“At the symphony, you see the entire orchestra assembled as a whole, as well as each individual musician, plus the black-tie conductor, who seems to pull the music from the belly of each instrument with a sweep of the baton.
Similarly, understanding how spiritual gifts work euphoniously in a church body takes more than just litening to the harmony the members make when tuned in to their gifts. It takes seeing each believer as an individual instrument, as vital to the body, as directed by God.” –Charles Swindoll in Calm Answers for a Confused Church: A Study of 1 Corinthian s 12-16
I. Reminders About What Spiritual Means (vv.1-3)
1 Corinthians 12.1-3Too often we blow right by these first three verses in order to get to the “good stuff,” spiritual gifts. When we do so, we really miss out on some powerful thoughts.
VERSE 1Concerning “spiritual” —- the word “gifts” in not in the Greek text but supplied by translators because of the context. There are some possible ways to understand this word because of vague spelling in the Greek.
Spiritual “things or gifts” or possibly spiritual “people.” (as in Gal 6.1 lit. “you the spiritual ones” or
Most translators have chosen “gifts” because of the context and the similarity to 1Co 14:1 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy,” where the word obviously refers to gifts.
è Stands in contrast to what is material or fleshly.
1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
b. I do not want you to be ignorant:
The Corinthian Christians are given a reminder good for us also: perhaps we are ignorant of things regarding spiritual gifts, and we should not be.
Paul, in his letters, names three things he does not want Christians to be ignorant of.
- First, don't be ignorant of God's plan for Israel (Romans 11:25).
- Second, don't be ignorant of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1).
- Finally, don't be ignorant about the second coming of Jesus and the eternal state (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols: Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to remember that their past of pagan idolatry did not prepare them for an accurate understanding of spiritual gifts. He did not want them to be ignorant, but because they were Gentiles, they did come to the issue of spiritual gifts as ignorant.
i. Our past teaching and experiences have perhaps built a poor understanding of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. It is easy for us to take our materialistic or superstitious views into our understanding of spiritual gifts. —-David Guzik
è We need to be really careful about bringing ideas from this world’s system to our understanding of spiritual things.example: Usefulness of a powerful orator 1 Cor 2.4
Psalm 115 Good description of speechless idols.
v.2 “carried away”
"It is through mania that the greatest blessings come to us." Plato in Phaedrus
"No one in possession of his rational mind has reached divine and true exaltation." Plato in Timaeus
Both of the quotes are from three to four hundred years before Paul wrote to the Corinthians, but may still give us some good insight into the pagan thinking about being “in the spirit” and misconceptions about true religion.
While the state of ecstasy may look impressive, we must be careful to form our understanding of true spirituality from God’s Word and not the latest and greatest in the spirituality and media fads of our day. In 14.32-33 Paul helps to dispel their ignorance by reminding them that to be “carried away” in that sense is part of the old life and should not characterize a Christian church meeting.
“calls Jesus accursed”
Pliny to the Emperor Trajan (Letters 10.96; written A.D. 111 or 112)
Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from A.D. 111-113. The following letter from him to the Emperor was preserved in Rome with a number of other letters on a variety of administrative and political matters.
It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance?I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.
Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persevered I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.
Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. All of these also worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden secret societies. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but a perverse and extravagant superstition.
I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.
Pliny to the Emperor Trajan (Letters 10.96; written A.D. 111 or 112) ,http://www.bible-researcher.com/persecution.html>
says that “Jesus is Lord”
Jesus is Lord (Kuriov Ihsouv). The term Kuriov, as we have seen, is common in the LXX for God. The Romans used it freely for the emperor in the emperor worship.
"Most important of all is the early establishment of a polemical parallelism between the cult of Christ and the cult of Caesar in the application of the term Kuriov, 'lord.' The new texts have here furnished quite astonishing revelations" (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 349).
Inscriptions, ostraca, papyri apply the term to Roman emperors, particularly to Nero when Paul wrote this very letter (ib., p. 353f.): "One with 'Nero Kurios' quite in the manner of a formula (without article, like the 'Kurios Jesus' in 1 Corinthians 12:3." "The battle-cries of the spirits of error and of truth contending at Corinth" (Findlay).
