1Co 12:1-31. The Use and the
Abuse of Spiritual Gifts, Especially
Prophesying and Tongues.
This is the second subject for correction in
the Corinthian assemblies: the "first" was discussed (1Co
1. spiritual gifts—the signs of the
Spirit's continued efficacious presence in the Church, which is
Christ's body, the complement of His incarnation, as the body is the
complement of the head. By the love which pervades the whole, the gifts
of the several members, forming reciprocal complements to each other,
tend to the one object of perfecting the body of Christ. The ordinary
and permanent gifts are comprehended together with the extraordinary,
without distinction specified, as both alike flow from the divine
indwelling Spirit of life. The extraordinary gifts, so far from making
professors more peculiarly saints than in our day, did not
always even prove that such persons were in a safe state at all
7:22). They were needed at
first in the Church: (1) as a pledge to Christians themselves who had
just passed over from Judaism or heathendom, that God was in the
Church; (2) for the propagation of Christianity in the world; (3) for
the edification of the Church. Now that we have the whole
written New Testament (which they had not) and Christianity
established as the result of the miracles, we need no further miracle
to attest the truth. So the pillar of cloud which guided the Israelites
was withdrawn when they were sufficiently assured of the Divine
Presence, the manifestation of God's glory being thenceforward enclosed
in the Most Holy Place [Archbishop
Whately]. Paul sets forth in order: (1). The unity of the body
12:1-27). (2). The variety of
its members and functions (1Co 12:27-30). (3). The grand principle for the right
exercise of the gifts, namely, love (1Co 12:31; 1Co 13:1-13). (4) The comparison of the gifts
with one another (1Co 14:1-40).
I would not have you ignorant—with all
your boasts of "knowledge" at Corinth. If ignorant now, it will be your
own fault, not mine (1Co 14:38).
2. (Eph 2:11).
that ye were—The best manuscripts
read, "That WHEN ye were"; thus "ye
were" must be supplied before "carried away"—Ye were blindly
transported hither and thither at the will of your false guides.
these dumb idols—Greek,
"the idols which are dumb"; contrasted with the living God who
"speaks" in the believer by His Spirit (1Co 12:3, &c.). This gives the reason why the
Corinthians needed instruction as to spiritual gifts, namely, their
past heathen state, wherein they had no experience of intelligent
spiritual powers. When blind, ye went to the dumb.
as ye were led—The Greek is,
rather, "as ye might (happen to) be led," namely, on different
occasions. The heathen oracles led their votaries at random, without
any definite principle.
3. The negative and positive criteria of
inspiration by the Spirit—the rejection or confession of Jesus as
Lord [Alford] (1Jo 4:2; 5:1). Paul gives a test of truth
against the Gentiles; John, against the false prophets.
by the Spirit—rather, as Greek,
"IN the Spirit"; that being the power
pervading him, and the element in which he speaks [Alford], (Mt 16:17; Joh 15:26).
of God … Holy—The same Spirit is
called at one time "the Spirit of God";
at another, "the HOLY Ghost," or "Holy
Spirit." Infinite Holiness is almost synonymous with
speaking … say—"Speak" implies
the act of utterance; "say" refers to that which is uttered. Here,
"say" means a spiritual and believing confession of
Jesus—not an abstract doctrine, but
the historical, living God-man (Ro 10:9).
accursed—as the Jews and Gentiles
treated Him (Ga 3:13).
Compare "to curse Christ" in the heathen Pliny's letter [Epistles, 10.97]. The
spiritual man feels Him to be the Source of all blessings (Eph 1:3) and to be severed from Him is to be
Lord—acknowledging himself as His
servant (Isa 26:13).
"Lord" is the Septuagint translation for the incommunicable
Hebrew name Jehovah.
