1 Corinthians 12
In this chapter the apostle,
I. Considers the case of spiritual gifts, which were very plentifully
poured out on the Corinthian church. He considers their original, that
they are from God; their variety and use, that they were all intended
for one and the same general end, the advancement of Christianity and
the church's edification,
II. He illustrates this by an allusion to a human body, in which all
the members have a mutual relation and subserviency, and each has its
proper place and use,
III. He tells us that the church is the body of Christ, and the members
are variously gifted for the benefit of the whole body, and each
IV. Closes with an exhortation to seek somewhat more beneficial than
|On Spiritual Gifts.
||A. D. 57.|
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have
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.
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same
God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to
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:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will.
The apostle comes now to treat of spiritual gifts, which abounded in
the church of Corinth, but were greatly abused. What these gifts were
is at large told us in the body of the chapter; namely, extraordinary
offices and powers, bestowed on ministers and Christians in the first
ages, for conviction of unbelievers, and propagation of the gospel.
Gifts and graces, charismata and charis,
greatly differ. Both indeed were freely given of God. But where grace
is given it is for the salvation of those who have it. Gifts are
bestowed for the advantage and salvation of others. And there may be
great gifts where there is not a dram of grace, but persons possessed
of them are utterly out of the divine favour. They are great instances
of divine benignity to men, but do not by themselves prove those who
have them to be the objects of divine complacency. This church was rich
in gifts, but there were many things scandalously out of order in it.
Now concerning these spiritual gifts, that is, the extraordinary powers
they had received from the Spirit,
I. The apostle tells them he would not have them ignorant either of
their original or use. They came from God, and were to be used for him.
It would lead them far astray if they were ignorant of one or the other
of these. Note, Right information is of great use as to all religious
practice. It is wretched work which gifted men make who either do not
know or do not advert to the nature and right use of the gifts with
which they are endowed.
II. He puts them in the mind of the sad state out of which they had
been recovered: You were Gentiles, carried away to dumb idols, even
as you were led,
While they were so, they could have no pretensions to be spiritual men,
nor to have spiritual gifts. While they were under the conduct of the
spirit of Gentilism, they could not be influenced by the Spirit of
Christ. If they well understood their former condition, they could not
but know that all true spiritual gifts were from God. Now concerning
1. Their former character: they were Gentiles. Not God's
peculiar people, but of the nations whom he had in a manner abandoned.
The Jews were, before, his chosen people, distinguished from the rest
of the world by his favour. To them the knowledge and worship of the
true God were in a manner confined. The rest of the world were
strangers to the covenant of promise, aliens from the commonwealth of
Israel, and in a manner without God,
Such Gentiles were the body of the Corinthians, before their conversion
to Christianity. What a change was here! Christian Corinthians were
once Gentiles. Note, It is of great use to the Christian, and a proper
consideration to stir him up both to duty and thankfulness, to think
what once he was: You were Gentiles.
2. The conduct they were under: Carried away to these dumb idols,
even as you were led. They were hurried upon the grossest idolatry,
the worship even of stocks and stones, through the force of a vain
imagination, and the fraud of their priests practising on their
ignorance, for, whatever were the sentiments of their philosophers,
this was the practice of the herd. The body of the people paid their
homage and worship to dumb idols, that had ears but could not hear,
and mouths but could not speak,
Miserable abjectness of mind! And those who despised these gross
conceptions of the vulgar yet countenanced them by their practice. O
dismal state of Gentilism! Could the Spirit of God be among such
stupid idolators, or they be influenced by it? How did the prince of
this world triumph in the blindness of mankind! How thick a mist had he
cast over their minds!
III. He shows them how they might discern those gifts that were from
the Spirit of God, true spiritual gifts: No man, speaking by the
Spirit, calls Jesus accursed. Thus did both Jews and Gentiles: they
blasphemed him as an impostor, and execrated his name, and deemed it
abominable. And yet many Jews, who were exorcists and magicians, went
about, pretending to work wonders by the Spirit of God (vid.
Lightfoot's Horæ in loc.), and many among the Gentiles
pretended to inspiration. Now the apostle tells them none could act
under the influence, nor by the power, of the Spirit of God, who
disowned and blasphemed Christ: for the Spirit of God bore
uncontrollable witness to Christ by prophecy, miracles, his
resurrection from the dead, the success of his doctrine among men, and
its effect upon them; and could never so far contradict itself as to
declare him accursed. And on the other hand no man could say Jesus
was the Lord (that is, live by this faith, and work miracles to
prove it), but it must be by the Holy Ghost. To own this truth
before men, and maintain it to the death, and live under the influence
of it, could not be done without the sanctification of the Holy Ghost.
