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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

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Verse 1

The matter about the gifts. Supernormal gifts from the Holy Spirit were needed in the beginning, because: (1) they did not yet have the New Testament to guide them; (2) they were racing against time (Matthew 24:14). Many at Corinth took a superstitious view of the "gifts from the Spirit," especially the ability to speak in strange tongues. They viewed these gifts as being similar to those seen in the pagan temples, but with much greater power. [There have always been counterfeit gifts and miracles. Compare Exodus 7:10-12.] But the biggest problem at Corinth was their competitive spirit! Each one said his gift was the greatest and tried to seize the glory for himself!!! And since speaking in strange tongues gave the most opportunity to show off, that was the one which everybody wanted!!! Paul's purpose is to: (1) lay down a rule-of-thumb to separate gifts from the Holy Spirit from gifts given by evil spirits (demons); (2) to show the diversity in the gifts from the Spirit.


Verse 2

While you were still heathen. The pagans were led by no intelligent, conscious guidance (which the Holy Spirit gives), but by an occult power (of demons, 1 Corinthians 10:19-21) through the idol. [See introduction to First Corinthians.]


Verse 3

A curse on Jesus. This implies that some who claimed to have God's Spirit had said that Jesus was a phony (an impostor) who deserved the death he died. MacKnight thinks these might have been Jewish Exorcists (see note on Acts 19:13). Probably the pagan priests and priestesses did this. The experiences of their old life had not prepared the Corinthians to understand the workings of God's Spirit. They knew how men could be "carried away" by supernatural influences. They want a criterion, a yardstick to test those who claimed inspiration. A curse on Jesus, Jesus is Lord are the battle cries of the spirits of error and truth. Only an evil spirit will say a curse on Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit leads one to say Jesus is Lord. MacKnight limits this verse to those who speak under supernormal circumstances, "But a person who only speaks, as a passive instrument, what is supernaturally suggested to him, cannot declare Jesus Lord, except the suggestion comes from the Holy Spirit."


Verse 4

There are different kinds. "Because the spiritual gifts all come from the one Spirit, they are all equally divine, even though different."


Verse 5

Different ways of serving. Each of the gifts from the Spirit makes it possible for the one who has them to serve both God and the messianic community. As they serve, all who have gifts from the Spirit are equal.


Verse 6

Different abilities to perform service. The same God is the source of authority for each who has the gifts from the Spirit, therefore all are equal. The whole point of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 is that (1) there are different gifts; (2) there are different ways of serving; (3) there are different abilities to perform service; (4) but since these things come from the one God and the Holy Spirit, all who have these are equally honored by them. No one can feel his gift is more important than all the others.


Verse 7

For the good of all. No gift from the Spirit is intended to bring glory to the one who has it. The purpose for these gifts is for the good of all (compare Ephesians 4:12-13). [ 2 Timothy 1:6 implies that: (1) the spiritual gifts came through the apostles; (2) that each was given only one gift. The apostles had all the gifts. In each congregation, the total variety of gifts would be shared by different individuals.] See note on 1 Corinthians 12:11.


Verse 8

The Spirit gives one man. Remember: the New Testament as we have it did not yet exist. Supernormal gifts were needed to permit the church to grow rapidly. A message of wisdom. The commands of Christ. See Matthew 28:20. A message of knowledge. A complete knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. The true meaning of the Old Testament was given to them, so they could use this to prove the claims of Christ. Compare 1 Peter 1:10-12.


Verse 9

Gives faith. Not the faith which comes through hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). Faith, as a gift from the Spirit, was: (1) supernormal boldness and courage (Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 21:15; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:10); (2) faith which led spiritual men to perform miracles (Matthew 17:20; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). The power to heal. The ability to heal diseases was used to authenticate the message of Christ. Compare Acts 19:11-12 - but notice also those whom Paul did not heal (2 Timothy 4:10; Philippians 2:25-27; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).


Verse 10

The power to work miracles. MacKnight understands this to be the ability to confer spiritual gifts on others. Only the apostles seem to have had this gift from the Spirit (see Acts 8:14-17 and notes). Of speaking God's message. Prophecy = God's message. The prophet, under divine control, spoke the message given him (or her) by the Holy Spirit. See Acts 15:30-32. Sometimes the prophet told about the future (Acts 21:10-12). To tell the difference. This gift from the Spirit made it possible to know whether someone who claimed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit actually was! (Some would claim inspiration just to get glory for themselves.) Also, this gift from the Spirit made it possible to know which messages were true, and which were false. Not having the New testament, they needed a miraculous way to check up on the things that were said. To speak in strange tongues. By means of this gift, preachers could go into a foreign country and immediately speak the local language like a native. Compare Acts 2:4-11 and notes. The ability to explain. This served as a check on those who spoke in strange tongues, because they could translate and verify the things which had been said. Also, they could translate the Scriptures from the strange tongues of Hebrew and Greek into their own languages.


