4.Now there are diversities of gifts The symmetry of the Church consists, so to speak, of a manifold unity, that is, when the variety of gifts is directed to the same object, as in music there are different sounds, but suited to each other with such an adaptation, as to produce concord. Hence it is befitting that there should be a distinction of gifts as well as of offices, and yet all harmonize in one. Paul, accordingly, in Rom_12:6, commends this variety, that no one may, by rashly intruding himself into another’s place, confound the distinction which the Lord has established. Hence he orders every one to be contented with his own gifts, and cultivate the particular department that has been assigned to him. He prohibits them from going beyond their own limits by a foolish ambition. In fine, he exhorts that every one should consider how much has been given him, what measure has been allotted to him, and to what he has been called. Here, on the other hand, he orders every one to bring what he has to the common heap, and not keep back the gifts of God in the way of enjoying every one his own, apart from the others, but aim unitedly at the edification of all in common. In both passages, he brings forward the similitude of the human body, but, as may be observed, on different accounts. The sum of what he states amounts to this — that gifts are not distributed thus variously among believers, in order that they may be used apart, but that in the division there is a unity, inasmuch as one Spirit is the source of all those gifts, one God is the Lord of all administrations, and the author of all exercises of power. Now God, who is the beginning, ought also to be the end.
One Spirit This passage ought to be carefully observed in opposition to fanatics, who think that the name Spirit means nothing essential, but merely the gifts or actions of divine power. Here, however, Paul plainly testifies, that there is one essential power of God, whence all his works proceed. The term Spirit, it is true, is sometimes transferred by metonymy to the gifts themselves. Hence we read of the Spirit of knowledge — of judgment — of fortitude — of modesty. Paul, however, here plainly testifies that judgment, and knowledge, and gentleness, and all other gifts, proceed from one source. For it is the office of the Holy Spirit to put forth and exercise the power of God by conferring these gifts upon men, and distributing them among them.
One Lord. The ancients made use of this testimony in opposition to the Arians, for the purpose of maintaining a Trinity of persons. For there is mention made here of the Spirit, secondly of the Lord, and lastly of God, and to these Three, one and the same operation is ascribed. Thus, by the name Lord, they understood Christ. But for my part, though I have no objection to its being understood in this way, I perceive, at the same time, that it is a weak argument for stopping the mouths of Arians; for there is a correspondence between the word administrations and the word Lord. The administrations, says Paul, are different, but there is only one God whom we must serve, whatever administration we discharge. This antithesis, then, shows what is the simple meaning, so that to confine it to Christ is rather forced.
Gifts signifieth the same thing with habits, or powers, or abilities to actions; our actions being either natural, as eating, drinking, sleeping, &c., or moral, or spiritual. These powers are either natural, which are in an ordinary course of providence bred with us, as the infant hath a power to eat, drink, sleep, cry, &c.: or acquired, and that by imitation, or human learning, as the child gets a habit of speaking, or a power to write, understand languages, arts, and sciences: or infused; and those are either merely infused, as faith, love, and all habits truly spiritual are, and therefore called graces, or spiritual gifts of the highest natures; or else such as are obtained by the use of means on our parts, but yet not without the influence of the Holy Spirit of God; such are abilities to pray, preach, &c. There are some common powers, that is, such as those might have, who should never be saved, which might be merely infused, and were extraordinary in those first times of the gospel; such as the gift of tongues, prophecy, healing, &c. These powers, especially such as are not natural and common to all in an ordinary course of providence, nor acquired merely by imitation, or study, or the teaching of others, but infused either in whole or in part, are those which the apostle here calleth gifts: and he saith there is a diversity of them; there was the gift of prophecy, of healing, of tongues, &c.; but he tells them, this diversity of gifts flowed all from one and the same Spirit, the Spirit was not diverse, though his influences were divers.
There are diversities of gifts – Χαρισματων· Gracious endowments, leading to miraculous results; such as the gift of prophecy, speaking different tongues, etc. And these all came by the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
diversities of gifts — that is, varieties of spiritual endowments peculiar to the several members of the Church: compare “dividing to every man severally” (1Co_12:11).
same Spirit — The Holy Trinity appears here: the Holy Spirit in this verse; Christ in 1Co_12:5; and the Father in 1Co_12:6. The terms “gifts,” “administrations,” and “operations,” respectively correspond to the Divine Three. The Spirit is treated of in 1Co_12:7, etc.; the Lord, in 1Co_12:12, etc.; God, in 1Co_12:28. (Compare Eph_4:4-6).
Now there are diversities of gifts – There are different endowments conferred on Christians. For the meaning of the word “gifts,” see the note at Rom_1:11; compare Rom_5:15-16; Rom_6:23; Rom_11:29; Rom_12:6; 1Co_1:7; 1Co_7:7.
But the same Spirit – Produced by the same Spirit – the Holy Spirit. What those diversities of gifts are, the apostle enumerates in 1Co_12:8-11. The design for which he refers to these various endowments is evidently to show those whom he addressed, that since they are all produced by the same Holy Spirit, have all the same divine origin, and are all intended to answer some important purpose and end in the Christian church, that, therefore, none are to be despised; nor is one man to regard himself as authorized to treat another with contempt. The Spirit has divided and conferred those gifts according to his sovereign will; and his arrangements should be regarded with submission, and the favors which he confers should be received with thankfulness. That the Holy Spirit – the third person of the adorable Trinity – is here intended by the word “Spirit,” seems to be manifest on the face of the passage, and has been the received interpretation of the church until it was called in question by some recent German commentators, at the head of whom was Eichhorn. It is not the design of these notes to go into an examination of questions of criticism, such as an inquiry like this would involve. Nor is it necessary. Some of the arguments by which the common interpretation is defended are the following:
(1) It is the obvious interpretation. It is that which occurs to the great mass of readers, as the true and correct exposition.
(2) it accords with the usual meaning of the word Spirit. No other intelligible sense can be given to the word here. To say, with Eichhorn, that it means “nature,” that there are the same natural endowments, though cultivated in various measures by art and education, makes manifest nonsense, and is contrary to the whole structure and scope of the passage.
(3) it accords with all the other statements in the New Testament, where the endowments here referred to “wisdom,” “knowledge,” “faith,” “working of miracles,” etc., are traced to the Holy Spirit, and are regarded as his gift.
(4) the harmony, the concinnity of the passage is destroyed by supposing that it refers to anything else than the Holy Spirit. In this verse the agency of the Spirit is recognized, and his operations on the mind referred to; in the next verse the agency of the Son of God (see the note on the verse) is referred to; and in the following verse, the agency of God – evidently the Father – is brought into view; and thus the entire passage 1Co_12:4-6 presents a connected view of the operations performed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the work of redemption. To deny that this verse refers to the Holy Spirit is to break up the harmony of the whole passage, and to render it in no small degree unmeaning. But if this refers to the Holy Spirit, then it is an unanswerable argument for his personality, and for his being on an equality with the Father and the Son.
Differences of administrations – Διακονιων· Various offices in the Church, such as apostle, prophet, and teacher; under which were probably included bishop or presbyter, pastor, deacon, etc.; the qualifications for such offices, as well as the appointments themselves, coming immediately from the one Lord Jesus Christ.
Of administrations – Margin, “Ministries.” The word properly denotes “ministries;” so that there are different ranks and grades in the ministries which Christ has appointed, to wit, those specified in 1Co_12:9-10, 1Co_12:28.
But the same Lord – This refers evidently to the Lord Jesus, by whom these various orders of ministers were appointed, and under whose control they are; see the note at Act_1:24; compare Eph_4:5. The term “Lord,” when it stands by itself in the New Testament, usually refers to the Lord Jesus, the name by which he was commonly known by the disciples; see Joh_20:25. The fact also that this stands between the mention of the work of the Spirit 1Co_12:4 and the work of God 1Co_12:6, and the fact that to the Lord Jesus appertained the appointment of these various grades of officers in the church (compare Mat_10:1 ff, and Luk_10:1 ff), is further proof that this refers to him. The design of the verse is, to show that all these offices had their appointment from him; and that since all were his appointment, and all were necessary, no one should be proud of an elevated station; no one should be depressed, or feel himself degraded, because he had been designated to a more humble office.
Of ministrations (diakonion). This old word is from diakonos and has a general meaning of service as here (Rom_11:13) and a special ministration like that of Martha (Luk_10:40) and the collection (1Co_16:15; 2Co_8:4).
6.One God that worketh.Where we use the word powers the Greek term is ἐνεργήματα, a term which contains an allusion to the verb worketh, as in Latin effectus (an effect) corresponds with the verb effectus (to effect.) Paul’s meaning is, that although believers may be endowed with different powers, they all take their rise from one and the same power on the part of God. Hence the expression employed here — worketh all things in all — does not refer to the general providence of God, but to the liberality that he exercises towards us, in bestowing upon every one some gift. The sum is this — that there is nothing in mankind that is good or praiseworthy but what comes from God alone. Hence it is out of place here to agitate the question — in what manner God acts in Satan and in reprobates.
Operations and administrations both differ from gifts, as acts from habits. Habits and powers, by which men performed holy offices in the church, or wrought miracles, are called gifts. The acts or exercise of these powers are called administrations and operations. These latter differ one from another, as the former signify standing and continuing acts in the church; operations, energnmata, rather signify miraculous effects, such as healing the sick without the application of ordinary means, speaking with divers tongues, &c. The apostle tells them, that as there was a diversity of gifts, or powers, and a diversity of acts in the constant service of the church, by which men exercised those gifts or powers they had in the performance of them; so there were diversities of operations, by which men used those extraordinary gifts or powers, which God gave some in the first plantation of the church, for the sake of such as believed not. But it was
the same God that wrought them all, and in all, though all did not do, or could not do, the same things.
Diversities of operations – Ενεργηματων· Miraculous influences exerted on others; such as the expulsion of demons, inflicting extraordinary punishments, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas the sorcerer, etc., the healing of different diseases, raising the dead, etc.: all these proceeded from God the Father, as the fountain of all goodness and power, and the immediate dispenser of every good and perfect gift.
In the three preceding verses we find more than an indirect reference to the doctrine of the sacred Trinity.
Gifts are attributed to the Holy Spirit, 1Co_12:4.
Administrations to the Lord Jesus, 1Co_12:5.
Operations to God the Father, 1Co_12:6.
He who may think this fanciful must account for the very evident distinctions here in some more satisfactory way.
Of operations – Of works; to wit, of miracles, such as God produces in the church, in the establishment and defense of his religion. There are different operations on the mind and heart; and different powers given to man, or different qualifications in building up and defending his cause. Or it may be, possibly, that Paul here refers to the works of God mainly for mere “illustration,” and by the word “operations” means the works which God has performed in creation and providence. His works are various. They are not all alike, though they come from the same hand. The sun, the moon, the stars, the earth are different; the trees of the forest, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the inhabitants of the deep are different; the flowers, and shrubs, and herbs are different from each other; yet. however much they may vary, they are formed by the same hand. are the productions of the same God, are to be regarded as proofs of the same wisdom and power. The same thing should be expected in his church; and we should anticipate that the endowments of its members would be various.
But it is the same God – The same Father; all these operations are produced by the same God. They should not, therefore, be undervalued or despised; nor should anyone be unduly elated, or pride himself on what has been conferred by God alone.
All in all – All these operations are to be traced to him. His agency is everywhere. It is as really seen in the insect’s wing as in the limbs of the mammoth; as really in the humblest violet as in the loftiest oak of the forest. All, therefore, should regard themselves as under his direction, and should submit to his arrangements. If people regard their endowments as the gift of God, they will be thankful for them, and they will not be disposed to despise or undervalue others who have been placed in a more humble condition and rank in the church.
