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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
1 Corinthians 12



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Verse 1

Spiritual gifts

The charismata or special endowments of supernatural energy, such as prophecy and speaking with tongues. “Before this consciousness of a higher power than their own, the ordinary and natural faculties of the human mind seemed to retire, to make way for loftier aspirations, more immediate intimations of the divine will, more visible manifestations of the divine power … . It resembled in some degree the inspiration of the Jewish judges, psalmists, and prophets; it may be illustrated by the ecstasies and visions of prophets in all religions; but in its energy and universality it was peculiar to the christian society of the apostolic age” (Stanley).

Verse 2

Ye were carried away ( ἀπαγόμενοι )

Blindly hurried. Rev., led.

Dumb idols

Compare Psalm 115:5, Psalm 115:7. And Milton:

“The oracles are dumb,

No voice or hideous hum

Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.”

Hymn on the Nativity

The contrast is implied with the living vocal spirit, which dwells and works in Christ's people, and responds to their prayers.

Even as ye were led ( ὡς ἂν ἢγεσθε )

Rev., howsoever ye might be led. Better, Ellicott: “As from time to time ye might be led. The imperfect tense with the indefinite particle signifies habitually, whenever the occasion might arise. Compare Greek of Mark 6:56. “Now the fatal storm carried the blinded gentile, with a whole procession, to the temple of Jupiter; again it was to the altars of Mars or Venus, always to give them over to one or other of their deified passions” (Godet).

Verse 3

Calleth Jesus accursed ( λέγει Ἁνάθεμα Ἱησοῦς )

Lit., saith Anathema Jesus. Rev., preserving the formula, saith Jesus is Anathema. Compare Acts 18:6, and see on offerings, Luke 21:5. Paul uses only the form ἀνάθεμα , and always in the sense of accursed.

Verse 4

Diversities ( διαιρέσεις )

Only here in the New Testament. It may also be rendered distributions. There is no objection to combining both meanings, a distribution of gifts implying a diversity. 1 Corinthians 12:11, however, seems to favor distributions.

Gifts ( χαρισμάτων )

See on Romans 1:11.

Administrations ( διακονιῶν )

Rev., better, ministrations. Compare Ephesians 4:12. In the New Testament commonly of spiritual service of an official character. See Acts 1:25; Acts 6:4; Acts 20:24; Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; and on minister, Matthew 20:26.

Verse 6

Operations ( ἐνεργήματα )

Rev., workings. Outward manifestations and results of spiritual gifts. The kindred word ἐνέργεια energyis used only by Paul: and only of superhuman good or evil. Compare Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 2:12. See on Mark 6:14.

Worketh ( ἐνεργῶν )

Etymologically akin to operations. See on Mark 6:14; see on James 5:16.

All ( τὰ πάντα )

Or them all. The article shows that they are regarded collectively.

Verse 9


Not saving faith in general, which is the common endowment of all Christians, but wonder-working faith.

Verse 10


Not mere foretelling of the future. Quite probably very little of this element is contemplated; but utterance under immediate divine inspiration: delivering inspired exhortations, instructions, or warnings. See on prophet, Luke 7:26. The fact of direct inspiration distinguished prophecy from “teaching.”

Discerning of spirits

Rev., correctly, discernings. Distinguishing between the different prophetic utterances, whether they proceed from true or false spirits. See 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1, 1 John 4:2.

Divers kinds of tongues ( γένη γλωσσῶν ).

I. Passages Relating to the Gift of Tongues. Mark 16:17; Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+10:46&sr=1">Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 14. Possibly Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:11.

II. Terms Employed. New tongues (Mark 16:17): other or different tongues ( ἕτεραι , Acts 2:4): kinds ( γένη ) of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10): simply tongues or tongue ( γλῶσσαι γλῶσσα , Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+2:4&sr=1">Acts 2:4; Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6; 1 Corinthians 14:2, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:13, 1 Corinthians 14:14, 1 Corinthians 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:27): to pray in a tongue ( προσεύχεσθαι γλώσσῃ , 1 Corinthians 14:14, 1 Corinthians 14:15), equivalent to praying in the spirit as distinguished from praying with the understanding: tongues of men and angels (1 Corinthians 13:1).

