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Word Pictures in the New Testament - 1 Corinthians
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Chapter 12

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts [peri de tōn pneumatikōn]. Clearly one of the items asked about in the letter to Paul (7:1) and introduced precisely as the problem of meats offered to idols (8:1). This question runs to the end of chapter 14. Plainly much trouble had arisen in Corinth in the exercise of these gifts.

12:2 Ye were led away [apagomenoi]. The copula [ēte] is not expressed (common ellipsis) with the participle (periphrastic imperfect passive), but it has to be supplied to make sense. Some scholars would change [hote] (when) to [pote] (once) and so remove the difficulty. Unto those dumb idols [pros ta eidōla ta aphōna]. “Unto the idols the dumb.” See Ps 95:5-7 for the voicelessness [a-phōna], old adjective, without voice, [phōnē] of the idols. Pagans were led astray by demons (1Co 10:19f.). Howsoever ye might be led [hōs an ēgesthe]. Rather, “as often as ye were led.” For this use of [hōs an] for the notion of repetition, regular Koinē idiom, see Robertson, Grammar, p. 974. Cf. [hopou an] in Mr 6:56.

12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand [dio gnōrizō humin]. Causative idea (only in Aeschylus in old Greek) in papyri (also in sense of recognize) and N.T., from root [gnō] in [ginōskō], to know. Speaking in the Spirit of God [en pneumati theou lalōn]. Either sphere or instrumentality. No great distinction here between [laleō] (utter sounds) and [legō] (to say). Jesus is anathema [anathema Iēsous]. On distinction between [anathema] (curse) and [anathēma] (offering Lu 21:5) see discussion there. In LXX [anathēma] means a thing devoted to God without being redeemed, doomed to destruction (Le 27:28f.; Jos 6:17; 7:12). See 1Co 16:22; Ga 1:8f.; Ro 9:3. This blasphemous language against Jesus was mainly by the Jews (Ac 13:45; 18:6). It is even possible that Paul had once tried to make Christians say [Anathema Iēsous] (Ac 26:11). Jesus is Lord [Kurios Iēsous]. The term [Kurios], 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 [Kurios], ‘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 1Co 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 [Kurios Caesar] and how each time he replied [Kurios 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.

12:4 Diversities [diaireseis]. Old word for distinctions, differences, distributions, from [diaireō], to distribute, as [diairoun] (dividing, distributing) in verse 11. Only here in the N.T. Of gifts [charismatōn]. Late word and chiefly in Paul (cf. Ro 12:6) in N.T. (except 1Pe 4:19), but some examples in papyri. It means a favour (from [charizomai] bestowed or received without any merit as in Ro 1:11.

12:5 Of ministrations [diakoniōn]. This old word is from [diakonos] and has a general meaning of service as here (Ro 11:13) and a special ministration like that of Martha (Lu 10:40) and the collection (1Co 16:15; 2Co 8:4).

12:6 Of workings [energēmatōn]. Late word, here only in N.T., the effect of a thing wrought (from [energeō], to operate, perform, energize). Paul uses also the late kindred word [energeia] (Col 1:29; 2:12) for efficiency. Who worketh all things in all [ho 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 [ta panta] in Col 1:16 (of Christ) and in Ro 11:36 (of God). Note the Trinity in these verses: the same Spirit (verse 4), the same Lord (Jesus) in verse 5, the same God (the Father) in verse 6.

12:7 Manifestation [phanerōsis]. Late word, in papyri, in N.T. only here and 2Co 4:2, from [phaneroō], to make manifest [phaneros]. Each instance of the whole (verse 6) is repeatedly given [didotai], present passive indicative of [didōmi]. To profit withal [pros to sumpheron]. See on 6:12; 10:23, 33 for Paul’s guiding principle in such matters.

12:8 To one [hōi men]. Demonstrative [hos] with [men] in dative case, to this one. The distribution or correlation is carried on by [allōi de] (verses 8, 9, 10), [heterōi de] (verses 9, 10) for variety, nine manifestations of the Spirit’s work in verses 8-10. The Word of wisdom [logos sophias]. Old words. [Logos] is reason, then speech. Wisdom is intelligence, then practical action in accord with it. Here it is speech full of God’s wisdom (2:7) under the impulse of the Spirit of God. This gift is placed first (revelation by the Spirit). The word of knowledge [logos gnōseōs]. This gift is insight (illumination) according to [kata] the same Spirit.