7.But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man He now points out the purpose for which God has appointed his gifts, for he does not confer them upon us in vain, nor does he intend that they shall serve the purpose of ostentation. Hence we must inquire as to the purpose for which they are conferred. As to this Paul answers — (with a view to utility)— πρὸς τὸ συμφερον; that is, that the Church may receive advantage thereby. The manifestation of the Spirit may be taken in a passive as well as in an active sense — in a passive sense, because wherever there is prophecy, or knowledge, or any other gift, the Spirit of God does there manifest himself — in an active sense, because the Spirit of God, when he enriches us with any gift, unlocks his treasures, for the purpose of manifesting to us those things that would otherwise have been concealed and shut up. The second interpretation suits better. The view taken by Chrysostom is rather harsh and forced — that this term is used, because unbelievers do not recognize God, except by visible miracles.
He here calleth gifts, the manifestation of the Spirit, partly to let them know, that these powers flowed from the Holy Spirit apparently, they having no such powers while they were heathens, and carried after dumb idols, as they were led; and partly to let all know, that these gifts and powers were evident proofs both of Christ’s ascension, and of the promise of the Father and of Christ in sending the Holy Spirit, Act_1:4 16:7,8 Eph 4:8. These gifts he tells them were
given to every man; where every signifieth each one; for the same gifts or powers were not given to all, but to those to whom they were given, they were given not to puff them up, or to give them matter to boast of, but to do good withal to the church of Christ. No man hath any power or gift given him of God, either for his own hurt, or the hurt of others, but only for his own good, and the good of others.
The manifestation of the Spirit – Φανερωσις του Πνευματος. This is variably understood by the fathers; some of them rendering φανερωσις by illumination, others demonstration, and others operation. The apostle’s meaning seems to be this: Whatever gifts God has bestowed, or in what various ways soever the Spirit of God may have manifested himself, it is all for the common benefit of the Church. God has given no gift to any man for his own private advantage, or exclusive profit. He has it for the benefit of others as well as for his own salvation.
But the manifestation of the Spirit – The word “manifestation” (φανέρωτις fanerōtis) means properly that which makes manifest, conspicuous, or plain; that which illustrates, or makes any thing seen or known. Thus, conduct manifests the state of the heart; and the actions are a manifestation, or “showing forth” of the real feelings. The idea here is, that there is given to those referred to, such gifts. endowments, or graces as shall “manifest” the work and nature of the Spirit’s operations on the mind; such endowments as the Spirit makes himself known by to people. All that he produces in the mind is a manifestation of his character and work, in the same way as the works of God in the visible creation are a manifestation of his perfections.
Is given to every man – To every man whose case is here under consideration. The idea is not at all that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to all people indiscriminately, to pagans, and infidels, and scoffers as well as to Christians. The apostle is discoursing only of those who are Christians, and his declaration should be confined to them alone. Whatever may be true of other people, this statement should be confined wholly to Christians, and means simply that the Spirit of God gives to each Christian such graces and endowments as he pleases; that he distributes his gifts to all, not equally, but in a manner which he shall choose; and that the design of this is, that all Christians should use his endowments for the common good. This passage, therefore, is very improperly adduced to prove that the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit are conferred alike on all people, and that pagans, and blasphemers, and sinners in general are under his enlightening influences. It has no reference to any such doctrine, but should be interpreted as referring solely to Christians, and the various endowments which are conferred on them.
To profit withal – (πρὸς τὸ συμθέρον pros to sumtheron). Unto profit; that is, for utility, or use; or to be an advantage to the church; for the common good of all. This does not mean that each one must cultivate and improve his graces and gifts, however true that may be, but that they are to be used for the common good of the church; they are bestowed “for utility,” or “profit;” they are conferred in such measures and in such a manner as are best adapted to be useful, and to do good. They are bestowed not on all equally, but in such a manner as shall best subserve the interests of piety and the church, and as shall tend harmoniously to carry on the great interests of religion, and further the welfare of the whole Christian body. The doctrine of this verse is, therefore:
(1) That the Holy Spirit bestows such endowments on all Christians as he pleases; and,
(2) That the design is, in the best manner to promote the common welfare – the peace and edification of the whole church.
It follows from this:
(1) That no Christian should be unduly elated, as if he were more worthy than others, since his endowments are the simple gift of God;
(2) That no Christian should be depressed and disheartened, as if he occupied an inferior or unimportant station, since his place has also been assigned him by God;
(3) That all should be contented, and satisfied with their allotments in the church, and should strive only to make the best use of their talents and endowments; and,
(4) That all should employ their time and talents for the common utility; for the furtherance of the common welfare, and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ on earth.
8.To one is given He now subjoins an enumeration, or, in other words, specifies particular kinds — not indeed all of them, but such as are sufficient for his present purpose. “Believers,” says he, “are endowed with different gifts, but let every one acknowledge, that he is indebted for whatever he has to the Spirit of God, for he pours forth his gifts as the sun scatters his rays in every direction. As to the difference between these gifts, knowledge(or understanding) and wisdom are taken in different senses in the Scriptures, but here I take them in the way of less and greater, as in Col_2:3, where they are also joined together, when Paul says, that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, in my opinion, means acquaintance with sacred things— Wisdom, on the other hand, means the perfection of it. Sometimes prudence is put, as it were, in the middle place between these two, and in that case it denotes skill in applying knowledge to some useful purpose. They are, it is true, very nearly allied; but still you observe a difference when they are put together. Let us then take knowledge as meaning ordinary information, and wisdom, as including revelations that are of a more secret and sublime order.
The term faith is employed here to mean a special faith, as we shall afterwards see from the context. A special faith is of such a kind as does not apprehend Christ wholly, for redemption, righteousness, and sanctification, but only in so far as miracles are performed in his name. Judas had a faith of this kind, and he wrought miracles too by means of it. Chrysostom distinguishes it in a somewhat different manner, calling it the faith of miracles, not of doctrines. This, however, does not differ much from the interpretation previously mentioned. By the gift of healings every one knows what is meant.
As to the workings of powers,or, as some render it, the operations of influences, there is more occasion for doubt. I am inclined, however, to think, that what is meant is the influence which is exercised against devils, and also against hypocrites. When, therefore, Christ and his Apostles by authority restrained devils, or put them to flight, that was ἐνέργημα, (powerful working,) and, in like manner, when Paul smote the sorcerer with blindness, (Act_13:11,) and when Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead upon the spot with a single word. The gifts of healing and of miracles, therefore, serve to manifest the goodness of God, but this last, his severity for the destruction of Satan.
By prophecy, I understand the singular and choice endowment of unfolding the secret will of God, so that a Prophet is a messenger, as it were, between God and man. My reason for taking this view will be explained more fully afterwards.
The discerning of spirits, was a clearness of perception in forming a judgment as to those who professed to be something. (Act_5:36.) I speak not of that natural wisdom, by which we are regulated in judging. It was a special illumination, with which some were endowed by the gift of God. The use of it was this: that they might not be imposed upon by masks, of mere pretences, but might by that spiritual judgment distinguish, as by a particular mark, the true ministers of Christ from the false.
There was a difference between the knowledge of tongues, and the interpretation of them, for those who were endowed with the former were, in many cases, not acquainted with the language of the nation with which they had to deal. The interpreters rendered foreign tongues into the native language. These endowments they did not at that time acquire by labor or study, but were put in possession of them by a wonderful revelation of the Spirit.
There are different apprehensions as to the particular gifts here enumerated, and it is no wonder, these extraordinary gifts being ceased, if we be now at a loss to determine what is to be understood by the terms whereby they are expressed. Some by
the word of wisdom, here, understand a faculty to deliver grave sentences; others, an ability to open the deep mysteries of religion; others, a singular knowledge of spiritual things, joined with a great authority, &c.; others, an ability to explain the deep wisdom of God. But it is most probable, that he meaneth by it what we ordinarily understand by wisdom, viz. a faculty, from a good judgment of the circumstances of actions, to do them at the best time, and in the best manner, wherein they may be serviceable to their ends. It is as uncertain, whether by
the word of knowledge he meaneth a capacity to comprehend things in our knowledge, or to communicate it to others, or the actual communication of it by preaching, which was the work of the pastors and teachers; or the prophetical knowledge of future contingencies; or an ability to speak of spiritual things doctrinally, without any great faculty of applying them.
Word of wisdom – In all these places I consider that the proper translation of λογος is doctrine, as in many other places of the New Testament. It is very difficult to say what is intended here by the different kinds of gifts mentioned by the apostle: they were probably all supernatural, and were necessary at that time only for the benefit of the Church. On the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses (1Co_12:8-10), much may be seen in Lightfoot, Whitby, Pearce, and others.
1. By doctrine of wisdom we may understand, as Bp. Pearce and Dr. Whitby observe, the mystery of our redemption, in which the wisdom of God was most eminently conspicuous: see 1Co_2:7, 1Co_2:10; and which is called the manifold wisdom of God, Eph_3:10. Christ, the great teacher of it, is called the wisdom of God, 1Co_1:24; and in him are said to be contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col_2:3. The apostles to whom this doctrine was committed are called σοφοι, wise men; (Mat_23:34); and they are said to teach this Gospel according to the wisdom given them, 2Pe_3:15.
2. By the doctrine of knowledge we may understand either a knowledge of the types, etc., in the Old Testament; or what are termed mysteries; the calling of the Gentiles, the recalling of the Jews, the mystery of iniquity, of the beast, etc., and especially the mystical sense or meaning of the Old Testament, with all its types, rites, ceremonies, etc., etc.
3. By faith, 1Co_12:9, we are to understand that miraculous faith by which they could remove mountains, 1Co_13:2; or a peculiar impulse, as Dr: Whitby calls it, that came upon the apostles when any difficult matter was to be performed, which inwardly assured them that God’s power would assist them in the performance of it. Others think that justifying faith, received by means of Gospel teaching, is what is intended.
4. Gifts of healing simply refers to the power which at particular times the apostles received from the Holy Spirit to cure diseases; a power which was not always resident in them; for Paul could not cure Timothy, nor remove his own thorn in the flesh; because it was given only on extraordinary occasions, though perhaps more generally than many others.
5. The working of miracles, ενεργηματα δυναμεων, 1Co_12:10. This seems to refer to the same class as the operations, ενεργηματων, 1Co_12:6, as the words are the same; and to signify those powers by which they were enabled at particular times to work miraculously on others; ejecting demons, inflicting punishments or judgments, as in the cases mentioned under 1Co_12:6. It is a hendyadis for mighty operations.
6. Prophecy. This seems to import two things:
1st, the predicting future events, such as then particularly concerned the state of the Church and the apostles; as the dearth foretold by Agabus, Act_11:28; and the binding of St. Paul, and delivering him to the Romans, Act_21:10, etc.; and St. Paul’s foretelling his own shipwreck on Malta, Act_27:25, etc. And
2ndly, as implying the faculty of teaching or expounding the Scriptures, which is also a common acceptation of the word.
7.Discerning of spirits. A gift by which the person so privileged could discern a false miracle from a true one; or a pretender to inspiration from him who was made really partaker of the Holy Ghost. It probably extended also to the discernment of false professors from true ones, as appears in Peter in the case of Ananias and his wife.
8. Divers kinds of tongues. Γενη γλωσσων, Different languages, which they had never learned, and which God gave them for the immediate instruction of people of different countries who attended their ministry.
9. Interpretation of tongues. It was necessary that while one was speaking the deep things of God in a company where several were present who did not understand, though the majority did, there should be a person who could immediately interpret what was said to that part of the congregation that did not understand the language. This power to interpret was also an immediate gift of God’s Spirit, and is classed here among the miracles.
