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THE FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND UNITY
Theme Verse: 25
1 Corinthians 12:1-3 – Pneumatic Gifts
1CO12:1 Now, about the pneumatic things,653
brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
About the pneumatic things: Or, spiritual things, spiritual gifts. The Greek is PNEUMATICON. Paul introduces a new subject, possibly
the result of a question or subject the Corinthians were interested in. As chapter 14 will later reveal it was mainly the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues which had caused some disunity among them.
are aware that when you were non-Jews you were being led away toward those voiceless idols just as you were being seduced.
1CO12:3 Therefore, I want to make you aware that no one when speaking in God’s Pneuma says, “Curse Jesus!”654
Also, no one is able to say, “Master Jesus,” if not in holy Pneuma.655
No one is able to say, “Master Jesus,”
if not in holy Pneuma: Or, KJV: but by the Holy Ghost; GDS: without being under the influence of; CON: inspired by; BEC: moved by. Some make this literal Greek read, “Jesus is the Master.” It seems evident that Paul does not mean that anyone
who says “Lord, Jesus,” or, “Jesus is Lord,” is moved by the Pneuma. Compare those whom Jesus never knew in Matthew 7:21-23, as well as the title the goats use in Matthew 25:44. [Matthew 16:17] All persons who wish to become baptized
disciples must make the confession, “Jesus Christ is Master.” [Romans 10:10, 11]
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 – One Pneuma and Many Gifts
1CO12:4 Now, there are varieties of charismatic gifts,656
but the very same Pneuma.657
1CO12:6 [There are] varieties of inner-energies,660
but the very same God661
– the One energizing everyone in everything.662
Varieties of inner-energies: Or, operations, inworkings, things accomplished, activities, different ways of doing things; BAR: different
kinds of effects. The Greek is ENERGEMATON. In Greek the word for “work” is ERGON. The “erg” is a basic measure of work or energy. This manifestation is particularly associated with The God who is the source of the Pneuma, and
Christ the channel through which it flows. [Acts 2:43]
The very same God: Only one is here classified as “the very God.” Nowhere is the Pneuma or the Master so classified.
The One energizing everyone in everything: Or, KJV: God worketh all in all; WMS: by putting energy in us all; BAR: the visible effect which the Spirit produces. The Greek is ENERGON and only God possesses such. The phrase “all in all” would include His own Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, it is God who “energizes” the Son and all others. [1 Peter 4:11]
1CO12:7 However, to every person663
is given the manifestation of the Pneuma for a purpose.664
Every person: Many versions use “every man.” [KJV, PME, BAR]
Every person is given the manifestation of the Pneuma for a purpose: Or, KJV: to profit withal; PME: for the common good; CON: profit of all; BEC: to make him useful.
Most translators use “man” in these renderings. Compare 1 Corinthians 14:26. [Ephesians 4:7]
1CO12:8 Indeed, to one person is being given a word of wisdom by the agency of the Pneuma;665
but to another person a word of knowledge666
according to the very same Pneuma;
To one person is being given a word of wisdom by the agency of the Pneuma: Or, by the Spirit; message of wisdom; ability to speak
wisely; BAR: power to express intellectual wisdom in words. Wisdom [SOPHIA] is generally defined as the right use of knowledge. Though a general “pneuma of wisdom” is given to all the Saints, it is likely this gift is a particular “word [or
message] of wisdom” which comes upon an elder for the benefit of the congregation in a specific instance. Solomon and Christ are two premier examples. Before the Christian “New Testament” was formed by the end of the 1st Century
there would be a whole range of matters which would require inspired wisdom to deal with different problems. [Proverbs 2:1-7] Paul is to list 9 gifts of the Pneuma.
To another person a word of knowledge: Or, GDS: the power to express knowledge; BEC: the ability to speak intelligently; MON: a word of insight; BAR: power to communicate knowledge in words. Knowledge is the accumulation
of facts. As above, this is likely a specific gift upon an elder with a particular fact that may benefit the congregation. All Christians are gifted with knowledge and are encouraged to continue to increase in such. [Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:9, 10] Some
Christian teachers because of humble application within the Word of God have acquired considerable knowledge of the Bible. As with the above gift of wisdom it generally becomes well known in the congregation who is and who is not possessed of such gifts. Compare
notes on 1 Corinthians 14:6 and 2 Corinthians 8:7. There is likely an example of this at Acts 21:4.