4. diversities of gifts—that is,
varieties of spiritual endowments peculiar to the several members of
the Church: compare "dividing to every man severally" (1Co 12:11).
same Spirit—The Holy Trinity appears
here: the Holy Spirit in this verse; Christ in 1Co 12:5; and the Father in 1Co 12:6. The terms "gifts,"
"administrations," and "operations," respectively correspond to the
Divine Three. The Spirit is treated of in 1Co 12:7, &c.; the Lord, in 1Co 12:12, &c.; God, in 1Co 12:28. (Compare Eph 4:4-6).
5, 6. "Gifts" (1Co 12:4), "administrations" (the various
functions and services performed by those having the
gifts, compare 1Co 12:28),
and "operations" (the actual effects resulting from both the
former, through the universally operative power of the one Father who
is "above all, through all, and in us all"), form an ascending climax
same Lord—whom the Spirit glorifies by
these ministrations [Bengel].
6. operations—(Compare 1Co 12:10).
same God … worketh—by His Spirit
working (1Co 12:11).
all in all—all of them (the "gifts")
in all the persons (who possess them).
7. But—Though all the gifts flow from
the one God, Lord, and Spirit, the "manifestation" by which the
Spirit acts (as He is hidden in Himself), varies in each
to every man—to each of the
members of the Church severally.
to profit withal—with a view to the
profit of the whole body.
8-10. Three classes of gifts are distinguished
by a distinct Greek word for "another" (a distinct
class), marking the three several genera: allo marks the
species, hetero the genera (compare Greek, 1Co
15:39-41). I. Gifts of
intellect, namely, (1) wisdom; (2) knowledge. II. Gifts dependent on a
special faith, namely, that of miracles (Mt 17:20): (1) healings; (2) workings of
miracles; (3) prophecy of future events; (4) discerning of spirits, or
the divinely given faculty of distinguishing between those really
inspired, and those who pretended to inspiration. III. Gifts referring
to the tongues: (1) diverse kinds of tongues; (2) interpretation
of tongues. The catalogue in 1Co 12:28 is not meant strictly to harmonize with
the one here, though there are some particulars in which they
correspond. The three genera are summarily referred to by single
instances of each in 1Co 13:8. The
first genus refers more to believers; the second, to unbelievers.
by … by … by—The first in
Greek is, "By means of," or "through the operation of"; the
second is, "according to" the disposing of (compare 1Co 12:11); the third is, "in," that is, under
the influence of (so the Greek, Mt 22:43; Lu
word of wisdom—the ready utterance
of (for imparting to others, Eph 6:19) wisdom, namely, new revelations
of the divine wisdom in redemption, as contrasted with human philosophy
(1Co 1:24; 2:6, 7; Eph 1:8; 3:10; Col
word of knowledge—ready utterance
supernaturally imparted of truths ALREADY
REVEALED (in this it is distinguished from "the word of wisdom,"
which related to NEW revelations).
14:6, where "revelation"
(answering to "wisdom" here) is distinguished from "knowledge" [Henderson]. Wisdom or revelation
belonged to the "prophets"; knowledge, to the "teachers."
Wisdom penetrates deeper than knowledge. Knowledge
relates to things that are to be done. Wisdom, to things
eternal: hence, wisdom is not, like knowledge, said to
"pass away" (1Co 13:8),
9. faith—not of doctrines, but of
miracles: confidence in God, by the impulse of His Spirit, that He
would enable them to perform any required miracle (compare 1Co
13:2; Mr 11:23; Jas 5:15).
Its nature, or principle, is the same as that of saving faith, namely,
reliance on God; the producing cause, also, in the same,' namely, a
power altogether supernatural (Eph 1:19, 20). But the objects of faith differ
respectively. Hence, we see, saving faith does not save by its
instrinsic merit, but by the merits of Him who is the object of it.
"healings"; referring to different kinds of disease which need
different kinds of healing (Mt 10:1).