For to one is given – In order to show what endowments he refers to, the apostle here particularizes the various gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts in the church.
By the Spirit – By the Holy Spirit; by his agency on the mind and heart.
The word of wisdom – One he has endowed with wisdom, or has made distinguished for wise, and prudent, and comprehensive views of the scheme of redemption, and with a faculty of clearly explaining it to the apprehension of people. It is not certain that the apostle meant to say that this was the most important or most elevated endowment because he places it first in order. His design does not seem to be to observe the order of importance and value, but to state, as it occurred to him, the fact that these various endowments had been conferred on different people in the church. The sense is, that one man would be prominent and distinguished as a wise man – a prudent counsellor, instructor, and adviser.
To another the word of knowledge – Another would be distinguished for knowledge. He would be learned; would have a clear view of the plan of salvation, and of the doctrines and duties of religion. 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.
By the same Spirit – All is to be traced to the same Spirit; all, therefore, may be really useful and necessary; and the one should not pride himself in his endowments above the other.
To another, he saith, is given faith: by which cannot be understood that faith which is common to all Christians, for he is speaking of such gifts as were given to some Christians, not to all; he must therefore mean, either a faith of miracles, that is, a persuasion that God would work a miracle in this or that case, or a great knowledge in the matters of faith, or a great confidence and boldness in the discharge of their office.
To another the gifts of healing, of healing diseases miraculously, without the application of ordinary rational medicines.
1Co 12:9 Faith may here mean an extraordinary trust in God under the most difficult or dangerous circumstances. The gift of healing need not be wholly confined to the healing diseases with a word or a touch. It may exert itself also, though in a lower degree, where natural remedies are applied; and it may often be this, not superior skill, which makes some physicians more successful than others. And thus it may be with regard to other gifts likewise. As, after the golden shields were lost, the king of Judah put brazen in their place, so, after the pure gifts were lost, the power of God exerts itself in a more covert manner, under human studies and helps; and that the more plentifully, according as there is the more room given for it.
Faith (pistis). Not faith of surrender, saving faith, but wonder-working faith like that in 1Co_13:2 (Mat_17:20; Mat_21:21). Note here en tōi autōi pneumati (in the same Spirit) in contrast with dia and kata in 1Co_12:8.
Gifts of healings (charismata iamatōn). Iama, old word from iaomai, common in lxx, in N.T. only in this chapter. It means acts of healing as in Act_4:30 (cf. Jam_5:14) and Luk_7:21 (of Jesus). Note en here as just before.
Jamison, Fausset, and Brown
working of miracles — As “healings” are miracles, those here meant must refer to miracles of special and extraordinary POWER (so the Greek for “miracles” means); for example, healings might be effected by human skill in course of time; but the raising of the dead, the infliction of death by a word, the innocuous use of poisons, etc., are miracles of special power. Compare Mar_6:5; Act_19:11.
prophecy — Here, probably, not in the wider sense of public teaching by the Spirit (1Co_11:4, 1Co_11:5; 1Co_14:1-5, 1Co_14:22-39); but, as its position between “miracles” and a “discerning of spirits” implies, the inspired disclosure of the future (Act_11:27, Act_11:28; Act_21:11; 1Ti_1:18), [Henderson]. It depends on “faith” (1Co_12:9; Rom_12:6). The prophets ranked next to the apostles (1Co_12:28; Eph_3:5; Eph_4:11). As prophecy is part of the whole scheme of redemption, an inspired insight into the obscurer parts of the existing Scriptures, was the necessary preparation for the miraculous foresight of the future.
discerning of spirits — discerning between the operation of God’s Spirit, and the evil spirit, or unaided human spirit (1Co_14:29; compare 1Ti_4:1; 1Jo_4:1).
kinds of tongues — the power of speaking various languages: also a spiritual language unknown to man, uttered in ecstasy (1Co_14:2-12). This is marked as a distinct genus in the Greek, “To another and a different class.”
interpretation of tongues — (1Co_14:13, 1Co_14:26, 1Co_14:27).
To another the working of miracles – Commentators have felt some perplexity in distinguishing this from what is mentioned in 1Co_12:9, of the gift of healing. it is evident that the apostle there refers to the power of working miracles in healing inveterate and violent diseases. The expression used here, “working of miracles” (ἐνεργήματα δυναμέων energēmata dunameōn) refers probably to the more “extraordinary” and “unusual” kinds of miracles; to those which were regarded as in advance of the power of healing diseases. It is possible that it may denote what the Saviour had reference to in Mar_16:18, where he said they should take up serpents, and if they drank any deadly thing it should not hurt them; and possibly also to the power of raising up the dead. That this power was possessed by the apostles is well known; and it is possible that it was possessed by others also of the early Christians. It is clear from all this that there was a difference even among those who had the power of working miracles, and that this power was conferred in a more eminent degree on some than on others. Indeed, the “extraordinary” endowments conferred on the apostles and the early Christians, seem to have been regulated to a remarkable degree in accordance with the rule by which “ordinary” endowments are conferred upon people. Though all people have understanding, memory, imagination, bodily strength, etc., yet one has these in a more eminent degree than others; and one is characterized for the possession of one of those qualities more than for another. Yet all are bestowed by the same God. So it was in regard to the extraordinary endowments conferred on the early Christians; compare 1 Cor. 14, especially 1Co_14:32.
To another prophecy; – See the note at Rom_12:6.
To another discerning of spirits – compare 1Jo_4:1. This must refer to some power of searching into the secrets of the heart; of knowing what were a man’s purposes. views, and feelings. It may relate either to the power of determining by what spirit a man spoke who pretended to be inspired, whether he was truly inspired or whether he was an impostor; or it may refer to the power of seeing whether a man was sincere or not in his Christian profession That the apostles had this power, is apparent from the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Act_5:1-10, and from the case of Elymas, Act_13:9-11. It is evident that where the gift of prophecy and inspiration was possessed, and where it would confer such advantages on those who possessed it, there would be many pretenders to it; and that it would be of vast importance to the infant church, in order to prevent imposition, that there should be a power in the church of detecting the imposture.
To another divers kinds of tongues – The power of speaking various languages; see Act_2:4, Act_2:7-11. This passage also seems to imply that the extraordinary endowments of the Holy Spirit were not conferred on all alike.
To another the interpretation of tongues – The power of interpreting foreign languages; or of interpreting the language which might be used by the “prophets” in their communications; see the note at 1Co_14:27. This was evidently a faculty different from the power of speaking a foreign language; and yet it might be equally useful. It would appear possible that some might have had the power of speaking foreign languages who were not themselves apprized of the meaning, and that interpreters were needful in order to express the sense to the hearers. Or it may have been that in a promiscuous assembly, or in an assembly made up of those who spoke different languages, a part might have understood what was uttered, and it was needful that an interpreter should explain it to the other portion; see the notes on 1Co_14:28.
Not mere foretelling of the future. Quite probably very little of this element is contemplated; but utterance under immediate divine inspiration: delivering inspired exhortations, instructions, or warnings. See on prophet, Luk_7:26. The fact of direct inspiration distinguished prophecy from “teaching.”
Discerning of spirits
Rev., correctly, discernings. Distinguishing between the different prophetic utterances, whether they proceed from true or false spirits. See 1Ti_4:1; 1Jo_4:1, 1Jo_4:2.
Divers kinds of tongues (γενη γλωσσων).
I. Passages Relating to the Gift of Tongues. Mar_16:17; Acts 2:3-21; Act_10:46; Act_19:6; 1Co_12:10, 1Co_12:28; 1Co_13:1; 14. Possibly Eph_5:18; 1Pe_4:11.
II. Terms Employed. New tongues (Mar_16:17): other or different tongues (ετεραι, Act_2:4): kinds (γένη) of tongues (1Co_12:10): simply tongues or tongue (γλωσσαι γλωσσα, 1 Corinthians 14): to speak with tongues or a tongue (γλωσσαις or γλωσση λαλειν, Act_2:4; Act_10:46; Act_19:6; 1Co_14:2, 1Co_14:4, 1Co_14:13, 1Co_14:14, 1Co_14:19, 1Co_14:27): to pray in a tongue (προσευχεσθαι γλωσση, 1Co_14:14, 1Co_14:15), equivalent to praying in the spirit as distinguished from praying with the understanding: tongues of men and angels (1Co_13:1).
III. Recorded Facts in the New Testament. (1.) The first recorded bestowment of the gift was at Pentecost (Acts 2). The question arises whether the speakers were miraculously endowed to speak with other tongues, or whether the Spirit interpreted the apostle’s words to each in his own tongue. Probably the latter was the case, since there is no subsequent notice of the apostles preaching in foreign tongues; there is no allusion to foreign tongues by Peter, nor by Joel, whom he quotes. This fact, moreover, would go to explain the opposite effects on the hearers. (2.) Under the power of the Spirit, the company addressed by Peter in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea spake with tongues. Act_10:44-46. (3.) Certain disciples at Ephesus, who received the Holy Spirit in the laying on of Paul’s hands, spake with tongues and prophesied, Act_19:6.
IV. Meaning of the Term “Tongue.” The various explanations are: the tongue alone, inarticulately: rare, provincial, poetic, or archaic words: language or dialect. The last is the correct definition. It does not necessarily mean any of the known languages of men, but may mean the speaker’s own tongue, shaped in a peculiar manner by the Spirit’s influence; or an entirely new spiritual language.
V. Nature of the Gift in the Corinthian Church. (1.) The gift itself was identical with that at Pentecost, at Caesarea, and at Ephesus, but differed in its manifestations, in that it required an interpreter. 1Co_12:10, 1Co_12:30; 1Co_14:5, 1Co_14:13, 1Co_14:26, 1Co_14:27. (2.) It was closely connected with prophesying: 1Co_14:1-6, 1Co_14:22, 1Co_14:25; Act_2:16-18; Act_19:6. Compare 1Th_5:19, 1Th_5:20. It was distinguished from prophesying as an inferior gift, 1Co_14:4, 1Co_14:5; and as consisting in expressions of praise or devotion rather than of exhortation, warning, or prediction, 1Co_14:14-16. (3.) It was an ecstatic utterance, unintelligible to the hearers, and requiring interpretation, or a corresponding ecstatic condition on the part of the hearer in order to understand it. It was not for the edification of the hearer but of the speaker, and even the speaker did not always understand it, 1Co_14:2, 1Co_14:19. It therefore impressed unchristian bystanders as a barbarous utterance, the effect of madness or drunkenness, Act_2:13, Act_2:15; 1Co_14:11, 1Co_14:23. Hence it is distinguished from the utterance of the understanding, 1Co_14:4, 1Co_14:14-16, 1Co_14:19, 1Co_14:27.
VI. Paul’s Estimate of the Gift. He himself was a master of the gift (1Co_14:18), but he assigned it an inferior position (1Co_14:4, 1Co_14:5), and distinctly gave prophesying and speaking with the understanding the preference (1Co_14:2, 1Co_14:3, 1Co_14:5, 1Co_14:19, 1Co_14:22).
VII. Results and Permanence. Being recognized distinctly as a gift of the Spirit, it must be inferred that it contributed in some way to the edification of the Church; but it led to occasional disorderly outbreaks (1Co_14:9, 1Co_14:11, 1Co_14:17, 1Co_14:20-23, 1Co_14:26-28, 1Co_14:33, 1Co_14:40). As a fact it soon passed away from the Church. It is not mentioned in the Catholic or Pastoral Epistles. A few allusions to it occur in the writings of the fathers of the second century. Ecstatic conditions and manifestations marked the Montanists at the close of the second century, and an account of such a case, in which a woman was the subject, is given by Tertullian. Similar phenomena have emerged at intervals in various sects, at times of great religious excitement, as among the Camisards in France, the early Quakers and Methodists, and especially the Irvingites.
