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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 12 - Verse 28

Verse 28. And God hath set. That is, has appointed, constituted, ordained. He has established these Various orders or ranks in the church. The apostle, having illustrated the main idea that God had conferred various endowments on the members of the church, proceeds here to specify particularly what he meant, and to refer more directly to the various ranks which existed in the church.

Some in the church. The word "some," in this place, (ouv) seems to mean rather "whom" and "whom God hath placed in the church;" or, they whom God hath constituted in the church in the manner above mentioned are, first, apostles, etc.

First apostles. In the first rank or order; or as superior in honour and in office. He has given them the highest authority in the church; he has more signally endowed them and qualified them than he has others.

Secondarily prophets. As second in regard to endowments and importance. For the meaning of the word "prophets," See Barnes "Ro 12:6".

 

Thirdly teachers. As occupying the third station in point of importance and valuable endowments. On the meaning of this word, and the nature of this office, See Barnes "Ro 12:7".

 

After that miracles. Power. dunameiv. Those who had the power of working miracles— referred to in 1 Co 12:10.

Then gifts of healings. The power of healing those who were sick. See Barnes "1 Co 12:9".

Compare Jas 5:14,16.

Helps. antilhqeiv. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from antilambanw, and denotes, properly, aid, assistance, help; and then those who render aid, assistance, or help; helpers. Who they were, is not known. They might have been those to whom was entrusted the care of the poor, and the sick, and strangers, widows, and orphans, etc.; i.e., those who performed the office of deacons. Or they may have been those who attended on the apostles to aid them in their work, such as Paul refers to in Ro 16:3, "Greet Priscilla, and Aquila, my helper" in Christ Jesus;" and in Ro 16:9, "Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ." See Barnes "Ro 16:3".

It is not possible, perhaps, to determine a precise meaning of the word, or the nature of the office which they discharged; but the word means, in general, those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church, to the care of the poor, the distribution of charity and alms, or to the instruction of the ignorant, or to aid rendered directly to the apostles. There is no evidence that it refers to a distinct and permanent office in the church; but may refer to aid rendered by any class in any way. Probably many persons were profitably and usefully employed in various ways as aids in promoting the temporal or spiritual welfare of the church.

Governments. kubernhseiv. This word is derived from kubernaw, to govern; and is usually applied to the government or steering of a ship. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the word kubernhthv (governor) occurs in Ac 27:11, rendered "master," and in Re 18:17, rendered "ship-master." It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is here intended. Doddridge, in accordance with Amyraut, supposes that distinct offices may not be here referred to, but that the same persons may be denoted in these expressions as being distinguished in various ways; that is, that the same persons were called "helpers" in reference to their skill in aiding those who were in distress, and "governments" in regard to their talent for doing business, and their ability in presiding in counsels for deliberation, and in directing the affairs of the church. There is no reason to think that the terms here used referred to permanent and established ranks and orders in the ministry and in the church; or in permanent offices which were to continue to all times as an essential part of its organization. It is certain that the "order" of apostles has ceased, and also the "order" of miracles, and the "order" of healings, and of diversity of tongues. And it is certain that in the use of these terms of office, the apostle does not affirm that they would be permanent, and essential to the very existence of the church; and from the passage before us, therefore, it cannot be argued that there was to be an order of men in the church who were to be called helps, or governments. The truth probably was, that the circumstances of the primitive churches required the aid of many persons in various capacities which might not be needful or proper in other times and circumstances. Whether, therefore, this is to be regarded as a permanent arrangement that there should be "governments" in the church, or an order of men entrusted with the sole office of governing, is to be learned not from this passage, but from other parts of the New Testament. Lightfoot contends, that the word which is here used and translated "governments" does not refer to the power of ruling, but to a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, one who is wise and prudent; and in this view Mosheim, Macknight, and Bishop Horsley coincide. Calvin refers it to the elders, to whom the exercise of discipline was entrusted. Grotius understands it of the pastors, (Eph 4:1,) or of the elders who presided over particular churches, Ro 12:8. Locke supposes that they were the same as those who had the power of discerning spirits. The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government; but whether this refers to a permanent office, or to the fact that some were specially qualified by their wisdom and prudence, and in virtue of this usually regulated or directed the affairs of the church by giving council, etc., or whether they were selected and appointed for this purpose for a time; or whether it refers to the same persons who might also have exercised other functions, and this in addition, cannot be determined from the passage before us. All that is clear is, that there were those who administered government in the church. But the passage does not determine the form, or manner; nor does it prove—whatever may be true—that such an office was to be permanent in the church.

Diversities of tongues. Those endowed with the power of speaking various languages. See Barnes "1 Co 12:10".

 

{b} "first apostles" Lu 6:13 {|} "secondarily" "secondly" {c} "prophets" Ac 13:1 {a} "healings" 1 Co 12:10 {b} "helps" 1 Co 12:9 {c} "governments" Nu 11:17 {d} "diversities" He 13:17,24 {1} "diversities" "kinds" {e} "tongues" Ac 2:8-11 {*} "tongues" "Languages"

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