10. working of miracles—As "healings"
are miracles, those here meant must refer to miracles of special and
extraordinary POWER (so the Greek
for "miracles" means); for example, healings might be effected by human
skill in course of time; but the raising of the dead, the infliction of
death by a word, the innocuous use of poisons, &c., are miracles
of special power. Compare Mr 6:5; Ac 19:11.
prophecy—Here, probably, not in the
wider sense of public teaching by the Spirit (1Co
11:4, 5; 14:1-5, 22-39); but,
as its position between "miracles" and a "discerning of spirits"
implies, the inspired disclosure of the future (Ac
11:27, 28; 21:11; 1Ti 1:18),
[Henderson]. It depends on "faith"
(1Co 12:9; Ro 12:6). The prophets ranked next to the
apostles (1Co 12:28; Eph 3:5; 4:11). As prophecy is part of the
whole scheme of redemption, an inspired insight into the obscurer parts
of the existing Scriptures, was the necessary preparation for the
miraculous foresight of the future.
discerning of spirits—discerning
between the operation of God's Spirit, and the evil spirit, or unaided
human spirit (1Co 14:29;
compare 1Ti 4:1; 1Jo 4:1).
kinds of tongues—the power of speaking
various languages: also a spiritual language unknown to man,
uttered in ecstasy (1Co 14:2-12). This is marked as a distinct genus in
the Greek, "To another and a different class."
interpretation of tongues—(1Co 14:13,
11. as he will—(1Co 12:18; Heb
12, 13. Unity, not unvarying uniformity, is
the law of God in the world of grace, as in that of nature. As the many
members of the body compose an organic whole and none can be dispensed
with as needless, so those variously gifted by the Spirit, compose a
spiritual organic whole, the body of Christ, into which all are
baptized by the one Spirit.
of that one body—Most of the oldest
manuscripts omit "one."
so also is Christ—that is, the
whole Christ, the head and body. So Ps 18:50, "His anointed (Messiah or Christ),
David (the antitypical David) and His seed."
13. by … Spirit …
baptized—literally, "in"; in virtue of; through. The
designed effect of baptism, which is realized when not
frustrated by the unfaithfulness of man.
all made to drink into one Spirit—The
oldest manuscripts read, "Made to drink of one Spirit," omitting "into"
7:37). There is an indirect
allusion to the Lord's Supper, as there is a direct allusion to baptism
in the beginning of the verse. So the "Spirit, the water, and the
5:8), similarly combine the
two outward signs with the inward things signified, the Spirit's
are … have been—rather as
Greek, "were … were" (the past tense).
14. Translate, "For the body also." The
analogy of the body, not consisting exclusively of one, but of many
members, illustrates the mutual dependence of the various members in
the one body, the Church. The well-known fable of the belly and the
other members, spoken by Menenius Agrippa, to the seceding commons
[Livy, 2.32], was probably before Paul's
mind, stored as it was with classical literature.
15. The humbler members ought not to disparage
themselves, or to be disparaged by others more noble (1Co 12:21, 22).
foot … hand—The humble speaks of
the more honorable member which most nearly resembles itself: so the
"ear" of the "eye" (the nobler and more commanding member, Nu 10:31), (1Co 12:16). As in life each compares himself with
those whom he approaches nearest in gifts, not those far superior. The
foot and hand represent men of active life; the
ear and eye, those of contemplative life.
17. Superior as the eye is, it would
not do if it were the sole member to the exclusion of the rest.
18. now—as the case really is.
every one—each severally.
19. where were the body—which, by its
very idea, "hath many members" (1Co 12:12, 14), [Alford].
20. now—as the case really is: in
contrast to the supposition (1Co 12:19; compare 1Co 12:18).
many members—mutually dependent.
21. The higher cannot dispense with the lower
22. more feeble—more susceptible of
injury: for example, the brain, the belly, the eye. Their very
feebleness, so far from doing away with the need for them, calls forth
our greater care for their preservation, as being felt "necessary."
23. less honourable—"We think" the feet
and the belly "less honorable," though not really so in the nature of
bestow … honour—putting
shoes on (Margin) the feet, and clothes to cover the
uncomely parts—the secret parts: the
poorest, though unclad in the rest of the body, cover these.
24. tempered … together—on the
principle of mutual compensation.
to that part which lacked—to the
deficient part [Alford], (1Co 12:23).