Workings of miracles (energemata dunameon). Workings of powers. Cf. energon dunameis in Gal_3:5; Heb_2:4 where all three words are used (semeia, signs, terata, wonders, dunameis, powers). Some of the miracles were not healings as the blindness on Elymas the sorcerer.
Prophecy (propheteia). Late word from prophetes and prophemi, to speak forth. Common in papyri. This gift Paul will praise most (chapter 1 Corinthians 14). Not always prediction, but a speaking forth of God’s message under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Discernings of spirits (diakriseis pneumaton). Diakrisis is old word from diakrino (see note on 1Co_11:29) and in N.T. only here; Rom_14:1; Heb_5:14. A most needed gift to tell whether the gifts were really of the Holy Spirit and supernatural (cf. so-called “gifts” today) or merely strange though natural or even diabolical (1Ti_4:1; 1Jo_4:1.).
Divers kinds of tongues (gene glosson). No word for “divers” in the Greek. There has arisen a great deal of confusion concerning the gift of tongues as found in Corinth. They prided themselves chiefly on this gift which had become a source of confusion and disorder. There were varieties (kinds, gene) in this gift, but the gift was essentially an ecstatic utterance of highly wrought emotion that edified the speaker (1Co_14:4) and was intelligible to God (1Co_14:2, 1Co_14:28). It was not always true that the speaker in tongues could make clear what he had said to those who did not know the tongue (1Co_14:13): It was not mere gibberish or jargon like the modern “tongues,” but in a real language that could be understood by one familiar with that tongue as was seen on the great Day of Pentecost when people who spoke different languages were present. In Corinth, where no such variety of people existed, it required an interpreter to explain the tongue to those who knew it not. Hence Paul placed this gift lowest of all. It created wonder, but did little real good. This is the error of the Irvingites and others who have tried to reproduce this early gift of the Holy Spirit which was clearly for a special emergency and which was not designed to help spread the gospel among men. See notes on Act_2:13-21; notes on ActsAct_10:44-46; and note on Act_19:6.
The interpretation of tongues (hermeneia glosson). Old word, here only and 1Co_14:26 in N.T., from hermeneuo from Hermes (the god of speech). Cf. on diermeneuo in Luk_24:27; Act_9:36. In case there was no one present who understood the particular tongue it required a special gift of the Spirit to some one to interpret it if any one was to receive benefit from it.
11.One and the same spirit distributing.Hence it follows that those act amiss who, having no concern as to participation, break asunder that holy harmony, that is fitly adjusted in all its parts, only when under the guidance of the same Spirit, all conspire toward one and the same object. He again calls the Corinthians to unity, by reminding them that all have derived from one fountain whatever they possess, while he instructs them, at the same time, that no one has so much as to have enough within himself, so as not to require help from others. For this is what he means by these words —distributing to every one severally as he willeth The Spirit of God, therefore, distributes them among us, in order that we may make all contribute to the common advantage. To no one does he give all, lest any one, satisfied with his particular portion, should separate himself from others, and live solely for himself. The same idea is intended in the adverb severally, as it is of great importance to understand accurately that diversity by which God unites us mutually to one another. Now, when willis ascribed to the Spirit, and that, too, in connection with power, we may conclude from this, that the Spirit is truly and properly God.
But all these – All these various endowments.
Worketh – Produces. All these are to be traced to him.
That one and the self-same Spirit – The Holy Spirit, Acts 2. They were all, though so different in themselves, to be traced to the Holy Spirit, just as all the natural endowments of people – their strength, memory, judgment, etc. – though so various in themselves are to be traced to the same God.
Dividing to every man severally – Conferring on each one as he pleases. He confers on each one that which he sees to be best, and most wise, and proper.
As he will – As he chooses or as in his view seems best. Dr. Doddridge remarks, that this word does “not so much express arbitrary pleasure, as a determination founded on “wise” counsel.” It implies, however, that he does it as a sovereign; as he sees to be right and best. He distributes these favors as to him seems best adapted to promote the welfare of the whole church and to advance his cause. Some of the doctrines which are taught by this verse are the following:
(1) The Holy Spirit is a “person.” For, he acts as a person; distributes favors, confers endowments and special mercies “as he will.” This proves that he is, in some respects, distinguished from the Father and the Son. It would be absurd to say of an “attribute” of God, that it confers favors, and distributes the various endowments of speaking with tongues, and raising the dead. And if so, then the Holy Spirit is “not” an attribute of God.
(2) he is a sovereign. He gives to all as he pleases. In regard to spiritual endowments of the highest order, he deals with people as he does in the common endowments bestowed upon people, and as he does in temporal blessings. He does not bestow the same blessings on all, nor make all alike. He dispenses his favors by a rule which he has not made known, but which, we may be assured, is in accordance with wisdom and goodness. He wrongs no one; and he gives to all the favors which might be connected with eternal life.
(3) no man should be proud of his endowments. Whatever they may be, they are the gifts of God, bestowed by his sovereign will and mercy. But assuredly we should not be proud of that which is the mere “gift” of another, and which has been bestowed, not in consequence of any merit of ours, but according to his mere sovereign will.
(4) no man should be depressed, or should despise his own gifts, however humble they may be. In their own place, they may be as important as the higher endowments of others. That God has placed him where he is, or has given less splendid endowments than he has to others, is no fault of his. There is no crime in it; and he should, therefore, strive to improve his “one talent,” and to make himself useful in the rank where he is placed. And,
(5) No man should despise another because be is in a more bumble rank, or is less favored than himself. God has made the difference, and we should respect and honor his arrangements, and should show that “respect” and “honor” by regarding with kindness, and treating as fellow laborers with us, all who occupy a more humble rank than we do.
12.For as the body is one He now derives a similitude from the human body, which he makes use of also in Rom_12:4; but it is for a different purpose, as I have already stated above. In that passage, he exhorts every one to be satisfied with his own calling, and not to invade another’s territory; as ambition, curiosity, or some other disposition, induces many to take in hand more than is expedient. Here, however, he exhorts believers to cleave to each other in a mutual distribution of gifts, as they were not conferred upon them by God that every one should enjoy his own separately, but that one should help another. It is usual, however, for any society of men, or congregation, to be called a body, as one city constitutes a body, and so, in like manner, one senate, and one people. Monenius Agrippa, too, in ancient times, when desirous to conciliate the Roman people, when at variance with the senate, made use of an apologue, not very unlike the doctrine of Paul here. Among Christians, however, the case is very different; for they do not constitute a mere political body, but are the spiritual and mystical body of Christ, as Paul himself afterwards adds. (1Co_12:27.) The meaning therefore is— “Though the members of the body are various, and have different functions, they are, nevertheless, linked together in such a manner that they coalesce in one. We, accordingly, who are members of Christ, although we are endowed with various gifts, ought, notwithstanding, to have an eye to that connection which we have in Christ.”
So also is Christ The name of Christ is used here instead of the Church, because the similitude was intended to apply not to God’s only-begotten Son, but to us. It is a passage that is full of choice consolation, inasmuch as he calls the Church Christ; for Christ confers upon us this honor — that he is willing to be esteemed and recognised, not in himself merely, but also in his members. Hence the same Apostle says elsewhere, (Eph_1:23,) that the Church is his completion, as though he would, if separated from his members, be incomplete. And certainly, as Augustine elegantly expresses himself in one part of his writings — “Since we are in Christ a fruit-bearing vine, what are we out of him but dry twigs?” (Joh_15:4.) In this, then, our consolation lies — that, as he and the Father are one, so we are one with him. Hence it is that his name is applied to us.
For as the body is one – The general sentiment which the apostle had been illustrating and enforcing was, that all the endowments which were possessed in the church were the work of the same Holy Spirit, and that they ought to be appropriately cherished and prized, as being all useful and valuable in their places. This sentiment he now illustrates 1Co. 12:12-27 by a beautiful similitude taken from the mutual dependence of the various parts of the human body. The human body is one, and yet is composed of various members and parts that all unite harmoniously in one whole.
Being many – Or, although they are many; or while they are in some respects separate, and perform distinct and different functions, yet they all unite in one harmonious whole.
So also is Christ – The church is represented as the body of Christ 1Co_12:27, meaning that it is one, and that he sustains to it the relation of Head; compare Eph_1:22-23. As the “head” is the most important part of the body, it may be put for the whole body; and the name “Christ” here, the head of the church, is put for the whole body of which he is the head; and means here the Christian society, or the church. This figure, of a part for the whole, is one that is common in all languages; see the note at Rom_12:4-5.
13.For we are all baptized by one Spirit.Here there is a proof brought forward from the effect of baptism. “We are,” says he, “engrafted by baptism into Christ’s body, so that we are by a mutual link bound together as members, and live one and the same life. Hence every one, that would remain in the Church of Christ, must necessarily cultivate this fellowship.” He speaks, however, of the baptism of believers, which is efficacious through the grace of the Spirit, for, in the case of many, baptism is merely in the letter — the symbol without the reality; but believers, along with the sacrament, receive the reality. Hence, with respect to God, this invariably holds good — that baptism is an engrafting into the body of Christ, for God in that ordinance does not represent anything but what he is prepared to accomplish, provided we are on our part capable of it. The Apostle, also, observes here a most admirable medium, in teaching that the nature of baptism is — to connect us with Christ’s body. Lest any one, however, should imagine, that this is effected by the outward symbol, he adds that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Whether Jews or Greeks.He specifies these instances, to intimate, that no diversity of condition obstructs that holy unity which he recommends. This clause, too, is added suitably and appropriately, for envy might at that time arise from two sources — because the Jews were not willing that the Gentiles should be put upon a level with them; and, where one had some excellence above others, with the view of maintaining his superiority, lie withdrew himself to a distance from his brethren.
We have all drunk in one Spirit.It is literally, “We have drunk into one Spirit,” but it would seem that, in order that the two words ἐν(in) and ἑν(one) might not immediately follow each other, Paul intentionally changed ἐν(in) into ἐις(into,) as he is accustomed frequently to do. Hence his meaning seems rather to be, that we are made to drink through the influence, as he had said before, of the Spirit of Christ, than that we have drunk into the same Spirit. It is uncertain, however, whether he speaks here of Baptism or of the Supper. I am rather inclined, however, to understand him as referring to the Supper, as he makes mention of drinking, for I have no doubt that he intended to make an allusion to the similitude of the sign. There is, however, no correspondence between drinking and baptism. Now, though the cup forms but the half of the Supper, there is no difficulty arising from that, for it is a common thing in Scripture to speak of the sacraments by synecdoche. Thus he mentioned above in the tenth chapter (1Co_10:17 ) simply the bread, making no mention of the cup. The meaning, therefore, will be this — that participation in the cup has an eye to this — that we drink, all of us, of the same cup. For in that ordinance we drink of the life-giving blood of Christ, that we may have life in common with him — which we truly have, when he lives in us by his Spirit. He teaches, therefore, that believers, so soon as they are initiated by the baptism of Christ, are already imbued with a desire of cultivating mutual unity, and then afterwards, when they receive the sacred Supper, they are again conducted by degrees to the same unity, as they are all refreshed at the same time with the same drink.
