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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 12 - Verse 1
1st Corinthians CHAPTER 12
THIS chapter commences a new subject, the discussion of which continues to the close of the fourteenth chapter. The general subject is that of spiritual endowments, or the right mode of exercising their spiritual gifts, and the degree of honour which was due to those who had been distinguished by God by the special influences of his Spirit. It is evident that many in the church at Corinth had been thus favoured; and it is evident that they had greatly abused these endowments, and that those who were thus favoured had claimed a precedency of honour above those who had been less distinguished. It is not improbable that they had, in their letter to Paul, (1 Co 7:1,) requested his counsel on this subject, and asked him to teach them what measure of honour should be given to those who had been thus endowed. This subject, as it was of importance not only for them, but for the church at large in all future times, he proceeds to discuss in this and the two following chapters; and this discussion closes the second part of the epistle. See the Introduction. The general scope of these chapters is this:
(1.) He shows that all those endowments were conferred by the Holy Ghost, and were all for the use of the church; that the church was one, but that there was a necessity for diversified operations in that church; and that, therefore, no one should value himself on that gift above his brother, and no one should feel himself dishonoured because he had not been thus favoured. All filled important places in the church, just as the various members and parts of the human system were necessary for its symmetry, action, and health; and all, therefore, should be willing to occupy the place which God had assigned them, 1 Co 12.
(2.) In 1 Co 13 he recommends love, or charity, as of more value than all other spiritual gifts put together, and therefore recommends that that should be especially the object of their desire.
(3.) In 1 Co 14 he gives particular rules about the proper exercise of spiritual gifts in their public assemblies. This chapter, therefore, is occupied in stating and illustrating the position that all spiritual gifts are conferred by the Holy Ghost, and that no one should so value himself on this gilt as to despise those who had not been thus endowed; and that no one who had not thus been favoured should be dejected, or regard himself as dishonoured. This statement is illustrated in the following manner:
(1.) Paul states the importance of the subject, 1 Co 13:1.
(2.) He reminds them that they were formerly in a state of ignorance, sin, and idolatry, 1 Co 13:2.
(3.) He states one mark of being under the influence of the Spirit of God; that is, that it would lead them to acknowledge and honour Jesus Christ. If the spirit by which they were influenced led them to this, it was proof that it was the Holy Ghost, 1 Co 13:3. If any pretenders to inspiration were in the habit of speaking disrespectfully of Jesus Christ, or of calling him "accursed," it proved that they were not under the influence of the Holy Ghost.
(4.) There were diversities in the operations of the Spirit; but however various were these operations, they all proceeded from the same agent, 1 Co 13:4-11. All were not, therefore, to expect precisely the same influences or operations; nor were they to suppose that because there were various operations, that therefore they were not influenced by the Spirit of God.
(5.) Paul states and illustrates the truth that the church is one, 1 Co 12:12-27. As the body is one, yet has many members, so is it with the church, 1 Co 12:12. The body has many members, and no members in the body are useless, but all perform important parts, however unimportant they may seem to be; and no one member can say that it has no need of the others. So it is in the church, 1 Co 12:13-27.
(6.) This beautiful allegory, drawn from the functions of the various parts of the human body, Paul applies now to the church, and shows (1 Co 12:28-30) that the same thing should be expected in the church of Christ. It followed, therefore, that those who were not as highly favoured as others, should not regard themselves as useless, and decline their station in the church. It followed, also, that those who were in inferior stations should not envy those who had been more highly favoured; and that those who were in more elevated stations, and who had been more signally favoured, should not look down on those beneath them with contempt. It followed, also, that they should regard themselves as one body, and love and cherish each other with constant Christian affection.
(7.) Paul tells them that it was not improper to desire the highest endowments, but says that he will propose an object of desire to be preferred to these gifts—and that is LOVE, 1 Co 12:31.
Verse 1. Now concerning. It is now time that I should speak of spiritual endowments. He had no doubt been consulted in regard to them, and probably various questions had been proposed, which he now proceeded to answer.
Spiritual gifts. The word "gifts" is not in the original. The Greek refers to "spiritual" things in general, or to anything that is of a spiritual nature. The whole discussion, however, shows that he refers to the various endowments, gifts, or graces that had been bestowed in different degrees on the members of the church—including the distinctions in graces, and in degrees of office and rank, which had been made in the Christian church in general, 1 Co 12, as well as the extraordinary endowments of the gift of tongues, which had been bestowed upon many, 1 Co 14.
I would not have you ignorant in regard to the nature of those endowments; the spirit with which they should be received; the rules to which they who are thus favoured should be subjected; and the feelings and views which should be cherished in all the members of the church in regard to them. Nothing is of more importance in the church than the doctrine respecting the influences and endowments of the Holy Spirit.
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