1 Corinthians Chapter 12: Gifts of the Spirit, All Members of the Body of Christ

Jan 5th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Corinthians Chapter 12: Gifts of the Spirit, All Members of the Body of Christ

1 Cor. 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Apparently, Paul was next asked a question in the letter from some of the Corinthian brethren about the gifts of the Spirit. Verse 1 starts his reply. Paul entered sympathetically into the subject because he felt the question was important, requiring explanation: “I would not have you ignorant.” This clause was characteristic of the Apostle Paul. Since it was his goal to declare the whole counsel of God, he would not want to willingly forget, evade, or omit some parts for fear of, or because of, what others might think (Acts 20:27).

Chapter 12 pertains to “spiritual” matters. The word “gifts,” in italics, is supplied. “Gifts” are only one aspect of the Holy Spirit, and at least four different categories of how the Holy Spirit operates are enumerated in this chapter.

1 Cor. 12:2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

1 Cor. 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

In addressing the subject of gifts of the Spirit, why did Paul first remind the Corinthians of their former practices with dumb idols? Since they were previously deceived along this line, they would have to be on guard lest they be deceived again along another line. The mention of idols being “dumb” indicates that henceforth the brethren would have to be more discriminating. Paul added the words “even as ye were led” because they were “led” by the Adversary in their former practices, and that could happen again.

The Living Bible reads as follows for verses 1-3: “And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them. You will remember that before you became Christians you went around from one idol to another, not one of which could speak a single word. But now you are meeting people who claim to speak messages from the Spirit of God. How can you know whether they are really inspired by God or whether they are fakes? Here is the test: no one speaking by the power of the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and really mean it, unless the Holy Spirit is helping him.” The brethren had formerly believed one way, and now they were getting an opposite experience in regard to speaking in tongues. A certain danger existed, and in order not to get deceived, the brethren needed a test of discernment.

With regard to this test, why did Paul say that “no man speaking by the Spirit of God” calls Jesus a curse? How might that happen? The fallen angels, then and now, have a lot of fun with coarse humor in trying to imitate the legitimate gift in the early Church of speaking in tongues.

For example, they may be cursing Jesus in a foreign language and doing all kinds of mischief. Therefore, if one who spoke in a tongue gave an evidence of misbehavior, it was an indication right away of falseness and danger. The brethren should then try to separate themselves from that circumstance.

Sometimes people hear but ignore things that are inconsistent because other factors hold them to the communion. However, Paul was cautioning that observing the unholy spirit should cause one to separate.

“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord [Master], but by the Holy Spirit.” Counterfeit “Holy Spirits” could also say that Jesus is Lord, but as the Living Bible states, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and really mean it, unless the Holy Spirit is helping him.” The nominal system has taught that all one has to do to be saved is to confess a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).

However, the Greek word eis means “into.” One must continually believe into Christ after confessing him as Savior and live henceforth in accordance with that profession. A momentary solitary act of belief—the mere declaration that “Jesus is Lord”—is not sufficient to save one. A person must unreservedly consecrate his life and recognize Jesus as his Lord on a continuous basis. Then Jesus would be Master in the full sense of the word.

How do we know that the Holy Spirit is of God? 1 John 4:2 states, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God”; that is, Jesus Christ came in the flesh as a human being. Any one Scripture by itself can be twisted. Therefore, we must consider the testimony of all Scripture together.

The next verse, 1 John 4:3, reads, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” The term “incarnate” means to be “invested with flesh or bodily nature or form, especially embodied in human form, hence personified.” The Incarnation of Christ is defined as the “union of Godhead with manhood.”

The emphasis of 1 John 4:3 is, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” but the term is “God incarnate,” not “Jesus incarnate.” In other words, the false doctrine of antichrist is that Jesus was half God and half man, that he was a mixture of God in the flesh in human form. But that is not true, for Jesus is the Son of God, and the Son of God came in the flesh. 1 John 4:15 states the test: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Verse 15 is needed, for verses 2 and 3 can be twisted.

Comment: The nearness of verse 15 to the end of the Bible seems to indicate a test at the end of the age will be to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.

Reply: Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity will come to the fore again in the future. The thrust of John’s first epistle is to show Jesus’ relationship to God. We cannot be indifferent in our stand on this point. Silence will be wrong at the end of the age. When the Trinity is made dogmatic, we must throw caution to the wind and speak out. When a falsehood is mentioned as dogma, a stand has to be taken; otherwise, silence gives consent.

By worshipping idols, the people of Corinth hoped to get answers to their questions, the Oracle of Delphi being one of their sources. But the idols were dumb. Before consecration, some of the Corinthian brethren went to their favorite idol (god or goddess) and in their prayers looked for a sign, or evidence, that would favor them, but the statues were “dumb”—they could not speak. Now Paul would go to the opposite side of the issue and explain how God operates, how He confides in His people, unlike the dumb idols.

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed.” The Apostle John mentioned the same principle in his epistles—that we can judge things to a certain extent by what we see evidenced. From an unclean stream comes unclean water. Some who were possessed by demons both at the First Advent and during the apostles’ ministry actually cursed Jesus. Several occasions where fallen spirits spoke out are recorded in Holy Writ. For example, a woman prophetess kept following Paul, saying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-18). She kept insisting until her speaking got on Paul’s nerves and he rebuked the spirit so that it came out of her.

Such incidents were miraculous manifestations, but Jesus said that a tree is to be judged by its fruits. If the fruits are evil, the spirit is evil. And the Christian has to be even more discerning than that because soothsayers and other counterfeits are trying to lead people astray.

Manifestations during healings today, such as people falling backward and crawling along the floor in a grotesque fashion, are miraculous, but they are done by fallen angels. There is a Holy Spirit, and there is an unholy spirit.

“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus asked his apostles, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:15-17). In other words, that information was conveyed to Peter in a miraculous fashion. The atmosphere surrounding a type of service often gives a clue for discerning whether a person is speaking according to the Holy Spirit of God, the spirit of the world, or the spirit of the Adversary. The climate of the service helps us to see whether the message is truly of the Holy Spirit. An atmosphere that is tumultuous, worldly, accompanied with rock music, etc., is not conducive to holiness and truth. Questions to be asked are the following: Does the leader speak according to the Word? Is the message in harmony with Scripture? Does the speaker quote Scripture? Is the service a social gospel? Is it a gospel of healing?

To be spiritually edifying, a service should be centered on the teachings of God, of Christ, of the Old Testament, or of the New Testament. From this standpoint, the questions to be answered in the affirmative are the following: Is the message a gospel of self-denial? Is it a gospel of character development? Is the gospel of the high calling being preached? If the religious service promotes friendship with the world, the Christian should go elsewhere.

1 Cor. 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

1 Cor. 12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

The same Holy Spirit from God manifests itself in diverse ways. Stated another way, with the one Holy Spirit, there is a variety of methods. One category is “diversities of gifts,” another is “differences of administration,” and the third category is “diversities of operations.” And within each of these categories are additional differences. Despite the differences, it is the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus, and the same God, who works all in all.

Why did Paul make three distinctions in verses 4-6? (1) “Gifts” are miraculous gifts from God through Jesus that are manifested in the Church. Jesus “gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8).

Therefore, gifts are something we receive from someone else. The largesse, beneficence, or appreciation of someone else is made manifest by the giving of a gift. For example, God gave miraculous gifts to those in the early Church such as tongues, prophecy, interpretation, and healing. (2) “Administrations” are how we serve, or minister, to someone else in various fields of endeavor. What we do to others can be manifested in a variety of ways. Administrations (giving in service) include such activities as visiting the sick and comforting or evangelizing through speech, letters, etc. In other words, there are multiple ways in which we can receive a miraculous gift or serve the truth. (3) The third category, “operations,” refers to various types of activity that include both giving and receiving. Examples are a convention and tracting.

