. This is the common object of all these gifts. They are not designed exclusively or mainly for the benefit, much less for the gratification of their recipients; but for the good of the church. Just as the power of vision is not for the benefit of the eye, but for the man. When, therefore, the gifts of God, natural or supernatural, are perverted as means of self-exaltation or aggrandizement, it is a sin against their giver, as well as against those for whose benefit they were intended.

With regard to the gifts mentioned in the following verses, it is to be remarked, first, that the enumeration is not intended to include all the forms in which the Spirit manifested his presence in the people of God. Gifts are elsewhere mentioned which are not found in this catalogue; comp. Romans 12:4-8, and 1 Corinthians 12:28 of this chapter. Secondly, that although the apostle appears to divide these gifts into three classes, the principle of classification is not discernible. That is, we can discover no reason why one gift is in one class rather than in another; why, for example, prophecy, instead of being associated with other gifts of teaching, is connected with those of healing and working miracles. The different modes of classification which have been proposed, even when founded on a real difference, cannot be applied to the arrangement given by the apostle. Some would divide them into natural and supernatural. But they are all supernatural, although not to the same degree or in the same form. There are gifts of the Spirit which are ordinary and permanent, such as those of teaching and ruling, but they are not included in this enumeration, which embraces nothing which was not miraculous, or at least supernatural. Others, as Neander, divide them into those exercised by word, and those exercised by deeds. To the former class belong those of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, and speaking with tongues; and to the latter the gifts of healing and miracles. Others, again, propose a psychological division, i.e. one founded on the different faculties involved in their exercise. Hence they are distinguished as those which concern the feelings, those which pertain to the intelligence, and those which relate to the will. But this is altogether arbitrary, as all these faculties are concerned in the exercise of every gift. It is better to take the classification as we find it, without attempting to determine the principle of arrangement, which may have been in a measure, so to speak, fortuitous, or determined by the there association of ideas, rather than by any characteristic difference in the gifts themselves. The Scriptures are much more like a work of nature than a work of art; much more like a landscape than a building. Things spring up where we cannot see the reason why they are there, rather than elsewhere, while every thing is in its right place.


Verse 8

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

In 1 Corinthians 12:7, he had said, "To each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit," for to one is given one gift, and to another, another. What follows, therefore, is the illustration and confirmation of what precedes. The point to be illustrated is the diversity of forms in which the same Spirit manifests himself in different individuals. "To one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge." The word of wisdom, is the gift of speaking or communicating wisdom; and the word of knowledge is the gift of communicating knowledge. As to the difference, however, between wisdom and knowledge, as here used, it is not easy to decide. Some say the former is practical, and the latter speculative. Others, just the reverse; and passages may be cited in favor of either view. Others say that wisdom refers to what is perceived by intuition, i.e. what is apprehended (as they say) by the reason; and knowledge what is perceived by the understanding. The effect of the one is spiritual discernment; of the other, scientific knowledge; i.e. the logical nature and relations of the truths discerned. Others say that wisdom is the gospel, the whole system of revealed truth, and the word of wisdom is the gift of revealing that esteem as the object of faith. In favor of this view are these obvious considerations,

1. That Paul frequently uses the word in this sense. In ch. 2 he says, we speak wisdom, the wisdom of God, the hidden wisdom which the great of this world never could discover, but which God has revealed by his Spirit.

2. That gift stands first as the most important, and as the characteristic gift of the apostles, as may be inferred from 1 Corinthians 12:28, where the arrangement of offices to a certain extent corresponds with the arrangement of the gifts here presented. Among the gifts, the first is the word of wisdom; and among the offices, the first is that of the apostles. It is perfectly natural that this correspondence should: be observed at the beginning, even if it be not carried out. This gift in its full measure belonged to the apostles alone; partially, however, also, to the prophets of the New Testament. Hence apostles and prophets are often associated as possessing the same gift, although in different degrees. "Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets," Ephesians 2:20. "As now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit," Ephesians 3:5; see also Ephesians 4:11.

The characteristic difference between these classes of officers was, that the former were endowed with permanent and plenary, the latter with occasional and partial, inspiration. By the word of knowledge, as distinguished from the word of wisdom, is probably to be understood the gift which belonged to teachers. Accordingly, they follow the apostles and prophets in the enumeration given in 1 Corinthians 12:28. The word of knowledge was the gift correctly to understand and properly to exhibit the truths revealed by the apostles and prophets. This agrees with 1 Corinthians 13:8, where the gift of knowledge is represented as pertaining to the present state of existence. By the same Spirit, literally, according to the same Spirit, i.e. according to his will, or as he sees fit; see 1 Corinthians 12:11. The Spirit is not only the author, but the distributor of these gifts. And therefore sometimes they are said to be given ( היב ́) by, and sometimes ( ךבפב ́) according to, the Spirit.


