Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

1 Corinthians 12

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Verse 1

1Co 12:1. Spiritual gifts. The second word has been supplied because it has no separate one in the Greek. The first one is from PNEUMATIKOS, and Thayer explains that it is used both "in reference to things," and "in refer ence to persons." Paul says he wants the brethren to be informed on the subject, hence this and the next two chapters are written to show the truth concerning such matters; both as to spiritually-gifted men and their gifts. We learned at chapter 4:6 that the church at Corinth was divided (in sentiment) over the men among them who possessed spiritual gifts. That contention was so serious that the apostle wrote chapters 12, 13 and 14 to discuss the subject. If this is overlooked, any attempt to explain the various parts of the three chapters will likely be a failure.

Verse 2

1Co 12:2. The Corinthians were Gentiles and worshipers of idols before they received the Gospel. Since the idols were dumb things, to be carried away with them or be devoted to such services was a proof of their spiritual blindness, and no such worshipers could exhibit any fruits of the Spirit.

Verse 3

1Co 12:3. There were many false teachers coming round in those days, claiming to possess supernatural knowledge. A test of their genuineness was their manner of referring to Jesus. If they pronounced any evil wish or prediction concerning Him, the Corinthians were to know that no such persons were speaking by the Spirit. No man . . . but by the Holy Ghost. The idolatrous teachers would never be induced by the dumb idols to confess Jesus; the Holy Ghost only would so inspire them.

Verse 4

1Co 12:4. Up to this place the remarks of the apostle are general, and are offered as a preparation for instruction on the true spiritual gifts and the disciples possessing them. The dissensions over the gifts previously mentioned are now the direct subject that Paul is considering. Diversities of gifts . . . same Spirit. The Corinthians were contending with each other over the comparative importance of their different gifts. The point Paul is making is that since there is but one Spirit, there could be no actual difference as to the value of the various gifts.

Verse 5

1Co 12:5-6. Administrations and operations means the out workings of the Spirit through the gifts; that all come from the same divine source.

Verse 7

1Co 12:7. A foreman over a crew of workers knows his men and which tool each can use to the best advantage for the whole project. Likewise, the Lord knows which spiritual gift each disciple can best use to the profit of the Gospel work. Hence not all members of the church received the same gifts, and yet the diversities of the various assignments indicated no partiality as to the different brethren.

Verse 8

1Co 12:8. Wisdom and knowledge have much the same meaning in general use, but as spiritual gifts there is a difference. The second one means supernatural understanding, and the first means the special ability to teach it to others.

Verse 9

1Co 12:9. This faith is the miraculous kind such as Mat 17:20; 1 Co-inthians 13:2. Miraculous healing requires this gift of faith, but the phrase is used as a specification of it, in relieving persons of their physical ailments.

Verse 10

1Co 12:10. Working of miracles is seek to cover them as not being comely more general, referring to any situation coming before the possessor of the gift that gives an opportunity for demonstration of spiritual power. This prophecy is the kind that enables the possessor to make predictions, not that described in chapter 14:3. Without the complete Word it was not always possible to detect an evil spirit claiming to be of God, hence this discerning of spirits was possible through the gift. One man could speak in a foreign tongue, perhaps, but would not kno its interpretation. Another man had the gift of interpreting such tongues.(See chapter 14:27, 28.)

Verse 11

1Co 12:11. This is virtually the same as verse 7. As he will denotes as the Lord willed in directing the Spirit as it delivered the various gifts.

Verse 12

1Co 12:12. The human body is used to illustrate the church which is the body of Christ, with the unified work of spiritual gifts in that body.

Verse 13

1Co 12:13. The main thought running through these several verses is that there is only one Spirit, hence no difference should be made in the importance of the different gifts of the Spirit. Men would never have been taught the necessity of baptism had not the Spirit given the apostles and other inspired teachers the instruction to pass on to others. The point is that all people who have been baptized have received the instruction as a result of teaching from one Spirit.

Verse 14

1Co 12:14. It takes more than one member to constitute a human body.