1CO12:9 to a different person a faith667
by the very same Pneuma; to another charismatic gifts of healings668
in the one Pneuma;
Charismatic gifts of healings: Or, ability to heal, cure. Christ had
authorized his apostles to “cure sick people.” [Matthew 10:8; Luke 9:1, 6] Later Jesus authorized 70 others to do the same. [Luke 10:9] In the book of Acts it is generally the apostles, and only certain ones, who are seen healing. [Acts 3:7; 4:14,
22, 30; 5:16; 8:7; 9:34; 28:8, 9] It is worthy of note that in the entire Bible no woman is ever seen doing a miraculous cure. These “gifts of healings” were likely those of elders under the pneumatic pressure. [James 5:14, 15] Though healings are most often of non-believers, there are cases of cures of the greatest kind – from death – by apostolic representatives. [Compare three cases: Paul in Acts 9:17, 18; Dorcas in Acts 9:37-41; and, Eutychus in Acts 20:9, 10.]
1CO12:10 but, to another inner-energies of dynamic powers,669
to another a prophecy,670
to another discernment of inspirations;671
to a different person different languages,672
but to another person interpretation of languages.673
Inner-energies of dynamic powers: Or, KJV: working of miracles; TCN: supernatural powers. The Greek is ENERGEMATA DYNAMEON and possibly
refers to extraordinary works of strength or power. [Hebrews 2:4] This may be a general category for miscellaneous supernatural feats. One cannot read of this and not think of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:31. Though exorcism of demons is nowhere listed here it
is possible it is included here.
A prophecy: See notes above on the Greek. It is likely this was a special
gift of prediction regarding matters of congregational or Church-wide concern. An example occurs at Acts 11:27, 28. However, both men and women are seen prophesying in general as Acts 2:18 shows. [Acts 13:1; 21:9] In the case of the premier offices of elders
[apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor, missionary – compare Ephesians 4:11, 12] these were performed by men in the early Church.
Discernment of inspirations: Or, KJV: discerning of spirits; WMS: discriminate between the true and false spirits; TCN: the gift of distinguishing between true and false inspiration. The Greek is DIAKRISEIS PNEUMATON, or “judging pneumas.”
PNEUMA may sometimes refer to the “inspiration” [in-breathing] of something. Compare notes on 1 John 4:1 where all Christians are warned to “test spirits.” An example of this may be Paul’s discernment of the spirit medium who kept proclaiming, “These are servants of the true God.” Though what she said was true, the source was demonic. [Acts 16:16-18]
Interpretation of languages: Or, tongues. See notes on 1 Corinthians 14:28.
1CO12:11 But, within all of these [persons] the one and the same Pneuma is an inner-energy,674
uniquely distributing to each person just as it wills.675
Within all of these [persons] the one and the same Pneuma is an inner-energy: Or, KJV: all these worketh; BER: all these abilities one and the same spirit energizes; WMS: the one and same Spirit accomplishes all these
achievements. [1 Corinthians 12:6]
Uniquely distributing to each person just as it wills: Or, KJV: dividing
to every man severally as he wills; RSV: apportions to each one; GDS: as the spirit chooses. Though some translators use “him” the Greek is more likely neuter. The question rises as to how can an inanimate energy “will”? Jesus uses PNEUMA as an analogy to Nicodemus when discussing the spiritual rebirth. John 3:8 records the Nazarene’s comparison: “The Pneuma [wind] is blowing wherever it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know its source of destination.” [NCMM Paraphrase] It is clear from the wording that Jesus has in mind the wind and yet the wind “wills.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – One Body with Many Members
1CO12:12 For just as the Body is one and yet has many members, all of these members though many are one body676
– so also the Christ.677
So also the Christ: Paul uses the designation “the Christ” for the Body of Christ, or the Congregation of all believers. Compare notes on 1 Corinthians 1:13. The use is rare [1 Corinthians 6:15; Ephesians 4:12, 13] though some see it more often.
