Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/1 Corinthians/Chapter 12

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1 Corinthians 12:1-31 (New International Version)
Spiritual Gifts

1Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.


Paraphrase[edit]

Verses 1-3 Now friends I want you to know about spiritual gifts, I do not want you to be left in the dark anymore. Before you were Christians you let the world influence you. You cannot live like that any longer. If we are Christians, we need to confess that we are Christians, but not just with our mouth, but we need to show it through our actions.


Verses 4-6 The Spirit has given us all different kinds of gifts. There are many different types of services and workings. We all know that we serve the same Lord and that God works through all men.


Verses 7-11 The Spirit has given us all these gifts, and we are given these gifts for the good of the community. The Spirit will give us the gift of wisdom and knowledge; both of whom are given by the same Spirit. He also gives us faith, the gift of healing, power, prophecy, discerning of different spirits, speaking in tongues, and being able to translate different tongues. The Spirit gives each one of us a gift just as He determines; and they are all gifts from the same Spirit.


Verses 12-13 The body is made up of many different parts. The body needs all the parts to work together, in order for the body to function properly. For we have been baptized into one body by the same Spirit. Our background does not matter anymore.


Verses 14-20 The body is made up of many different complex parts. Every part of the body matters. Not one part can take over the whole body and function. In order for the whole body to work properly everyone needs to function together in unity. God has arranged every part just as He pleases. He gave us that part with a purpose in mind to benefit community. If we were all one part, there would be not body.


Verses 21-26 No one in the body can say to another person I do not need you. We all need each other. The people that seem to be weaker or pointless are not. In fact they are just as important as the strong parts. Each member has equal importance in the community. God has given great honor to the parts that seem to be less honorable. Because God has given us our point individually there should be no division. We need to act as one. When one person suffers, we all suffer. When one person gets honored, everyone needs to rejoice.


Verses 27-31 Now we are the body of Christ and each and every one of us is a part of it. God has given us a list of people who he has appointed position within the church: apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, having the gift of healing, those able to help others, administration, and the gift of speaking of tongues. Do all of us have these gifts individually or as a whole? We need to desire the greatest gift of love.

The Setting of the Letter[edit]

The first thing we must realize when talking about the setting of the letter is that we do not know as much as we would like. There are a lot of things that is just unknown to us. The setting of 1st Corinthians is kind of a mystery. We have to sketch together information that helps us provide context for our reading of this letter (Hays 2)[1].

The City of Corinth[edit]

The city of Corinth is be considered very wealthy for many different reasons. First, Corinth was a very prosperous commercial crossroads. Its location on the Isthmus of Corinth overlooks two ports; Cenchreoe and Lechaeum. One of the ports leads straight to Asia, the other to Italy, and Corinth in the middle of the two. “Merchants shipping goods between Asia and Italy preferred to send their cargo through Corinth. Small ships could actually be carted across the Isthmus; shipments from larger vessels were unloaded, transferred on land to the other side, and reloaded at the other port (Hays 2)."[2] Thus making Corinth a very major port city.


Second, Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games. The Isthmian games is an athletic festival only second to the Olympic Games in importance. These games occurred ever two years, and generated a great deal of revenue for the city (Hays 3)."[3]


Corinth prosperous commercial life was interrupted in 146 B.C.E when the Roman army captured the city. The Romans destroyed all the buildings and they executed or enslaved the people. Julius Caesar rediscovered the Roman colony in 44 B.C.E. This was a hundred years before Paul would arrive on the scene. When considering all of this we need to keep in mind that the laws, political structures, and cultural customs were all geared towards the Romans even thought it was a Greek City (Hays 3)."[4]


From Acts 18: 1-17 we know that there was a small Jewish community in Corinth. There was an inscription referring to the “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” that had been discovered where this Jewish community lived. They were not able to gather any information about the size of this Jewish community. From the context of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians most of the Christian community was Gentiles, rather than Jewish ancestry. This meant that Paul was faced with the task to reshape the Gentile converts into patterns of life consistent with the God of Israel (Hays 4)."[5]

Literary Typing[edit]

The integrity of 1st Corinthians has been questioned. In one case scholars have suspected that 1st Corinthians had been compiled by many different interpolations. Interpolations are when an author pulls other resources together to get a final document. Other scholars have also questioned that the Epistle is made up of several portions of two, or even three different letters put together (Hays xvii).[6] “A hypothesis of this kind naturally involves the supposition that there are a number of interpolations which have been made in order to cement the fragments of the different letters together (Hays xix).”[7] Many scholars have this opinion that Corinthians was compiled by several different interpolations, but the fact of the matter is that Paul’s writing style changed when he wrote each section. Thus giving the appearance that fist Corinthians was compiled by many different sources. But the fact of the matter is, Paul wrote this letter over a period of time. His writing style might have changed over a period of time, when Paul was given the different problems that he needed to address.