One is reminded of the demand made by Polycarp that he say Kuriov Xaesar and how each time he replied Kuriov Ihsouv. He paid the penalty for his loyalty with his life. Lighthearted men today can say "Lord Jesus" in a flippant or even in an irreverent way, but no Jew or Gentile then said it who did not mean it. ———A Barnes
“Jesus is Lord” References and Discussion Questions
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Does the information about the early martyrs add any meaning or significance to this verse? What?
1 Corinthians 8.5-6
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
What “gods” are worshiped today and what does our confession that “Jesus is Lord” look like in our modern American culture?
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
What validates our claim that “Jesus is Lord?”
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.
What should the awareness of our giving account of ourselves to God cause us to focus on?
II. The Source and Purpose of Spiritual Gifts (vv.4-7)1 Corinthians 12.4-6 gives us three different looks at the nature of “spiritual gifts” through the words used to describe them and a very clear Trinitarian understanding about their distribution.
v. 4 gifts cavrisma -Charisma, the word looks a lot like the word “grace” in the Greek. This word emphasizes that these are Divine enablements, that they are not earned, but gifts.Spirit also in 12.7
v.5 ministries diakonia -similar to the word for deacon. This emphasized the purpose of the gifts, serving.Lord (Jesus) also in 1 Cor. 12.12
v.6 workings ejnevrghma -energy, energizing. This would emphasize the divine energy enabling the service.God (Father) also in 1 Cor. 12.28
v.4-6 Note the Trinitarian emphasis in Paul’s description of the different gifts to the saints. I would recommend caution here about establishing a real detailed dogmatic doctrine and about the specifics of the rolls that each person in the Trinity has in spiritual gifts, but we do get a clear understanding that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have their important part to play.
v. 7 manifestation fanevrwsiThese are displays of the Spirit’s working through believers.
v. 7 “the profit of all” (nkjv); “benefit of all” (Net); “common good” (nasv, niv, esv)It is a combination of the Greek words for “with” and “carry” with the literal idea of “carry together.” We get the picture of differently gifted believers doing various things that will work together for the “common good,” or benefit of the church as a whole. We do our different parts to carry this load together.
- 1Co 7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
- 1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
- 1Co 10:33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
III. Examples of Spiritual Gifts (vv. 8-10)
There is some question about to what extent each of these gifts are “mystical, unexplained” works or a divine enablement to “normal” functions. However, some would argue that our division of the gifts (and life in general) into supernatural or natural is a modern way of looking at things that we “force” onto to text. Also, since these are given as examples or illustrations and not a conclusive list, having an absolute and exhaustive understanding of each gift may not be as important as we sometimes think.
v. 8 “word of wisdom” “insight or understanding” O. Greene1.24 The preaching of Christ is the “wisdom of God” to those who are called.
1.30 Christ became for us “wisdom from” God,” righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
2.13 “...not with the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but what the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual with spiritual”
Also, compare with Isa. 11.2-3; Eph. 3.9-10; Col. 1.3
v. 8 “word of knowledge”“As well, we must always use discernment in the receiving of a word of knowledge, remembering that God is not the only source of supernatural knowledge - even if a word is true, it does not mean that it is from God and that the one speaking the word is truly representing God.” -----DG
“The same variety is observed in the ministry at all times. One man is eminent as a wise man; another as a man of intelligence and knowledge; and both may be equally useful in their place in the church.” ——A Barnes
v. 9 “faith”This goes beyond the simple “saving faith” that God gives to each believer by His grace. Some might nickname it the “gift of prayer power” like was demonstrated by men (and women) like George Muller in his orphan ministry in
It is interesting to note that, when interpreted as non-miraculous enablements, each of these are Christian virtues or practices that all Christians should possess and develop. Of course, some of will excel at them much more than others, but we can’t just say, “Faith is not my gift so I just can’t trust God to keep all his promises.”
v. 9 “gifts of healing” carismata iamatwn1 Corinthians 12 is the only place this word for healing occurs in the NT. Here is a list of most of the healings in Acts.
Acts 3:1-11 Peter and John heal a blind manNote: The healing is instant and complete, of a real and obvious malady, was unsolicited, & was undeniable (4.14 & 16). It was the Christ’ name and “through faith in His name” & “faith which through Him has given him perfect soundness…” (3.15-16)
Acts 5.12-16 esp. 12 & 16 Apostles healing on Solomon’s Porch
Note: They healed all who came, and healed non-believers.