Why did Paul emphasize the different departments of activity of the Holy Spirit and the variety within each department? The problem was that the subject of the Holy Spirit could be looked at from the wrong standpoint. Those who had a particular gift might think something was wrong with brethren who did not have the same gift. Thus, if the Corinthians’ view of the subject was too introspective, they were apt to think in terms of their own gift and conclude that others did not have the Holy Spirit. Instead Paul said that there was a great variety of operations of the Holy Spirit and that brethren could not judge one another in that respect.

All of the consecrated in Paul’s day received at least one manifestation of the Holy Spirit from one of the three categories. The manifestation came from God—“the same God which worketh all in all [in every member].” Each person was to examine himself to try to see which category he had received. For example, if one could now speak in a foreign language, he knew he had received the gift of tongues. Such outward mechanical-like manifestations indicated that the consecration had been accepted. As time went on and the apostles died, the mechanical gifts phased out. The gifts were needed before the New Testament was available.

1 Cor. 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

1 Cor. 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

1 Cor. 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

1 Cor. 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

1 Cor. 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Paul’s explanation was like that of a mastermind. Not only did his advice provide a balance for viewing one another, but it helped the brethren to live in harmony with their different talents for serving the Lord. No one should feel there is only one way to serve the Lord and then try to force others into that type of service. Each one should use his own talents and opportunities as the Lord gives them. For example, those who are evangelistically minded may emphasize works and witnessing and downgrade those who have other talents. However, with the variety of ways to serve, Paul was saying that the brethren should not lose sight of the fact that there is only one Holy Spirit. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit.” As Paul said earlier, no man who speaks by the Holy Spirit calls Jesus a curse, and no one can call Jesus “Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is important to know if the Holy Spirit is doing these things or some other spirit. Brethren should be discerning in examining the “spirit.” They should expect diversity in the gifts but uniformity, or agreement, that Jesus is Lord. In verses 8-10, nine gifts are listed: wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Generally speaking, they are listed in a descending order of importance. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues are at the bottom of the list both here and at the end of the chapter. Thus the very gifts the Corinthians might magnify were mentioned last.

Verse 11 puts the Holy Spirit in the masculine, as it is in the Greek, but the pronoun “it” is more proper to use. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame [Holy] Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he [it] will.”

When the listing is read, the overall impression is the variety in the distribution of the gifts. If there was only one gift, and that gift was harped on incessantly, what profit would there be to the body? For example, if the whole service consisted of speaking in tongues without any explanation or interpretation, how could the ecclesia benefit? To the contrary, if the great variety of gifts was used decently and in order, with the brethren not all speaking at one time but each being given a segment of the service, the gifts would be very helpful. All would be edified, and each of the brethren would feel he had contributed.

In the absence of the Holy Scriptures at that time, it was God’s purpose for early Christians who were inducted into the body, or fellowship, of Jesus Christ to have a manifestation along at least one of the nine lines of gifts. The repetition of the phrase “to another” in verses 8-10 indicates that the gifts were given to individuals, not just to apostles. The Holy Spirit motivated the brethren to use the gifts mechanically so that, working in harmony, they were all blessed.

Someone could mechanically remember what Jesus had said in a particular sermon, and another could interpret the words into a tongue (language) so that those of a foreign extraction could benefit. Without the New Testament, the gifts were absolutely necessary in the early Church, and they resulted in meetings that were a wonderful blessing. Today, with the availability of Bibles, this type of service is not needed. Nevertheless, although the mechanical gifts given in the beginning of the Gospel Age have ceased, different brethren have different talents along one line or another in their service of God and of the truth. As witnesses, we can see what each brother or sister is doing, and each one becomes an encouragement to the others. However, it is important to realize that the instantaneous mechanical gifts of the Holy Spirit in the beginning of the Gospel Age and the spiritual development of fruits of the Holy Spirit in our day, especially along the lines of character development, are two different things.

We will now take time to examine the gifts, one by one, as experienced by the early Church.

1. Word of wisdom. When the early body members of Christ met together in fellowship, they had no Bibles. Therefore, some individual in the class would have the gift of being able to quote verbatim, accurately, the Old Testament Scriptures. The Lord’s Sprit operated so that a brother would be moved to quote a Scripture. On occasion, depending on the location and the circumstance of the ecclesia, a sister would also be so moved. Today the Word of God is provided through the mechanical operation of a printing press but not back there.

2. Word of knowledge. An example of this gift would be the following. Someone quoted a Scripture verbatim, perhaps in Hebrew. However, Gentiles who were present could not understand Hebrew, so another individual repeated the Scripture in Greek, Latin, Syriac, or whatever was needed. Even if the Scripture was verbatim and correct, unless the hearer could understand it, what purpose was served? Thus the “word of knowledge” was the understanding or hearing of Scripture in a more superficial sense.

Different nationalities could be in one ecclesia. The three prevalent languages in Jesus’ day were Hebrew, Greek, and the civil Roman language. Even the public in Israel knew certain Roman laws, although they could not speak the language. Whether two or three were gathered together, or 15 or 25, the Holy Spirit manifested itself in the congregation so that later, when the brethren departed, they would say, “The Lord was there.” With the lesson for the day being miraculous, the brethren were inspired and edified. The result was the creation of a mood or desire for fellowship, as opposed to staying in isolation. Many had to walk long distances to a meeting, but they knew that when they arrived, the Lord would be there and they would get a blessing.

3. Faith. Normally, there are two kinds of faith (natural and spiritual), but the situation in the early Church was slightly different. All who consecrate have natural faith to start with, for “without faith it is impossible to please him [God],” but spiritual faith comes as a fruit (Heb. 11:6). However, here Paul was talking not about the fruits of the Holy Spirit but about the gifts.

Gifts came instantly and mechanically, whereas fruits require time for development—first, the seed, then the bud and the blossom, and finally the fruit.

Although the account does not say “the word of faith,” that is the thought. Suppose something ominous was on the horizon, such as famine or persecution, and the brethren were meeting together for help and edification. At the right moment, someone would quote an appropriate Scripture, perhaps from a Psalm, that would greatly encourage the ecclesia and give them the necessary strength and establish their faith in the face of the threatening cloud. Thus a word of faith, given with expression and meaning, was very reassuring.

4. Healing. Certain sicknesses and diseases were miraculously healed. The principle in the early Church was that individuals would get enough truth over a period of time to make their calling and election sure. The only one to have a fast conversion and translation was Stephen, who was most unusual. He was prepared beforehand to such an extent that he did not require much time to fully mature. Although the purpose of the gift of healing was not to heal all diseases, we can be sure that the one who was healed was miraculously restored for a purpose.

Comment: Apparently, the gifts were not full-time possessions of the brethren but were used at appropriate moments.

Reply: Yes, and prayer probably preceded the healing. Those present had to be in the right frame of mind and mood. Mostly the manifestations of the gifts occurred when the brethren were gathered together from various locations. In fact, the manifestations were an incentive for the brethren to meet, so that they could profit withal.

5. Working of miracles. “Miracles” were a higher gift than healing. An example of this gift would be exorcism, the casting out of demons. The miracle was something astonishing that occurred not at every meeting but in an opportune time of necessity, and seemingly out of nowhere, by an ordinary brother or sister. Early Christians suffered for what they believed— they lost homes, goods, health, etc. Another example of a miracle was when Ananias touched Paul’s eyes and the scales fell off (Acts 9:17,18). On a different occasion, Paul revived one who fell off a beam and died (Acts 20:9-12).