1 Corinthians 1:1-16:24 Letter, Community Letter

1 Corinthians 5:1-12:31 Letter, Community Letter, Body: Exhortation

1 Corinthians 12:1-31 Letter, Community Letter, Body: Exhortation, Community Instruction

Take from Logos Bible Software 3.0[8]


Authorship[edit]

Most scholars have such a strong case for the Pauline authorship. Both the external case and the internal evidence for his authorship. The external evidence that supports the Pauline authorship is very strong. Some proof that we have that Paul wrote this letter came from Clement of Rome around 95 A.D. “The letter of the Blessed Paul, the Apostle (Hays xvii).”[9] This is the earliest example in the New Testament where the writer is being quoted by name (Hays xvii).[10]


The internal evidence has just as strong of evidence. These letters show characteristics of a strong and original text, only the product of an Apostle. “When tested by comparison with other writings of Paul, or with acts, or within other writing of the New Testament we find so many coincidences. Thus giving us great evidence of the Pauline authorship (Hays xviii).”[11]

Place and Date[edit]

Some people suggest that the Epistle could have been written in two different place. The first place is Ephesus, give from 1st Corinthians 16:8. The second places is The Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus says that the Epistle was written in Macedonia give from 1st Corinthians 16:5. In general the dates in which Paul writes his letter lies between the two points which can be approximately determined by his escape from Damascus under Aretas (Acts 9:25; 2nd Corinthians 11: 32,33) and the arrival of Festus as procurator of Judea (Acts 24:27) in succession to Felix (Hays xxvii).[12]

Outline[edit]

1. Introduction: the Spirit empowers all Christian confession (vv. 1–3)

2. Manifestations of the Spirit (vv. 4–11)

3. The body diversity and interdependence (vv. 12–26)

4. Gifts and offices in the church (vv. 27–31a)


Detail Outline[edit]

  • Introduction The spirit Empowers all Christian confession (1-3)
    • Don’t be ignorant
      • We were pagans
      • We were influenced
        • Led astray
          • By idols
    • Two spirits
      • One that curses Jesus
      • One that confesses that Jesus is Lord
  • Manifestations of the Spirit (4-11)
    • Different kinds of gifts
      • All given by the same Spirit
    • Different kinds of service
      • The same lord
    • Different kinds of work
      • God works in all men
    • Manifestation of the Spirit
      • For the common good
        • Spirit of wisdom and knowledge
          • Given by the same Spirit
        • Faith and healing,
          • Given by the same Spirit
        • Miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing tongues, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues
          • All given by the same Spirit
            • God gives them
              • Just as he determines
  • The body diversity and interdependence (12-26)
    • One Body
      • Made up of several different parts
    • All Baptized
      • By one Spirit
      • Background doesn’t matter
        • We are free now
    • Each part of the body is important
      • God arranged the parts just as he wanted
        • We need the small and large parts
          • In order to properly function as a body
    • When one person suffers
      • We all suffer
    • When one person receives honor
      • We all receive honor
  • Gifts and offices in the church (27-31)
    • We are the body of Christ
      • We all are a part of it
      • God appointed positions
        • Apostles, prophets, teaches, workers of miracles, healing, help others, administration, speaking in different tongues
      • We all need to work together to make the body function as God has planned
    • We need to seek the greater gifts

Commentary[edit]

Introduction[edit]

The people of Corinth have been abusing and have a terrible misunderstanding of Spiritual gifts. The main gift that the people were struggling to understand was tongues. So Paul wrote to the people of Corinth to try and correct these misunderstandings. It was very crucial for Paul to write the people of Corinth and correct these misunderstandings and to educate the people of the importance of all the Spiritual gifts. The people of Corinth were using this gift from the Holy Spirit to show off, for personal status, instead of using it to glorify God. They would stand up in group meetings and stand speaking in tongues to try and impress the other people.