No man can call Christ Lord, with a believing subjection to him
and dependence upon him, unless that faith be wrought by the Holy
Ghost. No man can confess this truth in the day of trial but by the
Holy Ghost animating and encouraging him. Note, We have as necessary a
dependence on the Spirit's operation and influence for our
sanctification and perseverance as on the mediation of Christ for our
reconciliation and acceptance with God: and no man could confirm this
truth with a miracle but by the Holy Ghost. No evil spirit would lend
assistance, if it were in his power, to spread a doctrine and religion
so ruinous to the devil's kingdom. The substance of what the apostle
asserts and argues here is that whatever pretences there were to
inspiration or miracles, among those who were enemies to Christianity,
they could not be from the Spirit of God; but no man could believe this
with his heart, nor prove with a miracle that Jesus was Christ, but by
the Holy Ghost: so that the extraordinary operations and powers among
them did all proceed from the Spirit of God. He adds,
IV. These spiritual gifts, though proceeding from the same Spirit, are
yet various. They have one author and original, but are themselves of
various kinds. A free cause may produce variety of effects; and the
same giver may bestow various gifts,
There are diversities of gifts, such as revelations, tongues,
prophecy, interpretations of tongues; but the same Spirit. There
are differences of administrations, or different offices, and officers
to discharge them, different ordinances and institutions (see
but the same Lord, who appointed all,
There are diversities of operations, or miraculous powers,
called energemata dynameon
as here energemata, but it is the same God that
worketh all in all. There are various gifts, administrations, and
operations, but all proceed from one God, one Lord, one Spirit; that
is, from Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the spring and origin of all
spiritual blessings and bequests: all issue from the same fountain; all
have the same author. However different they may be in themselves, in
this they agree; all are from God. And several of the kinds are here
Several persons had their several gifts, some one, some another, all
from and by the same Spirit. To one was given the word of
wisdom; that is, say some, a knowledge of the mysteries of the
gospel, and ability to explain them, an exact understanding of the
design, nature, and doctrines, of the Christian religion. Others say an
uttering of grave sentences, like Solomon's proverbs. Some confine this
word of wisdom to the revelations made to and by the apostles.--To
another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; that is, say
some, the knowledge of mysteries
wrapped up in the prophecies, types, and histories of the Old
Testament: say others, a skill and readiness to give advice and counsel
in perplexed cases.--To another faith, by the same Spirit; that
is, the faith of miracles, or a faith in the divine power and promise,
whereby they were enabled to trust God in any emergency, and go on in
the way of their duty, and own and profess the truths of Christ,
whatever was the difficulty or danger.--To another the gift of
healing, by the same Spirit; that is, healing the sick, either by
laying on of hands, or anointing with oil, or with a bare word.--To
another the working of miracles; the efficacies of powers,
energemata dynameon, such as raising the dead, restoring
the blind to sight, giving speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, and
the use of limbs to the lame.--To another prophecy, that is,
ability to foretel future events, which is the more usual sense of
prophecy; or to explain scripture by a peculiar gift of the Spirit. See
To another the discerning of Spirits, power to distinguish
between true and false prophets, or to discern the real and internal
qualifications of any person for an office, or to discover the inward
workings of the mind by the Holy Ghost, as Peter did those of Ananias,
To another divers kinds of tongues, or ability to speak
languages by inspiration.--To another the interpretation of
tongues, or ability to render foreign languages readily and
properly into their own. With such variety of spiritual gifts were the
first ministers and churches blessed.
V. The end for which these gifts were bestowed: The manifestation of
the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,
The Spirit was manifested by the exercise of these gifts; his influence
and interest appeared in them. But they were not distributed for the
mere honour and advantage of those who had them, but for the benefit of
the church, to edify the body, and spread and advance the gospel. Note,
Whatever gifts God confers on any man, he confers them that he may do
good with them, whether they be common or spiritual. The outward gifts
of his bounty are to be improved for his glory, and employed in doing
good to others. No man has them merely for himself. They are a trust
put into his hands, to profit withal; and the more he profits others
with them, the more abundantly will they turn to his account in the
Spiritual gifts are bestowed, that men may with them profit the church
and promote Christianity. They are not given for show, but for service;
not for pomp and ostentation, but for edification; not to magnify those
that have them, but to edify others.