Verse 9

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

There is a distinction indicated in the Greek which is not expressed in our version. The main divisions in this enumeration seem to be indicated by ו ̔́ פוסןע, and the subordinate ones by ב ̓́ ככןע, though both words are translated by another; the former, however, is a stronger expression of difference. Here, therefore, where ו ̔ פו ́ סש ͅ is used, a new class seems to be introduced. To the first class belong the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge; to the second, all that follow except the last two. To another faith. As faith is here mentioned as a gift peculiar to some Christians, it cannot mean saving faith, which is common to all. It is generally supposed to mean the faith of miracles to which our Lord refers, Matthew 17:19, Matthew 17:20, and also the apostle in the following chapter, "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains," 1 Corinthians 13:2. But to this it is objected, that the gift of miracles is mentioned immediately afterwards as something different from the gift of faith. Others say it is that faith which manifests itself in all the forms enumerated under this class, that is, in miracles, in healing, in prophecy, and in discerning of spirits. But then it is nothing peculiar; it is a gift common to all under this head, whereas it is as much distinguished from them, as they are from each other. Besides, no degree of faith involves inspiration which is supposed in prophecy. In the absence of distinct data for determining the nature of the faith here intended, it is safest, perhaps, to adhere to the simple meaning of the word, and assume that the gift meant is a higher measure of the ordinary grace of faith. Such a faith as enabled men to become confessors and martyrs, and which is so fully illustrated in Hebrews 11:33-40. This is something as truly wonderful as the gift of miracles. To another the gifts of healing, i.e. gifts by which healing of the sick was effected, Acts 4:30. This evidently refers to the miraculous healing of diseases.


Verse 10

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another (divers) kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Working of miracles, literally, effects which are miraculous, or which consist in miracles. This is more comprehensive than the preceding gift. Some had merely the gift of healing the sick, while others had the general power of working miracles. This was exemplified in the death of Ananias, in raising Dorcas, in smiting Elymas with blindness, and in many other cases.

To another prophecy. The nature of this gift is clearly exhibited in the 14th chapter. It consisted in occasional inspiration and revelations, not merely or generally relating to the future, as in the case of Agabus, Acts 11:28, but either in some new communications relating to faith or duty, or simply an immediate impulse and aid from the Holy Spirit, in presenting truth already known, so that conviction and repentance were the effects aimed at and produced; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:25. The difference, as before stated, between the apostles and prophets, was, that the former were permanently inspired, so that their teaching was at all times infallible, whereas the prophets were infallible only occasionally. The ordinary teachers were uninspired, speaking from the resources of their own knowledge and experience.

To another discerning of spirits. It appears, especially from the epistles of the apostle John, that pretenders to inspiration were numerous in the apostolic age. He therefore exhorts his readers, "to try the spirits, whether they be of God; for many false prophets are gone out into the world," 1 John 4:1. It was therefore of importance to have a class of men with the gift of discernment, who could determine whether a man was really inspired, or spoke only from the impulse of his own mind, or from the dictation of some evil spirit. In 14:29, reference is made to the exercise of this gift. Compare also 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

To another divers kinds of tongues. That is, the ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speakers. The nature of this gift is determined by the account given in Acts 2:4-11, where it is said, the apostles spoke "with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance;" and people of all the neighboring nations asked with astonishment, "Are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?" It is impossible to deny that the miracle recorded in Acts consisted in enabling the apostles to speak in languages which they had never learnt. Unless, therefore, it be assumed that the gift of which Paul here speaks was something of an entirely different nature, its character is put beyond dispute. The identity of the two, however, is proved from the sameness of the terms by which they are described. In Mark 16:17, it was promised that the disciples should speak "with new tongues." In Acts 2:4, it is said they spoke "with other tongues." In Acts 10:46, and Acts 19:6, it is said of those on whom the Holy Ghost came, that "they spake with tongues." It can hardly be doubted that all these forms of expression are to be understood in the same sense; that to speak "with tongues" in Acts 10:46, means the same thing as speaking "with other tongues," in Acts 2:4, and that this again means the same as speaking "with new tongues," as promised in Mark 16:17. If the meaning of the phrase is thus historically and philologically determined for Acts and Mark, it must also be determined for the Epistle to the Corinthians. If tongues means languages in the former, it must have the same meaning in the latter. We have thus two arguments in favor of the old interpretation of this passage. First, that the facts narrated in Acts necessitate the interpretation of the phrase "to speak with other tongues" to mean to speak with foreign languages. Second, that the interchange of the expressions, new tongues, other tongues, and tongues, in reference to the same event, shows that the last mentioned (to speak with tongues) must have the same sense with the two former expressions, which can only mean to speak in new languages. A third argument is, that the common interpretation satisfies all the facts of the case. Those facts are,

1. That what was spoken with tongues was intelligible to those who understood foreign languages, as appears from Acts 2:11. Therefore the speaking was not an incoherent, unintelligible rhapsody.