III. Recorded Facts in the New Testament. (1.) The first recorded bestowment of the gift was at Pentecost (Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+10:44-46&sr=1">Acts 10:44-46. (3.) Certain disciples at Ephesus, who received the Holy Spirit in the laying on of Paul's hands, spake with tongues and prophesied, Acts 19:6.

IV. Meaning of the Term “Tongue.” The various explanations are: the tongue alone, inarticulately: rare, provincial, poetic, or archaic words: language or dialect. The last is the correct definition. It does not necessarily mean any of the known languages of men, but may mean the speaker's own tongue, shaped in a peculiar manner by the Spirit's influence; or an entirely new spiritual language.

V. Nature of the Gift in the Corinthian Church. (1.) The gift itself was identical with that at Pentecost, at Caesarea, and at Ephesus, but differed in its manifestations, in that it required an interpreter. 1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:30; 1 Corinthians 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:13, 1 Corinthians 14:26, 1 Corinthians 14:27. (2.) It was closely connected with prophesying: 1 Corinthians 14:1-6, 1 Corinthians 14:22, 1 Corinthians 14:25; Acts 2:16-18; Acts 19:6. Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:20. It was distinguished from prophesying as an inferior gift, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:5; and as consisting in expressions of praise or devotion rather than of exhortation, warning, or prediction, 1 Corinthians 14:14-16. (3.) It was an ecstatic utterance, unintelligible to the hearers, and requiring interpretation, or a corresponding ecstatic condition on the part of the hearer in order to understand it. It was not for the edification of the hearer but of the speaker, and even the speaker did not always understand it, 1 Corinthians 14:2, 1 Corinthians 14:19. It therefore impressed unchristian bystanders as a barbarous utterance, the effect of madness or drunkenness, Acts 2:13, Acts 2:15; 1 Corinthians 14:11, 1 Corinthians 14:23. Hence it is distinguished from the utterance of the understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:14-16, 1 Corinthians 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:27.

VI. Paul's Estimate of the Gift. He himself was a master of the gift (1 Corinthians 14:18), but he assigned it an inferior position (1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:5), and distinctly gave prophesying and speaking with the understanding the preference (1 Corinthians 14:2, 1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Corinthians 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:22).

VII. Results and Permanence. Being recognized distinctly as a gift of the Spirit, it must be inferred that it contributed in some way to the edification of the Church; but it led to occasional disorderly outbreaks (1 Corinthians 14:9, 1 Corinthians 14:11, 1 Corinthians 14:17, 1 Corinthians 14:20-23, 1 Corinthians 14:26-28, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 1 Corinthians 14:40). As a fact it soon passed away from the Church. It is not mentioned in the Catholic or Pastoral Epistles. A few allusions to it occur in the writings of the fathers of the second century. Ecstatic conditions and manifestations marked the Montanists at the close of the second century, and an account of such a case, in which a woman was the subject, is given by Tertullian. Similar phenomena have emerged at intervals in various sects, at times of great religious excitement, as among the Camisards in France, the early Quakers and Methodists, and especially the Irvingites.

Verse 13

Made to drink ( ἐποτίσθημεν )

The verb means originally to give to drink, from which comes the sense of to water or irrigate. The former is invariably the sense in the gospels and Revelation; the latter in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, and by some here. The reference is to the reception of the Spirit in baptism. Omit into before one Spirit.

Verse 14

The body

The student will naturally recall the fable of the body and the members uttered by Menenius Agrippa, and related by Livy, ii., 32; but the illustration seems to have been a favorite one, and occurs in Seneca, Marcus Antoninus, and others.

Verse 18

Set ( ἔθετο )

See on John 15:16, where the same word is used by Christ of appointing His followers.

Verse 22

Seem to be ( δοκοῦντα - ὑπάρχειν )

The allusion is probably to those which seem to be weaker in their original structure, naturally. This may be indicated by the use of ὑπάρχειν tobe (see on James 2:15); compare εἶναι tobe, in 1 Corinthians 12:23. Others explain of those which on occasion seem to be weaker, as when a member is diseased.