· Acts 6.8 Stephen, full of faith and power, did signs and wonders.
Acts 8.6-8, 13 Philip in Samaria preached and healed many.
Note: Many probably refers to the number healed not percentage of those who came.
Acts 9.32-35 Peter healed Aeneas, paralyzed 8 yrs.
Note: It was obvious to all.
Acts 9.40 Peter raised Dorcus from the dead (This might be considered part of the gift “workings of miracles.”)
Note: Faith of the healed could not have been a factor, but Christ said, “Thy faith hath made the whole.” Matt. 9.22 a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years; Mk. 10:52 blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. Also, the disciple’s lack of faith prevented them from casting out a demon Matt. 17.20
· Acts 14.8-10 Paul and Barnabas --The Lord “granted” signs and wonders to be done.
· Acts 14.8-10 Paul saw a cripple had the faith to be healed and told him to stand a walk.
Acts 19.11-12 aprons & handkerchiefs
Note: Some of the healings were unusual.
· Acts 20.9-10 Paul raised Eutychus after fell from a third floor window. (This might be considered part of the gift “workings of miracles.”)
Acts 28.8-9 Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery and the rest of the island
Note: Implies that all came and were healed.
Hebrews 2.3-4 The purpose of these “signs” was to confirm the message of the gospel. It is interesting to note that the reference to them was in the past tense which would seem to indicate that their purpose had been fulfilled.
“We teach that there were two kinds of gifts given the early church: miraculous gifts of divine revelation and healing, given temporarily in the apostolic era for the purpose of confirming the authenticity of the Apostles' message (Hebrews 2:3-4); and ministering gifts, given to equip believers for edifying one another.” TBC WWT
The “gifts of healing” should be distinguished from the prayer of faith in James 5:14 Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
This seems a more broad use of powers that “gifts of miracles.” While the expression is somewhat vague, commentators suggest examples like Jesus turning the water to wine in John 2.1-10, Paul blinding Elymas the magician in Acts 13.11, and the many times that demons were cast out.
v. 10 “prophecy” profhteivaThe question that first confronts us is, “What is the nature of prophecy?” There are two lines of thinking here.
One is places emphasis on the primary function of the prophet being to call people to repentance. It sees the “foretelling” as a supplement to the primary message of “forth telling.” This view would view foretelling as an optional part that would have ceased as the NT became complete. It would see this as the gift of “preaching.” This would be consistent with the phrase in 14.29 about “let the others judge” which would be understood as evaluating the value and truth of what was said. It would be consistent with the idea of giving “edification and exhortation and comfort to men” in verse three.
A second view would see prophecies as communicating divine revelations (not necessarily on the level of Scripture). When Paul uses the companion word for “prophet”, (15xs) it usually used in the context of “apostles and prophets” or the OT prophets God spoke through. It can also be pointed out that there are a couple other Greek words Paul could have used if he had meant just preaching (khruvssw 1 Cor. 1.23; 9.27; 15.11-12 or eujaggelivzw 1 Cor. 1.17; 9.16&18; 15.1-2).
v. 10 “discerning of spirits” διακρίσεις πνευμάτωνThe Greek word translated “discerning” usually has the meaning of judging, evaluating, or deciding in its other uses in 1 Corinthians. While the word for spirits is not the one Paul usually uses to refer to demons, it can have that meaning. There are three kinds of spirit Paul could have in view here: evil spirits or demons as mentioned in 1 John 4:1 (The test given here had Gnosticism in view.), a human spirit that could be in play in Acts 17.11 (The Bereans check to see if these were Paul’s ideas, or if they came from the Scriptures.), or the Holy Spirit that passing the “test” in 1 Corinthians 12.3 would give evidence to.
v. 10 “kinds of tongues” We will discuss this when we get to chapter fourteen.
the Spirit works… These are not things we do in our own power
to each one… We each have the spiritual enablements or gifts.
as He wills… We must have a heart that is submissive to His will and desires to play the part he has given us.
We should probably keep in mind that discernment is not needed for just prophecy, but can be applied to the exercise of any gift. 1 Corinthians 12-14 suggest three general tests or purposes for spirit-lead use of the gifts.
- Does it exalt Jesus? 1 Corinthians 12.3
- Does it demonstrate love? 1 Corinthians 13.2
- Does it build up the body? 14.12