The apostle proveth the oneness of the church, as the body of Christ, from the same sacraments of the New Testament instituted for all Christians, and wherein they jointly partake. He saith, we are
baptized into one body, by which he must mean the universal church, for Christ is the Head of that; particular churches are but parts of that church, of which Christ is the Head. Let men be of what nation they will, whether Jews or Gentiles, turning to the Christian religion, and of what condition they will, when they are baptized they are by it made members of that one body, of which Christ is the Head; though for the more convenient administration of, and participation in, the ordinances, they are divided into smaller societies, which also have the denomination of churches; as the smallest drop of water may be called water, though there be but one element of water.
And, saith the apostle, we have been all made to drink into one Spirit; which some interpret as if it were, we have all drank of one Spirit, that is, been made partakers of one Spirit, whose benefits are, sometimes set out under the notion of water, living water, Joh_4:10,14 7:38,39; and so in the Old Testament, Isa_12:3 Eze_47:1-23. But many others choose rather to interpret drinking in this place, of drinking at the table of the Lord, partaking of that whole action being set out here by one particular act there performed. This is probable, considering that the apostle, in the former part of the verse, had been speaking of the other sacrament of the gospel, and that he, speaking of the Lord’s supper. 1Co_10:17, had used this expression: For we being many, are one bread, and one body.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized, etc. – As the body of man, though composed of many members, is informed and influenced by one soul; so the Church of Christ, which is his body, though composed of many members, is informed and influenced by one Spirit, the Holy Ghost; actuating and working by his spiritual body, as the human soul does in the body of man.
To drink into one Spirit – We are to understand being made partakers of the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost agreeably to the words of our Lord, Joh_7:37, etc.: If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink: this he spake of the Spirit which they that believed on him should receive.
On this verse there is a great profusion of various readings, which may be found in Griesbach, but cannot be conveniently noticed here.
For by one Spirit – That is, by the agency or operation of the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, we have been united into one body. The idea here is the same as that presented above 1Co_12:7, 1Co_12:11, by which all the endowments of Christians are traced to the same Spirit. Paul here says, that that Spirit had so endowed them as to fit them to constitute one body, or to be united in one, and to perform the various duties which resulted from their union in the same Christian church. The idea of its having been done by one and the same Spirit is kept up and often presented, in order that the endowments conferred on them might be duly appreciated.
Are we all – Every member of the church, whatever may be his rank or talents, has received his endowments from the same Spirit.
Baptized into one body – Many suppose that there is reference here to the ordinance of baptism by water. But the connection seems rather to require us to understand it of the baptism of the Holy Spirit Mat_3:11; and if so, it means, that by the agency of the Holy Spirit, they had all been suited, each to his appropriate place, to constitute the body of Christ – the church. If, however, it refers to the ordinance of baptism, as Bloomfield, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. suppose, then it means, that by the very profession of religion as made at baptism, by there being but one baptism Eph_4:5, they had all professedly become members of one and the same body. The former interpretation, however, seems to me best to suit the connection.
Whether we be Jews or Gentiles – There is no difference. All are on a level. In regard to the grand point, no distinction is made, whatever may have been our former condition of life.
Bond or free – It is evident that many who were slaves were converted to the Christian faith. Religion, however, regarded all as on a level; and conferred no favors on the free which it did not on the slave. It was one of the happy lessons of Christianity, that it taught people that in the great matters pertaining to their eternal interests they were on the same level. This doctrine would tend to secure, more than anything else could, the proper treatment of those who were in bondage, and of those who were in humble ranks of life. At the same time it would not diminish, but would increase their real respect for their masters, and for those who were above them, if they regarded them as fellow Christians, and destined to the same heaven; see the note at 1Co_7:22.
And have been all made to drink … – This probably refers to their partaking together of the cup in the Lord’s Supper. The sense is, that by their drinking of the same cup commemorating the death of Christ, they had partaken of the same influences of the Holy Spirit, which descend alike on all who observe that ordinance in a proper manner. They had shown also, that they belonged to the same body, and were all united together; and that however various might be their graces and endowments, yet they all belonged to the same great family.
18.But now God hath placed.Here we have another argument, taken from the appointment of God. “It has pleased God, that the body should consist of various members, and that the members should be endowed with various offices and gifts. That member, therefore, which will not rest satisfied with its own station, will wage war with God after the manner of the giants. Let us, therefore, be subject to the arrangement which God has appointed, that we may not, to no purpose, resist his will.”
The infinitely wise God, who hath made the body of man, and ordered all the members of the body for several uses and offices, either for the upholding or accommodating the life of man, hath likewise appointed the order in the body in which every member shall stand; that the head should be uppermost for the better guidance of the whole body; the feet lowermost to tread upon the earth, and to bear the weight of the whole body: and none must repine at the wisdom of God, which hath not only created man’s body, (consisting of a variety of members), but also appointed every member its place, and there setteth it, that it cannot shift its station or office.
19.If all were one member He means, that God has not acted at random, or without good reason, in assigning different gifts to the members of the body; but because it was necessary that it should be so, for the preservation of the body; for if this symmetry were taken away, there would be utter confusion and derangement. Hence we ought to submit ourselves the more carefully to the providence of God, which has so suitably arranged everything for our common advantage. One member is taken here to mean a mass, that is all of one shape, and not distinguished by any variety; for if God were to fashion our body into a mass of this kind, it would be a useless heap.
And if all were one member – If there were nothing but an eye, an ear, or a limb, there would be no body The idea which this seems intended to illustrate is, that if there was not variety of talent and endowment in the church, the church could not itself exist. If, for example, there were nothing but apostles, or prophets, or teachers; if there were none but those who spoke with tongues or could interpret them, the church could not exist. A variety of talents and attainments in their proper places is as useful as are the various members of the human body.
One member (hen melos). Paul applies the logic of 1Co_12:17 to any member of the body. The application to members of the church is obvious. It is particularly pertinent in the case of a “church boss.”
27.But ye are the body of Christ Hence what has been said respecting the nature and condition of the human body must be applied to us; for we are not a mere civil society, but, being ingrafted into Christ’s body, are truly members one of another. Whatever, therefore, any one of us has, let him know that it has been given him for the edification of his brethren in common; and let him, accordingly, bring it forward, and not keep it back — buried, as it were, within himself, or make use of it as his own. Let not the man, who is endowed with superior gifts, be puffed up with pride, and despise others; but let him consider that there is nothing so diminutive as to be of no use — as, in truth, even the least among the pious brings forth fruit, according to his slender capacity, so that there is no useless member in the Church. Let not those who are not endowed with so much honor, envy those above them, or refuse to do their duty to them, but let them maintain the station in which they have been placed. Let there be mutual affection, mutual fellow-feeling, (συμπάθεια,) mutual concern. Let us have a regard to the common advantage, in order that we may not destroy the Church by malignity, or envy, or pride, or any disagreement; but may, on the contrary, every one of us, strive to the utmost of his power to preserve it. Here is a large subject, and a magnificent one; but I content myself with having pointed out the way in which the above similitude must be applied to the Church.
Members severally. Chrysostom is of opinion, that this clause is added, because the Corinthians were not the universal Church; but this appears to me rather forced. I have sometimes thought that it was expressive of impropriety, as the Latins say Quodammodo, (in a manner.) When, however, I view the whole matter more narrowly, I am rather disposed to refer it to that division of members of which he had made mention. They are then members severally, according as each one has had his portion and definite work assigned him. The context itself leads us to this meaning. In this way severally, and as a whole, will be opposite terms.
Now ye are the body of Christ – The apostle, having finished his apologue, comes to his application.
As the members in the human body, so the different members of the mystical body of Christ. All are intended by him to have the same relation to each other; to be mutually subservient to each other; to mourn for and rejoice with each other. He has also made each necessary to the beauty, proportion, strength, and perfection of the whole. Not one is useless; not one unnecessary. Paul, Apollos, Kephas, etc., with all their variety of gifts and graces, are for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, Eph_4:12. Hence no teacher should be exalted above or opposed to an other. As the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee, so luminous Apollos cannot say to laborious Paul, I can build up and preserve the Church without thee. The foot planted on the ground to support the whole fabric, and the hands that swing at liberty, and the eye that is continually taking in near and distant prospects, are all equally serviceable to the whole, and mutually helpful to and dependent on each other. So also are the different ministers and members of the Church of Christ.
From a general acquaintance with various ministers of Christ, and a knowledge of their different talents and endowments manifested either by their preaching or writings, and with the aid of a little fancy, we could here make out a sort of correspondency between their services and the uses of the different members of the human body. We could call one eye, because of his acute observation of men and things, and penetration into cases of conscience and Divine mysteries. Another hand, from his laborious exertions in the Church. Another foot, from his industrious travels to spread abroad the knowledge of Christ crucified: and so of others. But this does not appear to be any part of the apostle’s plan.
Now ye – Ye Christians of Corinth, as a part of the whole church that has been redeemed.
Are the body of Christ – The allusion to the human body is here kept up. As all the members of the human body compose one body, having a common head, so it is with all the members and parts of the Christian church. The specific idea is, that Christ is the Head of the whole church; that he presides over all; and that all its members sustain to each other the relation of fellow-members in the same body, and are subject to the same head; compare the note at 1Co_11:3. The church is often called the body of Christ; Eph_1:23; Col_1:18, Col_1:24.
And members in particular – You are, as individuals, members of the body of Christ; or each individual is a member of that body.
He has in the beginning of the chapter spoken of gifts: now he begins to treat of offices, and this order it is proper that we should carefully observe. For the Lord did not appoint ministers, without first endowing them with the requisite gifts, and qualifying them for discharging their duty. Hence we must infer, that those are fanatics, and actuated by an evil spirit, who intrude themselves into the Church, while destitute of the necessary qualifications, as many boast that they are under the influence of the Spirit, and glory in a secret call from God, while in the meantime they are unlearned and utterly ignorant. The natural order, on the other hand, is this — that gifts come before the office to be discharged. As, then, he has taught above, that everything that an individual has received from God, should be made subservient to the common good, so now he declares that offices are distributed in such a manner, that all may together, by united efforts, edify the Church, and each individual according to his measure.
28. First, Apostles He does not enumerate all the particular kinds, and there was no need of this, for he merely intended to bring forward some examples. In the fourth Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Eph_4:11,) there is a fuller enumeration of the offices, that are required for the continued government of the Church. The reason of this I shall assign there, if the Lord shall permit me to advance so far, though even there he does not make mention of them all. As to the passage before us, we must observe, that of the offices which Paul makes mention of, some are perpetual, others temporary. Those that are perpetual, are such as are necessary for the government of the Church; those that are temporary, are such as were appointed at the beginning for the founding of the Church, and the raising up of Christ’s kingdom; and these, in a short time afterwards, ceased.
To the first class belongs the office of Teacher, to the second the office of Apostle; for the Lord created the Apostles, that they might spread the gospel throughout the whole world, and he did not assign to each of them certain limits or parishes, but would have them, wherever they went, to discharge the office of ambassadors among all nations and languages. In this respect there is a difference between them and Pastors, who are, in a manner, tied to their particular churches. For the Pastor has not a commission to preach the gospel over the whole world, but to take care of the Church that has been committed to his charge. In his Epistle to the Ephesians he places Evangelists after the Apostles, but here he passes them over; for from the highest order, he passes immediately to Prophets.
By this term he means, (in my opinion,) not those who were endowed with the gift of prophesying, but those who were endowed with a peculiar gift, not merely for interpreting Scripture, but also for applying it wisely for present use. My reason for thinking so is this, that he prefers prophecy to all other gifts, on the ground of its yielding more edification — a commendation that would not be applicable to the predicting of future events. Farther, when he describes the office of Prophet, or at least treats of what he ought principally to do, he says that he must devote himself to consolation, exhortation, and doctrine. Now these are things that are distinct from prophesyings. Let us, then, by Prophets in this passage understand, first of all, eminent interpreters of Scripture, and farther, persons who are endowed with no common wisdom and dexterity in taking a right view of the present necessity of the Church, that they may speak suitably to it, and in this way be, in a manner, ambassadors to communicate the divine will.