2. What was uttered were articulate sounds, the vehicle of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, 1 Corinthians 14:14-17.

3. They were edifying, and therefore intelligible to him who uttered them, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:16.

4. They admitted of being interpreted, which supposes them to be intelligible.

5. Though intelligible in themselves, and to the speaker, they were unintelligible to others, that is, to those not acquainted with the language used; and consequently unsuited for an ordinary Christian assembly. The folly which Paul rebuked was, speaking in Arabic to men who understood only Greek. The speaker might understand what he said, but others were not profited, 1 Corinthians 14:2, 1 Corinthians 14:19.

6. The illustration employed in 1 Corinthians 14:7, 1 Corinthians 14:11 from musical instruments, and from the case of foreigners, requires the common interpretation. Paul admits that the sounds uttered were "not without signification," 1 Corinthians 14:10. His complaint is, that a man who speaks in an unknown tongue is to him a foreigner, 1 Corinthians 14:11. This illustration supposes the sounds uttered to be intelligible in themselves, but not understood by those to whom they were addressed.

7. The common interpretation is suited even to those passages which present the only real difficulty in the case; viz., those in which the apostle speaks of the understanding as being unfruitful in the exercise of the gift of tongues, and those in which he contrasts praying with the spirit and praying with the understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:14, 1 Corinthians 14:15. Although these passages, taken by themselves, might seem to indicate that the speaker himself did not understand what he said, and even that his intellect was in abeyance, yet they may naturally mean only that the understanding of the speaker was unprofitable to others; and speaking with the understanding may mean speaking intelligibly. It is not necessary, therefore, to infer from these passages, that to speak with tongues was to speak in a state of ecstasy, in a manner unintelligible to any human being.

8. The common interpretation is also consistent with the fact that the gift of interpretation was distinct from that of speaking with tongues. If a man could speak a foreign language, why could he not interpret it? Simply, because it was not his gift.

What he said in that foreign language, he said under the guidance of the Spirit; had he attempted to interpret it without the gift of interpretation, he would be speaking of himself, and not "as the Spirit gave him utterance." In the one case he was the organ of the Holy Ghost, in the other he was not.

Fourth argument. Those who depart from the common interpretation of the gift of tongues, differ indefinitely among themselves as to its true nature. Some assume that the word tongues ( דכש ͂ ףףבי) does not here mean languages, but idioms or peculiar and unusual forms of expression. To speak with tongues, according to this view, is to speak in an exalted poetic strain, beyond the comprehension of common people. But it has been proved from the expressions new and other tongues, and from the facts recorded in Acts, that the word דכש ͂ ףףבי (tongues) must here mean languages. Besides, to speak in exalted language is not to speak unintelligibly. The Grecian people understood the loftiest strains of their orators and poets. This interpretation also gives to the word דכש ͂ ףףבי a technical sense foreign to all scriptural usage, and one which is entirely inadmissible, at least in those cases where the singular is used. A man might be said to speak in "phrases," but not in "a phrase." Others say that the word means the tongue as the physical organ of utterance; and to speak with the tongue is to speak in a state of excitement in which the understanding and will do not control the tongue, which is moved by the Spirit to utter sounds which are as unintelligible to the speaker as to others. But this interpretation does not suit the expressions other tongues and new tongues, and is irreconcilable with the account in Acts. Besides it degrades the gift into a mere frenzy. It is out of analogy with all Scriptural facts. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. The Old Testament seers were not beside themselves, and the apostles in the use of the gift of tongues were calm and rational, speaking the wonderful works of God in a way which the foreigners gathered in Jerusalem easily understood. Others, again, admit that the word tongues means languages, but deny that they were languages foreign to the speaker. To speak with tongues, they say, was to speak in an incoherent, unintelligible manner, in a state of ecstasy, when the mind is entirely abstracted from the external world, and unconscious of things about it, as in a dream or trance. This, however, is liable to the objections already adduced against the other theories. Besides, it is evident from the whole discussion, that those who spake with tongues were self-controlled. They could speak or not as they pleased. Paul censures them for speaking when there was no occasion for it, and in such a manner as to produce confusion and disorder. They were, therefore, not in a state of uncontrollable excitement, unconscious of what they said or did. It is unnecessary to continue this enumeration of conjectures; what has already been said would be out of place if the opinions referred to had not found favor in England and in our own country.