12:9 Faith [pistis]. Not faith of surrender, saving faith, but wonder-working faith like that in 13:2 (Mt 17:20; 21:21). Note here [en tōi autōi pneumati] (in the same Spirit) in contrast with [dia] and [kata] in verse 8. Gifts of healings [charismata iamatōn]. [Iama], old word from [iaomai], common in LXX, in N.T. only in this chapter. It means acts of healing as in Ac 4:30 (cf. Jas 5:14) and Lu 7:21 (of Jesus). Note [en] here as just before.

12:10 Workings of miracles [energēmata dunameōn]. Workings of powers. Cf. [energōn dunameis] in Ga 3:5; Heb 2:4 where all three words are used [sēmeia], signs, [terata], wonders, [dunameis], powers). Some of the miracles were not healings as the blindness on Elymas the sorcerer. Prophecy [prophēteia]. Late word from [prophētēs] and [prophēmi], to speak forth. Common in papyri. This gift Paul will praise most (chapter 1Co 14). Not always prediction, but a speaking forth of God’s message under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Discernings of spirits [diakriseis pneumatōn]. [Diakrisis] is old word from [diakrinō] (see 11:29) and in N.T. only here; Ro 14:1; Heb 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 (1Ti 4:1; 1Jo 4:1f.). Divers kinds of tongues [genē 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, [genē] in this gift, but the gift was essentially an ecstatic utterance of highly wrought emotion that edified the speaker (14:4) and was intelligible to God (14:2, 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 (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 on Ac 2:13-21; 10:44-46; 19:6. The interpretation of tongues [hermēneia glōssōn]. Old word, here only and 14:26 in N.T., from [hermēneuō] from [Hermēs] (the god of speech). Cf. on [diermēneuō] in Lu 24:27; Ac 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.

12:11 Worketh [energei]. The same word that was used in verse 6 of God. Severally [idiāi]. Separately. Even as he will [kathōs bouletai]. Hence there is no occasion for conceit, pride, or faction (4:7).

12:12 So also is Christ [houtōs kai ho Christos]. One would naturally expect Paul here to say [houtōs 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 Col 1:18,24; Eph 5:23,30. Aristotle had used [sōma] 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.

12:13 Were we all baptized into one body [hēmeis pantes eis hen sōma ebaptisthēmen]. First aorist passive indicative of [baptizō] 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 (Ga 3:27; Ro 6:2ff.). And were all made to drink of one Spirit [kai pantes hen pneuma epotisthēmen]. First aorist passive indicative of [potizō], old verb, to give to drink. The accusative [hen 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.

12:14 Is not one member [ouk 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.

12:15 If the foot shall say [ean eipēi ho pous]. Condition of third class [ean] and second aorist subjunctive [eipēi]. In case the foot say. I am not of the body [ouk eimi ek tou sōmatos]. I am independent of the body, not dependent on the body. It is not therefore not of the body [ou para touto ouk estin ek tou sōmatos]. Thinking or saying so does not change the fact. [Para touto] here means “alongside of this” (cf. IV Macc. 10:19) and so “because of,” a rare use (Robertson, Grammar, p. 616). The two negatives [ou—ouk] do not here destroy one another. Each retains its full force.

12:16 Points explained precisely as in verse 15.

12:17 If the whole body were an eye [ei holon to sōma ophthalmos]. The eye is the most wonderful organ and supremely useful (Nu 10:31), the very light of the body (Lu 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 [hē osphrēsis]. Old word from [osphrainomai], to smell. Here alone in N.T.

12:18 But now [nun de]. But as things are, in contrast to that absurdity. Hath God set [ho theos etheto]. Second aorist middle indicative. God did it and of himself. Even as it pleased him [kathōs ēthelēsen]. Why challenge God’s will? Cf. Ro 9:20.

12:19 One member [hen melos]. Paul applies the logic of verse 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.”

12:20 Many members, but one body [polla melē, hen de sōma]. The argument in a nutshell, in one epigram.

12:21 Cannot say [ou dunatai eipein]. And be truthful. The superior organs need the inferior ones (the eye, the hand, the head, the feet).