6. Prophecy. Sisters, as well as brothers, had the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:8,9). Also, Agabus prophesied of a coming famine (Acts 11:28). A prophecy could pertain to something stated in the Old Testament or to something current. It was the foretelling of future events as a seer.

7. Discerning of spirits. Peter had the ability to discern wicked motives, for example, with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Thus this gift enabled one to tell the difference between good and evil.

8. Divers kinds of tongues. The one who had this gift was mechanically given the ability to speak in more than one language. Incidentally, it would be known which gift(s) each of the brethren had, not that the gifts were used indiscriminately but that they were possessed. The gift of speaking in tongues was useful not only in the ecclesia but also in missionary work.

9. Interpretation of tongues. Individuals with this gift interpreted an unknown language so that those present could understand what was being said.

Comment: Many were congregated on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, and each heard the sermon of Peter and John in his own language (Acts 2:4-6).

Reply: Yes, although at that time, it was particularly the apostles who manifested this capability. Subsequently the gift was given to others. Even today some in the brotherhood have marvelous mechanical memories, but they cannot “interpret,” or analyze. Therefore, the interpretation of tongues in the early Church (an analytical ability) was on a higher level than speaking in tongues (a mechanical ability), although both gifts were very helpful. And the interpretation would be in the language of the tongue.

Comment: The repetitive use of the term “same Spirit” shows the necessity for early Christians to realize that the same Holy Spirit was giving the gifts and the power.

Reply: Yes, and Paul emphasized that the same Spirit of God was working “all in all” (verse 6).

Q: Is the thought that when one interpreted, he explained for those who understood the tongue, and not for those who did not understand the language?

A: That is correct.

Today the improper use of “speaking in tongues” often leads to pride. However, we do not want to concentrate on the present counterfeit use but on the principle that Paul was teaching. The gifts were needed back there, whereas today we have the Word of God, which is thoroughly sufficient for the Christian (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Q: Would it be profitable to discuss an updated correspondency for these gifts? Today we do not receive mechanical gifts, but the brethren have “gifts” in another form. If we are alert to recognize them, we will be blessed accordingly. For instance, those who discern spirits have the ability to see quickly the heart of a matter, and this talent is reflected in their comments.

A: Yes, but we will have a short overview first.

Paul had been discussing the various spiritual gifts that were given to the early Church, particularly during the time of his ministry in the Ephesus period, when no New Testament was available. The gifts were helpful when the brethren congregated, for each of the ecclesia members supplied tidbits of information along different lines, and the collective assemblage of thoughts and worship was beneficial. However, Paul also said that things should be done decently and in order. Those who had the gifts of tongues, for example, probably had to hold back a little, for the temptation would be for those brethren to speak rapidly one after the other with no real edification resulting for the church except for the one who had put the gift on public display. Whoever was leading the study was to act as a brake, so that each gift was thoroughly heard and appreciated before another was manifested.

Also, if one spoke in a foreign language, another was to interpret for the ecclesia. If no interpreter was present, the speaker should remain silent. That principle especially applied to visiting brethren who had a gift that was appreciated in their local class but was not necessarily helpful when attending a meeting in another place. The Holy Spirit was probably judicious in dispensing gifts so that not too many spoke along the same line in the same ecclesia. That way the needs of each class were accommodated. Brethren had their gifts for life, unless of course they became disobedient, for the gifts were the manifestation of their acceptance.

Paul said that the mechanical gifts would gradually disappear, for the need became less essential with the completion of the Bible. Certainly they are not needed in our day with the Bible being available in so many languages. The question today would be, Does the Holy Spirit in some way still dispense gifts but in a somewhat different fashion? Those who had the gifts in the early Church gave accurate utterances because the Holy Spirit directly and mechanically operated on them. For instance, the gift of prophecy operated very much like the way the OldTestament prophets spoke. The Holy Spirit moved the prophets of old in a mechanical manner, and that gift slid over for a time into the Gospel Age, going to the sons of God rather than to the friends of God in the new dispensation.

The Holy Spirit still operates today along these lines but not necessarily as profusely. We have to be very attentive, for example, to those who are being led by the Holy Spirit in a teaching or prophesying capacity, for today they are not infallible. We must exercise discrimination as to what we hear and then compare the teaching to the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul both spoke and explained, and his utterances contained no error. Gospel Age “prophets” are more or less public teachers, as the Pastor said. However, the function of present-day prophets is twofold.

In the early Church, public teaching was involved depending on what account is being read, but events were also predicted. This latter type of prophecy is a little different today. Generally speaking, certain brethren have the spiritual gift of giving talks along a particular line. For example, brethren usually thought of Bro. Anton Frey in connection with the Tabernacle because he gave much thought and consideration to that subject, and what he said made sense.

Bro. Magnuson did not have as much public recognition, but he was very adept at explanation as well. Other brothers are good on chronology and time features, character development, prophetic subjects, or doctrinal matters. Thus there continue to be diversities of gifts of the Holy Spirit. The counterpart “gifts” today, which are developed and not mechanically given, are as follows:

1. Word of wisdom. Some brethren have above-average common sense and practical applications. They are able to readily interject common-sense reasoning into discussions on various topics.

2. Word of knowledge. This gift of the Holy Spirit is manifested by those who are more mature in their thinking. These brethren have experience, especially if they have been consecrated for a longer period of time. The instruction in Leviticus 19:32 is to “rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man.”

3. Faith. Paul’s statement that without faith it is impossible to please God means that all who are called by God, whether they realize it or not, had natural faith to start with. They “must believe that he is [exists], and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). However, in the context here in chapter 12, faith is a distinct quality. The gift of faith is more along the lines of being an encouragement to the brotherhood. For example, when an emergency arises, the individual with this gift encourages the others to stand fast. He blesses others by the exercise and expression of faith with regard to coming through the experience. In short, this “faith” is exhortation when needed; it is an energizing influence that helps others.

Along another line, when someone cheerful and optimistic enters the room, that influence affects those who are congregated. The same principle is illustrated when our mood is favorably affected by a bright, sunny day with the birds singing. A word of faith is sometimes needed at a particular time to boost the thinking of the brotherhood.

4. Healing. This gift helps to create a family relationship among the consecrated, the feeling of being one body with many members. (In fact, all of the gifts have this effect.) For example, a brother or sister with the gift of healing can help one who is despondent or very discouraged. And when the brethren pray on behalf of that individual, they are manifesting the oneness of the body. At an appropriate moment, one might be motivated by the Holy Spirit to suggest, “Let us have a word of prayer on behalf of this brother [or sister].” Not only would the suggestion be beneficial, but it would have a healing and a purifying value to the member suffering from the affliction.

Comment: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11).

Comment: When one confesses sin sickness, it is proper to have prayer for that individual (James 5:14,15).

5. Working of miracles. This gift would include, as a modern-day counterpart, brethren who have organizational capabilities, communications expertise, and unusual, distinctive administrative qualities. Such individuals are specially qualified in these areas.

While we believe that even miracles have been done at this end of the age, that occurrence is very rare. In the Reprints, the Pastor never ruled out miracles entirely, even in healing, because of certain experiences that happened at opportune times. However, we certainly do not look to be healed of our diseases. Paul tried to point out that the gift of healing was not usually exercised on the disciples themselves. For instance, he gave Timothy advice to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake instead of curing him of his dyspepsia. And he said that bodily exercise profits only a little, so Christians are not to make exercise a major priority, although it can be beneficial in moderation.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are low-key today, and one has to discern as to who has them in an authentic sense. Of course sometimes those who are highly esteemed are not even qualified for their area of service. The point is that we should not accept everything we hear just because the person has the gift of oratory and presents his thoughts eloquently. The message must be analyzed to see if it harmonizes with the Scriptures. Along another line, some brethren are good at giving counsel, and they are not necessarily elders.