25. no schism—(compare 1Co 12:21)—no disunion; referring to the
"divisions" noticed (1Co 11:18).
care one for another—that is, in
behalf of one another.
all … suffer with it—"When a
thorn enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the
back bends, the belly and thighs contract themselves, the hands come
forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard
the affected member with intense gaze" [Chrysostom].
rejoice with it—"When the head is
crowned, the whole man feels honored, the mouth expresses, and the eyes
look, gladness" [Chrysostom].
27. members in particular—that is,
severally members of it. Each church is in miniature what the whole
aggregate of churches is collectively, "the body of Christ" (compare
3:16): and its individual
components are members, every one in his assigned place.
28. set … in the church—as He has
"set the members … in the body" (1Co 12:18).
first apostles—above even the
prophets. Not merely the Twelve, but others are so
called, for example, Barnabas, &c. (Ro 16:7).
teachers—who taught, for the most
part, truths already revealed; whereas the prophets made new
revelations and spoke all their prophesyings under the Spirit's
influence. As the teachers had the "word of knowledge," so the prophets
"the word of wisdom" (1Co 12:8).
Under "teachers" are included "evangelists and pastors."
miracles—literally, "powers" (1Co 12:10): ranked below "teachers," as the
function of teaching is more edifying, though less dazzling than
helps, governments—lower and higher
departments of "ministrations" (1Co 12:5); as instances of the former, deacons
whose office it was to help in the relief of the poor, and in
baptizing and preaching, subordinate to higher ministers (Ac 6:1-10;
8:5-17); also, others who
helped with their time and means, in the Lord's cause (compare
1Co 13:13; Nu 11:17). The Americans similarly use "helps"
for "helpers." And, as instances of the latter,
presbyters, or bishops, whose office it was to
govern the Church (1Ti 5:17; Heb 13:17, 24). These officers, though now ordinary
and permanent, were originally specially endowed with the Spirit for
their office, whence they are here classified with other functions of
an inspired character. Government (literally, "guiding the helm"
of affairs), as being occupied with external things, notwithstanding
the outward status it gives, is ranked by the Spirit with the lower
functions. Compare "He that giveth" (answering to "helps")—"he
that ruleth" (answering to "governments") (Ro 12:8). Translate, literally, "Helpings,
diversities of tongues—(1Co 12:10). "Divers kinds of tongues."
29. Are all?—Surely not.
31. covet earnestly—Greek,
"emulously desire." Not in the spirit of discontented
"coveting." The Spirit "divides to every man severally as He
will" (1Co 12:1);
but this does not prevent men earnestly seeking, by prayer and
watchfulness, and cultivation of their faculties, the greatest
gifts. Beza explains, "Hold in the
highest estimation"; which accords with the distinction in his view
14:1) between "follow
after charity—zealously esteem spiritual gifts"; also
with (1Co 12:11, 18) the sovereign will with which the
Spirit distributes the gifts, precluding individuals from desiring
gifts not vouchsafed to them. But see on 1Co
the best gifts—Most of the oldest
manuscripts read, "the greatest gifts."
and yet—Greek, "and
moreover." Besides recommending your zealous desire for
the greatest gifts, I am about to show you a something still more
excellent (literally, "a way most way-like") to desire, "the way of
love" (compare 1Co 14:1).
This love, or "charity," includes both "faith" and "hope" (1Co 13:7), and bears the same fruits (1Co
13:1-13) as the ordinary and
permanent fruits of the Spirit (Ga 5:22-24). Thus "long-suffering," compare 1Co 12:4; "faith," 1Co 12:7; "joy," 1Co 12:6; "meekness," 1Co 12:5; "goodness," 1Co 12:5; "gentleness," 1Co 12:4 (the Greek is the same for "is
kind"). It is the work of the Holy Spirit, and consists in love to God,
on account of God's love in Christ to us, and as a consequence, love to
man, especially to the brethren in Christ (Ro 5:5; 15:30). This is more to be desired than