Between them and Teachers this difference may be pointed out, that the office of Teacher consists in taking care that sound doctrines be maintained and propagated, in order that the purity of religion may be kept up in the Church. At the same time, even this term is taken in different senses, and here perhaps it is used rather in the sense of Pastor, unless you prefer, it may be, to take it in a general way for all that are endowed with the gift of teaching, as in Act_13:1, where also Luke conjoins them with Prophets. My reason for not agreeing with those who make the whole of the office of Prophet consist in the interpretation of Scripture, is this — that Paul restricts the number of those who ought to speak, to two or three; (1Co_14:29,) which would not accord with a bare interpretation of Scripture. In fine, my opinion is this — that the Prophets here spoken of are those who make known the will of God, by applying with dexterity and skill prophecies, threatenings, promises, and the whole doctrine of Scripture, to the present use of the Church. If any one is of a different opinion, I have no objection to his being so, and will not raise any quarrel on that account. For it is difficult to form a judgment as to gifts and offices of which the Church has been so long deprived, excepting only that there are some traces, or shadows of them still to be seen.
As to powers and gift of healings, I have spoken when commenting on the 12th Chapter of the Romans. Only it must be observed that here he makes mention, not so much of the gifts themselves, as of the administration of them. As the Apostle is here enumerating offices, I do not approve of what Chrysostom says, that ἀντιλήψεις, that is, helps or aids, consist in supporting the weak. What is it then? Undoubtedly, it is either an office, as well as gift, that was exercised in ancient times, but of which we have at this day no knowledge whatever; or it is connected with the office of Deacon, or in other words, the care of the poor; and this latter idea pleases me better. In Rom_12:7, he makes mention of two kinds of deacons. Of these I have treated when commenting upon that passage.
By Governments I understand Elders, who had the charge of discipline. For the primitive Church had its Senate, for the purpose of keeping the people in propriety of deportment, as Paul shows elsewhere, when he makes mention of two kinds of Presbyters. (1Ti_5:17.) Hence government consisted of those Presbyters who excelled others in gravity, experience, and authority.
Under different kinds of tongue she comprehends both the knowledge of languages, and the gift of interpretation. They were, however, two distinct gifts; because in some cases an individual spoke in different languages, and yet did not understand the language of the Church with which he had to do. This defect was supplied by interpreters.
The apostle, Eph_4:11, seemeth to make a different enumeration; there he saith: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. He mentioneth here only three of those there mentioned, viz. apostles, prophets, teachers. He reckoneth up there evangelists, whom be doth not here mention. He here first mentioneth apostles, by whom he meaneth those servants of God who were sent out by Christ to lay the first foundations of the gospel church, and upon whom a universal care lay over all the churches of Christ, having not only a power in all places to preach and administer the sacraments, but to give rules of order, and direct in matters of government; though particular churches had a power of government within themselves, otherwise the apostle would not have blamed this church for not casting out the incestuous person.
Prophets signify persons (as I have before noted) that revealed the mind and will of God to people, whether it were by an extraordinary impulse and revelations or in an ordinary course of teaching; whether they revealed things to come, or opened the mind and will of God already revealed. But in this text, and in Eph_4:11, prophets seem to signify, either such as from the Spirit of God foretold future contingencies, (such was Agabus, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, and others in the primitive church), or else such as interpreted Scripture by extraordinary and immediate revelation. Some think that prophets signify the ordinary pastors of churches; but they seem rather to be comprehended under the next term of teachers, unless we had better grounds than we have to distinguish between pastors and teachers, making the work of the teacher to speak by way of doctrine and explication, and the work of the pastor to speak practically.
Thirdly teachers: some by these understand governors of schools; others, such ministers whose work was only to expound the Scriptures, or the mysteries of salvation: but the apostle, in this enumeration, (which is the largest we have in Scripture), not mentioning pastors, it seemeth to me that he means the fixed and ordinary ministers of churches, or the elders, whom the apostles left in every city, which by their ministry had received the gospel.
After that miracles; after that such as he empowered to work miraculous operations, and those of more remarkable nature, for otherwise the healings next mentioned come under that notion also.
Then gifts of healings; then such persons as he gave a power to in an extraordinary way to heal the sick. Who the apostle means by helps, and by governments, is very hard to determine. Certain it is, that he doth not mean the civil magistrates; for the time was not yet come for kings to be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers to the gospel church. But whether he meaneth deacons, or widows, elsewhere mentioned, as helpful in the case of the poor, or some that assisted the pastors in the government of the church, or some that were extraordinary helps to the apostles in the first plantation of the church, is very hard to determine.
Diversities of tongues; such as spake with divers tongues, that faculty being a gift, as we heard before, not given to all, but to some in the primitive church. The apostle, by this enumeration, showeth what he meant by those diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and diversities of operations, of which he spake in 1Co_12:4-6.
God hath set some in the Church – As God has made evident distinctions among the members of the human body, so that some occupy a more eminent place than others, so has he in the Church. And to prove this, the apostle numerates the principal offices, and in the order in which they should stand.
First, apostles – Αποστολους, from απο from, and στελλο, I send; to send from one person to another, and from one place to another. Persons immediately designated by Christ, and sent by him to preach the Gospel to all mankind.
Secondarily, prophets – Προφητας, from προ, before, and φημι, I speak; a person who, under Divine inspiration, predicts future events; but the word is often applied to these who preach the Gospel. See on 1Co_12:8 (note).
Thirdly, teachers – Διδασκαλους, from διδασκω, I teach; persons whose chief business it was to instruct the people in the elements of the Christian religion, and their duty to each other. See on Rom_8:8 (note).
Miracles – Δυναμεις· Persons endued with miraculous gifts, such as those mentioned Mar_16:17, Mar_16:18; casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, etc. See on 1Co_12:8 (note), and at the end of the chapter, (1Co_12:31 (note))
Gifts of healings – Χαρισματα ιαματων· Such as laying hands upon the sick, and healing them, Mar_16:18; which, as being one of the most beneficent miraculous powers, was most frequently conceded. See on 1Co_12:8 (note).
Helps – Αντιληψεις. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that these were the apostles’ helpers; persons who accompanied them, baptized those who were converted by them, and were sent by them to such places as they could not attend to, being otherwise employed.
The Levites are termed by the Talmudists helps of the priests. The word occurs Luk_1:54; Rom_8:26.
Governments – Κυβερνησεις. Dr. Lightfoot contends that this word does not refer to the power of ruling, but to the case of a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, who is profoundly wise and prudent; and he thinks that it implies the same as discernment of spirits, 1Co_12:8 (note). He has given several proofs of this use of the word in the Septuagint.
Diversities of tongues – Γενη γλωσσων· Kinds of tongues; that is, different kinds. The power to speak, on all necessary occasions, languages which they had not learned. See on 1Co_12:8 (note).
And God hath set – That is, has appointed, constituted, ordained. He has established these various orders or ranks in the church. The apostle, having illustrated the main idea that God had conferred various endowments on the members of the church, proceeds here to specify particularly what he meant, and to refer more directly to the various ranks which existed in the church.
Some in the church – The word “some,” in this place ους hous, seems to mean rather whom, “and whom God hath placed in the church,” or, they whom God hath constituted in the church in the manner above mentioned are, first, apostles, etc.
First, apostles – In the first rank or order; or as superior in honor and in office. He has given them the highest authority in the church; he has more signally endowed them and qualified them than he has others.
Secondarily, prophets – As second in regard to endowments and importance. For the meaning of the word “prophets,” see the note on Rom_12:6.
Thirdly, teachers – As occupying the third station in point of importance and valuable endowments. On the meaning of this word, and the nature of this office, see the note on Rom_12:7.
After that, miracles – Power. (δυναμεις dunameis). Those who had the power of working miracles; referred to in 1Co_12:10.
Then gifts of healing – The power of healing those who were sick; see note on 1Co_12:9; compare Jam_5:14-15.
Helps – (αντιλημψεις antilempseis). This word occurs no where else in the New Testament. It is derived from αντιλαμβάνω antilambano, and denotes properly, “aid, assistance, help;” and then those who render aid, assistance, or help; helpers. Who they were is not known. They might have been those to whom was entrusted the care of the poor, and the sick, and strangers, widows, and orphans, etc.; that is, those who performed the office of deacons. Or they may have been those who attended on the apostles to aid them in their work, such as Paul refers to in Rom_16:3. “Greet Priscilla, and Aquilla, my “helpers” in Christ Jesus;” and in 1Co_12:9,” Salute Urbane our helper in Christ;” see note on Rom_16:3. It is not possible, perhaps, to determine the precise meaning of the word, or the nature of the office which they discharged; but the word means, in general, those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church, to the care of the poor, the distribution of charity and alms, or to the instruction of the ignorant, or to aid rendered directly to the apostles. There is no evidence that it refers to a distinct and “permanent” office in the church; but may refer to aid rendered by any class in any way. Probably many persons were profitably and usefully employed in various ways as aids in promoting the temporal or spiritual welfare of the church.
Governments – (κυβερνησεις kuberneseis). This word is derived from κυβεριαω kuberiao, “to govern;” and is usually applied to the government or “steering” of a ship. The word occurs no where else in the New Testament, though the word κυβερνητης kubernetes (“governor”) occurs in Act_27:11, rendered “master,” and in Rev_18:17, rendered “shipmaster.” It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is here intended. Doddridge, in accordance with Amyraut, supposes that distinct offices may not be here referred to, but that the same persons may be denoted in these expressions as being distinguished in various ways; that is, that the same persons were called helpers in reference to their skill in aiding those who were in distress, and governments in regard to their talent for doing business, and their ability in presiding in councils for deliberation, and in directing the affairs of the church.
There is no reason to think that the terms here used referred to permanent and established ranks and orders in the ministry and in the church; or in permanent offices which were to continue to all times as an essential part of its organization. It is certain that the “order” of “apostles” has ceased, and also the “order” of “miracles,” and the order of “healings,” and of “diversity of tongues.” And it is certain that in the use of these terms of office, the apostle does not affirm that they would be permanent, and essential to the very existence of the church; and from the passage before us, therefore, it cannot be argued that there was to be an order of men in the church who were to be called “helps,” or “governments.” The truth probably was, that the circumstances of the primitive churches required the aid of many persons in various capacities which might not be needful or proper in other times and circumstances.
Whether, therefore, this is to be regarded as a permanent arrangement that there should be “governments” in the church, or an order of men entrusted with the sole office of governing, is to be learned not from this passage, but from other parts of the New Testament. Lightfoot contends that the word which is used here and translated “governments” does not refer to the power of ruling, but to a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, one who is wise and prudent; and in this view Mesheim, Macknight, and Horsley coincide. Calvin refers it to the elders to whom the exercise of discipline was entrusted. Grotius understands it of the pastors Eph_4:1, or of the elders who presided over particular churches; Rom_12:8. Locke supposes that they were the same as those who had the power of discerning spirits. The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government; but whether this refers to a permanent office, or to the fact that some were specially qualified by their wisdom and prudence, and in virtue of this usually regulated or directed the affairs of the church by giving counsel, etc., or whether they were “selected” and appointed for this purpose for a time; or whether it refers to the same persons who might also have exercised other functions, and this in addition, cannot be determined from the passage before us. All that is clear is, that there were those who administered government in the church. But the passage does not determine the form, or manner; nor does it prove – whatever may be true – that such an office was to be permanent in the church.