“The long section on spiritual gifts may be divided into several sections. The first emphasizes the source of the gifts, the Holy Spirit (1-11), second, the diversity of the gifts in their unity (12-31a) the third, necessary ingredient of love in the exercise of all gifts (31b-13:13)(Gaebelein 261)."[13] Paul is concerned with the Corinthians knowledge of spiritual gifts, but more importantly that they should receive correct teachings about these gifts (Ellingworth 272).[14] The subject of spiritual gifts will occupy Paul until the end of chapter 14 (Ellingworth 272).[15]


In the second section (verses 4-11) it is difficult to distinguish between Paul’s thought and his language because it appears to vary between: first, comparing the church to the unity of the body, and second, you are the body of Christ (Ellingworth 281).[16] The Corinthians had in some way introduced the topic of Spiritual gifts in a letter to Paul, so Paul is responding back to the people. “Paul‘s response is cautionary and corrective, but never disputes the authenticity of their experience or of the gifts that they have received from God (Hays 207).”[17] With all this being said, this is where 1st Corinthians 12 picks up.

Introduction: the Spirit empowers all Christian confession (vv. 1–3)[edit]

Verse 1


Paul introduces the topic of Spiritual gifts by saying “peri de.” This literally means now concerning (Hays 207).[18] The translations of “Spiritual gifts” literally mean “gifts from the Holy Spirit (Ellingworth 273).[19] “The Corinthians used the term pneumatika to describe spiritual manifestations such as tongues and prophecy (Hays 207).”[20]


The problem that Paul faces is he has to distinguish the differences between the activity of the Holy Spirit and other forms of spiritual “inspiration” that surrounded the church in Corinth (Hays 208).[21]


Verse 2


Nowhere else in Paul’s writings does Paul call the Corinthians heathens. Paul uses the past tense, when you were heathens, he must have been thinking about before they became Christians. Heathen or “people who did not worship God” is probably more adequate translation than “non-Jews” (Ellingworth 273).[22]


Before the conversion of the Corinthians they had been idolaters, enslaved by evil spirits. Paul might have been thinking not only manifestations of the Holy Spirit but of evil spirits as well. Paul implies that the Gentile Corinthians Christians have been made part of Israel. “This implication is not clear in the English translation that uses the word ‘pagans,’ because we tend to assume that the opposite of ‘pagans’ is ‘Christians’ a word that Paul himself never uses. In fact, the Greek word that Paul uses here is ethnē (Gentiles) whose opposite is ‘Jews.’ We would see the force of Paul’s claim more clearly if we translated as follows: ‘When you were Gentiles you were carried away to mute idols…’ This is the stand language of Jewish polemic again Gentile idolatry (Hays 209).”[23]


Verse 3


Paul stresses the twofold test of the presence of the Holy Spirit. “Negatively, no person by the spirit can curse Jesus; and positively, only one by the Spirit can a person openly testifies that Jesus is lord (Gaebelein 261).”[24] When Paul makes the simple confession “Jesus is Lord” there are two important implications. First, anyone that confession of the lordship of Jesus not just with their mouth is living within the Holy Spirit’s power (Hays 208).[25] Second, the discernment to distinguish between spiritual experiences. Only where the lordship is confessed can we truly know that the Holy Spirit is at work. “To illustrate this point Paul gives us a counter example: No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘let Jesus be cursed.’ Paul seeks to explain how persons in the faith might say such a thing. For example, Gnostic Christians cursing the fleshly Jesus of Christians cursing Jesus in order to escape persecution.” Paul is simply using this function of cursing Jesus to emphasize that those who are inspired by the Holy Spirit will speak and act in a way that will glorify the lordship of Jesus (Hays 209).[26]


Emphasis falls on “speaking by the Spirit of God” and “expect by the Holy Spirit.” With both of these phrases the Holy Spirit is guiding a person when that person speaks (Ellingworth 275).[27] Now that the people of Corinth had been saved, they must now learn how to tell the difference from the “evil voices” and the “authentic” voice of the Holy Spirit. A good example of this is if a man were to say, “Jesus is accursed,” you can presume that he is inspired by the evil spirits because evil spirits never blaspheme and curse the name of Jesus. The Spirit of God would never lead anyone to blaspheme the name of Jesus. The Spirit of God leads people to confess that Jesus is Lord, not only with their mouth, but with their actions (MacDonald).[28]