The arguments against the common view of the nature of the gift of tongues, (apart from the exegetical difficulties with which it is thought to be encumbered,) are not such as to make much impression upon minds accustomed to reverence the Scriptures.

1. It is said the miracle was unnecessary, as Greek was understood wherever the apostles preached. This, no doubt, is in a great degree true. Greek was the language of educated persons throughout the Roman empire, but it had not superseded the national languages in common life; neither was the preaching of the apostles confined to the limits of the Roman empire. Besides, this supposes that the only design of the gift was to facilitate the propagation of the gospel. This was doubtless one of the purposes which it was intended to answer; but it had other important uses. It served to prove the presence of the Spirit of God; and it symbolized the calling of the Gentiles and the common interest of all nations in the gospel. See the remarks on Acts 2:4.

2. It is said God is not wont by miracles to remove difficulties out of the way of his people, which they can surmount by labor.

3. Others pronounce it impossible that a man should speak in a language which he had never learnt. But does it thence follow that God cannot give him the ability?

4. It appears that Paul and Barnabas did not understand the speech of Lycaonia, Acts 14:11-14. The gift of tongues, however, was not the ability to speak all languages. Probably most of those who received the gift, could speak only in one or two. Paul thanked God that he had the gift in richer measure than any of the Corinthians.

5. The gift does not appear to have been made subservient to the missionary work. It certainly was in the first instance, as recorded in Acts, and may have been afterwards.

6. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:14-19, does not place speaking with tongues and speaking in one's own language in opposition; but speaking with the understanding and speaking with the spirit; and therefore to speak with tongues, is to speak without understanding, or in a state of ecstasy. This is a possible interpretation of this one passage considered in itself, but it is in direct contradiction to all those passages which prove that speaking with tongues was not an involuntary, incoherent, ecstatic mode of speaking.

The passage referred to, therefore, must be understood in consistency with the other passages referring to the same subject. Though there are difficulties attending any view of the gift in question, arising from our ignorance, those connected with the common interpretation are incomparably less than those which beset any of the modern conjectures.

To another, the interpretation of tongues. The nature of this gift depends on the view taken of the preceding. Commonly, at least, the man using a foreign language was able to understand it, see 1 Corinthians 14:2, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:16, and may have had the gift of interpretation in connection with the gift of tongues. It is possible, however, that in some cases he did not himself understand the language which he spoke, and then of course he would need an interpreter. But even when he did understand the language which he used, he needed a distinct gift to make him the organ of the Spirit in its interpretation. If speaking with tongues was speaking incoherently in ecstasy, it is hard to see how what was said could admit of interpretation. Unless coherent it was irrational, and if irrational, it could not be translated.


Verse 11

But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

But all these, etc., i.e. notwithstanding the diversity of these gifts they have a common origin. They are wrought by the same Spirit. What therefore in 1 Corinthians 12:6 is referred to the efficiency of God, is here referred to the efficiency of the Spirit. This is in accordance with constant scriptural usage. The same effect is sometimes attributed to one, and sometimes to another of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This supposes that, being the same in substance (or essence) in which divine power inheres, they cooperate in the production of these effects. Whatever the Father does, he does through the Spirit. The Holy Ghost not only produces these gifts in the minds of men, but he distributes them severally ( י ̓ הי ́ ב ͅ) to every man as he will, i.e. not according to the merits or wishes of men, but according to his own will. This passage clearly proves that the Holy Spirit is a person. Will is here attributed to him, which is one of the distinctive attributes of a person. Both the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost are therefore involved in the nature of the work here ascribed to him.


Verse 12

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also (is) Christ.

For introduces an illustration of the truth taught in the preceding verses. Every organism, or organic whole, supposes diversity and unity. That is, different parts united so as to constitute one whole. The apostle had taught that in the unity of the church there is a diversity of gifts. This is illustrated by a reference to the human body. It is one, yet it consists of many members. And this diversity is essential to unity; for unless the body consisted of many members, it would not be a ( ףש ͂ לב) body, i.e. an organic whole. So also is Christ, i.e. the body of Christ, or the Church. As the body consists of many members and is yet one; so it is with the church, it is one and yet consists of many members, each having its own gift and office. See Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5. Ephesians 1:23 and Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:16.