VI. The measure and proportion in which they are given: All these
worketh one and the same Spirit, dividing to every man as he will.
It is according to the sovereign pleasure of the donor. What more free
than a gift? And shall not the Spirit of God do what he will with his
own? May he not give to what persons he pleases, and in what proportion
he pleases; one gift to one man, and another to another; to one more,
and another fewer, as he thinks fit? Is he not the best judge how his
own purpose shall be served, and his own donatives bestowed? It is not
as men will, nor as they may think fit, but as the Spirit pleases.
Note, The Holy Ghost is a divine person. He works divine effects and
divides divine gifts a he will, by his own power, and according to his
own pleasure, without dependence or control. But though he distributes
these gifts freely and uncontrollably, they are intended by him, not
for private honour and advantage, but for public benefit, for the
edification of the body, the church.
||A. D. 57.|
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with
it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
The apostle here makes out the truth of what was above asserted, and
puts the gifted men among the Corinthians in mind of their duty, by
comparing the church of Christ to a human body.
I. By telling us that one body may have many members, and that the many
members of the same body make but one body
As the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that
one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ; that is,
Christ mystical, as divines commonly speak. Christ and his church
making one body, as head and members, this body is made up of many
parts or members, yet but one body; for all the members are baptized
into the same body, and made to drink of the same Spirit,
Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, are upon a level in this: all are
baptized into the same body, and made partakers of the same Spirit.
Christians become members of this body by baptism: they are baptized
into one body. The outward rite is of divine institution, significant
of the new birth, called therefore the washing of regeneration,
But it is by the Spirit, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we are
made members of Christ's body. It is the Spirit's operation, signified
by the outward administration, that makes us members. And by communion
at the other ordinance we are sustained; but then it is not merely by
drinking the wine, but by drinking into one Spirit. The outward
administration is a means appointed of God for our participation in
this great benefit; but it is baptism by the Spirit, it is internal
renovation and drinking into one Spirit, partaking of his sanctifying
influence from time to time, that makes us true members of Christ's
body, and maintains our union with him. Being animated by one Spirit
makes Christians one body. Note, All who have the spirit of Christ,
without difference, are the members of Christ, whether Jew or Gentile,
bond or free; and none but such. And all the members of Christ make up
one body; the members many, but the body one. They are one body,
because they have one principle of life; all are quickened and animated
by the same Spirit.
II. Each member has its particular form, place, and use.
1. The meanest member makes a part of the body. The foot and ear are
less useful, perhaps, than the hand and eye; but because one is not a
hand, and the other an eye, shall they say, therefore, that they do not
belong to the body?
So every member of the body mystical cannot have the same place and
office; but what then? Shall it hereupon disown relation to the body?
Because it is not fixed in the same station, or favoured with the same
gifts as others, shall it say, "I do not belong to Christ?" No, the
meanest member of his body is as much a member as the noblest, and as
truly regarded by him. All his members are dear to him.
2. There must be a distinction of members in the body: Were the
whole body eye, where were the hearing? Were the whole ear, where were
If all were one member, where were the body?
They are many members, and for that reason must have distinction
among them, and yet are but one body,
One member of a body is not a body; this is made up of many; and among
these many there must be a distinction, difference of situation, shape,
use, &c. So it is in the body of Christ; its members must have
different uses, and therefore have different powers, and be in
different places, some having one gift, and others a different one.
Variety in the members of the body contributes to the beauty of it.
What a monster would a body be if it were all ear, or eye, or arm! So
it is for the beauty and good appearance of the church that there
should be diversity of gifts and offices in it.