1CO12:13 For as in one Body we were all immersed into one Pneuma678
– whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons679
– and all of us were made to drink one Pneuma.680
Whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons: The One Body is neither Jewish nor Greek. [Galatians 3:28, 29]
All of us were made to drink one Pneuma: Or, KJV: drink into one Spirit; PME: all had experience of; BER: we have all been imbued with; BEC: poured out for all of us to drink; NOR: given to drink at one Source. Paul may echo the Nazarene here. [John 4:14; 7:37] The very word “pour” and “baptism” infer water as an analogy or figure of speech. In one degree or another every member of the Church imbibes certain amounts of the Pneuma, though some drink more deeply than others. The poetic use of drinking may be seen in Job 6:3 and Job 15:16. Compare also Psalm 78:15 with 1 Corinthians 10:4 where the “congregation in the wilderness” drank the “same spiritual drink.”
1 Corinthians 12:14-18 – God Placed Each Member
1CO12:14 Also, the Body is not one member but many.
1CO12:15 Even if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I am not part of the body,” this does not mean it is not part of the body.
1CO12:16 And if the ear should ever say, “Because I am not an eye I am not part of the body,” this does not mean it is not part of the body.
1CO12:17 If the whole body was an eye, where is the hearing? If hearing is all there is, where is the smelling?
1CO12:18 But now The God set each one of the members in the body just as He willed.
1 Corinthians 12:19-26 – Unity and Care
1CO12:19 Now if everything were just one member,681
where would be the body?
If everything were just one member: Paul is to begin his analogy of “the Christ” or the Church with the human body. Though
some behave as if they were the only members to the Body, the whole Church with all of its members – including the weakest or seemingly most unnecessary – are a working part of the whole. The lesson is three-fold: a] a mutual need requiring communal
care for one another; b] a fellowship-wide hurt when one single member suffers; and, c] the community-wide rejoicing when one member is glorified or elevated. [Compare notes on Ephesians 4:11-16.]
now [there are] many members, but one body.
1CO12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Or again, the head cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
1CO12:22 But, rather, the members seeming to be weaker exist as a necessity.682
The members seeming to be weaker exist as a necessity: There is no such thing as a vestigial organ in the human body, or the Christian
Church. Most Christians are aware that often the weakest elderly sister in the church provides the best example and offers the greatest contribution. The Nazarene speaks of “one of the least of these my brothers” and it is the treatment of these
which determine whether one is a sheep or goat within the Church. [Matthew 25:31-46]
1CO12:23 Also, those [members] of the body we think more dishonorable we surround with more abundant honor.
And our uncomely members [we surround] with more abundant comeliness,
1CO12:24 whereas our comely members have no such need. But, The God synergized the body683
in such a way to give more honor to those members lacking,
The God synergized the body: Or, tempered, combined, established, built up, blended. The Greek is SYNEKERASEN [Strong’s Exhaustive
Concordance #4786, mix together, commingle, several parts to combine]. In other words the Creators magnificent design of the human body has placed what some would view as the less honorable body parts or organs in a discreet manner normally clothed with the
most attractive part of the garment. The most wondrous example is the female form.
1CO12:25 so that there should be no schism in the body. But rather, that its members should have an anxious
concern for one another.684
Anxious concern for one another: Or, same care, common concern, same anxiety; BAR: concern for each other’s welfare. Compare
Paul’s example at 2 Corinthians 11:28, 29. While some will openly cater to “those who seem pillars” the true pastor or shepherd will be seen giving the tenderest and most sensitive care to the most insignificant in the church, most often the young, elderly and ill.
1CO12:26 And so whenever one member is suffering all the members suffer together; and whenever a member is glorified, all the members rejoice together.685
Whenever a member is glorified, all the members rejoice together: Among physical people jealousy is aroused when one associate is promoted or rewarded. One of the most difficult things for some is to rejoice over the good fortune of another. Jealous ambition has been a disease in the Church from the beginning. It was the motivating force behind Satan’s rebellion. Particularly the Christian male who wishes to serve [1 Timothy 3:1] within the Church should be on guard against the slightest stain of envy.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 – Seek Greater Gifts
1CO12:27 But all of you are Christ’s Body and members individually.
1CO12:28 Really, The God has set [these members] in the Congregation:686
charismatic gifts of healings,692
The God has set [these members] in the Congregation: Or, appointed, given different positions. Paul is here to list eight categories.