Verse 13

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether (we be) Jews or Gentiles, whether (we be) bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

This is the proof of what immediately precedes. The church is one, for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. The word is not in the present tense, but in the aorist. ‘We were, by the baptism of the Spirit, constituted one body.' This is commonly, and even by the modern commentators, understood of the sacrament of baptism; and the apostle is made to say that by the Holy Ghost received in baptism we were made one body. But the Bible clearly distinguishes between baptism with water and baptism with the Holy Ghost. "I indeed baptize you with water … but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost," Matthew 3:11. "He that sent the to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shall: see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost," John 1:33. "John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence," Acts 1:5. These passages not only distinguish between the baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit, but they disconnect them. The baptism to which Acts 1:5, refers took place on the day of Pentecost, and had nothing to do with the baptism of water. It is not denied that the one is sacramentally connected with the other; or that the baptism of the Spirit often attends the baptism of water; but they are not inseparably connected. The one may be without the other. And in the present passage there does not seem to be even an allusion to water baptism, any more than in Acts 1:5. Paul does not say that we are made one body by baptism, but by the baptism of the Holy Ghost; that is, by spiritual regeneration. Any communication of the Holy Spirit is called a baptism, because the Spirit is said to be poured out, and those upon whom he is poured out, whether in his regenerating, sanctifying, or inspiring influences, are said to be baptized. In all the passages above quoted the expression is ו ̓ ם נםוץ ́ לבפי, by the Spirit, as it is here. ‹23› It is not therefore by baptism as an external rite, but by the communication of the Holy Spirit that we are made members of the body of Christ. Unto one body means so as to constitute one body ( וי ̓ ע, unto, expressing the result). No matter how great may have been the previous difference, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, by this baptism of the Spirit, all who experience it are merged into one body; they are all intimately and organically united as partaking of the same life. Comp. Galatians 3:28. And this is the essential point of the analogy between the human body and the church. As the body is one because pervaded and animated by one soul or principle of life, so the church is one because pervaded by one Spirit. And as all parts of the body which partake of the common life belong to the body, so all those in whom the Spirit of God dwells are members of the church which is the body of Christ. And by parity of reasoning, those in whom the Spirit does not dwell are not members of Christ's body. They may be members of the visible or nominal church, but they are not members of the church in that sense in which it is the body of Christ. This passage, therefore, not only teaches us the nature of the church, but also the principle of its unity. It is one, not as united under one external visible head, or under one governing tribunal, nor in virtue of any external visible bond, but in virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all its members. And this internal spiritual union manifests itself in the profession of the same faith, and in all acts of Christian fellowship.

And have all been made to drink into one Spirit. This is a difficult clause. To drink into is an unexampled phrase, whether in English or Greek. The text varies. In some MSS. it is וי ̓ ע ו ̔̀ ם נםוץ ͂ לב, into one Spirit, in others, ו ̔̀ ם נםוץ ͂ לב, one Spirit. The latter is adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. If this be preferred, the sense is, ‘We have all drank one Spirit.' That is, we have all been made partakers of one Spirit. Compare John 7:37, and other passages, in which the Spirit is compared to water of which men are said to drink. The meaning of the passage according to this reading is simple and pertinent. ‘By the baptism of the Holy Ghost we have all been united in one body and made partakers of one Spirit.' If the common text be preferred, the most natural interpretation would seem to be, ‘We have all been made to drink so as to become one Spirit.' The words ( וי ̓ ע ו ̔̀ ם נםוץ ͂ לב) unto one Spirit, would then correspond to ( וי ̓ ע ו ̔̀ ם ףש ͂ לב) unto one body. The allusion is supposed by Luther, Calvin and Beza to be to the Lord's Supper. ‘By baptism we become one body, and by drinking (of the cup, i.e. by the Lord's Supper) we become one body.' But this allusion is not only foreign to the context, but is not indicated by the words. How can the simple word ו ̓ נןפי ́ ףטחלום, made to drink, in such a connection, mean to partake of the Lord's Supper? Besides, as the modern commentators all remark, the tense of the verb forbids this interpretation. It must express the same time with the preceding verb. ‘We were all baptized ( ו ̓ גבנפי ́ ףטחלום), and we were all made to drink ( ו ̓ נןפי ́ ףטחלום). It is something done in the past, not something continued in the present that the word expresses. If any thing is to be supplied it is not the word cup, but the Spirit, i.e. the water of life. ‘We have been made to drink (i.e. of the Spirit) so as to become one spirit.' Another interpretation of the common text supposes that the preposition ( וי ̓ ע) into belongs to the construction of the verb — to drink into being equivalent to drink of. The sense is then the same as in the reading without the וי ̓ ע, ‘We have all drank of one Spirit.' The doctrine taught is clear, viz., that by receiving the Spirit we are all made members of the body of Christ, and that it is in virtue of the indwelling of the Spirit that the church is one.


Verse 14

For the body is not one member, but many.