(There can be little doubt that the κυβερνησεις kuberneseis, or governments, refer to offices of rule and authority in the church. Two things, therefore, are plain from this text:
1.That in the primitive church there were rulers distinct from the people or church members, to whom these were bound to yield obedience.
2. That these rulers were appointed of God. “God set them in the church.” As to the question of “permanence,” on which our author thinks this passage affirms nothing: a distinction must be made between these offices which were obviously of an extraordinary kind, and which therefore must cease; and those of an ordinary kind, which are essential to the edification of the church in all ages. “The universal commission which the apostles received from their Master to make disciples of all nations, could not be permanent as to the extent of it, because it was their practice to ordain elders in every city, and because the course of human affairs required, that after Christianity was established, the teachers of it should officiate in particular places. The infallible guidance of the Spirit was not promised in the same measure to succeeding teachers. But being, in their case, vouched by the power of working miracles, it directed the Christians of their day, to submit implicitly to their injunctions and directions; and it warrants the Christian world, in all ages, to receive with entire confidence, that system of faith and morality which they were authorised to deliver in the name of Christ. But as all protestants hold that this system was completed when the canon of scripture was closed – it is admitted by them, that a great part of the apostolical powers ceased with those to whom Jesus first committed them.
Amongst the “ordinary” functions belonging to their office as teachers, are to be ranked not only preaching the word, and dispensing the sacraments, but also that rule and government over Christians as such, which is implied in the idea of the church as a society” – Hill’s Lectures, vol. ii, p. 479. Now, though these extraordinary offices and functions have ceased with the age of the apostles, and of miraculous influence; it by no means follows, that the ordinary offices of teaching and ruling have ceased also. What was plainly of a “peculiar kind,” and could not possibly be “imitated” after the withdrawment of miraculous power, is quite distinct from that which, not depending on such power, is suited to the condition of the church always. Proceeding on any other principle, we should find it impossible to argue at all on what ought to be the constitution of the church, from any hints we find in the New Testament. What is extraordinary cannot be permanent, but what is ordinary must be so. See the supplementary note on 1Co_5:4.)
Diversities of tongues – Those endowed with the power of speaking various languages; see the note on 1Co_12:10.
29.Are all Apostles? It may indeed have happened, that one individual was endowed with many gifts, and sustained two of the offices which he has enumerated; nor was there in this any inconsistency. Paul’s object, however, is to show in the first place, that no one has such a fullness in everything as to have a sufficiency within himself, and not require the aid of others; and secondly, that offices as well as gifts are distributed in such a manner that no one member constitutes the whole body, but each contributing his portion to the common advantage, they then altogether constitute an entire and perfect body. For Paul means here to take away every occasion of proud boasting, base envyings, haughtiness, and contempt of the brethren, malignity, ambition, and everything of that nature.
Are all apostles? … – These questions imply, with strong emphasis, that it could not be, and ought not to be, that there should be perfect equality of endowment. It was not a matter of fact that all were equal, or that all were qualified for the offices which others sustained. Whether the arrangement was approved of or not, it was a simple matter of fact that some were qualified to perform offices which others were not; that some were endowed with the abilities requisite to the apostolic office, and others not; that some were endowed with prophetic gifts, and others were not; that some had the gift of healing, or the talent of speaking different languages, or of interpreting and that others had not.
31.Seek after the more excellent gifts.It might also be rendered — Value highly; and it would not suit in with the passage, though it makes little difference as to the meaning; for Paul exhorts the Corinthians to esteem and desire those gifts especially, which are most conducive to edification. For this fault prevailed among them — that they aimed at show, rather than usefulness. Hence prophecy was neglected, while languages sounded forth among them, with great show, indeed, but with little profit. He does not, however, address individuals, as though he wished that every one should aspire at prophecy, or the office of teacher; but simply recommends to them a desire to promote edification, that they may apply themselves the more diligently to those things that are most conducive to edification.
But covet earnestly – To covet signifies to desire earnestly. This disposition towards heavenly things is highly laudable; towards earthly things, is deeply criminal. A man may possess the best of all these gifts, and yet be deficient in what is essentially necessary to his salvation, for he may be without that love or charity which the apostle here calls the more excellent way, and which he proceeds in the next chapter to describe.
Some think that this verse should be read affirmatively, Ye earnestly contend about the best gifts; but I show unto you a more excellent way; i.e. get your hearts filled with love to God and man – love, which is the principle of obedience, which works no ill to its neighbor, and which is the fulfilling of the law. This is a likely reading, for there were certainly more contentions in the Church of Corinth about the gifts than about the graces of the Spirit.
1. After all that has been said on the different offices mentioned by the apostle in the preceding chapter, there are some of them which perhaps are not understood. I confess I scarcely know what to make of those which we translate helps and governments. Bishop Pearce, who could neither see Church government nor state government in these words, expresses himself thus: “These two words, after all that the commentators say about them, I do not understand; and in no other part of the New Testament is either of them, in any sense, mentioned as the gift of the Spirit; especially it is observable that in 1Co_12:29, 1Co_12:30, where the gifts of the Spirit are again enumerated, no notice is taken of any thing like them, while all the other several parts are exactly enumerated. Perhaps these words were put in the margin to explain δυναμεις, miracles or powers; some taking the meaning to be helps, assistances, as in 2Co_12:9; others to be κυβερνησεις, governments, as in Rom_8:38; and from being marginal explanations, they might have been at last incorporated with the text.” It must, however, be acknowledged that the omission of these words is not countenanced by any MS. or version. One thing we may fully know, that there are some men who are peculiarly qualified for governing by either providence or grace; and that there are others who can neither govern nor direct, but are good helpers. These characters I have often seen in different places in the Church of God.
2. In three several places in this chapter the apostle sums up the gifts of the Spirit. Dr. Lightfoot thinks they answer to each other in the following order, which the reader will take on his authority.
Verses 8, 9, and 10
The word of Wisdom;
The word of Knowledge.
Gifts of Healing.
Working of Miracles;
Discerning of Spirits;
Divers kinds of Tongues;
Interpretation of Tongues.
God hath set some
After that, Miracles;
The Gifts of Healings;
Divers kinds of Tongues.
Verses 29, and 30
Are all Apostles;
Gifts of Healing.
Speak with Tongues;
If the reader think that this is the best way of explaining these different gifts and offices, he will adopt it; and he will in that case consider,
1. That the word or doctrine of wisdom comes from the apostles.
2. The doctrine of knowledge, from the prophets.
3. Faith, by means of the teachers.
4. That working of miracles includes the gifts of healing.
5. That to prophecy, signifying preaching, which it frequently does, helps is a parallel.
6. That discernment of spirits is the same with governments, which Dr. Lightfoot supposes to imply a deeply comprehensive, wise, and prudent mind.
7. As to the gift of tongues, there is no variation in either of the three places.
3. It is strange that in this enumeration only three distinct officers in the Church should be mentioned; viz. apostles, prophets, and teachers. We do not know that miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, and diversity of tongues, were exclusive offices; for it is probable that apostles, prophets, and teachers wrought miracles occasionally, and spoke with divers tongues. However, in all this enumeration, where the apostle gives us all the officers and gifts necessary for the constitution of a Church, we find not one word of bishops, presbyters, or deacons; much less of the various officers and offices which the Christian Church at present exhibits. Perhaps the bishops are included under the apostles, the presbyters under the prophets, and the deacons under the teachers. As to the other ecclesiastical officers with which the Romish Church teems, they may seek them who are determined to find them, any where out of the New Testament.
4. Mr. Quesnel observes on these passages that there are three sorts of gifts necessary to the forming Christ’s mystical body.
1. Gifts of power, for the working of miracles, in reference to the Father.
2. Gifts of labor and ministry, for the exercise of government and other offices, with respect to the Son.
3. Gifts of knowledge, for the instruction of the people, with relation to the Holy Ghost.
The Father is the principle and end of all created power; let us then ultimately refer all things to him.
The Son is the Institutor and Head of all the hierarchical ministries; let us depend upon him.
The Holy Ghost is the fountain and fullness of all spiritual graces; let us desire and use them only in and by him.
There is nothing good, nothing profitable to salvation, unless it be done in the power of God communicated by Christ Jesus, and in that holiness of heart which is produced by his Spirit. Pastors are only the instruments of God, the depositaries of the authority of Christ, and the channels by whom the love and graces of the Spirit are conveyed. Let these act as receiving all from God by Christ, through the Holy Ghost; and let the Church receive them as the ambassadors of the Almighty.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
covet earnestly — Greek, “emulously desire.” Not in the spirit of discontented “coveting.” The Spirit “divides to every man severally as He will” (1Co_12:1); but this does not prevent men earnestly seeking, by prayer and watchfulness, and cultivation of their faculties, the greatest gifts. Beza explains, “Hold in the highest estimation”; which accords with the distinction in his view (1Co_14:1) between “follow after charity – zealously esteem spiritual gifts”; also with (1Co_12:11, 1Co_12:18) the sovereign will with which the Spirit distributes the gifts, precluding individuals from desiring gifts not vouchsafed to them. But see on 1Co_14:1.
the best gifts — Most of the oldest manuscripts read, “the greatest gifts.”
and yet — Greek, “and moreover.” Besides recommending your zealous desire for the greatest gifts, I am about to show you a something still more excellent (literally, “a way most way-like”) to desire, “the way of love” (compare 1Co_14:1). This love, or “charity,” includes both “faith” and “hope” (1Co_13:7), and bears the same fruits (1Co_13:1-13) as the ordinary and permanent fruits of the Spirit (Gal_5:22-24). Thus “long-suffering,” compare 1Co_12:4; “faith,” 1Co_12:7; “joy,” 1Co_12:6; “meekness,” 1Co_12:5; “goodness,” 1Co_12:5; “gentleness,” 1Co_12:4 (the Greek is the same for “is kind”). It is the work of the Holy Spirit, and consists in love to God, on account of God’s love in Christ to us, and as a consequence, love to man, especially to the brethren in Christ (Rom_5:5; Rom_15:30). This is more to be desired than gifts (Luk_10:20).
But covet earnestly – Greek “Be zealous for” Ζηλοῦτε Zēloute. This word, however, may be either in the indicative mood (ye do covet earnestly), or in the imperative, as in our translation. Doddridge contends that it should be rendered in the indicative mood, for he says it seems to be a contradiction that after the apostle had been showing that these gifts were not at their own option, and that they ought not to emulate the gifts of another, or aspire to superiority, to undo all again, and give them such contrary advice. The same view is given by Locke, and so Macknight. The Syriac renders it, “Because you are zealous of the best gifts, I will show to you a more excellent way.” But there is no valid objection to the common translation in the imperative, and indeed the connection seems to demand it. Grotius renders it, “Pray to God that you may receive from him the best, that is, the most useful endowments.”
The sense seems to be this, “I have proved that all endowments in the church are produced by the Holy Spirit; and that he confers them as he pleases. I have been showing that no one should be proud or elated on account of extraordinary endowments; and that, on the other hand, no one should he depressed, or sad, or discontented, because he has a more humble rank. I have been endeavoring to repress and subdue the spirit of discontent, jealousy, and ambition; and to produce a willingness in all to occupy the station where God has placed you. But, I do not intend to deny that it is proper to desire the most useful endowments; that a man should wish to be brought under the influence of the Spirit, and qualified for eminent usefulness. I do not mean to say that it is wrong for a man to regard the higher gifts of the Spirit as valuable and desirable, if they may be obtained; nor that the spirit which seeks to excel in spiritual endowments and in usefulness, is improper.
