1Corinthians 12 - Outline of 1Corinthians (MENU page)
In chapters 12-14, Paul addresses another area of disorder in the congregational worship of the Corinthian church. Knowing (as Paul had taught them) that the indwelling Holy Spirit equips believers for ministry, they were eagerly employing those gifts (1Cor 1:4-7).
     However, they misunderstood the diversity and purpose of the gifts of the Spirit. They also misappropriated the exercise of those gifts in their gatherings: Some sought to excel others, in a fleshly display of spiritual gifts. Many exercised their gifts simultaneously, causing confusion as several speakers spoke at once. Therefore, the apostle wrote to instruct them and to correct their excesses (eg., 1Cor 14:27-33).
1. Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brethren,
I would not have you ignorant
{without knowledge}.
2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles,
carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3 Wherefore I give you to understand,
that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed:
and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
...concerning spiritual [gifts] {GK=pneumatikos, spiritualities}...
Although the word 'gifts' is helpful for our understanding, it is absent from the original text. The emphasis is upon the Holy Spirit, who moves to accomplish the Lord's purposes, by His power, as He works in and through believers who are born of God's Spirit. The true moving of the Spirit is at His prerogative, and according to God's will. The 'gifts' of the Spirit are not 'owned' by the believer, but are manifest in and through the believer whom the Spirit owns.
...ye were Gentiles, carried away {led away} unto these dumb idols... as ye were led.
The idols, which they had formerly worshipped, were dumb {GK=aphonos, mute, meaningless} (1Cor 8:4-6; Psa 115:5-7). But the demons behind the idols demonstrated spiritual power and spoke through people whom they controlled (1Cor 10:20; eg., Acts 16:16,17). In a city full of satanic religion, it would not be unexpected that a demon possessed person might attend a church meeting and speak his mind.
...no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed {GK=anathema, damned to destruction}.
Here is a test of the spirits: The voice, which curses Christ, is moved by an evil spirit (1Joh 4:1-3).
...no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
Some might call Him Lord, though He does not know them (Mat 7:22,23).
Only those born and moved by the Spirit will submit to His Lordship. Joh 15:26; 1Joh 4:13-15
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations
{service, ministries}, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations
{GK=energema, activities, workings},
but it is the same God which worketh
{GK=energeo} all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
...there are diversities {differences, varieties} of... but the same...
Various types of gifts {GK=charisma, gracious empowerings} are given to 'every man' {GK=hekastos, each one (male or female)} to 'profit withal' {GK=sumphero, lit., to bring together, ie., for the benefit of all}.
     Every believer is given distinct spiritual enablements, by which to serve God: participating in the Father's work (v.6), under the Lordship of the Son (v.5), as empowered by the Holy Spirit (v.4).
     Each person's role and place of service is assigned by God.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; {eg., 1Cor 2:6,7}
to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
{eg., 1Cor 1:5}
9 To another faith by the same Spirit;
{eg., Mat 17:19,20; 21:21}
to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
{eg., Acts 3:6-8; 19:11,12}
10 To another the working of miracles;
{eg., Heb 2:3,4}
to another prophecy;
{Rom 12:6; 1Cor 14:1-3}
{Prophecy sometimes involves 'foretelling' future events, but is usually the 'forth-telling' of God's Word.}
to another discerning of spirits; {eg., Acts 5:3; 1Joh 4:1}
to another [divers] kinds of tongues;
{eg., Acts 2:4-12}
to another the interpretation of tongues:
{eg., 1Cor 14:27,28}
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will.
Several types of spiritual empowerments are listed here, to illustrate the wide variety of gifts, which flow from the Holy Spirit, to and through God's people. This list is not exhaustive.
     The Scripture references (above) should clarify the function of the listed enablements. Some of these will be discussed in further detail, in the notes on ch.14.
...all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, (v.4)
dividing {ie., distributing} to every man {to 'each'} severally {individually} as He will.
The distribution of spiritual gifts is at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. cp. 1Cor 7:7,17; Rom 12:6-8
12. For as the body is one, and hath many members,
and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body:
so also [is] Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free;
and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
...as the body is one... so also is Christ.
Just as each of us has a physical body, which consists of many coordinated parts, the Body of Christ (the church) is one body with many members. Christ, as the head of the body, moves and works through every part of His body, by His Spirit. Eph 4:15,16
For by one Spirit are we all baptized {immersed, submerged} into one body...
This refers, not to water baptism, but to baptism of, and by, the Holy Spirit. (John the Baptist spoke of this, in Joh 1:33.) This baptism is accomplished by the Spirit, at the moment of a person's new-birth through faith in Christ (Joh 1:12-13; 3:5).