3. The disposal of members in a natural body, and their situation, are
as God pleases: But now hath God set the members, every one of them,
in the body, as it hath pleased him,
We may plainly perceive the divine wisdom in the distribution of the
members; but it was made according to the counsel of his will; he
distinguished and distributed them as he pleased. So is it also in the
members of Christ's body: they are chosen out to such stations, and
endued with such gifts, as God pleases. He who is sovereign Lord of all
disposes his favours and gifts as he will. And who should gainsay his
pleasure? What foundation is here for repining in ourselves, or envying
others? We should be doing the duties of our own place, and not
murmuring in ourselves, nor quarrelling with others, that we are not in
4. All the members of the body are, in some respect, useful and
necessary to each other: The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no
need of thee; nor the head to the feet, I have no need of your:
nay, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble (the
bowels, &c.) are necessary
God has so fitted and tempered them together that they are all
necessary to one another, and to the whole body; there is no part
redundant and unnecessary. Every member serves some good purpose or
other: it is useful to its fellow-members, and necessary to the good
state of the whole body. Nor is there a member of the body of Christ
but may and ought to be useful to his fellow-members, and at some
times, and in some cases, is needful to them. None should despise and
envy another, seeing God has made the distinction between them as he
pleased, yet so as to keep them all in some degree of mutual
dependence, and make them valuable to each other, and concerned for
each other, because of their mutual usefulness. Those who excel in any
gift cannot say that they have no need of those who in that gift are
their inferiors, while perhaps, in other gifts, they exceed them. Nay,
the lowest members of all have their use, and the highest cannot do
well without them. The eye has need of the hand, and the head of the
5. Such is the man's concern for his whole body that on the less
honourable members more abundant honour is bestowed, and our uncomely
parts have more abundant comeliness. Those parts which are not fit,
like the rest, to be exposed to view, which are either deformed or
shameful, we most carefully clothe and cover; whereas the comely parts
have no such need. The wisdom of Providence has so contrived and
tempered things that the most abundant regard and honour should be paid
to that which most wanted it,
So should the members of Christ's body behave towards their
fellow-members: instead of despising them, or reproaching them, for
their infirmities, they should endeavour to cover and conceal them, and
put the best face upon them that they can.
6. Divine wisdom has contrived and ordered things in this manner that
the members of the body should not be schismatics, divided from each
other and acting upon separate interests, but well affected to each
other, tenderly concerned for each other, having a fellow-feeling of
each other's griefs and a communion in each other's pleasures and joys,
God has tempered the members of the body natural in the manner
mentioned, that there might be no schism in the body
no rupture nor disunion among the members, nor so much as the least
mutual disregard. This should be avoided also in the spiritual body of
Christ. There should be no schism in this body, but the members should
be closely united by the strongest bonds of love. All decays of this
affection are the seeds of schism. Where Christians grow cold towards
each other, they will be careless and unconcerned for each other. And
this mutual disregard is a schism begun. The members of the natural
body are made to have a care and concern for each other, to prevent a
schism in it. So should it be in Christ's body; the members should
sympathize with each other. As in the natural body the pain of the one
part afflicts the whole, the ease and pleasure of one part affects the
whole, so should Christians reckon themselves honoured in the honours
of their fellow-christians, and should suffer in their sufferings.
Note, Christian sympathy is a great branch of Christian duty. We should
be so far from slighting our brethren's sufferings that we should
suffer with them, so far from envying their honours that we should
rejoice with them and reckon ourselves honoured in them.
|On Spiritual Gifts.
||A. D. 57.|
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
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
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you
a more excellent way.
I. Here the apostle sums up the argument, and applies this similitude
to the church of Christ, concerning which observe,
1. The relation wherein Christians stand to Christ and one another. The
church, or whole collective body of Christians, in all ages, is his
body. Every Christian is a member of his body, and every other
Christian stands related to him as a fellow-member
Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular, or
particular members. Each is a member of the body, not the whole body;
each stands related to the body as a part of it, and all have a common
relation to one another, dependence upon one another, and should have a
mutual care and concern. Thus are the members of the natural body, thus
should the members of the mystical body be, disposed. Note, Mutual
indifference, and much more contempt, and hatred, and envy, and strife,
are very unnatural in Christians. It is like the members of the same
body being destitute of all concern for one another, or quarrelling
with each other. This is the apostle's scope in this argument. He
endeavours in it to suppress the proud, vaunting, and contentious
spirit, that had prevailed among the Corinthians, by reason of their
2. The variety of offices instituted by Christ, and gifts or favours
dispensed by him
God hath set some in the church; first, apostles, the chief
ministers entrusted with all the powers necessary to found a church,
and make an entire revelation of God's will. Secondarily,
prophets, or persons enabled by inspiration, as the evangelists
did. Thirdly, teachers, those who labour in word and doctrine,
whether with pastoral charge or without it. After that,
miracles, or miracle-workers. The gifts of healing, or
those who had power to heal diseases; helps, or such as had
compassion on the sick and weak, and ministered to them;
governments, or such as had the disposal of the charitable
contributions of the church, and dealt them out to the poor;
diversities of tongues, or such as could speak divers languages.