6. Prophecy. Today the gift of prophecy is the ability to teach, especially along prophetic lines, as a fruit of the Spirit. Certain brethren are given the special ability to dispense dispensational knowledge. When the seven messengers were selected down through the Gospel Age, there may have existed brothers of equal or even superior capability, but God selected the right servant at the right time. Various factors were involved in the selection. For instance, Stephen was a deacon, yet his zeal and level of understanding and the way the Holy Spirit moved him mightily showed that he would have been almost like the Apostle Paul had the Lord selected him. Perhaps one reason Paul was selected instead was that he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel.

The apostles, who are at the top of the list during the Gospel and Kingdom ages, were selected in a particular time frame. However, after the Kingdom Age is over, faithful Christians who lived in a subsequent time period may be given higher positions.

These gifts, or qualities, are developed, first, from a natural standpoint and then, later, from a spiritual standpoint. Christians are being educated to be kings and priests during the Kingdom Age, but that education will certainly be given much more exercise in the planetary system after the Kingdom Age, that is, with yet unborn generations throughout the universe. An explosion of opportunities will take place beyond the Kingdom Age.

7. Discerning of spirits. The gift of discerning of spirits will operate at the end of the age among those who are not deceived when fallen angels have increased liberties (Matt. 24:24-26).

This gift will be needed to counterbalance what is happening. Those who have this gift can also discern true and false doctrine. If one has a natural discerning ability to a certain extent and then is blessed by activity in the Lord’s service, this ability becomes useful at a higher level.

Unfortunately, some brethren do not know how to discriminate between good and evil.

Allowing violations of principle to occur right under their eyes, they seem to be oblivious. By distorting Scriptures from their proper perspective, they interpret Holy Writ to mean that love covers a multitude of sins. It takes time to become a discerner between good and evil, and this ability comes when one reaches a stage of maturity. All Christians start as a babe and hopefully grow to a youth, a teenager, a young man (or woman), and finally an adult. Paul implied that in the mature years of a Christian who has been living according to his covenant, the accumulation of experiences and doctrine enables him to become more and more capable of discerning between right and wrong under subtle conditions. (Some instances of right and wrong are self-evident and should be seen immediately.)

The gift of discerning doctrine and seeing where it leads—whether it is false, constructive, or whatever—is a gradual development rather than mechanical as in the early Church. We must study to know what is sound. Purportedly, elders are elected who are above average, not in diction and eloquence but in being apt to teach and living a blameless life. In addition, sisters should be able to discern between good and evil, although they are not in a public teaching role. Sometimes, especially in a small class, brethren recognize that a sister is much more mature than the one leading the study.

As the Pastor said, we should try to see the good in others, no matter how difficult the discernment is. We should have the attitude that each of the brethren excels over us in some way. And usually we can find some good quality another has that we do not possess. Unless there is some blatant act or conduct that shows otherwise, we should find our brethren beneficial, for a tree manifests its fruit in one form or another. Moreover, brethren may have more than one gift—gifts along various lines. Strange as it may seem, however, those who are advanced in service by the brethren are often the ones who are not as qualified. Why? Perhaps the reason is that the more prominent brethren are admired from a worldly standpoint and not according to scriptural qualifications. Thus it is more difficult today to see those who have the gift of discerning spirits in the proper sense. This gift is not as startling now as it was in the early Church.

8. Divers kinds of tongues. Today this gift is the ability to learn foreign languages. Translating, speaking, and/or writing in other languages is helpful to the brethren living in other countries.

9. Interpretation of tongues. Again there is a present-day counterpart. Although concordances assist us in Bible study, understanding Greek and Hebrew is different from just having an accumulation of facts and is study on a higher level.

With regard to both the early Church receiving instantaneous mechanical gifts and the Church during the Gospel Age up to the present time having “gifts,” or talents, a brother or sister who has one gift can receive additional gifts. For example, one who had the gift of speaking in tongues was told to pray for the ability to interpret (1 Cor. 14:13). Thus brethren can increase their gifts by praying for one they earnestly desire and feel they need. In regard to a “word of knowledge,” if a particular Scripture is troubling, the individual can pray for understanding.

Sometimes the answer comes quickly, and sometimes it is delayed, depending on what manner or time mode the Holy Spirit deems propitious in granting the understanding.

The Lord could have made us into perfect characters, but He does not want zombies who mechanically always do His will perfectly. Rather, He wants those who serve and worship Him of their own initiative as they develop the fruits of the Spirit.

Verse 11 sums up verses 7-10. God gave mechanical gifts to the early Church, but those gifts operated through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as invisible electricity runs a motor and provides light, so the invisible Holy Spirit was very real and powerful.

Comment: Instead of each Christian in the early Church having all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the distribution of a variety of gifts within an ecclesia helped promote an interdependence among the brethren.

Reply: Yes, what one member lacked, another member supplied, and the result was that all functioned together as a whole. After the apostles died, the gifts persisted in a spiritual sense down through the Gospel Age, with Jesus remaining as the Head of the Church and the office of the 12 apostles being preserved as the foundation. With this unity continuing up to the present, we look for a blessing and further understanding when we meet as an ecclesia. In addition, private study is necessary.

After enumerating the gifts, Paul switched to another mode of thinking, starting in verse 12, with regard to certain other problems that had arisen in the class at Corinth. This First Epistle to the Corinthians was a mind-boggling task. How Paul covered so many subjects of such diverse nature in just one letter, giving constructive advice, is a miraculous overruling by the Holy Spirit. In fact, both of his epistles to the Corinthians are invaluable for practical Christian living.

1 Cor. 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Cor. 12:15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor. 12:16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor. 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

1 Cor. 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

1 Cor. 12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

1 Cor. 12:20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

1 Cor. 12:21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor. 12:22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

1 Cor. 12:23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

1 Cor. 12:24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

1 Cor. 12:25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

1 Cor. 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Paul gave a practical illustration of the various members of the one human body. If any one member (such as an ear) occupied the whole, not only would the body be destroyed, but also the result would be a monstrosity. The danger was that some brethren in the Corinthian church were becoming high-minded about the gifts they had received. Paul treated the problem in a masterful way. Not only did he use the illustration that there are many members in the one body, but in addition, he used a standpoint that is generally overlooked. He used the body as a picture from two different standpoints, that is, from two types of reasoning. Most sermons are based on the standpoint of the many members being one body and of the varieties of service.

1. Verses 15 and 16 read, “If the foot [or ear] shall say, Because I am not the hand [or eye], I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” Paul wrote these verses from a passive, introspective, negative standpoint. The foot was discouraged, thinking it was not part of the body because it did not have the particular gift or opportunity of service that the hand had. And in discouragement, a Christian can feel, “The Lord is not dealing with me because I do not have the opportunities of service that others have.” Each Christian should examine himself honestly and do something according to his own talent(s) and ability.

2. Verse 21 is presented from the opposite standpoint—that of an aggressive extrovert person, who magnifies his own importance and the littleness of those who are not involved the way he is. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” With the high-minded individuals in the class wrongly and assertively promoting their own importance, others were apt to go along with their thinking and teaching. After a while, those who were influenced would become discouraged, thinking the Lord was not using them.

Paul’s point was that all are needed in the body. Certain parts of the human body are clothed and hence are made to appear better, some parts are hidden, and still other parts are modified—but all are needed. Paul was insinuating that we are not to judge one another by outward appearance or prominence, for all members of the body are important, and each serves a function. For example, in God’s providence, sisters do not have opportunities of service like a brother, but this distinction is honorable and should not be a cause for discouragement.

