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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
1 Corinthians 12



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Verse 1

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

Verse 2

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

Unto those dumb idols (προς τα ειδωλα τα απωναpros ta eidōla ta aphōna). “Unto the idols the dumb.” See Psalm 95:5-7 for the voicelessness (απωναȧphōna old adjective, without voice, πωνηphōnē) of the idols. Pagans were led astray by demons (1 Corinthians 10:19.).

Howsoever ye might be led (ως αν ηγεστεhōs an ēgesthe). Rather, “as often as ye were led.” For this use of ως ανhōs an for the notion of repetition, regular Koiné{[28928]}š idiom, see Robertson, Grammar, p. 974. Cf. οπου ανhopou an in Mark 6:56.

Verse 3

Wherefore I give you to understand (διο γνωριζω υμινdio gnōrizō humin). Causative idea (only in Aeschylus in old Greek) in papyri (also in sense of recognize) and N.T., from root γνωgnō in γινωσκωginōskō to know.

Speaking in the Spirit of God (εν πνευματι τεου λαλωνen pneumati theou lalōn). Either sphere or instrumentality. No great distinction here between λαλεωlaleō (utter sounds) and λεγωlegō (to say).

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

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

Verse 4

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

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

Verse 5

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

Verse 6

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

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

Verse 7

Manifestation (πανερωσιςphanerōsis). Late word, in papyri, in N.T. only here and 2 Corinthians 4:2, from πανεροωphaneroō to make manifest (πανεροςphaneros). Each instance of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:6) is repeatedly given (διδοταιdidotai present passive indicative of διδωμιdidōmi).

To profit withal (προς το συμπερονpros to sumpheron). See 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23, 1 Corinthians 10:33 for Paul‘s guiding principle in such matters.

Verse 8

To one (ωι μενhōi men). Demonstrative οςhos with μενmen in dative case, to this one. The distribution or correlation is carried on by αλλωι δεallōi de (1 Corinthians 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:9, 1 Corinthians 12:10), ετερωι δεheterōi de (1 Corinthians 12:9, 1 Corinthians 12:10) for variety, nine manifestations of the Spirit‘s work in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

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

The word of knowledge (λογος γνωσεωςlogos gnōseōs). This gift is insight (illumination) according to (καταkata) the same Spirit.

Verse 9

Faith (πιστιςpistis). Not faith of surrender, saving faith, but wonder-working faith like that in 1 Corinthians 13:2 (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21). Note here εν τωι αυτωι πνευματιen tōi autōi pneumati (in the same Spirit) in contrast with διαdia and καταkata in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Gifts of healings (χαρισματα ιαματωνcharismata iamatōn). ΙαμαIama old word from ιαομαιiaomai common in lxx, in N.T. only in this chapter. It means acts of healing as in Acts 4:30 (cf. James 5:14) and Luke 7:21 (of Jesus). Note ενen here as just before.

Verse 10

Workings of miracles (ενεργηματα δυναμεωνenergēmata dunameōn). Workings of powers. Cf. ενεργων δυναμειςenergōn dunameis in Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4 where all three words are used (σημειαsēmeia signs, τεραταterata wonders, δυναμειςdunameis powers). Some of the miracles were not healings as the blindness on Elymas the sorcerer.

Prophecy (προπητειαprophēteia). Late word from προπητηςprophētēs and προπημιprophēmi to speak forth. Common in papyri. This gift Paul will praise most (chapter 1 Corinthians 14). Not always prediction, but a speaking forth of God‘s message under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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

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

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

Verse 11

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

Severally (ιδιαιidiāi). Separately.

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

Verse 12

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

Verse 13

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

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

Verse 14

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

Verse 15

If the foot shall say (εαν ειπηι ο πουςean eipēi ho pous). Condition of third class (εανean and second aorist subjunctive ειπηιeipēi). In case the foot say.

I am not of the body (ουκ ειμι εκ του σωματοςouk eimi ek tou sōmatos). I am independent of the body, not dependent on the body.

It is not therefore not of the body (ου παρα τουτο ουκ εστιν εκ του σωματοςou para touto ouk estin ek tou sōmatos). Thinking or saying so does not change the fact. Παρα τουτοPara touto here means “alongside of this” (cf. 4 Maccabees 10:19) and so “because of,” a rare use (Robertson, Grammar, p. 616). The two negatives (ουουκou̇̇ouk) do not here destroy one another. Each retains its full force.

Verse 16

Points explained precisely as in 1 Corinthians 12:15.

Verse 17

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

The smelling (η οσπρησιςhē osphrēsis). Old word from οσπραινομαιosphrainomai to smell. Here alone in N.T.

Verse 18

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

Hath God set (ο τεος ετετοho theos etheto). Second aorist middle indicative. God did it and of himself.

Even as it pleased him (κατως ητελησενkathōs ēthelēsen). Why challenge God‘s will? Cf. Romans 9:20.

