The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians

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1 Corinthians 12

1Co 12:1

See Lesson, One body.

See Lesson, Collyer on One body.

1Co 12: "The apostle Paul wrote concerning spiritual matters, pointing out that the gifts of the spirit were to be used for the unity of the Body. Although the miraculous spirit gifts are not available today, the principle of those gifts must be sought. He outlines nine such gifts. Two involved the intellect, in the expression of wisdom and of knowledge. These two principles are the foundation of our belief, as we obtain the wisdom of the Word, and apply it in knowledge. Another two gifts involve speech, being the gifts of tongues, and the interpreting of tongues. Consequently, when we speak words of Truth we manifest the voice of God; when we interpret the Word we apply our minds to revelation. Two more gifts concern truth: those of prophecy and the discerning of spirits, reminding us of the need for faithful exhortation, and the testing of exposition. The final three gifts are of actions: those of faith, healing and miracles. Similarly, in the extension of those principles, we apply ourselves to the strengthening of faith; to the caring for others; and to working fruitfulness. When properly applied, these principles centre on the unity of the body, for the differing elements are all necessary for the upbuilding of Christ in his Ecclesial Body. Thus as members in part, we each contribute something to the whole" (GEM).

1Co 12:11

AND HE GIVES THEM TO EACH ONE, JUST AS HE DETERMINES: "God's will is perfect. He distributes our gifts as they are supposed to be. What a disservice we do to ourselves, our God, and our ecclesias when we try to compare ourselves to one another. We are not supposed to be the same. We all have different roles to perform. Some roles are more visible than others, but that does not make them of more value to the body. Let us encourage each other in his or her own special gifts. Let us not put false or ill motives on what our brethren do. We must remember that our brethren are children of God who are doing their part as best as they know. Let us encourage each other to recognize the gifts and contributions as extremely important to the functioning and health of our body -- no matter how visible or invisible they seem to be. Let us not judge one another or measure one another according to our own standards -- for we are not the same -- nor were we meant to be. This we do know -- that God has put the body together as he saw fit -- and who are we to question His purpose and design? We are intended to be a functioning part of the body -- each and every one of us in his or her own particular way" (CPv).

1Co 12:19

IF THEY WERE ALL ONE PART, WHERE WOULD THE BODY BE?: "What kind of church would my church be... if all of its members were just like me?" Think, for example, of a "pot-luck" dinner where every guest brought the exactly same dish. Or a baseball team where all the players had exactly the same abilities. Or an orchestra where everyone played the same instrument.

1Co 12:20

At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, presented their findings on how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestras perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose "loud" as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music.

1Co 12:21

"The beauty and purpose and usefulness of the human body is in its diversity" (GVG, Ber 57:308).

THE HEAD... TO THE FEET: "Feet" = those who carry the gospel message (Rom 10:15; Isa 52:7). Christ cannot come to those to whom he is not carried by his "feet" -- us!

1Co 12:23

"Difference... far from sanctioning divisions, calls for devotion" (WFB 131).

1Co 12:25

THERE SHOULD BE NO DIVISION IN THE BODY, BUT THAT ITS PARTS SHOULD HAVE EQUAL CONCERN FOR EACH OTHER: "They tell the story of the fellow trying to sleep with his feet hanging out the end of the bed, so cold that they have turned blue. Someone asked him why he didn't draw them up under the covers and his reply was, 'I'm not going to put those cold things in bed with me!' The story is funny because it is so ridiculous. Our feet are so much a part of our body that what happens to them happens to us. We recently had this demonstrated to us in a very real way. A heavy object was dropped on our big toe, and the pain it caused was felt throughout the body. Later as we lay in bed trying to sleep, we could feel each beat of our heart by the throb in our big toe. We were painfully aware of the truth of Paul's statement concerning the body when he said 'whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.'

"We had not given our big toe a second thought for years, and suddenly it became difficult to think of anything else. Paul makes a beautiful comparison of the parts of our physical body, being parts of the body of Christ. Paul shows how each part of the body is necessary and how one part must not say it does not need another part. Even 'those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary,' says Paul.

"Paul's elaborate analogy is for the sole purpose of teaching us that there ought not to be any 'schisms in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.' If we really love the body of Christ as we love our own body we ought to 'nourish and cherish it, even as the Lord the church.' We know what Jesus did for us. We know what we each do for an ailing part of our body. This, says Paul, is the way we ought to care for those members of our body who are spiritually sick. He tells us that 'we then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.' [Rom 15:1]

"This is exactly what we do when our big toe hurts. We don't normally hop around on one foot holding the other with both hands, but when that toe has an infirmity that is exactly what we do. It doesn't make much difference either how busy we think we are. We still take time out from whatever we are doing to do our little one-foot dance.

"Now the problem is we are not usually as sensitive to the infirmities of others as we are to our own. Those that were with us were not as concerned about our big toe as we were. After all it was our toe that was hurting.

"We all need to cultivate a caring attitude for the infirmities of others. God has built into our body a nervous system so that we automatically care for the part of our body that is injured. Now we need to learn how to become sensitive to the hurts and feelings of others so that we can nourish and cherish them in their distresses.

"James tells us 'that this is pure religion, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unspotted from the world.' [Jam 1:27]

"Sometimes what we do for the other is really a very small thing to us but very important to them. A visit, a kind word, just reaching out a steadying hand when one is hopping on one foot can prevent a fall. We need to learn to think of others, and try to do for them as we would have them do for us if we were in their situation. It truly is the thought that counts but the thought will be demonstrated by a deed, for as faith without works is dead, so thoughts without actions are dead also. A cup of cold water isn't much but if it is given in the name of a disciple, Jesus says the giver will not lose his reward" (MM).

Let us each learn to care for the body of Christ as we do for our physical body that there be no "schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. Now ye are the body of Christ."

1Co 12:27

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

1Co 12:28

"One valuable scripture (1Co 12:7-10,27-30) provides a long list of the gifts of the Spirit. Here they are, with a comment or two about each of them.

1Co 12:29

Vv 29,30: Cp 7-fold Spirit: Isa 11:2. Also, Rev 1:4; 4:5; 5:6. No one was self-sufficient. The Holy Spirit gifts were widely distributed so that all the individual members were dependent upon one another.

1Co 12:31

BUT EAGERLY DESIRE THE GREATER GIFTS: This implies that some gifts are of more use than others. There is an ordering of the spirit gifts: 1Co 12:28; Eph 4:11. Notice the gift of tongues is at the bottom of the list, and notice also that Eph 4 provides the reason for the gifts -- they were not given for self gratification; this was the problem at Corinth.

AND NOW I WILL SHOW YOU THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY: There is something far better than all the Holy Spirit gifts: and that is love!

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