Manifestations of the Spirit (vv. 4–11)[edit]

Verses 4-11 are almost poetic in character and include a good deal of balance, rhythm, and repetition (Ellingworth 274).[29]

Verses 4-6


The next section lays the foundation for Paul’s understanding of Spiritual gifts in the church. “By using the words: charismata (gift), diakoniai (serving), and energemata (working). Paul indicates that such gifts were useful in serving the Christian community (Gaebelin 262)."[30] The church is supposed to be made up of individuals having different gifts for the common good of the church. Paul explains this point by the means of Trinitarian formula in verses 4-6


varieties of gifts (charismata) but the same Spirit

varieties of services (diakoniai) but the same Lord

varieties of activities (energēmata) but the same God who activates all of them in everyone.


Some scholars seem to think that Paul here is talking about the trinity, because these things are given by the same spirit, same Lord, and the same God. “Paul of course had no explicit doctrine of the Trinity; this doctrine was not articulated formally by theologians until hundreds of years later. This passage shows, however, that he experienced God as Trinity: he can describe the activity of God in the community in three synonymous parallel clauses as the working of the Spirit and of the Lord Jesus and of God.” Paul gives us three terms that describe God’s working in the church: gifts, services, and activities (Hays 210).[31]


Paul points out that there are differences of ministries and services within the church. We might be different but what we all have in common is what we do is done for the same Lord, with the attitude of serving others.

Verse 7

“The sense of the Trinity is summed up in verse 7. To each is given the manifestation (phanerōsis) of the Spirit for the common good (to sympheron) (Hays 210).”[32] In verse seven the Spirit represents the Trinity. The phrase “manifestation of the Spirit” refers to God’s activity in each believer’s life (Ellingworth 276).[33] The world manifestation also refers to the spiritual gifts as well as other activities inspired by God within the church. In this verse there is a heavy emphasis on; the manifestations are given to each believer, and the manifestation is to benefit the whole community for the common good.

Verses 8-10

In the original Greek manuscript, the Greek sentences run on without break from verse 8 to the end of 11. It is the translators that give those breaks where they think it is appropriate (Ellingworth 277).[34] In verse 8-10, Paul gives a list of “manifestations of the Spirit.” This list is not the only list of spiritual gifts. Others lists are found in Romans 12: 6-8 and Ephesians 4: 11-13. In the list of spiritual gifts listed in 1st Corinthians, there could be some significance in the grouping. Gordon Fee suggests that there is a division in the list by the different uses and meaning of the word “another” (Hays 211).[35]


To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

and to another (allō) the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit.

To another (heterō) faith by the same Spirit,

to another (allō) gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

to another (allō) the working of miracles,

to another (allō) prophecy,

to another (allō) the discernment of spirits,

to another (heterō) various kinds of tongues,

to another (allō) the interpretation of tongues.


“Classically, allos means (another of the same kind) while heteros means (another of a different kind).” Paul may have used heteros to mark a pause for breath. With him pausing for a breath, it breaks the list into three sections (Hays 211).[36]

Verse 8

“The two gifts in the first group are: the word of wisdom (sophia) and the word of knowledge (gnōsis) (Hays 211).” “The word of wisdom is the supernatural power to speak with divine insight, whether in solving difficult problems, defending the faith, resolving conflicts, giving practical advice, or pleading one’s case before hostile authorities (MacDonald).”[37] “The word of knowledge is the power to communicate information that has been divinely revealed (MacDonald).”[38]

Verse 9

When Paul talks about faith in verse nine he is not talking about ordinary faith. The gift of “faith” does not refer to the initial trust in Christ salvation but rather the kind of faith to move mountains (Gaebelein 262).[39] The gifts of healings have to do with the power to heal diseases.

Verse 10

Working of miracles could include casting out demons, raising the dead, and exercising power over the natural elements. The literal translation of prophecy is “speaking God’s message.” This is a much more realistic definition generally used in Paul’s writing (Ellingworth 278).[40] The gift of prophecy signified that a person received direct revelations form God and shared them with others. The gift to discerning spirits, describe the power to detect wheatear a prophet or other person is speaking by the Holy Spirit or by evil spirits. The person that has this gift has the ability to discern if a man is an imposter or an opportunist.