This is a proof that diversity of gifts and members is necessary to the unity of the church. The church no more consists of persons all having the same gifts, than the body is all eye or all ear. As the body is not one member, but many, so the church is not one member, but many. The word member means a constituent part having a function of its own. It is not merely a multiplicity of parts that is necessary to the body; nor a multiplicity of persons that is necessary to the church; but in both cases what is required is a multiplicity of members in the sense just stated. To a certain extent what Paul says of the diversity of gifts in individual members of the church, may, in the existing state of things, be applied to different denominations of Christians. No one is perfect or complete in itself; and no one can say to the others, I have no need of you. Each represents something that is not so well represented in the others. Each has its own function to exercise and work to perform, which could not so well be accomplished without it. As, therefore, harmony and cooperation, sympathy and mutual affection, are required between individual Christians as constituent members of Christ's body, so also should they prevail between different denominations. It is only when the hand undertakes to turn the foot out of the body, that the foot is bound in self-defense and for the good of the whole, to defend its rights.


Verse 15

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

The first and most obvious conclusion from the view which Paul had given of the nature of the church is the duty of contentment. It is just as unreasonable and absurd for the foot to complain that it is not the hand, as for one member of the church to complain that he is not another; that is, for a teacher to complain that he is not an apostle; or for a deaconess to complain that she is not a presbyter; or for one who had the gift of healing to complain that he had not the gift of tongues. This, as the apostle shows, would destroy the very idea of the church.


Verse 16

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

The first and most obvious conclusion from the view which Paul had given of the nature of the church is the duty of contentment. It is just as unreasonable and absurd for the foot to complain that it is not the hand, as for one member of the church to complain that he is not another; that is, for a teacher to complain that he is not an apostle; or for a deaconess to complain that she is not a presbyter; or for one who had the gift of healing to complain that he had not the gift of tongues. This, as the apostle shows, would destroy the very idea of the church.


Verse 17

If the whole body (were) an eye, where (were) the hearing? If the whole (were) hearing, where (were) the smelling?

The obvious meaning of this verse is, that the very existence of the body as an organization depends on the union of members endowed with different functions. And the application of this idea to the church is equally plain. It also requires to its existence a diversity of gifts and offices. If all were apostles where would be the church?


Verse 18

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

But now, i.e. as the matter actually is. Instead of the body being all one member, God has arranged and disposed the parts each in its place so as to constitute one living organic whole. The eye did not give itself the power of vision, nor the ear its ability to discriminate sounds. Each member occupies in the body the position which God has seen fit to assign it, and which is most conducive to the good of the whole. It is so also in the church; the position which the gifts of every member are determined by the Lord. One has one gift and another another; one is a pastor and another is a missionary; one labors in a city, another in the wilderness, not according to their relative merits, nor in virtue of their own selection, but as God wills and orders. It is therefore as inconsistent with the idea of the church that each member should decide on his own position and functions, as that the members of the body should arrange themselves according to their own notions. The nature of the church supposes, that as in the body the principle of life manifests itself under one form in the eye, and in another form in the ear, so the Spirit of God dwelling in the church manifests himself under one form in one member and under a different form in another; and that the selection of his organs and distribution of his gifts are according to his sovereign pleasure. We are contending against him, therefore, when we contend against the position and the office which he has assigned us in the church. It is easy to give this principle a wider application. One is born in Europe, another in Asia; one in America, another in Africa; one is rich, another poor; one has ten talents, another one; not because one is better than the other, but simply because God has so ordained. His will, as thus manifested, is not only sovereign but infinitely wise and benevolent. It is on this diversity, whether in the world, in the church, or in the human body, that the life and the good of the whole depend. This verse thus contains the second practical inference from the nature of the church as the body of Christ. The place and gifts of each member are determined by the Lord.


Verse 19-20

And if they were all one member, where (were) the body? But now (are they) many members, yet but one body.

These verses are a repetition of the idea that diversity of organs in the body is essential to its nature as a body, i.e. as an organization; and that this diversity is perfectly consistent with unity.


Verse 21

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

The third inference from the doctrine taught above, is the mutual dependence of the members of the church. As in the body the eye cannot dispense with the hand, nor the head with the feet, so in the church the most highly gifted are as much dependent on those less favored as the latter are on the former. Every thing like pride, therefore, is as much out of place in the church as discontent.


Verse 22-23

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those (members) of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely (parts) have more abundant comeliness.