Comment: One of the more feeble members of the human body is the little toe, yet without that toe, a person would be off-balance and could fall over.

Two gifts involved the tongue. Some could speak in a foreign language, and some could interpret, or translate; that is, some had the mouth of explanation, and others had the eye of discernment and gave understanding. Of the two, the latter gift was more important, but both were needed. Actually, the Apostle Paul had all of the gifts. If anyone could boast, it was Paul, so he was putting the others in their place.

While talking about the diversities of the Spirit, Paul wove in the theme of Jew and Gentile, showing that they should be in harmony, for God and Christ were dealing with both. Verse 13 reads, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” If all—Jew, Gentile, master, and slave—confessed that Jesus is the Christ, then all were members of the one body and, therefore, had a variety of expression. For the consecrated, diversities were to be forgotten, for all drank “into one Spirit” and were of the one family. On the one hand, the Jews felt they were more important because they had the Law and God had dealt with them as a people for 2,000 years before acknowledging the Gentiles. On the other hand, the Gentiles (Greeks) felt the Jews had been cast off from God’s favor. Instead Jews and Gentiles were to realize that both were members of the body and that when various ones were inducted into the body, they had different functions to perform.

Throughout the Gospel Age, the oneness of the body had to ever be kept in mind because we are all prone, by nature, to harp on our own ideas of importance. The mind, will, and conscience need to be continually educated and regulated by the Word to know what is right.

Standards always need to be clarified and refined. We must guard against being satisfied with a certain level of development or opinion lest we become fixed, or crystallized, in something that may not be entirely proper in the Lord’s sight.

The Bible was not available in the early Church, the New Testament being only in the formative process. Other than the two Gospel of Matthew and Mark, only fragmentary epistles were available to the different churches scattered throughout the Mediterranean area and the Mideast, where Christianity blossomed. Therefore, the diversity of talent, memory, and language was especially crucial and helpful to the Church.

Verses 12-27, which pertain to bodily functions of the ear, nose, eye, etc., are the category of “operations.” (The previous category was “gifts.”) Each of the component parts of the one body perform different functions, and this diversity is very helpful in unifying the body. This section climaxes with the theme that the body members should have the same care for one another because they see the need for this type of unity. In Paul’s day, the divisions were not as extensive as what occurred later in John’s day, but he used this lesson for the Corinthians because of the divisions in their locale. Paul showed that certain principles were being performed right under their eyes, but they did not grasp the significance. They saw the exercise of the gifts as unconnected happenings, whereas they were the unifying factor. God gave each of the brethren a gift so that they would have to help one another, and the help occurred when they got together in the ecclesia arrangement. Just as the operations, or functions, of the various members are needed in the natural body, so they are needed in the spiritual body. In making man with these component parts, God has made the “miracle machine.”

Earlier in the chapter, Paul just categorized the gifts. Now, in telling how those gifts were used, he was really going over the same list again but viewing the diversities of gifts from the perspective of how the parts of a human body operate. The gifts proved the Corinthian brethren had consecrated, but there was another lesson; namely, the gifts were given to edify the body—that was the operational phase of the gifts. Like the different component parts of the body, the gifts were not identical, but they were useful in various ways. Especially when the brethren were together, the gifts provided edification, and when the brethren were apart, the gifts were used along another line in a private fashion.

Q: Was Paul saying that each member of body of Christ has different talents?

A: Yes.

Q: What specific functions do the various parts of the body represent?

A: Spiritually speaking, the foot represents the walk, the conduct, of a Christian. From another standpoint, it shows activity in the Lord’s service, in which some degree of travel is involved. “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body,” is that true? No! A “foot” has to do with travel, such as witnessing from place to place. Consider the Apostle Paul, who was single and had a trade and thus could travel regularly, whereas those who were married had other responsibilities and could not spend their whole life on the road, going wherever the Spirit would lead them. If all were evangelists, who would lead studies and provide nurturing in the home ecclesias? If all were teachers, who would spread the Word?

Another function of the “foot” might be travel to visit the sick.

With regard to the ear, three languages were prevalent in the days of the early Church: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Since not all members of an ecclesia could understand all three languages, the gift of speaking in tongues was helpful in translating a Scripture into language(s) understood by the rest of the class. Thus the ear represented simple hearing, which was the basis for the more complicated interpretation of the meaning. Along another line, the ear is a wonderful asset for edification through reports of the brethren, for example.

The eye indicates the more intellectual and spiritual understanding of the lessons of Scripture as they apply to the Christian walk. In addition, the eye, pertaining to the future, represents insight into prophecy and pictures an individual with the gift of prophecy and/or wisdom.

The nose, with its sense of smell, is one with the ability to tell the difference between good and evil, which is the discerning of spirits. The ability to discern whether a matter was true or false, genuine or phony, was of great benefit to the early Church because if someone went off-track in extemporizing beyond his gift and thus gave improper instruction, the one with the discerning spirit would say, “That is not the right thought.” The response would have been blunt because the mechanical gift did not operate in a smooth, delicate way. As the brethren were gathered together, they could see the mechanical operation of the Holy Spirit moving the person to speak. It was obvious that the gift was extraneously imparted to the individual for the benefit of the whole.

The hand pertains to service along various lines. “Do with thy might what thy hands find to do” is the principle. The mouth helps with food, and the arm works in religious matters. Thus each of the component parts is meant to help the body of Christ in one way or another.

God hath “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” However, how God sets the members in the body now may be entirely different from how He will set them in the body beyond the veil, so one should exercise patience and forbearance with the experiences he is undergoing. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and there are different types of contentment—temporal, spiritual, fellowship, etc. (1 Tim. 6:6). We must discern our own spiritual welfare and try to get into the atmosphere that is most conducive to our spiritual development. If we discern something harmful, we should remove ourselves from that situation. If we see sin and iniquity, we should absent ourselves.

There are many members yet only one body. The component parts must not rebel against one another or feel they have no need for each other. Paul continued this theme and then said that the body parts are clothed, for if unclothed, they would bring shame on the ministry; that is, certain activities and habits are to be covered in the sense that they must be recognized and acted upon. Some brethren with certain weaknesses are repentant and remorseful. They make one mistake after another, but their attitude shows they are trying. They mean well, and we hope they will get stronger and come to a full knowledge of the truth as mature individuals.

Some in the body back there may have seemed insignificant, but when the gifts were given, one of these least ones, out of seemingly nowhere, would have a profound manifestation of the Spirit. Paul said, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Cor. 14:26). Paul was giving a thumbnail description, or lesson, but it was comprehensive. What a letter he composed!

Q: What is the meaning of verse 23, “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness”?

A: Unseemly parts of the body need to be clothed. We are not living in Adam’s day when he walked around naked. Some who come into the body have a lot of problems. John Bunyan was one of the most reprobate characters in his city prior to consecration, but afterward he manifested the Spirit wondrously and was an influential example to others for edification. In fact, his book Pilgrim’s Progress, was second to the Bible for more than a hundred years.

Comment: Some of the weaker members of the body need more attention and earnest prayer so that they are built up.

Reply: The high priest of the Old Testament could not have six toes or fingers, for example, as a public representative, but sons of Aaron who were disqualified for such reasons were taken care of (Lev. 21:16-23). They had to be kept in the background and could not be high priest or perform public priestly functions, but as members of Aaron’s family, their bread and water were provided. Stuttering and being crippled were other disqualifications.