“Translators need to clearly distinguish prophecy from tongues. Prophecy is preaching that is inspired by God, but in the normal understandable human language. Speaking in tongues in Paul’s letters refer to a type of speech that could not be understood unless it was interpreted by someone having a special gift to do so (Ellingworth 279).”[41] It is very important that we are able to distinguish between to two of these because if we do not we could end up in some serious trouble. The gift of interpretation of tongues is the gift of being able to interpret what other people are saying in a foreign language, and conveying the message back to the people. These people could have never heard the language before and have been able to interrupt what they were saying.

Verse 11

The overall picture of the church is implied in these verses. “All of the gifts mentioned in verses 8-10 are produced and controlled by the same Spirit.” We see that not everyone has the same gift; He does not give the same gift to everyone. He gives each one individually as He wills. The sovereign Spirit gives the gifts. In the conclusion in verse 11, Paul again stresses the central point, the diversity of gifts. Whether it is one of the gifts listed in 1st Corinthians or listed somewhere else, they are ally from the same Spirit. “There is no ground for boasting about being ‘spiritual,’ no matter what gifts one may possess. All the manifestations of the Spirit are to serve God’s purpose for the common benefit of the community (Hays 212).”[42] “Paul concludes that regardless of what spiritual gift each person had, the Holy Spirit has sovereignty distributed them to produce his own spiritual results.” No one should despise another person’s gift given by the Spirit (Gaeblein 263).[43]

The body, diversity and interdependence (vv. 12–26)[edit]

The Corinthians are dealing with the conflict over the manifestation of Spiritual gifts, which is the main topic of these chapters. “Paul places these conflicts within the larger framework of his vision for a unified church. He envisions not just the tolerance of differences within the community but a gracious and compassionate synergy in which all the members share one another’s sorrows and joys (Hays 218).”[44] Paul speaks not of what the body should be, but what the body is. “Paul uses the body image in a somewhat more complicated way to argue for the need of diversity in the body (vv. 14–20) and, at the same time, interdependence among the members (vv. 21–26).” Paul’s reason also for this letter is to urge the members that are more “privileged” for their need to respect and value the contributions of those who might not be as gifted (Hays 213).[45]

Verses 12-13

In verses 12-13 is the introduction of the body, which explains the basis for thinking of the church as one body (Hays 213).[46] “Exegetes have long debated whether the designation of the church as ‘the body of Christ” is for Paul a mere metaphor or a mystical reality (Hays 213).”[47]

Verse 12

In verse twelve Paul takes two steps in one. First, Christians in the church are like various parts of the body; second, the church is the body of Christ (Ellingworth 282).[48] The human body is an illustration for the diversity within the body. Although the believers are different we all perform different functions, and all together we make up the body. We cannot do it all by our self we need each other in order to operate correctly as one unit. All believers are members of the body.

Verse 13

The Spirit is not the agent who does the baptizing, but the element into which the new believers were immersed. In verse 13 there are two different clauses that refer to the same experience. First, “drinking the Spirit” and “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” When Paul talks about “drinking of the Holy Spirit” he is talking about his conviction that the one spirit has been given in overflowing abundance to everyone in the community. When Paul said that they have been “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” he did not mean literal immersion; rather he meant that the community as a whole has been immersed in the Spirit’s power. Paul’s point with these illustrations was that they are one. Even though they might come from different ethnic and social backgrounds, Jews and Greeks, slaves and frees, they are still bonded together by the Spirit into one body. This closely parallels Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.” “Paul’s major point is that all in the church have been joined together in one body (Hays 214).[49]


The day of Pentecost was the day that the church was born . On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was baptized. When we are born again we partake of these benefits that happened on that day. We become members into the body of Christ. "The baptism of the Holy Spirit is that divine operation which places believers in the Body of Christ(MacDonald).”[50]

Verses 14-26

Paul’s metaphor of the body has two different emphasizes. First, in verses 14-20 the theme is necessity for diversity. No member of the body or church should consider themselves worthless or unimportant. Each member should accept gracefully and gratefully whatever gifts God has given to them, and we need to use them to benefit the community. Second, in verses 21-26 the theme is interdependence of the members of the body. The different members of the church need everyone (Hays 215).[51]

Verses 14-16

These two verses are very closely related in their structure. These two verses show the equal importance of each of the body parts. Weather it is a very important part or a small part; every part is needed in order for the body to function correctly.

