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27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.


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27. But ye are the body of Christ Hence what has been said respecting the nature and condition of the human body must be applied to us; for we are not a mere civil society, but, being ingrafted into Christ’s body, are truly members one of another. Whatever, therefore, any one of us has, let him know that it has been given him for the edification of his brethren in common; and let him, accordingly, bring it forward, and not keep it back — buried, as it were, within himself, or make use of it as his own. Let not the man, who is endowed with superior gifts, be puffed up with pride, and despise others; but let him consider that there is nothing so diminutive as to be of no use — as, in truth, even the least among the pious brings forth fruit, according to his slender capacity, so that there is no useless member in the Church. Let not those who are not endowed with so much honor, envy those above them, or refuse to do their duty to them, but let them maintain the station in which they have been placed. Let there be mutual affection, mutual fellow-feeling, (συμπάθεια,) mutual concern. Let us have a regard to the common advantage, in order that we may not destroy the Church by malignity, or envy, or pride, or any disagreement; but may, on the contrary, every one of us, strive to the utmost of his power to preserve it. Here is a large subject, and a magnificent one; 762762     “Voyci vne belie matiere riche et abondante;” — “Here is a fine subject, rich and copious.” but I content myself with having pointed out the way in which the above similitude must be applied to the Church.

Members severally. Chrysostom is of opinion, that this clause is added, because the Corinthians were not the universal Church; but this appears to me rather forced. 763763     It is remarked by Billroth, that “the view of Chrysostom is out of place; for such a notion does not pertain to the argumentation of the Apostle.” Biblical Cabinet, No. 22. — Ed. I have sometimes thought that it was expressive of impropriety, as the Latins say Quodammodo, 764764     An instance of this will be found in Cicero de Amicitia, 8. — Ed. (in a manner.) 765765     “Comme nous disons en Langue vulgaire, Aucunement;” — “As we say, in common language — In a manner.” When, however, I view the whole matter more narrowly, I am rather disposed to refer it to that division of members of which he had made mention. They are then members severally, according as each one has had his portion and definite work assigned him. The context itself leads us to this meaning. In this way severally, and as a whole, will be opposite terms.

He has in the beginning of the chapter spoken of gifts: now he begins to treat of offices, and this order it is proper that we should carefully observe. For the Lord did not appoint ministers, without first endowing them with the requisite gifts, and qualifying them for discharging their duty. Hence we must infer, that those are fanatics, and actuated by an evil spirit, who intrude themselves into the Church, while destitute of the necessary qualifications, as many boast that they are under the influence of the Spirit, and glory in a secret call from God, while in the meantime they are unlearned and utterly ignorant. The natural order, on the other hand, is this — that gifts come before the office to be discharged. As, then, he has taught above, that everything that an individual has received from God, should be made subservient to the common good, so now he declares that offices are distributed in such a manner, that all may together, by united efforts, edify the Church, and each individual according to his measure. 767767     “Selon sa portion et mesure;” — “According to his portion and measure.”

28. First, Apostles He does not enumerate all the particular kinds, and there was no need of this, for he merely intended to bring forward some examples. In the fourth Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 4:11,) there is a fuller enumeration of the offices, that are required for the continued government of the Church. The reason of this I shall assign there, if the Lord shall permit me to advance so far, though even there he does not make mention of them all. As to the passage before us, we must observe, that of the offices which Paul makes mention of, some are perpetual, others temporary. Those that are perpetual, are such as are necessary for the government of the Church; those that are temporary, are such as were appointed at the beginning for the founding of the Church, and the raising up of Christ’s kingdom; and these, in a short time afterwards, ceased.

To the first class belongs the office of Teacher, to the second the office of Apostle; for the Lord created the Apostles, that they might spread the gospel throughout the whole world, and he did not assign to each of them certain limits or parishes, but would have them, wherever they went, to discharge the office of ambassadors among all nations and languages. In this respect there is a difference between them and Pastors, who are, in a manner, tied to their particular churches. For the Pastor has not a commission to preach the gospel over the whole world, but to take care of the Church that has been committed to his charge. In his Epistle to the Ephesians he places Evangelists after the Apostles, but here he passes them over; for from the highest order, he passes immediately to Prophets

By this term he means, (in my opinion,) not those who were endowed with the gift of prophesying, but those who were endowed with a peculiar gift, not merely for interpreting Scripture, but also for applying it wisely for present use. 768768     “De l’accommoder prudemment, et l’appliquer en vsage selon les personnes et le temps;” — “To make use of it wisely, and apply it to use according to persons and time.” My reason for thinking so is this, that he prefers prophecy to all other gifts, on the ground of its yielding more edification — a commendation that would not be applicable to the predicting of future events. Farther, when he describes the office of Prophet, or at least treats of what he ought principally to do, he says that he must devote himself to consolation, exhortation, and doctrine. Now these are things that are distinct from prophesyings. 769769     “Et advertissemens des choses a venir;” — “And intimations or things to come.” Let us, then, by Prophets in this passage understand, first of all, eminent interpreters of Scripture, and farther, persons who are endowed with no common wisdom and dexterity in taking a right view of the present necessity of the Church, that they may speak suitably to it, and in this way be, in a manner, ambassadors to communicate the divine will.