Verse 11

But it is one and the same Spirit. These gifts, though different, came from the ONE Spirit. Each gift was necessary to build up the body of Christ. Each gift conferred equal honor. No one had any right to boast that his (or her) gift made them more spiritual and holy than other people. [HEKASTÔ = each (man and woman).] As he wishes. The Spirit deals with each one receiving a gift on an individual basis. Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that it is the Holy Spirit himself who makes the choice to give or withhold each spiritual gift. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:7.


Verse 12

Christ is like a single body. Paul uses the example of the human body to show the nature of Christ (and his church). The point is variety in unity. Diversification of function makes possible human life. The unity of the Church is the oneness of a living organism where each individual has his or her own unique function. No one has any right to be jealous of what anyone else can do; and without this ONE, the body is not complete.


Verse 13

In the same way. That the body is the sum of all the parts. Have been baptized Into the one body. The point Isaiah, that in spite of our differences of race, nationality, and social status, we all become ONE in Christ. By the same Spirit. See notes on John 3:5-7. The one Spirit to drink. God's gift, the Holy Spirit, which every Christian drinks in. See Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32 and notes.


Verse 14

For the body itself. The human body is made up of many different parts, with different abilities and different functions.


Verse 15

If the foot were to say. If the foot complains because it must walk in the dust and dirt, it doesn't change anything because it grumbles.


Verse 16

And if the ear were to say. Again complaining doesn't change anything, because the fact of its function is still the same! [Bengelius thinks the foot symbolizes the common people in the church; the hand, the leaders; the eyes, the teachers; and the ears, the learners.]


Verse 17

If the whole body. Paul shows how absurd their jealousy of each other Isaiah, by showing what would happen to the human body if the subordinate parts were omitted.


Verse 18

God put every different part. In both the human body and the Church, God assigns function to each part for the good of the whole.


Verse 19

There would not be a body. It is only because of the different functions of each part, that the body can be a body.


Verse 20

As it is. "Facts are stubborn things!" Paul firmly states: there are many parts, and one body. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:17 and note. The happiness of the one body results from the existence of all its parts.


Verse 21

So then! The hands need the guidance of the eye, and the eye needs the help of the hands. Every member of the body has his or her place and is needed by every other member of the body. And it is also true that Christ the head needs every member of his Church. This also includes the weak member and bad member because in reacting to them and disciplining them, the good members are built up and matured.


Verse 22

We cannot do without. In our human bodies, the brain, lungs, and intestines are easily injured, but we could more easily get along without an arm, leg, or eye, than one of these.


Verse 23

Aren't worth very mach. Certain parts of our bodies we hide from sight. Which don't look very nice. The generative organs.


Verse 24

Which the more beautiful parts. We beautify our bodies by covering up certain parts and decorating others with items of clothing. But our head, face, and hands don't need such coverings. The point is that the strong members of the church ought to work for the good of the weak, and the weak should get rid of all jealousy and envy, to work for the good of the strong. When you help the other person, you are helping yourself, since you are part of the body. God himself. This strong statement of God's work in structuring the physical organs of the human body was (and is) necessary when many thought matter was totally evil and looked at physical needs as degrading. Compare 1 Timothy 4:3; Colossians 2:23; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.


Verse 25-26

And so there is no division in the body. The physical body becomes both a symbol of and a basis for the spiritual group. Chrysostom writes: "When the head is crowned, the whole man feels itself glorified; when the mouth speaks, the eyes laugh and are filled with gladness."


Verse 27

Are Christ's body. "By your baptism into union with Christ, you become part of the ONE church or body, of which Christ is the head, soul, and ruler; and considers things done to parts of that body as done to himself."


Verse 28

In the church, then. Nine spiritual gifts were named; nine positions in the church are now given. God has put all in place. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:18. Apostles. The Twelve, plus Paul. From them all must receive the knowledge of the gospel. They have no replacements, and even though dead, they still speak to us through the New Testament writings. Prophets. Who spoke God's message by inspiration (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:10). Teachers. Who had the gift from the Spirit to teach God's Truth. Miracles. Who confirm the gospel by means of miracles. To heal diseases. To help. Compare Acts 4:36; Acts 9:27. Spiritual ability to encourage and to help others. To direct. The spiritual ability to organize. This might be the church-elders (leaders), or one who has the gift of being able to tell the difference (see 1 Corinthians 12:10). To speak in strange tongues. This is last on the list, but the Corinthians rated it the highest. See note on 1 Corinthians 12:10. All Paul mentions here have the spiritual gifts. Compare Ephesians 4:11.


Verse 29-30

They are not all. Paul once again shows the wide variety of abilities, and the fact that each has his own special part to play in the body.


Verse 31

On the more Important gifts. "Even though God has put all in place, we should eagerly desire the more important gifts. We should not be content to speak in strange tongues, when we could speak God's message, etc." Best of all, however. "The gifts from the Spirit are good, but there is something even better than them!"

Chapter 13. LOVE. Love is the route to spiritual power in the Church!!! Paul shows us that all talents, all gifts from the Spirit, all sacrifices - have no meaning at all UNLESS they are qualified (authenticated) by LOVE!!!

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-corinthians-12.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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