Verses 17-20

Paul now emphasizes the necessity of having diversity in the body for it to operate as one. Each part must be willing to perform its own function in a role that God planed for their life. The apostles were to function as apostles, elders as elders, and the deacons as deacons (Gaeblein 265).[52] Nobody can function as all eyes, all hearing, or all smelling. So for the church to function properly, it must have different gifts and offices(Gaebelin 265).[53] God has arranged the different members just as He pleased. “The Corinthians should remember that if they all had the gift of tongues, then they would not have a functioning body (MacDonald).”[54] As Christians we need to make the connection that not just one body part makes up the body; but rather it takes many different parts, and it should be obvious to us in connection with our service in the church.

Verses 21-23

It is God who has organized the body in the way he wants it. The implication is that it is the same with the church; according to God’s will, it is composed of many parts, so that it may function as one body, the body of Christ. The church with their various functions needs each other(Gaebelein 265).[55] When one part of the body is looked down upon we need to remember that it is God who placed that person there and that they are there is a reason.

Verses 24-25

“In verses 24-25 members that are considered ‘dishonorable’ or even ‘shameful’ must be treated with all the greater respect. Paul insists that they must be ‘clothed’ with dignity and honor.” Paul goes even farther to show the great need for the members that are less important and weaker within the community. They are needed to make the body function, but more important God arranged the body is a special and specific way. The differences in members should not lead to division. Paul relates the body back to the dominating theme of the first part of the letter, the appeal for unity (Hays 216).[56] Paul’s concern is to show that everyone has different gifts given to different members for the community as a whole, and this provided distinctions between members (Hays 215).[57]


“The mutual care of them members prevents divisions within the body. One gives to another what is needed, and receives in return the help which only that other member can give (MacDonald).”[58] When one person starts to focus on their spiritual gift rather than looking at the greater need of the church, then there will be great division within the church.

Verse 26

What happens to one part of the body affects the whole body. When one of us suffers then we all need to suffer together. When one of us receives honor we need to be happy and not jealous. Anything that hurts another Christian should be felt throughout the whole entire body.

Gifts and offices in the church (vv. 27–31a)[edit]

“Indeed, the inclusion in the list of ‘ability to help others or power to guide them’ shows that Paul is seeking to broaden the range of the Spirit’s activity beyond the range of ostentatiously supernatural manifestations that the Corinthians prized. Paul’s main concern, however, is to show that the gift of tongues, pointedly left for last in the list, is only one among many gifts appointed by God in the church. The rhetorical questions of verses 29–30 are formulated in the Greek in such a way that each expects a self-evidently negative answer (Hays 217).”[59]

Verse 27

Paul reminds the people of Corinth that they are the body of Christ and that each one of them is a part of it. Verse 27 goes back and reflects upon what was said in verse 12. In verse 12 it reflects upon what a body is and what a body should look like. Then in verse 27 it tells us that we are the body of Christ and each one of us is a part of it. So all the verses leading up to verse 27 illustrates to us how we need to act within the body of Christ.

Verse 28

Paul gives a list of positions within the church that God has appointed. The first three apostles, prophets, and teachers and in the same order found in Ephesians 4:11 and are to be considered of greatest importance (Gaebelin 266).[60] Within the Christians community the apostle comes first and founds the church, then the prophets, and then the teachers follow to continue the work in constructing the community (Hays 216).[61]


Apostles: a number of other people were appointed as “apostles” after the original twelve. Paul is a great example of what an apostle is (Ellingworth 288).[62] Prophets can be translated as “those who proclaim God’s message.” Translators should avoid using terms which suggest that these groups of people are the same as the Old Testament prophets (Ellingworth 288).[63] Teachers are people that explain and teach the Gospel in an understandable way. Teachers were probably people who gave instruction in the Christian faith (Ellingworth 288).[64]


Works of miracles are people who have the power to raise people from the dead, cast out demons, and many more acts. Healing is people that have the gift to cure a physical disease. Those having the gift of antilēmpsis (those able to help others) are people that are gift in the church who deal with the poor and help the sick. (266) Helpers: the context suggests that these were people who had the specific duty to aid the poor and needy (Ellingworth 288).[65] Those with kybernēsis (administration) have the ability to govern and manage affairs in the church (Gaebelein 267)[66] “Tongues in Paul’s letters refer to a type of speech that could not be understood unless it was interpreted by someone have a special gift to do so (Ellingworth 279).”[67] There might be significance in the order that Paul places these things. Paul mentions apostles first and tongues last. This shows that the tongues were not as important, but they were missing the real meaning because they were so focused on tongues.