The purpose of the gifts was “that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (verse 25). When one suffers, the others should commiserate. When one rejoices, the others should rejoice with him. Indeed Paul had a purpose in introducing the thought, in this context, “that there should be no schism in the body” and “that the members should have the same care one for another.” He had just been talking about the natural body with its many members and its coordination. Just as in the human body, the various parts are not in rebellion, disfavor, or disharmony with each other, so it should be in the spiritual body of Christ. All of the members are needed, some in a more prominent way and others in a lesser fashion, but all have their part in the functioning of the human body. It would show a lack of understanding if a person worked out of harmony with his own body. Spiritually speaking, the same is true in the body of Christ.

The word “schism” means “division.” In 1 Corinthians 11:18,19, Paul said, “When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions [sects, the same Greek word] among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” Here in chapter 12, Paul was speaking from an idealistic standpoint. In other words, the motive and desire of the Christian should be for unity; however, unity is not always practical. If at all possible, brethren should work in harmony, with all having the same hopes and aspirations in trying to achieve the same goal. If a division occurs, it should be for a legitimate reason. God favors divisions only when they are necessary, and in that case, those who are approved for proper behavior and decorum are made manifest in His sight and to Jesus and the angels.

If one member suffers, the other members should suffer with him. If one member rejoices, the other members should rejoice with him. The body of Christ is like a family relationship but in the Lord. This “family” feeling should keep the members knit together. A proper love would make allowances for one another where possible, and only a significant difference could break that bond.

Despite diversity of race or status as bond or free, all Christians have been made partakers of the one Holy Spirit of God (verse 13). Then, starting with verse 14, Paul began to discuss the diversity of the human body. A human body is composed of many members, and to function properly, each member has a specific work to benefit the whole. The apostle concluded that if there were not this diversity of functions by different members—that is, if they all performed the same function—the human body would have a very limited performance.

Each one who consecrated in the early Church was granted at least one mechanical gift. We can see the profit that would have accrued from such gifts if they were done in a decent and orderly fashion, with each Christian giving respect to the others and not monopolizing the time. The brethren were dependent upon each other’s capabilities. The same interdependence exists today but not in such a dramatic fashion. Many gatherings of the Lord’s people suffer because of the lack of recognition by members of the ecclesia as to which one has the better capability in performing a particular type of service. Now the gifts and talents are harder to determine, one reason being that the written Word of God is available. If we do not get from a meeting all that we would have desired, at least we can go home and meditate on the Word.

Sometimes a discussion pro and con on the interpretation and significance of a Scripture provokes interest in trying to come to a definite conclusion as to the real meaning. Although the situation is different today from what existed back there, some of the principles still apply.

While the functioning of the body parts for the benefit of the whole was a blessed experience both for those who possessed and used the gift and for those who benefited from hearing and receiving such instruction, there were problems in the class at Corinth with regard to these miraculous gifts. Some who were too domineering used their gift to overshadow the gifts of others. And some became too heady and puffed up, especially if they had two gifts.

“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (verse 18). In Paul’s day, all who made a bona fide consecration got a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the brethren knew that God Himself had determined what that gift should be. Ideally, that knowledge should have brought humility on the recipient of the gift and also appreciation by others of that individual. However, that did not always happen.

The comparison of verse 21 mentions a problem area; namely, the eye cannot say to the hand, or the head to the feet, “I have no need of thee.” Paul was referring to the head as part of the human body, and not to Christ as the Head of the body. The “head” was the leading personality in the ecclesia, usually an elder. As part of his service, an elder creates stability, organization, order, peace, and proper functioning in the ecclesia, but if, as a leader, he suppresses participation by others, he is not serving properly.

From a normal, literal standpoint, the eyes and the head would be considered more important, but those organs are not to domineer the whole functioning of the body. How did that happen in the early Church? Until Paul came along, the atmosphere of some classes was like mayhem with all of the brethren trying to use their gifts at the same time. Instead of the gifts being a blessing, the meetings were confusion and anarchy. Without order in the ecclesia, there was no blessing. Suppose an elder was prejudiced against an individual who had a gift and allowed others to have their expressions but habitually ignored that individual. To not allow the airing of an issue or topic, to not grant liberty, would be presumptuous. We are told to preserve our liberty in Christ (Gal. 5:1).

“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (verse 22). Generosity of spirit should allow freedom of expression to one who appears to be feeble or to have a gift to a lesser miraculous degree. The exercise and use of a gift benefits the individual himself, as well as the other members of the body. And sometimes the one who seems to be feeble in his explanation may be of special benefit to another member of the body who is present at the meeting.

Verse 23 merits more discussion. “Those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” Clothing discreetly covers different parts of the male and female human body lest they be given prominence or notoriety, but what is the spiritual lesson? Some in the Church today, as well as in the past, seem to have the gift of introducing the truth to others. With their simpler talk and style of witnessing, they are more potent—and, therefore, more useful—as an instrument of Spirit begettal than brethren who are more talented. Their zeal, even with their lack, can produce startling effects in introducing a new member into the body of Christ. The point of preaching the gospel is to try to reach the hearing ear of those who are hungering after truth and thirsting for righteousness. Thus those who might be considered insignificant can be especially useful and effective in the Master’s service.

“For our comely parts [hands, head, feet, etc.] have no need [to be specially covered with grace]: but God hath tempered the body together, having [ostensibly] given more abundant honour to that part which lacked” (verse 24). When a very humble person brings someone into the truth, the influence on those who are leading spirits and more outgoing is good, for the experience tends to curb any tendency to pride. For God to use someone who is regarded as unimportant for such an important purpose has a humbling and beneficial effect on the ecclesia.

In the context of chapter 12, verse 25 is the normal rule. “That there should be no schism [division] in the body.” Divisions should not be created in the body. However, circumstances sometimes arise where a division is necessary, for example, in an extraordinary situation where an individual gets into control who leads the class astray with his doctrine, personality, self-conceit, or dwelling on topics that are not spiritually beneficial. Generally speaking, there should be no schism in the body, the exception being where not to divide would be dangerous for the spiritual welfare of the whole. Here Paul did not bring in the opposing view, which was presented in the previous chapter. “When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved [in taking a proper stand for truth] may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:18,19). The normal spirit is brotherly kindness, forgiveness, graciousness, and mutual respect, but the liberty to take a stand is always held in reserve and not discarded.

Some wrongly want to preserve peace at any cost, and others, characterized as brambles and thorns, cause divisions by always criticizing instead of talking on the truth. There were divisions in the Corinthian ecclesia, and in chapter 12, Paul was trying to heal the disunity so that there would once again be a cohesive whole that could function peacefully and properly.

Comment: 3 John 9-11 discusses a situation where Paul advised division because an individual not only was inhospitable to the brethren but advised others not to be hospitable. “I [the Apostle John] wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, … [but he] forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”

Reply: Yes, Diotrephes wanted to dominate the class and even tried to prevent the brethren from receiving the Apostle John.

The Lord allows such testings to come on the Church. Usually He grants a longer period of sunshine and gentle rain so that the new creature growing in our hearts will develop and prosper, but somewhere along the line, the testing will come. As Moses said, God doth “prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deut. 8:2). Conditions and trouble arise to see whether we really love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Verse 27 is interesting—“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular”—for Paul was unifying two different thoughts. (1) “Now ye are the body of Christ” expresses the ideal feeling of family oneness and identification. (2) “Ye are … members in particular” recognizes the role of diversity and individuality. A Christian should not be jealous of other brethren or be so introspective as to think his own way is the only way. The Christian life has different aspects— doctrine, morals, works, study, character, etc.—and all play a role in development. Therefore, the individual capabilities of the members should be recognized, such as organizational or musical ability or even exuberance, and each member should be encouraged to use his talent(s) for the Lord as best he can. It is wrong to try to force all brethren into the same mold.

1 Cor. 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Paul ended the category of operations with verse 27. Next he categorized all of the following as gifts: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues.