Verse 23

We bestow ( περιτίθεμεν )

Elsewhere in the New Testament the word is used, without exception, of encircling with something; either putting on clothing, as Matthew 27:28; or surrounding with a fence, as Matthew 21:33; or of the sponge placed round the reed, as Mark 15:36; John 19:29. So evidently here. Rev., in margin, put on. The more abundant honor is shown by the care in clothing.

Uncomely - comeliness ( ἀσχήμονα - εὐσχημοσύνην )

See on honorable, Mark 15:43; see on shame, Revelation 16:15. Compare ἀσχημονεῖν behavethuncomely, 1 Corinthians 7:36. The comeliness is outward, as is shown by the verb we put on, and by the compounds of οχῆμα fashionSee on transfigured, Matthew 17:2.

Verse 24

Tempered together ( συνέκρασεν )

Only here and Hebrews 4:2. Lit., mixed together. Here the idea of mutual adjustment is added to that of mingling. Compare Plato on God's creating the soul and body. “He made her out of the following elements, and on this manner. Of the unchangeable and indivisible, and also of the divisible and corporeal He made ( ξυνεκεράσατο compounded) a third sort of intermediate essence, partaking of the same and of the other, or diverse” (see the whole passage, “Timaeus,” 35).


Verse 26

Suffer with it

Compare Plutarch of Solon's Laws: “If any one was beaten or maimed or suffered any violence, any man that would and was able might prosecute the wrongdoer; intending by this to accustom the citizens, like members of the same body, to resent and be sensible of one another's injuries” (Solon). And Plato: “As in the body, when but a finger is hurt, the whole frame, drawn towards the soul and forming one realm under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes all together with the part affected” (“Republic,” v., 462).

Is honored ( δοξάζεται )

Or glorified. Receives anything which contributes to its soundness or comeliness. So Chrysostom: “The head is crowned, and all the members have a share in the honor; the eyes laugh when the mouth speaks.”

Verse 27

In particular ( ἐκ μέρους )

Rev., better, severally. Each according to his own place and function. See on part, Romans 11:25.

Verse 28

Hath set ( ἔθετο )

See on 1 Corinthians 12:18. The middle voice implies for His own use.


Note the change from endowed persons to abstract gifts, and compare the reverse order, Romans 12:6-8.

Helps ( ἀντιλήμψεις )

Rendered to the poor and sick as by the deacons. See on hath holpen, Luke 1:54.

Governments ( κυβερνήσεις )

Only here in the New Testament. From κυβερνάω tosteer. The kindred κυβερνήτης shipmasteror steersman, occurs Acts 27:11; Revelation 18:17. Referring probably to administrators of church government, as presbyters. The marginal wise counsels (Rev.) is based on Septuagint usage, as Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 20:21. Compare Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 24:6. Ignatius, in his letter to Polycarp says: “The occasion demands thee, as pilots ( κυβερνῆται ) the winds.” The reading is disputed, but the sense seems to be that the crisis demands Polycarp as a pilot. Lightfoot says that this is the earliest example of a simile which was afterward used largely by christian writers - the comparison of the Church to a ship. Hippolytus represents the mast as the cross; the two rudders the two covenants; the undergirding ropes the love of Christ. The ship is one of the ornaments which Clement of Alexandria allows a Christian to wear (“Apostolic Fathers,” Part II., Ignatius to Polycarp, 2).

Verse 31

The best ( τὰ κρείττονα )

The correct reading is τὰ μείζονα thegreater. So Rev.

Yet ( ἔτι )

Some construe with more excellent, rendering yet more excellent. So Rev. Others render moreover, and give the succeeding words a superlative force: “and moreover a most excellent way,” etc. See on with excellency, 1 Corinthians 2:1.


To attain the higher gifts. The way of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. “Love is the fairest and best in himself, and the cause of what is fairest and best in all other things” (Plato, “Symposium,” 197).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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