Verses 29-31

The Corinthians asked Paul if every believer possessed the same gifts. The answer is no. We all have different gifts. This relates back to the reason why Paul was writing the letter in the first place, because the Corinthians all wanted the gift of tongues. Paul illustrates to them in this chapter that if they all possessed the same gift of tongues then they would not have a functioning body. He also shows them that there are more important gifts to have than tongues Paul says that not all believers function in each of the ways listed, but God selects individuals and gives them their specific gifts (Gaebelein 267).[68]


“Having mentioned tongues and their interpretation, Paul urges Christians to seek the better gifts, not which of speaking in tongues, which the Corinthian apparently want to, have more fully (Gaebelein 268).[69]

Theological Application[edit]

Spiritual Manifestations as Gifts[edit]

Over in over in first Corinthians Paul emphasizes that the working of the Holy Spirit in the church are gifts give by God. When we have the understanding that these gifts are just “talents” we can fall into the cycle of self pride. As a body we cannot have people that are full of themselves. We need to realize that every good gift comes from God; and that we need to uses these gifts to benefit the whole community. “We must exercise these gifts in the church for the sake of the ministry for the whole community (Hays 219).”[70] When people uses their gifts for personal pleasure this is when a division occurs within the community. “Paul would not want us to spend our time gazing into the mirror and asking what profile of gifts each of us has; he would prefer that we simply be about he business of using our gifts in service to the community (Hays 219).”[71]

The Church as a community[edit]

Paul is persistent that the gifts given by God are to be used within the body of Christ to benefit the community as a whole. In Chapter twelve, Paul gives us two different themes when considering the body of Christ. Diversity and Interdependence. The image of the Body of Christ provides us with a great illustration of what the body of Christ should look like. As Christians our goal should be to strive to have these communities within our ministries (Hays 219).[72]

Strong or Weak we are still one body[edit]

This theological theme requires a little reading between the lines. Paul is writing this letter to correct the division the Corinthians had made. The division they had made was, they thought that some of the spiritual gifts were superior to others, and that the weaker gifts were less important. “It is likely, though not certain, that this split with the community reflects the same social and economic differences that we have seen with regard to other problems in the letter, such as the use of law courts (6:1-8) and the abuse of the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34) (Hays 219).”[73] Paul calls upon the Corinthians to come together and become one for one another’s peace and well being. As members of the same community given the gifts by the same spirit, we are called to rejoice and suffer together. We are to be one body. The body of Christ.

Interpretive Questions[edit]

Why would God give more of a gift to one person then another?

Is it because not all of us are at the same place in our walk?

I wonder how many churches really function like this?

Can the people today in the twenty first century really posses these gifts?

You do not really see that many people healing other people.

Or could a more modern translation consider doctors to be healers?

Are tongues the thing of the past?

A lot of the time you only seeing people speaking in tongues in the Pentecostal churches.

So if it is not a thing of the past, why don't more people speak in tongues?

Words for Further Consideration[edit]

Vs. 1 Spiritual Gift

Vs. 2 Pagans

Vs. 3 Speaking by the Spirit, Holy Spirit

Vs. 4 Spirit

Vs. 5 Service

Vs. 6 Work

Vs. 7 Manifestation of the Spirit

Vs. 8 Wisdom, Knowledge

Vs. 9 Faith, Healing

Vs. 10 Miraculous Powers, Prophecy, Distinguishing between Tongues, Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues

Vs. 11 Same Spirit

Vs. 12 Body, Unity, Christ

Vs. 13 Baptized, Spirit to Drink

Vs. 17 Whole Body

Vs. 18 Arranged

Vs. 20 One Body

Vs. 22 Weaker, Indispensable

Vs. 23 Less Honorable, Special Honor, Indispensable

Vs. 25 Division, Equal Concern

Vs. 26 Suffers

Vs. 27 Body of Christ

Vs. 28 Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Workers of Miracles, Healing, Help, Administration, Different tongues

Vs. 31 Greater Gift

Word Study[edit]

Body[edit]

body \ˈbä-dē\ n

σκῆνος

  • A Human Being
  • The nave of a Church
  • The Organized Physical Substance of an Animal or Plant Either Living or Dead
  • The Material Part or Nature of a Human Being [74]


This Graph illustrates how many time the word BODY appears in each book in the New Testament.