In another sense, the apostles, prophets, and teachers were administrations, or different offices.

For want of another term, Paul was giving a chain of authority. Thus the first three were presented in order of importance and, to a certain extent, authority. All three instructed with understanding, the apostles being on the highest level. (1) The 12 apostles were directly under Jesus, the Head. (2) Next came the “prophets,” the seven special messengers to the Church, of whom the first two were also apostles. More than elders, the prophets had the particular, distinct honor of revealing dispensational truths, which were necessary because of the peculiar trials in each period of the Church. Their messages extended to countries beyond their origin to an international realm. There are more than seven messengers but not in the sense that is pictured in the Book of Revelation, where the influence of the seven was most unusual. (3) “Teachers” are those with outstanding capabilities as elder, whose ministries are national in character. Examples of such teachers are individuals like John and Charles Wesley and John Knox. The term “teachers” also extends down to the regional level—to those who are prominent within a nation but are relatively ethnic in scope. With teachers, therefore, there are gradations. Some are teachers only on the local level, and others are recognized more widely.

Although regional teachers might not have the gift of oratory, they are very helpful to the Church.

Comment: Ephesians 4:11 gives a similar listing: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” In this list, evangelists and pastors are inserted ahead of teachers.

Reply: That Scripture is slightly different, for Paul did not mention “first,” “second,” and “third.” Therefore, with regard to order, more priority should be given to verse 28.

Although, strictly speaking, the enumeration stops after “teachers,” the gifts listed in the remainder of verse 28 still follow a general sequence: miracles, healings, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues. “Miracles” were powers like raising (awakening) one from death and predicting future events such as a famine. Even though the miracles were spectacular, they were of lesser importance than the messages given by apostles, prophets, and teachers.

Comment: Young’s Literal Translation makes a distinction between miracles (powers) and gifts (such as healing). The ability to work miracles was considered superior to the gifts.

Reply: Yes. The phrase “after that” followed by “then” indicates not only separate categories but a general order of other gifts: healings, helps, governments, and tongues.

Of course, with regard to the miracles, Paul was talking about the circumstances that existed in his day, although miracles do still happen. Today we would have to study the Scriptures in depth to discern miracles because there are false miracle workers as well as true incidents. Now, in the day of the Lord’s presence, the Adversary is exerting a great energetic operation, so we must be on guard. An example of a miracle today could be something happening at a most convenient time that cannot be ruled as circumstantial. In Peter’s time, Rhoda answered a knock on the door and saw Peter, who had been miraculously delivered from prison after being shackled to two men (Acts 12:13-17). The brethren had been praying for a miracle, and when it happened, they were surprised. The incident was a miracle from God operating on an individual. That type of miracle can exist today, where God uses the Holy Spirit in a miraculous fashion to raise up someone in a most unusual fashion.

In other words, miracles are happening today in a more modified sense, but we may overlook them because we live in a fast-paced world and the cares of life press in on us. Eighty years ago, even though people worked a 12-hour day, they sat quietly in a rocker and meditated. They found time to contemplate.

“Gifts of healings” would be on two levels, spiritual healing being higher than natural healing. An example of present-day “healing” is the gift of helping those who are spiritually weak in faith and other matters, as well as those who are physically weak. James asked, “Is any [one spiritually] 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” (James 5:14). Those who were spiritual and sympathetic to an experience were to pray on behalf of the individual who asked. Oil, being symbolic of the Holy Spirit, was applied as a token recognition that the healing was brought about by the agency of God’s power and not by any human being. With physical healing, the prayer would be contingent on what God’s will is for a particular individual.

“Helps” can be assistants, that is, those who assist the Church with a special talent. Examples are brethren who can give a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge to provide comfort or advice at just the right time. These brethren, who do not have to be elders or teachers, are a wonderful asset to the Church. Another example is help for the brethren along financial and material lines such as money, a home, a particular position, or influence. Sisters can fall into this category. A Manna text expresses the thought that women have been a wonderful blessing to the Church down through the Gospel Age. It is questionable how successful the ministry and service of some brothers would have been without the help of faithful and loyal sisters behind the scenes. For instance, Aquila and Priscilla were a great help to the Apostle Paul. In short, “helps” are brethren who comfort and assist in the edification of the body in various ways.

Along another line, this category would include such “helps” as concordances, which took certain individuals a lifetime to develop. They wanted to assist people to appreciate the Bible more and to be blessed by it. Strong’s Concordance and Young’s Analytical Concordance have been of great help down through the decades. Now computer concordances are even faster.

“Governments” are directors, that is, good organizers and administrators along certain lines. Such brethren are very talented in establishing order and being chairmen, but they are not necessarily looked to for spiritual knowledge. Although not blessed with special spiritual understanding, they have either a financial administrative talent or the natural ability to get things done, and they can convince others of the need to listen to their advice. “Governments” have a recognizable value in the service of the whole body.

Another example of “governments” would be ecclesias, which are a form of modified regulation. An ecclesia is a group of called-out ones who have order to their meetings. Even with two or three individuals—and these could be sisters—there should be a degree of order.

In a case where the sole consecrated brother recognizes his deficiencies, he could humbly defer to a sister to act as chairman. If the meeting consists of only women, a sister should be careful not to instruct as an elder. All of these situations are exercises of “government.” “Govern” means “control”—controlling one’s emotions, actions, and behavior and having rules and regulations. However, rules can become stultifying. If we have the correct focus, Jesus is kept as the Head, then the apostles, next the messengers, etc., down to “governments,” which can be a blessing if they do not suppress liberty.

“Diversities of tongues,” speaking different languages, is the last gift mentioned. It was purposely put at the bottom of the list because the Corinthians would have placed it at the top.

Moreover, Paul said that if those who had tongues wanted more of a blessing, they should pray to interpret the tongues or to prophesy.

“Diversities of tongues” include aids such as the Diaglott with its interlinear translation. In fact, dia means “two,” and glott means “tongues.” This translation from the Greek into word-for-word English is both a translation and an interpretation. We think those who devoted so much time to these helps will be rewarded one way or another.

Q: We should still pray today for “prophecy” and other gifts, realizing that they would be given in a modified sense. If we do not hunger for prophecy, how can we expect to be fed?

A: Yes, we are told to covet earnestly the “best” gifts, and prophecy is one of the higher gifts.

In Paul’s day, the gift of remembering the entire Old Testament verbatim was very helpful when a class was studying a particular topic. However, those who had this gift did not necessarily have the ability to explain the Scriptures; they just quoted them mechanically.

Incidentally, the “miracles,” or powers, happened on occasion, as needed, whereas the gifts were available daily.

In summary, Paul was saying that those in the Church would have all the necessary help for whatever experience they were going through. The fact that the comfort or need was supplied by different brethren helped to unify the body members and cause them to desire to meet together and have fellowship. Without that need, the brethren might have wanted to use their gifts in private, in isolation.

1 Cor. 12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

1 Cor. 12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

After the listing, Paul asked these questions. He repeated the sequence of apostles, prophets, teachers, and (workers of) miracles, and again he put tongues and the interpretation of tongues last. The answer to all of the rhetorical questions is no. Not all brethren are apostles, prophets, and teachers, but some are. Not all brethren work miracles, healings, speaking with tongues, or interpreting tongues, but some do. A substitution of “some” for “all” would result in a “yes” answer.

The Church has only 12 foundations, 12 apostles. There are only seven “prophets,” special messengers, international in influence. Not all are teachers, with an aptness to teach. Some brothers have understanding but are not able to transmit it clearly. Verse 30 is a good Scripture to refute those who think it is necessary to speak in tongues in order to have the Holy Spirit. “Do all speak in tongues?” No!