     The child of God, born of His Spirit, is inseparably merged with Christ, in whom the Spirit dwells without measure (Joh 3:34). By this baptism, we are identified with Him, in death to sin and in resurrection to newness of life (Rom 6:3-6), we are joined to Him and to all who belong to Him (Eph 4:4-6), and we are refreshed as we drink of His Spirit flowing within our renewed beings (Joh 7:37-39).
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body;
is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;
is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body [were] an eye, where [were] the hearing?
If the whole [were] hearing, where [were] the smelling?
Verses 14-17 illustrate that the body of Christ consists of many diversely enabled members.
Verses 18-27 illustrate that every individual member is essential to the body of Christ.
18 But now hath God set {placed, arranged} the members
every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where [were] the body?
20 But now [are they] many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee:
nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body,
which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those [members] of the body,
which we think to be less honourable,
upon these we bestow more abundant honour;
and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness.
...God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
As the Spirit, at His discretion, gives distinct enablements to each believer (v.11),
God has determined and assigned each member's role in the body (v.18).
...those members... which seem to be more feeble, are necessary...
Members with seemingly prominent positions should not think more highly of themselves than they ought (v.21; Rom 12:3). Members who have humble or hidden roles should not consider themselves worthless, for the ministry may depend upon them far more than anyone realizes (eg., Mat 6:6; 2Cor 1:8-11; 2The 3:1,2).
...those [members]... which we think less honourable... more abundant honour... (eg., Col 3:22-24)
...our uncomely {GK=aschemon, inelegant, indecent} parts... more abundant comeliness...
The private parts of our physical bodies are supremely important to marriage and child bearing.
Likewise, the secret exercises of a humble heart yearning for fruit to God's glory, will be rewarded at the Lord's return (1Cor 4:5; Joh 15:7,8).
24 For our comely [parts] have no need:
but God hath tempered the body together,
having given more abundant honour to that [part] which lacked:
25 That there should be no schism
{ie., split, division} in the body; {1Cor 1:10-12; Joh 17:21-26}
but [that] the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;
or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
{Rom 12:15; Gal 6:2}
27. Now ye are the
{lit., a} body of Christ, and members in particular.
God hath tempered {GK=sunkerannumi, blended together} the body together.
The individual members are combined by God, to form 'the body' (ie., the universal church, v.24), and also to form 'a body' of Christ (ie., a local church; in v.27, the definite article is absent in the Greek text).
...members {GK=melos, parts} in {GK=ek, out of} particular {GK=meros, a part}.
Together, all who are 'in Christ' form His body, each member having his or her part.
Each part, having been designated by the Lord, is significant in His eyes.
28 And God hath set some in the church,
first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles,
then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29 [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets?
[are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts:
and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
...God hath set {placed, arranged} some in the church, first apostles...
As we saw in v.18, it is God who assigns each member's role in the body. Here (v.28), we see that God assigns specific members to leadership roles, and those roles are ranked in order of authority. These leaders have been enabled for varying degrees of responsibility in overseeing the work of the church (v.4-6).
     In v.8-11 we saw that the Holy Spirit distributes differing spiritual gifts to each believer. Here (v.28), we see that God gives specific gifted men to serve the church in various ways. So, there are two categories of spiritual gifts: (1) gifts for men, and (2) men as gifts (see both categories in Eph 4:4-8,11-13).
Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers?...
The rhetorical questions, in v.29-30, all require 'No' for an answer.
     The ministries of the apostles and prophets (as conduits of new revelation concerning Christ and His church) were concluded with the completion of the New Testament. The church rests on the foundation which they laid (Eph 2:19,20)
     The ministry of teachers is not for everyone (Jam 3:1,2). But God has placed some in this role.
     It should be self-evident that every believer does not have the gifts of healing or performing miraculous signs.
     Thus, it is also evident that 'speaking in tongues' cannot be required of every believer as evidence of salvation or of filling with the Spirit.
But covet earnestly the best gifts...
As believers grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, they may be given further enablement and additional ministry opportunities. Both Stephen and Philip, chosen as deacons 'gifted' to wait on tables, later became powerful evangelists (cp. 1Tim 3:13 eg., Acts 6:1-5,8; 7:59; 8:5,6). These men advanced in ministry, as the Holy Spirit moved them.
     But the desire for advancement can have fleshly motivations. Some of the Corinthian believers were coveting visible sign gifts, as they had clung to 'knowledge,' to inflate their pride (1Cor 8:1). In ch.14, Paul will identify 'the best gifts.'
...and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
In ch.13, Paul describes the way of love, which does not exalt itself, and is not puffed up, but lives for others.

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