12:22 Nay, much rather [alla pollōi mallon]. Adversative sense of [alla], 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” [pollōi mallon], instrumental case) in need of therm. Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary [ta 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.

12:23 We bestow [peritithemen]. Literally, We place around as if a garland (Mr 15:17) or a garment (Mt 27:28). More abundant comeliness [euschēmosunēn 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 [euschēmōn] [eu], well, [schēma], 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 [aschēmōn] (deformed, uncomely), old word, here only in N.T., but see 7:36 for [aschēmoneō].

12:24 Tempered the body together [sunekerasen to sōma]. First aorist active indicative of [sunkerannumi], to mix together, old word, but in N.T. only here and Heb 4:2. Plato used this very word of the way God compounded [sunekerasato] 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 (6:19) in opposition to the Epicurean sensualists in Corinth. To that part which lacked [tōi husteroumenōi]. It is a true instinct that gives superior honour to the unseen organs of life.

12:25 That there should be no schism [hina 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 [to auto merimnōsin]. The very verb [merimnaō] used by Jesus of our anxiety (Mt 6:27,31). 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 co-working for the whole confirms Paul’s argument.

12:26 Suffer with it [sunpaschei]. Medical term in this sense in Hippocrates and Galen. In N.T only here and Ro 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 [sunchairei]. 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 13:6 for joy of love with truth.

12:27 Severally [ek merous]. See Ro 11:25 [apo merous] (in part). Each has his own place and function in the body of Christ.

12:28 God hath set some [hous men etheto ho theos]. See verse 18 for [etheto ho theos]. Note middle voice (for his own use). Paul begins as if he means to say [hous men apostolous, hous de prophētas] (some apostles, some prophets), but he changes the construction and has no [hous de], but instead [prōton, deuteron, epeita] (first, second, then, etc.). In the church [en tēi ekklēsiāi]. The general sense of [ekklēsia] as in Mt 16:18 and later in Col 1:18,24; Eph 5:23,32; Heb 12:23. See list also in Eph 4:11. See on Mt 10:2 for [apostolous], the official title given the twelve by Jesus, and claimed by Paul though not one of the twelve. Prophets [prophētas]. For-speakers for God and Christ. See the list of prophets and teachers in Ac 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 [didaskalous]. Old word from [didaskō], to teach. Used to the Baptist (Lu 3:12), to Jesus (Joh 3:10; 13:13), and of Paul by himself along with [apostolos] (1Ti 2:7). It is a calamity when the preacher is no longer a teacher, but only an exhorter. See Eph 4:11. Then miracles [epeita dunameis]. Here a change is made from the concrete to the abstract. See the reverse in Ro 12:7. See these words [dunameis, iamētōn, glōssōn] in verses 9, 10 with [glōssōn], last again. But these two new terms (helps, governments). Helps [antilēmpseis]. Old word, from [antilambanomai], 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 [kubernēseis]. Old word from [kubernaō] (cf. [Kubernētēs] in Ac 27:11) like Latin gubernare, our govern. So a governing. Probably Paul has in mind bishops [episcopoi] or elders [presbuteroi], the outstanding leaders [hoi proistamenoi] in 1Th 5:12; Ro 12:8; [hoi hēgoumenoi] in Ac 15:22; Heb 13:7,17,24). Curiously enough, these two offices (pastors and deacons) which are not named specifically are the two that survive today. See Php 1:1 for both officers.

12:29 Are all [mē pantes]. The [] expects a negative answer with each group.

12:30 Do all interpret? [mē pantes diermēneuousin?]. He adds this query to the list in 28, but it is in 10.

12:31 The greater gifts [ta charismata ta meizona]. Paul unhesitatingly ranks some spiritual gifts above others. [Zēloō] here has good sense, not that of envy as in Ac 7:9; 1Co 13:4. And a still more excellent way [kai 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 [kath’ huperbolēn eis huperbolēn] (2Co 4:17). [Huperbolē] is old word from [huperballō], to throw beyond, to surpass, to excel (2Co 3:10; Eph 1:19). “I show you a supremely excellent way.” Chapter 1Co 13 is this way, the way of love already laid down in 8:1 concerning the question of meats offered to idols (cf. 1Jo 4:7). Poor division of chapters here. This verse belongs with chapter 1Co 13.

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