600

Graph take from Logos Bible Software 3.0[75]


This is a breakdown of how many time the word BODY appears in 1 Corinthians Twelve.


1 Cor 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members,

and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body:

being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

1 Cor 12:13 into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles,

1 Cor 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Cor 12:15 I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor 12:16 I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?

1 Cor 12:18 one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

1 Cor 12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

1 Cor 12:20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

1 Cor 12:22 members of the body, which seem to be more feeble,

1 Cor 12:23 of the body, which we think to be less honourable,

1 Cor 12:24 but God hath tempered the body together, having

1 Cor 12:25 that there should be no schism in the body;

1 Cor 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Taken from Logos Bible Software 3.0[76]

Member[edit]

mem•ber \ˈmem-bər\ n

μέλος

  • One of the Individuals Composing a Group
  • A Person Baptized or Enrolled in a Church
  • A Part of a Whole [77]


The word MEMBER appears 34 times in the New Testament, with the primary emphasis in the Pauline letters. Paul takes up the image of the unity of the body and the variety of functions of the members, within the context of Spiritual gifts. Members are members of a body, and need to act in unity.[78]


This Graph illustrates how many time the word MEMBER appears in each book in the New Testament.

600

Graph take from Logos Bible Software 3.0[79]


This is a breakdown of how many time the word MEMBER appears in 1 Corinthians Twelve


1 Cor 12:12 and hath many members, and all the members of that

and all the members of that one body, being many,

1 Cor 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Cor 12:18 God set the members every one of them in the body,

1 Cor 12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

1 Cor 12:20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

1 Cor 12:22 much more those members of the body, which seem

1 Cor 12:23 and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable,

1 Cor 12:25 but that the members should have the same care one

1 Cor 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;

all the members suffer with it; or one member be

all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured,

or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.


Taken from Logos Bible Software 3.0[80]

Gift[edit]

gift \ˈgift\ n

δόμα

  • Something Voluntarily Transferred by one Person to Another Without Compensation [81]


This Graph illustrates how many time the word GIFT appears in each book in the New Testament.

600

Graph take from Logos Bible Software 3.0[82]


This is a breakdown of how many time the word GIFT appears in 1 Corinthians Twelve.


1 Cor 12:1 gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

1 Cor 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Cor 12:9 to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

1 Cor 12:28 after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,

1 Cor 12:30 have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues?

1 Cor 12:31 gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.


Taken from Logos Bible Software 3.0[83]

Spirit[edit]

spir•it \ˈspir-ət\ n

δόμα

  • A Supernatural Being or Essence
  • A Malevolent Being that Enters and Possesses a human being
  • The Activating or Essential Principle Influencing a Person [84]


"πνεῦμα, derived from πνέω, designates the elementary power of nature and life: wind, breeze; breath (Balz 118)."[85]


"Πνεῦμα occurs 379 times in the NT. Of those, it unequivocally yields its original meaning (strong wind / breeze) only 3 times. It frequently refers to the human πνεῦμα (47 times) and to evil spirits (38 times) or the spirits of the dead or of angels (9 time). It is quite often clearly used of God’s πνεῦμα (275 times) (Balz 118)."[86]


This Graph illustrates how many time the word SPIRIT appears in each book in the New Testament.

600

Graph take from Logos Bible Software 3.0[87]


This is a breakdown of how many time the word SPIRIT appears in 1 Corinthians Twelve


1 Cor 12:3 that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth

1 Cor 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Cor 12:7 the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

1 Cor 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;

to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

1 Cor 12:9 Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same

to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

1 Cor 12:10 to another discerning of spirits; to another divers

1 Cor 12:11 Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

1 Cor 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,

and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.


Taken from Logos Bible Software 3.0[88]

References[edit]

  1. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  2. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  3. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  4. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  5. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  6. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
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  12. Hays, R. B. (1997). First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (218). Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press.
  13. Gaebelein, FrankE. The Expositor's Bible Commentary . Grand Rapids : The Zondervan Corporation, 1979.
  14. Ellingworth, P., Hatton, H., & Ellingworth, P. (1995). A handbook on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Rev. ed. of: A translator's handbook on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators. New York: United Bible Societies.
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