Study Notes on 1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
Chapters 12-14 cover spiritual gifts and their use and misuse. When we hear “spiritual gifts” we often think miracles, but simply being able to encourage others is a gift. These three chapters should be read together to get the full picture in this strong rebuke of this carnal, Charismatic church.
Interesting that after Acts, “speaking in tongues” is only mentioned to this most carnal church where most of the converts had recently come from paganism and idol worship.
Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 go well with this section as well.
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
Things of a spiritual nature. Don’t be ignorant, we read, because apparently people in the church were either puffed up with gifts or others felt like they were less important or less spiritual because they lacked certain gifts.
Look how this long section ends in 1 Corinthians 14:38 “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”
2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
Just as the Corinthians had been carried away towards mute idols, many of them were being carried away to gifts that some of them had. The chapter goes on to describe the importance of each gift or skill within the church which points to the supremacy of Love over these temporary gifts (ch. 13).
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.
He’s laying out the premise that Spiritual things come through the Holy Spirit, and that the true test of Spirituality is one’s relationship and attitude towards Jesus Christ.
To speak reverently in true acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord can only be done via the Holy Spirit within someone.
Trinity seen in this verse as well, and in the next several verses.
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
This is a key verse to this chapter and a summary of the main theme.
Don’t be jealous of another’s role in the church and don’t look down on others for their different role. Within the church body everybody can contribute something and it shouldn’t be all the same.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
Different ministries within our churches! Not everyone is going to be the pastor. Someone has to be the janitor. This also shows that Christianity is not to be a one-man show where everyone else just comes Sunday morning to be a spectator and then go home for the week.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
This verse emphasizes the unity that should exist in the church. There should not be jealousy or upturned noses at the fact that various people have various gifts that help the whole body.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Whatever gifts we have, they are not given just to benefit ourselves but to benefit others.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
All such supernatural wonders were scheduled to disappear (1 Corinthians 13:8-10); and their unique purpose was that of "confirming" the word of God (Mark 16:20), certainly not that of flattering the ego of Corinthian charismatics.
People think “spiritual gifts” and automatically think miracles, but we are given gifts to benefit others such as providing wisdom and being good at teaching or having strong faith that can encourage others.
The word for “miracles” is δυναμις which is typically translated as strength or ability.
Prophecy doesn’t refer to new revelation from God, but is defined in 1 Corinthians 14:3.
And “tongues” just means different languages. The miraculous speaking of tongues like in Acts 2 has ceased, but certainly I believe God has given people the gift of learning languages quickly for missionary work.
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Rather than the multitude of pagan deities previously followed by the Corinthians (see v. 2), we have one Holy Spirit that deserves the credit for whatever gifts we have.
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.
So verse 12 starts a new thought building on what was just discussed and rebuking yet again a common problem in the church at Corinth: division within the church body.
Funny that when the matter of tongues is brought up people just want to fight over it and pretend to be special by claiming they can babble nonsense in their “more spiritual state” when that’s the exact thing being rebuked here.
Ephesians 4:12 says, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” I’ve never seen or even heard of an example where alleged “tongue-speaking” did that in the slightest.
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.
So here’s a verse for baptism being a prerequisite for church membership. Each person was baptized into the body, that particular church.
“We are all one in Christ Jesus.”
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
This begins a section that’s very close to Ephesians 4 and Romans 12.
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?
The foot touches the ground, feet are dirty, and smelly, yet it is still a crucial part of the body. We shouldn’t look down on certain things people do for the church just because they aren’t as glamorous as other things.
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?
18 But now hath God set 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.
With a body we might look at the face but the gross, ugly parts like the stomach or liver truly have a high honor because of their necessity. Everyone in their own church should feel a functioning important part of the body and not look down on others.
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 in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
Dummelow wrote, "What is true of the human body, through the nervous connection of all of its parts, should be true of the church." Which means the church should be very close and tightly knit!
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Does your church have this kind of unity? How well are you aware of the trials and successes of the people in your assembly?
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
In each church is the body and the head of each church is Christ (not some committee).
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.
Some examples different ministries in the early church. Note that tongues were given LAST but the carnal church at Corinth (like the false charismatic churches of today) put them first.
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
No, of course not.
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
Nope! Each person has their own gifts.
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
If you finish this chapter and your only thought is to pretend that you can do miracles, or to argue that miraculous tongue-speaking still exists then you’ve missed the whole point of the chapter.
The more excellent way is the next chapter, and that is *spoiler alert* LOVE.