Concerning all these observe,
(1.) The plenteous variety of these gifts and offices. What a multitude
are they! A good God was free in his communications to the primitive
church; he was no niggard of his benefits and favours. No, he provided
richly for them. They had no want, but a store-all that was necessary,
and even more; what was convenient for them too.
(2.) Observe the order of these offices and gifts. They are here placed
in their proper ranks. Those of most value have the first place.
Apostles, prophets, and teachers, were all intended to instruct the
people, to inform them well in the things of God, and promote their
spiritual edification: without them, neither evangelical knowledge nor
holiness could have been promoted. But the rest, however fitted to
answer the great intentions of Christianity, had no such immediate
regard to religion, strictly so called. Note, God does, and we should,
value things according to their real worth: and the use of things is
the best criterion of their real worth. Those are most valuable that
best answer the highest purposes. Such were apostolical powers,
compared with theirs who had only the gift of healing and miracles.
What holds the last and lowest rank in this enumeration is diversity of
tongues. It is by itself the most useless and insignificant of all
these gifts. Healing diseases, relieving the poor, helping the sick,
have their use: but how vain a thing is it to speak languages, if a man
does it merely to amuse or boast himself! This may indeed raise the
admiration, but cannot promote the edification, of the hearers, nor do
them any good. And yet it is manifest from
that the Corinthians valued themselves exceedingly on this gift. Note,
How proper a method it is to beat down pride to let persons know the
true value of what they pride themselves in! It is but too common a
thing for men to value themselves most on what is least worth: and it
is of great use to bring them to a sober mind by letting them know how
much they are mistaken.
(3.) The various distribution of these gifts, not all to one, nor to
every one alike. All members and officers had not the same rank in the
church, nor the same endowments
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? This were to make the church
a monster: all one as if the body were all ear or all eye. Some are fit
for one office and employment, and some for another; and the Spirit
distributes to every one as he will. We must be content with our own
rank and share, if they be lower and less than those of others. We must
not be conceited of ourselves, and despise others, if we are in the
higher rank and have greater gifts. Every member of the body is to
preserve its own rank, and do its own office; and all are to minister
to one another, and promote the good of the body in general, without
envying, or despising, or neglecting, or ill-using, any one particular
member. How blessed a constitution were the Christian church, if all
the members did their duty!
II. He closes this chapter with an advice (as the generality read it)
and a hint.
1. An advice to covet the best gifts, charismata ta
kreittona--dona potiora, præstantiora, either the
most valuable in them selves or the most serviceable to others; and
these are, in truth, most valuable in themselves, though men may be apt
to esteem those most that will raise their fame and esteem highest.
Those are truly best by which God will be most honoured and his church
edified. Such gifts should be most earnestly coveted. Note, We should
desire that most which is best, and most worth. Grace is therefore to
be preferred before gifts; and, of gifts, those are to be preferred
which are of greatest use. But some read this passage, not as an
advice, but a charge: zeloute, You are envious at
each other's gifts. In
the same word is thus translated. You quarrel and contend about them.
This they certainly did. And this behaviour the apostle here
reprehends, and labours to rectify. Only of pride cometh
contention. These contests in the church of Corinth sprang from
this original. It was a quarrel about precedency (as most quarrels
among Christians are, with whatever pretences they are gilded over);
and it is no wonder that a quarrel about precedence should extinguish
charity. When all would stand in the first rank, no wonder if they
jostle, or throw down, or thrust back, their brethren. Gifts may be
valued for their use, but they are mischievous when made the fuel of
pride and contention. This therefore the apostle endeavours to prevent.
2. By giving them the hint of a more excellent way, namely, of charity,
of mutual love and good-will. This was the only right way to quiet and
cement them, and make their gifts turn to the advantage and edification
of the church. This would render them kind to each other, and concerned
for each other, and therefore calm their spirits, and put an end to
their little piques and contests, their disputes about precedency.
Those would appear to be in the foremost rank, according to the
apostle, who had most of true Christian love. Note, True charity is
greatly to be preferred to the most glorious gifts. To have the heart
glow with mutual love is vastly better than to glare with the most
pompous titles, offices, or powers.