The fourth inference from the apostle's doctrine is, that the least attractive gifts are the most important. As in the human frame the heart is more important than the tongue, so in the church the gift of prayer is more important than eloquence. Those who in the closet, however obscure, wrestle with God, often do more for his glory and for the advancement of his kingdom than those who fill the largest space in the public eye. What would the tongue do without lungs, which are neither seen nor heard? God's thoughts are not as our thoughts. The childish Corinthians prized the gift of tongues, which, as they used it, could edify no one, to the gift of prophecy by which the whole body of Christ could be instructed and comforted. And those persons and offices in the church which are most admired or coveted, are often of little account in the sight of God. There is another idea presented in these verses. It is an instinct of nature to adorn most the least comely portions of the body; and it is an instinct of grace to honor most those members of the church who least attract admiration. Those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, i.e. less likely to be honored; on those we bestow the more abundant honor, i.e. we on that account honor them the more. It is thus with a mother. The child which is the least admired, she cherishes with special affection. And it is thus with the church. The true people of God are only the more disposed to honor those of their number who are undervalued or despised. In the body, as the apostle says, our uncomely parts have (i.e. they receive) more abundant comeliness, i.e. are specially adorned.


Verse 24

For our comely (parts) have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that (part) which lacked:

Our comely parts have no need, i.e. of being thus adorned. The face is uncovered, the feet are clothed and decked. The former needs no adorning, the latter does. God hath tempered the body together, i.e. he has so adjusted it and combined its several members, as to secure the result that more abundant honor should be given to those which lacked. By making the uncomely parts essential to the well-being of the rest, and by diffusing a common life through all the members, he has made the body a harmonious whole.


Verse 25-26

That there should be no schism in the body; but (that) the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, as the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

God has so constituted the body that there should be no schism in it, i.e. no diversity of feeling or interest. Schism means simply division, but when spoken of an organized body, or of a society, it commonly includes the idea of alienation of feeling. Such was the schism which existed among the Corinthians, see 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 11:18. But that the members should have the same care one for another. That is, that one member should have the same care for another member that it has for itself. The body is so constituted that the eye is as solicitous for the welfare of the foot as it is for its own well-being. The consequence is that if one member suffers all the members suffer with it; and if one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. This is the law of our physical nature. The body is really one. It has a common life and consciousness. The pain or pleasure of one part is common to the whole.


Verse 27

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

That is, collectively ye are the body of Christ; individually or severally, ye are members. This is the application of the preceding analogy to the case of the Corinthians. What had been said of the body, of its unity; of the diversity of its members; of their mutual dependence; of the greater importance of the weaker than of the stronger members; of the community of feeling and interest that pervades the whole; is all true in its application to the church. The body of Christ is really one, pervaded by one and the same spirit; it consists of many members of different gifts and functions, each according to the will of the Spirit; these members are mutually dependent; the humble and obscure are more necessary to the being and welfare of the church than those distinguished by attractive gifts; and the law of sympathy pervades the whole, so that if one Christian suffers all his fellow Christians suffer with him, and if one believer is honored, all believers rejoice with him. It is to be observed that Paul is not speaking of what ought to be, but of what is. He does not say that it is the duty of one member of the human body to care for another member, but that it does thus care. Such is the law of our nature. The want of this sympathy in any part with all the rest, would prove that it was a there excrescence which did not partake of the common life. The same is true with regard to the body of Christ. It is not merely the duty of one Christian to have sympathy with another, to suffer when he suffers, and to rejoice when he is honored; but such is the nature of their relation that it must be so. The want of this sympathy with our fellow Christians, no matter by what name they may be called, is proof that we do not belong to the body of Christ. In this, as in all other respects, Christians are imperfect. The time has not yet come when every believer shall have the same care for another that he has for himself, and rejoice in his joy and grieve in his sorrow as though they were his own. The ideal is here set before us, and blessed are those who approach nearest to the standard.


Verse 28

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul says, "God gave some apostles, some prophets," etc. He began here to use the same form, ‘God hath set some in the church,' but varies the construction, and says, First, apostles. This verse is an amplification of the preceding one. In 1 Corinthians 12:27 he said the church is analogous to the human body. He here shows that the analogy consists in the common life of the church, or the indwelling Spirit of God, manifesting itself in a diversity of gifts and offices, just as the common life of the body manifests itself in different organs and members. In the church some were apostles, i.e. immediate messengers of Christ, rendered infallible as teachers and rulers by the gift of plenary inspiration. Secondly, prophets, i.e. men who spoke for God as the occasional organs of the Spirit. Thirdly, teachers, i.e. uninspired men who had received the gift of teaching. Fourthly, miracles; here and in what follows abstract terms are used for concrete — miracles mean men endowed with the power of working miracles. Fifthly, gifts of healing, i.e. persons endowed with the power of healing diseases. Sixthly, helps, i.e. persons qualified and appointed to help the other officers of the church, probably in the care of the poor and the sick. These, according to the common understanding from Chrysostom to the present day, were deacons and deaconesses. Seventhly, governments, i.e. men who had the gift and authority to rule. As this gift and office are distinguished from those of teachers, it cannot be understood of the presbyters or bishops who were required "to be apt to teach." It seems to refer clearly to a class of officers distinct from teachers, i.e. rulers, or as they are called in the Reformed churches, "ruling elders," and in the ancient church, seniores plebis. Finally, diversities of tongues, i.e. persons having the gift of speaking in foreign languages. This is put last probably because it was so unduly valued and so ostentatiously displayed by the Corinthians.

