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Verse 31. But covet earnestly. Greek, "Be zealous for," (zhloute) This word, however, may be either in the indicative mood, (ye do covet earnestly,) or in the imperative, as in our translation. Doddridge contends that it should be rendered in the indicative mood; for he says it seems to be a contradiction that after the apostle had been showing that these gifts were not at their own option, and that they ought not to emulate the gifts of another, or aspire to superiority, to undo all again, and give them such contrary advice. The same view is given by Locke, and so Macknight. The Syriac renders it, "Because you are zealous of the best gifts, I will show to you a more excellent way." But there is no valid objection to the common translation in the imperative; and indeed the connexion seems to demand it. Grotius renders it, "Pray to God that you may receive from him the best, that is, the most useful endowments." The sense seems to be this: "I have proved that all endowments in the church are produced by the Holy Spirit; and that he confers them as he pleases. I have been showing that no one should be proud or elated on account of extraordinary endowments; and that, on the other hand, no one should be depressed, or sad, or discontented, because he has a more humble rank. I have been endeavouring to repress and subdue the spirit of discontent, jealousy, and ambition; and to produce a willingness in all to occupy the station where God has placed you. But I do not intend to deny that it is proper to desire the most useful endowments; that a man should wish to be brought under the influence of the Spirit, and qualified for eminent usefulness. I do not mean to say that it is wrong for a man to regard the higher gifts of the Spirit as valuable and desirable, if they may be obtained; nor that the spirit which seeks to excel in spiritual endowments and in usefulness is improper. Yet all cannot be apostles; all cannot be prophets. I would not have you, therefore, seek ruth offices, and manifest a spirit of ambition. I would seek to regulate the desire which I would not repress as improper; and in order to that, I would show you that, instead of aspiring to offices and extraordinary endowments, which are beyond your grasp, there is a way, more truly valuable, that is open to you all, and where all may excel." Paul thus endeavours to give a practicable and feasible turn to the whole subject, and further to repress the longings of ambition and the contentions of strife, by exciting emulation to obtain that which was accessible to them all, and which, just in the proportion in which it was obtained, would repress discontent, and strife, and ambition, and produce order, and peace, and contentedness with their endowments and their lot—the main thing which he was desirous of producing in this chapter. This, therefore, is one of the happy turns in which the writings of Paul abound He did not denounce their zeal as wicked. He did not attempt at once to repress it. He did not say that it was wrong to desire high endowments. But he showed them an endowment which was more valuable than all the others; which was accessible to all; and which, if possessed, would make them contented, and produce the harmonious operation of all the parts of the church. That endowment was LOVE.

A more excellent way. See the next chapter. "I will show you a more excellent way of evincing your zeal than by aspiring to the place of apostles, prophets, or rulers; and that is, by cultivating universal charity or love."

{h} "covet earnestly" 1 Co 14:39 {i} "best gifts" Mt 5:6; Lu 10:42

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