Verse 15

1Co 12:15-17. This imaginary conversation between the different parts of the fleshly body, is written to show the point stated in verse 14. No one of the members of the body can take the place of the other. This reasoning drawn from the fleshly body is continued through verse 26.

Verse 18

1Co 12:18-21. This paragraph is similar to the preceding one.

Verse 22

1Co 12:22. Every part of the human body is necessary and should not be removed by surgery, unless it becomes so diseased that medication will not cure it.

Verse 23

1Co 12:23. Less honorable is from ATIMOS, which Thayer defines "less esteem." The comparison is made to the feet and certain hidden parts of the body. According to Thayer, more abundant honor means more "preciousness or value." That is true, for the feet and other parts referred to are prized very highly, even though we seek to cover them as not being comely or attractive.

Verse 24

1Co 12:24. The comely or more attractive parts of the body, such as the face and hands, need no special attention, but are able to "take care of themselves."

Verse 25

1Co 12:25. God has so arranged the human body that there need be no schisms (lack of harmony) in the body. For instance, if the feet and hands opposed each other, a man would be constantly hindered in what he wished to do or where to go.

Verse 26

1Co 12:26. The unity of the members of the fleshly body is demonstrated by this very sympathy of one for the other. If a man injures his little finger, his entire being is concerned and caused to suffer, and the whole person will try to help the wounded member to get well. Of course the point is that the different members of the body of Christ should have a like sympathy for and interest in each other. The spiritual application of the comparison is made in Rom 12:15.

Verse 27

1Co 12:27. The apostle now comes directly to the application of his illustration. The church is the body of Christ, and it is composed of disciples who are the members of the body. As the parts of the fleshly body act in harmony with each other, shown in the preceding verses, so the members of the body of Christ should be interested in each other and seek to assist them in the mutual service to Christ. If that is done, the dissensions over the different spiritually-gifted men and their gifts will be stopped.

Verse 28

1Co 12:28. Every function or office named in this verse still exists in the church except the spiritual gifts. In the early days of the Gospel age the gifts were possessed by each of these officers or workers, in order that they might perform them the better. After the New Testament was completed the spiritual gifts ceased, and these officers and workers continue down to our time, but are working only with the guidance of the Gospel. The apostles are still in authority (Mat 19:28), doing their ruling or "judging" through the Gospel which they wrote and left with us. I shall next notice the various officers and functions mentioned in the verse. First, secondarily, etc., denotes the numerical order in which they were set in the church, the comparative importance of them being denoted as we discuss them. The apostles were first in order because Jesus selected them before the church was set up, and they had charge of the work under the Lord when the divine institution began (Acts 2). They are also first in importance because their inspired word is the permanent law of Christ, and will be until the end of the world. These prophets were men who could make predictions by the aid of their spiritual gifts. Miracles and healings are explained at verses 9, 10. Help is from ANTILEPSIS, and Thayer explains it at this place to mean, "the ministrations of the deacons, who have care of the poor and sick." Governments is from KUBERNESIS, and Thayer's definition is, "a governing, government." We know from 1Ti 5:17; Heb 13:7 Heb 13:17 and 1Pe 5:1-2, that the elders are the rulers in the church, hence they are the ones meant by these governments. Diversities of tongues refers to the men who could speak with various foreign tongues by the help of spiritual gifts.

Verse 29

1Co 12:29-30. Are all apostles?, etc. All of the questions in this paragraph should receive the negative answer; they are a summing up of the argument that Paul has been making regarding the relation of the different members of the church in the exercise of their spiritual gifts.

Verse 31

1Co 12:31. Covet earnestly is from ZELOO, which Thayer defines, "to desire earnestly, pursue." Best is from KREITTON, and Thayer defines it, "more useful, more serviceable." Paul has consistently taught that all of the gifts are important, and he has rebuked the brethren for their contending with each other over their respective gifts. We should conclude, therefore, that he here means their main interest should he in that which will do the church the most good, and not which of them can exhibit the greatest power. More excellent way signifies that after all that can truly be said of the spiritual gifts, there is something that is more excellent; that will be shown in the next chapter.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.