Between them and Teachers this difference may be pointed out, that the office of Teacher consists in taking care that sound doctrines be maintained and propagated, in order that the purity of religion may be kept up in the Church. At the same time, even this term is taken in different senses, and here perhaps it is used rather in the sense of Pastor, unless you prefer, it may be, to take it in a general way for all that are endowed with the gift of teaching, as in Acts 13:1, where also Luke conjoins them with Prophets. My reason for not agreeing with those who make the whole of the office of Prophet consist in the interpretation of Scripture, is this — that Paul restricts the number of those who ought to speak, to two or three; (1 Corinthians 14:29,) which would not accord with a bare interpretation of Scripture. In fine, my opinion is this — that the Prophets here spoken of are those who make known the will of God, by applying with dexterity and skill prophecies, threatenings, promises, and the whole doctrine of Scripture, to the present use of the Church. If any one is of a different opinion, I have no objection to his being so, and will not raise any quarrel on that account. For it is difficult to form a judgment as to gifts and offices of which the Church has been so long deprived, excepting only that there are some traces, or shadows of them still to be seen.

As to powers and gift of healings, I have spoken when commenting on the 12th Chapter of the Romans. Only it must be observed that here he makes mention, not so much of the gifts themselves, as of the administration of them. As the Apostle is here enumerating offices, I do not approve of what Chrysostom says, that ἀντιλήψεις, that is, helps or aids, consist in supporting the weak. What is it then? Undoubtedly, it is either an office, as well as gift, that was exercised in ancient times, but of which we have at this day no knowledge whatever; or it is connected with the office of Deacon, or in other words, the care of the poor; and this latter idea pleases me better. 770770     This view of the import of the term ἀντιλήψεις, (helps,) is generally acquiesced in by modern interpreters. It is remarked by Dr. Dick, (in his Theology, volume iv, p. 390,) that “there are no persons who may be so reasonably supposed to be meant by helps, as deacons;” who “were instituted for the express purpose of helping the Apostles, for the purpose of relieving them from the care of the poor, that they might devote themselves exclusively to the ministry of the word.” He observes also, (p.389,) that “it does not follow, because some of the offices and ministrations enumerated in this place were miraculous and extraordinary, that they were all of that description.” — Ed In Romans 12:7, he makes mention of two kinds of deacons. Of these I have treated when commenting upon that passage.

By Governments I understand Elders, who had the charge of discipline. For the primitive Church had its Senate, 771771     “Auoit comme son Senate, ou Consistoire;” — “Had its Senate, as it were, or Consistory.” for the purpose of keeping the people in propriety of deportment, as Paul shows elsewhere, when he makes mention of two kinds of Presbyters. 772772     “Deux ordres de Prestres: c’est a dire d’Anciens;” — “Two kinds of Presbyters: that is to say, Elders.” (1 Timothy 5:17.) Hence government consisted of those Presbyters who excelled others in gravity, experience, and authority.

Under different kinds of tongues he comprehends both the knowledge of languages, and the gift of interpretation. They were, however, two distinct gifts; because in some cases an individual spoke in different languages, and yet did not understand the language of the Church with which he had to do. This defect was supplied by interpreters. 773773     Our Author repeats here what he had stated when commenting on verse 10th. — Ed.

29. Are all Apostles? It may indeed have happened, that one individual was endowed with many gifts, and sustained two of the offices which he has enumerated; nor was there in this any inconsistency. Paul’s object, however, is to show in the first place, that no one has such a fullness in everything as to have a sufficiency within himself, and not require the aid of others; and secondly, that offices as well as gifts are distributed in such a manner that no one member constitutes the whole body, but each contributing his portion to the common advantage, they then altogether constitute an entire and perfect body. For Paul means here to take away every occasion of proud boasting, base envyings, haughtiness, and contempt of the brethren, malignity, ambition, and everything of that nature.

31. Seek after the more excellent gifts. It might also be rendered — Value highly; and it would not suit in with the passage, though it makes little difference as to the meaning; for Paul exhorts the Corinthians to esteem and desire those gifts especially, which are most conducive to edification. For this fault prevailed among them — that they aimed at show, rather than usefulness. Hence prophecy was neglected, while languages sounded forth among them, with great show, indeed, but with little profit. He does not, however, address individuals, as though he wished that every one should aspire at prophecy, or the office of teacher; but simply recommends to them a desire to promote edification, that they may apply themselves the more diligently to those things that are most conducive to edification.




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