On this enumeration it may be remarked, first, that it was not intended to be exhaustive. Gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, and elsewhere, which have nothing to correspond to them here. Secondly, every office necessarily supposes the corresponding gift. No man could be an apostle without the gift of infallibility; nor a prophet without the gift of inspiration; nor a healer of diseases without the gift of healing. Man may appoint men to offices for which they have not the necessary gifts, but God never does, any more than he ordains the foot to see or the hand to hear. If any man, therefore, claims to be an apostle, or prophet, or worker of miracles, without the corresponding gift, he is a false pretender. In the early church, as now, there were many false apostles, i.e. those who claimed the honor and authority of the office without its gifts. Thirdly, the fact that any office existed in the apostolic church is no evidence that it was intended to be permanent. In that age there was a plenitude of spiritual manifestations and endowments demanded for the organization and propagation of the church, which is no longer required. We have no longer prophets, nor workers of miracles, nor gifts of tongues. The only evidence that an office was intended to be permanent is the continuance of the gift of which it was the organ, and the command to appoint to the once those who are found to possess the gift. The only evidence that God intended the eye to be a permanent organ of the body, is, that he has perpetuated the faculty of vision. Had the gift of sight been discontinued, it would avail little that men should call the mouth and nose eyes, and demand that they should be recognized as such. This is precisely what Romanists and others do, when they call their bishops apostles, and require men to honor and obey them as though they were. Fourthly, the only evidence of a call to an office, is the possession of the requisite gifts. If a man received the gift of prophecy, he was thereby called to be a prophet; or if he received the gift of healing, he was thereby called to exercise that gift. So if any man has received ministerial gifts, he has received a call to the ministry. What those gifts are the Bible has taught us. They are such as these: soundness in the faith, competent knowledge, ability to teach, the love of Christ and zeal for his glory, an intelligent conviction of an obligation to preach the gospel, and in short the qualifications which are necessary in one who is to be an example and guide of the flock of Jesus Christ. The office of the church in the matter is, first to examine whether the candidate for the ministry really possesses ministerial gifts, and men, if satisfied on that point, authoritatively to declare its judgment in the appointed way. The same remarks may be made in reference to a call to the missionary work or to any other department of labor in the church of Christ. The fundamental idea is that the church is the body of Christ, filled by his Spirit, and that the Spirit distributes to every one severally as he wills, the gifts which he designs him to exercise for the edification of the whole.


Verse 29-30

(Are) all apostles? (are) all prophets? (are) all teachers? (are) all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

As in the body all is not eye, or all ear, so in the church all have not the same gifts and offices. And as it would be preposterous in all the members of the body to aspire to the same office, so it is no less preposterous in the members of the church that all should covet the same gifts. It is the design of the apostle to suppress, on the one hand, all discontent and envy, and on the other, all pride and arrogance. God distributes his gifts as he pleases; all are necessary, and the recipients of them are mutually dependent.


Verse 31

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

All cannot have every gift, but covet earnestly the better ones. To covet ( זחכן ́ ש) is earnestly to desire, with the implication of corresponding effort to obtain. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were bestowed according to his own good pleasure. But so also are his saving benefits. Yet both may be, and should be sought in the use of the appointed means. The best gifts; literally, the better gifts, by which is meant, as appears from 1 Corinthians 14:5, those which were the more useful. The Corinthians had a very different standard of excellence; and coveted most the gifts which were the most attractive, although the least useful. And yet (or, moreover) I shew you an excellent way. The expression is not in itself comparative, more excellent, but simply a way according to excellence, i.e. an excellent way. Whether it is excellent compared to something else, or most excellent, depends on the context. Here no comparison is implied. The idea is not that he intends to show them a way that is better than seeking gifts, but a way par excellence to obtain those gifts. The other view is indeed adopted by Calvin and others but it supposes the preceding imperative (covet ye) to be merely concessive, and is contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:1, where the command to seek the more useful gifts is repeated. The sense is, ‘Seek the better gifts, and moreover I show you an excellent way to do it.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-12.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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