Apostles: Or, messengers. The word means one sent and thus the English “representative” comes very
close to the intent. The premier apostle is Jesus Christ. [Hebrews 3:1] There were, of course, the original twelve apostles at the foundation of the Church. [Acts 1:25, 26] These were the formal apostolic representatives of Christ. [Acts 15:2] These men essentially
vanish after Acts chapter 15. There is another level of apostle that both Barnabas and Paul are called, as they were representatives of the apostolic body in Jerusalem. [Acts 14:14] Paul becomes the most significant of these as he was chosen directly by the
Master Jesus. Thus, Paul often calls himself an apostle. There were other “apostles” as shown by 2 Corinthians 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. There are pseudo apostles. [2 Corinthians 11:5, 13; 12:11; Revelation 2:2] The end-time Saints would have
among their fellowship “apostles.” [Revelation 18:20] Such “apostles” are those elders who may speak for and represent the entire Church. They would have to be men in perfect unity on what the Nazarene community believes as doctrine
and the order of the congregations.
Prophets: Or, preachers. Compare notes on Ephesians 4:11. As explained
above the “prophet” is essentially a speaker or preacher. Normally one would think of a teacher superior to a preacher. However, it is the “prophet” who stands firm for God’s righteous standards as a spokesman for Him. Note the
special mention of “prophets” in Antioch as though not all congregations were so blessed [Acts 13:1]. There would also be “prophets” among the end-time Saints. [Revelation 10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:20, 24] False prophets would exist
within the Church. [2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1]
Teachers: Or, instructors. Compare notes on Ephesians 4:11. All Christians should be teachers. [Hebrews 5:12] Elders are appointed teachers. [1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:9] Women may teach other women [Titus 2:3] but not within the congregation. [1 Timothy 2:11-13] As with apostle and prophet, there would be false and misleading teachers within the Church. [1 Timothy 1:3; Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 2:1] James cautions men with regard to wanting to be teachers. [James 3:1-3] It may be noted that one man may hold more than one office. [2 Timothy 1:11] In Ephesians 4:11, 12 Paul adds two other “job descriptions” to his list: pastor and missionary.
Thereafter: Likely in descending degrees.
Dynamic works: Or, miracles. See notes above on this charismatic gift. At the judgment there will be those without a relationship with Christ who will claim such dynamic works. [Matthew 7:21-23]
Charismatic gifts of healings: See notes above.
Helpers: Or, assistants. The one thing the Church always needs is men and women helping with the many needs of the community: cleaning, meals, home visits, ushers, attendants, musicians and singers. The list is really endless.
Guidance: Or, governments, administrators, organizers, wise guides, managers; BAR: ability to administer the affairs of the church. The Greek word is literally “steerings” and is given a variety of meanings. [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #2941, steer, pilot, directorship]. Though some men are gifted as apostles, prophets or teachers, they may not be the most gifted administrators. Often management or administration is given a powerful place in some religious organizations, often to the minimization of prophets and teachers. In the Church there is a need for careful balance that those so gifted to direct do not replace the apostles, prophets and teachers as the primary spiritual force in the community.
Different languages: Or, tongues. Paul has deliberately placed this gift last for reasons that will be revealed in chapter 14. See notes above on tongues.
1CO12:29 Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Are all Teachers? Are all Dynamics?
1CO12:30 Are all gifted charismatically? Are all possessed of healings? Are all speaking [different] languages? Are all translators?696
Are all translators: Though Paul listed this earlier, he now adds it in his series of rhetorical questions. See notes in 1 Corinthians
1CO12:31 However, continue zealously seeking the greater charismatic gifts.697
And yet, I point out to you a more elevated way.698
Continue zealously seeking the greater charismatic gifts: Or, KJV: covet earnestly the best gifts; BER: choice graces. Judging from his list ending with tongues this would mean moving up the list to those “greater”
gifts. If a Christian remained only speaking tongues it would indicate an infantile spirituality.
And yet, I point out to you a more elevated way: Or, KJV: a more excellent way; NWT: surpassing way; TAY: better than any of them; TCN: beyond comparison the best; MOF: still higher path; BAR: the way is by far the best. Here is Paul’s marvelous connective and introduction to the subject of Love.
Review Questions on Chapter Twelve
On what new subject does Paul now focus?
As non-Jews what did they formerly follow?
What principle does Paul want them to know?
What does Paul say about gifts of the Spirit?
What are some of these?
What is the force or pressure behind each one?
All the various members share in what?
How do all share the Pneuma?
To what does Paul compare the Body of Christ?
How does he demonstrate different purpose?
What analogy does Paul use regarding mutual need in the body?