Verse 19

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

Verse 20

Many members, but one body (πολλα μελη εν δε σωμαpolla melēhen de sōma). The argument in a nutshell, in one epigram.

Verse 21

Cannot say (ου δυναται ειπεινou dunatai eipein). And be truthful. The superior organs need the inferior ones (the eye, the hand, the head, the feet).

Verse 22

Nay, much rather (αλλα πολλωι μαλλονalla pollōi mallon). Adversative sense of αλλαalla on the contrary. So far from the more dignified members like the eye and the head being independent of the subordinate ones like the hands and feet, they are “much more” (argumentum a fortiori, “by much more” πολλωι μαλλονpollōi mallon instrumental case) in need of therm.

Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary (τα δοκουντα μελη του σωματος αστενεστερα υπαρχειν αναγκαια εστινta dokounta melē tou sōmatos asthenestera huparchein anagkaia estin). Things are not always what they seem. The vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys) are not visible, but life cannot exist without them.

Verse 23

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

More abundant comeliness (ευσχημοσυνην περισσοτερανeuschēmosunēn perissoteran). One need only mention the mother‘s womb and the mother‘s breast to see the force of Paul‘s argument here. The word, common in old Greek, from ευσχημωνeuschēmōn (ευeu well, σχημαschēma figure), here only in N.T. One may think of the coal-miner who digs under the earth for the coal to keep us warm in winter. So ασχημωνaschēmōn (deformed, uncomely), old word, here only in N.T., but see note on 1 Corinthians 7:36 for ασχημονεωaschēmoneō f0).

Verse 24

Tempered the body together (συνεκερασεν το σωμαsunekerasen to sōma). First aorist active indicative of συνκεραννυμιsunkerannumi to mix together, old word, but in N.T. only here and Hebrews 4:2. Plato used this very word of the way God compounded (συνεκερασατοsunekerasato) the various elements of the body in creating soul and body. Paul rejects the idea of the later Gnostics that matter is evil and the physical organs degrading. He gives a noble picture of the body with its wonderful organs planned to be the temple of God‘s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) in opposition to the Epicurean sensualists in Corinth.

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

Verse 25

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

Have the same care (το αυτο μεριμνωσινto auto merimnōsin). The very verb μεριμναωmerimnaō used by Jesus of our anxiety (Matthew 6:27, Matthew 6:31). Paul here personifies the parts of the body as if each one is anxious for the others. The modern knowledge of the billions of cells in the body Corinthians-working for the whole confirms Paul‘s argument.

Verse 26

Suffer with it (συνπασχειsunpaschei). Medical term in this sense in Hippocrates and Galen. In N.T only here and Romans 8:17 (of our suffering with Christ). One of Solon‘s Laws allowed retaliation by any one for another‘s injuries. Plato (Republic, V, 462) says the body politic “feels the hurt” as the whole body feels a hurt finger.

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

Verse 27

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

Verse 28

God hath set some (ους μεν ετετο ο τεοςhous men etheto ho theos). See 1 Corinthians 12:18 for ετετο ο τεοςetheto ho theos Note middle voice (for his own use). Paul begins as if he means to say ους μεν αποστολουσ ους δε προπηταςhous men apostolousclass="normal greek">ους δε hous de prophētas (some apostles, some prophets), but he changes the construction and has no πρωτον δευτερον επειταhous de but instead εν τηι εκκλησιαιprōtonεκκλησιαdeuteronepeita (first, second, then, etc.).

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

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

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

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

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

Governments (επισχοποιkubernēseis). Old word from πρεσβυτεροιkubernaō (cf. οι προισταμενοιKubernētēs in Acts 27:11) like Latin gubernare, our govern. So a governing. Probably Paul has in mind bishops (οι ηγουμενοιepiscopoi) or elders (presbuteroi), the outstanding leaders (hoi proistamenoi in 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Romans 12:8; hoi hēgoumenoi in Acts 15:22; Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17, Hebrews 13:24). Curiously enough, these two offices (pastors and deacons) which are not named specifically are the two that survive today. See note on Philemon 1:1 for both officers.

Verse 29

Are all (μη παντεςmē pantes). The μηmē expects a negative answer with each group.

Verse 30

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

Verse 31

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

And a still more excellent way (και ετι κατ υπερβολην οδονkai eti kath' huperbolēn hodon). In order to gain the greater gifts. “I show you a way par excellence,” beyond all comparison (superlative idea in this adjunct, not comparative), like κατ υπερβολην εις υπερβοληνkath' huperbolēn eis huperbolēn (2 Corinthians 4:17). υπερβοληHuperbolē is old word from υπερβαλλωhuperballō to throw beyond, to surpass, to excel (2 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 1:19). “I show you a supremely excellent way.” Chapter 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is this way, the way of love already laid down in 1 Corinthians 8:1 concerning the question of meats offered to idols (cf. 1 John 4:7). Poor division of chapters here. This verse belongs with chapter 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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