Unfortunately, some in Corinth who thought they were apostles questioned Paul’s authority and even felt they were superior to him because they had heard and seen Jesus personally in the flesh. However, Paul saw Jesus under an even greater circumstance—as one born out of due time.

As stated earlier, the function “workers of miracles” was supernaturally observed in the early Church as being something different from the normal gifts. Next came the more common gifts of healing, speaking with tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Of course interpretation was more important than the tongue itself except that the person who heard and understood the tongue was greatly benefited. Someone had the gift of bringing the tongue down to a level where it could be understood. For instance, three languages were on the Cross: Hebrew (Aramaic), Latin, and Greek. Of the three tongues, almost all in Israel understood at least two of them. Latin was particularly used in the Roman law, and the Romans were known for using concise terminology. There would be someone in the class who could speak the Scriptures in a language that the remaining brethren would understand, and then another person interpreted the meaning.

Comment: The Scriptures emphasize the relative unimportance of the gift of tongues, yet the charismatic movement stresses tongues as being of extreme importance.

Reply: The Adversary or the demons seem to bring about this peculiarity. Some people magnify the extraordinary and exceptional doctrines and put the important doctrines on a back burner. One example is the priority being given to tongues. The point is that exceptions should not be made the general rule, yet the general rule must recognize the exceptions. In addition to the dispensational aspect, the balance is to rightly divide the word of truth by knowing what truths should receive more importance at a given time in the Gospel Age.

In the early Church, all who were consecrated got at least one gift as proof of their acceptance. Today several Scriptures help us to know that at least originally we were accepted. (1) The natural man cannot discern spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). (2) No man can say and really appreciate that Jesus Christ is Savior, the one and only way of communication with God, unless the blindness of Satan has been miraculously removed (Matt. 16:17). (3) No man can come unto Jesus except the Father first draw him (John 6:44). (4) Jesus will in no wise cast out those who come to him unless, of course, the individual denies him (John 6:37). One who consecrates should have sufficient faith to realize this fact.

Over the years, some who made a consecration and participated in meetings and activities began to wonder after a while if God accepted their consecration. As they entertained the idea, they started to think that He did not. It is very dangerous for one to commiserate with those who express this thinking and to admit that non-acceptance is a possibility. A good question to ask is, “When you first understood the truth, did you make a consecration, a commitment, to serve the Lord?” If the answer is yes, then say, “You are responsible for that vow, and you must realize that you cannot retract the commitment.”

Comment: Doubt is one of the Adversary’s tools.

Q: Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

(Matt. 7:22,23). Ostensibly they are doing these works for Jesus, yet he will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Would these individuals be those in the nominal system, generally speaking, who do the works in Jesus’ name but in a perfunctory manner?

A: That would depend on whether they made a personal commitment. Did they, at any time, make a vow to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Even among the preachers, probably many of them never confessed their sins and made a distinct personal commitment to follow Jesus to the best of their ability. Those who consecrate are in a different category.

Comment: Those who consecrate with limited knowledge—that is, without an understanding of dispensational truth—are still responsible.

Reply: Yes, that is why we believe many Spirit-begotten individuals are in the nominal system, and their lives will be saved as long as they do not deny the Lord Jesus. Not only at the end of the age will every man’s work be tried with fire, but the same principle has applied throughout the Gospel Age (1 Cor. 3:13). When that personal experience comes—and it may occur toward the end of one’s life—the individual must reaffirm his or her commitment. Many have attended a seminary and been ordained, but without a personal consecration to the Lord, the result is tares (Matt. 13:38). Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28).

1 Cor. 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.

One should desire the best gift(s) it is possible to have if such is the Lord’s will. Of course there were only 12 apostles and seven prophets, and sisters cannot be teachers (elders) in the present arrangement, but one should sit down and soberly and honestly appraise his talents and seek to use them. In other words, one should not aspire to things he is not capable of and think that the Lord will miraculously make him a musician, for example. If one legitimately and properly covets the best gifts possible, the Lord will probably give more than the individual has at present. The desire and interest to serve God in a higher capacity will be rewarded if, in God’s wisdom, that is in the best interest of the individual and those he would influence. It is like a child asking his father for certain privileges.

After enumerating all of these gifts and saying to desire the best ones, Paul said he would show “a more excellent way,” which he did in chapter 13 when he discussed the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Although not expressed in these words, his attitude was, “Even though I am an apostle and have been a great blesser of many Christians, I am more concerned that I myself will not be a castaway.” Although he had preached to others as an apostle, his primary concern and motivation were about making his own calling and election sure. He was not negligent about his own salvation. Paul had a very unusual outlook. When necessary for the good of others, he pointed out his superiority, yet he was humble.

Verse 31 really introduces the next chapter, which is the nitty-gritty of what Christians should earnestly desire. Chapter 13 is the famous chapter on “love,” but love needs to be defined.

Godlike love is what we hope to attain, as opposed to carnal (fleshly) love or even earthly love. Along another line, “faith” has to be distinguished from “credulity.” And “hope” must consist of proper hopes, for there are also false hopes.

Another way of saying, “Covet earnestly the best gifts,” is to say, “Hunger for more truth.”

Hunger is equated with development. To qualify for the high calling, one needs four essential ingredients: hunger, honesty, and humility, which lead to holiness (development of character).

Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled (Matt. 5:6).

Comment: Verse 31 indicates that it was possible for general believers to have multiple gifts.

Reply: Yes, a reasonable number of the brethren may have possessed two or three gifts because they earnestly coveted improvement. The Laodicean spirit in the last stage of the Church is one of ease, comfort, and slumber (Rev. 3:16,17). The danger in the Ephesus period of the Church was to forget one’s first love (Rev. 2:4). Jesus admonished those in Ephesus to repent so that they would receive a renewal of the Holy Spirit and mount up, as it were, with eagle’s wings. But in times of bitter persecution, there was not much time for slumber.

Therefore, proportionately speaking, periods of persecution probably produced the greater number of the Little Flock. The number of consecrations was smaller because persecution was sure to follow, but the consecrations that did take place were sincere.

Spiritually speaking, everyone who consecrates today gets at least one gift, although they do not know it. That is one reason why Paul said we should examine ourselves. Each Christian should soberly and honestly try to discern what gift he (or she) has to benefit others.

Q: When one comes to the point of quickening, should others be able to discern the gift?

A: Yes. The life is real prior to quickening, but it is manifest in the quickening phase. And quickening is proof to the individual that the fetus is alive.

The “more excellent way” refers to the fruits of the Spirit, which are more desirable than the mechanical gifts of the Spirit. Apostles, prophets, workers of miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, and diversity of tongues were all gifts from the Lord, whereas faith, hope, and love are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes fruits are mistaken for gifts. For instance, not all men have natural faith, but those whom the Lord calls do have natural faith. However, faith as a fruit of the Spirit, which is quite different from natural faith, is to be coveted and cultivated.

The same is true of love. Adam was created perfect, yet he fell. Originally, he had natural love and natural faith, but he did not have love and faith as fruits of the Spirit because he had not been tried and tested. Some people are born kind, generous, and patient, but those qualities are gifts, not fruits—they are parts of the original image of God that Adam had before his fall and that still remain with mankind. Those individuals have an untested love that goes by feeling, affection, politeness, courtesy, etc. However, Paul spoke of the fruits of the Spirit, which must be diligently obtained. We have to grow and develop in faith, hope, and love by instruction in and obedience to God’s Word. Nice deeds of the flesh are not evidences of the love that is taught in the Bible because they are even in the unconsecrated world. Thus the natural and the spiritual are two separate things. The Holy Spirit is the lifeblood that nurtures the fruits in the new creature.

(1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies)

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