Yet all cannot be apostles; all cannot be prophets. I would not have you, therefore, seek such offices, and manifest a spirit of ambition. I would seek to regulate the desire which I would not repress as improper; and in order to that, I would show you that, instead of aspiring to offices and extraordinary endowments which are beyond your grasp, there is a way, more truly valuable, that is open to you all, and where all may excel.” Paul thus endeavors to give a practicable and feasible turn to the whole subject, and further to repress the longings of ambition and the contentions of strife, by exciting emulation to obtain that which was accessible to them all, and “which, just in the proportion in which it was obtained,” would repress discontent, and strife, and ambition, and produce order, and peace, and contentedness with their endowments and their lot, the main thing which he was desirous of producing in this chapter. This, therefore, is one of the “happy turns” in which the writings of Paul abounds. He did not denounce their zeal as wicked. He did not attempt at once to repress it. He did not say that it was wrong to desire high endowments. But he showed them an endowment which was more valuable than all the others; which was accessible to all; and which, if possessed, would make them contented, and produce the harmonious operation of all the parts of the church. That endowment was love.
A more excellent way – See the next chapter. “I will show you a more excellent way of evincing your “zeal” than by aspiring to the place of apostles, prophets, or rulers, and that is by cultivating universal charity or love.”
As he had previously exhorted them to follow after the more excellent gifts, (1Co_12:31,) so he exhorts them now to follow after love, for that was the distinguished excellence, which he had promised that he would show them. They will, therefore, regulate themselves with propriety in the use of gifts, if love prevails among them. For he tacitly reproves the want of love, as appearing in this — that they had hitherto abused their gifts, and, inferring from what goes before, that where they do not assign to love the chief place, they do not take the right road to the attainment of true excellence, he shows them how foolish their ambition is, which frustrates their hopes and desires.
1. Covet spiritual gifts.Lest the Corinthians should object that they wronged God, if they despised his gifts, the Apostle anticipates this objection by declaring, that it was not his design to draw them away even from those gifts that they had abused — nay rather he commends the pursuit of them, and wishes them to have a place in the Church. And assuredly, as they had been conferred for the advantage of the Church, man’s abuse of them ought not to give occasion for their being thrown away as useless or injurious, but in the meantime he commends prophecy above all other gifts, as it was the most useful of them all. He observes, therefore, an admirable medium, by disapproving of nothing that was useful, while at the same time he exhorts them not to prefer, by an absurd zeal, things of less consequence to what was of primary importance. Now he assigns the first place to prophecy. Covet, therefore, spiritual gifts —that is, “Neglect no gift, for I exhort you to seek after them all, provided only prophecy holds the first place.”
1 Cor 14:1
Follow after charity; that love to God and your brethren, concerning which I have been speaking so much, as preferable to all common gifts, follow that with your utmost diligence, as the persecutors follow you; for it is the same word that is ordinarily used to signify the violent prosecution of persecutors, though it be applied also to things which we ought eagerly to follow, Rom_9:31 14:19.
But rather that ye may prophesy; but rather, or principally that you may be able to reveal the mind and will of God unto others. Some think, by foretelling things to come; but that is not very probable, such an ability of prophesying being given but to few under the New Testament: it is therefore more probable, that he speaketh of an ability to open the Scriptures, either by immediate revelation, (as to which they could use no means but prayer and a holy life), or by ordinary meditation, and study of the Scriptures. For though the former species of prophesying, by prediction of future things, when the truth of it was justified by such prophecies’ accomplishment, was of great use to confirm the doctrine of the gospel; yet the latter was of greater and more general use for the good of others, which makes the apostle put them upon the coveting and earnest desire of that faculty or ability, because, of all others, it made them most eminently and generally useful to others, as well those within the church, as those without; and this the apostle expoundeth himself, 1Co_14:3.
Follow after charity – Most earnestly labor to be put in possession of that love which beareth, believeth, hopeth, and endureth all things. It may be difficult to acquire, and difficult to retain this blessed state, but it is essential to your present peace and eternal happiness. This clause belongs to the preceding chapter.
Desire spiritual gifts – Ye are very intent on getting those splendid gifts which may add to your worldly consequence, and please your carnal minds – but labor rather to get the gifts of God’s Spirit, by which ye may grow in grace, and be useful to others – and particularly desire that ye may prophesy – that ye may be able to teach and instruct others in the things of their salvation.
1Co 14:1 Follow after love – With zeal, vigour, courage, patience; else you can neither attain nor keep it. And – In their place, as subservient to this. Desire spiritual gifts; but especially that ye may prophesy – The word here does not mean foretelling things to come; but rather opening and applying the scripture.
Follow after charity – Pursue love 1Co_13:1; that is, earnestly desire it; strive to possess it; make it the object of your anxious and constant solicitude to obtain it, and to be influenced by it always. Cultivate it in your own hearts, as the richest and best endowment of the Holy Spirit, and endeavor to diffuse its happy influence on all around you.
And desire spiritual gifts – I do not forbid you, while you make the possession of love your great object, and while you do not make the desire of spiritual gifts the occasion of envy or strife, to desire the miraculous endowments of the Spirit and to seek to excel in those endowments which he imparts; see the note at 1Co_12:31. The main thing was to cultivate a spirit of love. Yet it was not improper also to desire to be so endowed as to promote their highest usefulness in the church. On the phrase “spiritual gifts,” see the note at 1Co_12:1.
But rather that ye may prophesy – But especially, or particularly desire to be qualified for the office of prophesying. The apostle does not mean to say that prophecy is to be preferred to love or charity; but that, of the spiritual gifts which it was proper for them to desire and seek, prophecy was the most valuable. That is, they were not most earnestly and especially to desire to be able to speak foreign languages or to work miracles; but they were to desire to be qualified to speak in a manner that would be edifying to the church. They would naturally, perhaps, most highly prize the power of working miracles and of speaking foreign languages. The object of this chapter is to show them that the ability to speak in a plain, clear, instructive manner, so as to edify the church and convince sinners, was a more valuable endowment than the power of working miracles, or the power of speaking foreign languages.
On the meaning of the word “prophesy,” see the note at Rom_11:6. To what is said there on the nature of this office, it seems necessary only to add an idea suggested by Prof. Robinson (Greek and English Lexicon, under the article, Προφητης Prophetes), that the prophets were distinguished from the teachers (διδασκαλοι didaskaloi), “in that, while the latter spoke in a calm, connected, didactic discourse adapted to instruct and enlighten the hearers, the prophet spoke more from the impulse of sudden inspiration, from the light of a sudden revelation at the moment (1Co_14:30, αποκαλυφθη apokalupthe), and his discourse was probably more adapted, by means of powerful exhortation, to awaken the feelings and conscience of the hearers.” The idea of speaking from “revelation,” he adds, seems to be fundamental to the correct idea of the nature of the prophecy here referred to. Yet the communications of the prophets were always in the vernacular tongue, and were always in intelligible language, and in this respect different from the endowments of those who spoke foreign languages.
The same truth might be spoken by both; the influence of the Spirit was equally necessary in both; both were inspired; and both answered important ends in the establishment and edification of the church. The gift of tongues, however, as it was the most striking and remarkable, and probably the most rare, was most highly prized and coveted. The object of Paul here is, to show that it was really an endowment of less value, and should be less desired by Christians than the gift of prophetic instruction, or the ability to edify the church in language intelligible and understood by all, under the immediate influences of the Holy Spirit.
39.Wherefore, brethren This is the conclusion in connection with the principal question — that prophecy is to be preferred to other gifts, because it is the most useful gift of all, while at the same time other gifts ought not to be despised. We must observe, however, his manner of speaking. For he intimates, that prophecy is worthy of being eagerly and ardently aspired at by all. In the meantime, he exhorts them not to envy others the rarer gift, which is not so much to be desired; nay more, to allow them the praise that is due to them, divesting themselves of all envy.
Covet to prophesy – Let it be your endeavor and prayer to be able to teach the way of God to the ignorant; this is the most valuable, because the most useful gift of the Spirit.
And forbid not to speak with tongues – Let every gift have its own place and operation; let none envy another; nor prevent him from doing that part of the work to which God, by giving the qualification, has evidently called him.
Covet to prophesy – See the note at 1Co_14:1. This is the “summing up” of all that he had said. It was “desirable” that a man should wish to be able to speak, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in such a manner as to edify the church.
And forbid not … – Do not suppose that the power of speaking foreign languages is useless, or is to be despised, or that it is to be prohibited. “In its own place” it is a valuable endowment; and on proper occasions the talent should be exercised; see in 1Co_14:22.
40.All things decently and in order: Here we have a more general conclusion, which does not merely include, in short compass, the entire case, but also the different parts. Nay farther, it is a rule by which we must regulate everything, that has to do with external polity. As he had discoursed, in various instances, as to rites, he wished to sum up everything here in a brief summary — that decorum should be observed — that confusion should be avoided. This statement shows, that he did not wish to bind consciences by the foregoing precepts, as if they were in themselves necessary, but only in so far as they were subservient to propriety and peace. Hence we gather (as I have said) a doctrine that is always in force, as to the purpose to which the polity of the Church ought to be directed. The Lord has left external rites in our choice with this view — that we may not think that his worship consists wholly in these things.
In the meantime, he has not allowed us a rambling and unbridled liberty, but has inclosed it (so to speak) with railings, or at least has laid a restriction upon the liberty granted by him in such a manner, that it is after all only from his word that we can judge as to what is right. This passage, therefore, when duly considered, will show the difference between the tyrannical edicts of the Pope, which oppress men’s consciences with a dreadful bondage, and the godly regulations of the Church, by which discipline and order are maintained. Nay farther, we may readily infer from this, that the latter are not to be looked upon as human traditions, inasmuch as they are founded upon this general injunction, and have a manifest approval, as it were, from the mouth of Christ himself.
Let all things be done decently – Ευσχημονως· In their proper forms; with becoming reverence; according to their dignity and importance, Every thing in the Church of God should be conducted with gravity and composure, suitable to the importance of the things, the infinite dignity of the object of worship, and the necessity of the souls in behalf of which those religious ordinances are instituted.
And in order – Κατα ταξιν· Every thing in its place, every thing in its time, and every thing suitably.
Let all things be done decently and in order, is a direction of infinite moment in all the concerns of religion, and of no small consequence in all the concerns of life. How much pain, confusion, and loss would be prevented, were this rule followed! There is scarcely an embarrassment in civil or domestic life that does not originate in a neglect of this precept. No business, trade, art, or science, can be carried on to any advantage or comfort, unless peculiar attention be paid to it. And as to religion, there can be absolutely none without it. Where decency and order are not observed in every part of the worship of God, no spiritual worship can be performed. The manner of doing a thing is always of as much consequence as the act itself. And often the act derives all its consequence and utility from the manner in which it is performed.
Let all things be done decently and in order – Let all things be done in an “appropriate” and “becoming” manner; “decorously,” as becomes the worship of God. Let all be done in “order, regularly;” without confusion, discord, tumult. The word used here (κατὰ τάξιν kata taxin) is properly a military term, and denotes the order and regularity with which an army is drawn up. This is a general rule, which was to guide them. It was simple, and easily applied. There might be a thousand questions started about the modes and forms of worship, and the customs in the churches, and much difficulty might occur in many of these questions; but here was a simple and plain rule, which might be easily applied. Their good sense would tell them what became the worship of God; and their pious feelings would restrain them from excesses and disorders. This rule is still applicable, and is safe in guiding us in many things in regard to the worship of God. There are many things which cannot be subjected to “rule,” or exactly prescribed; there are many things which may and must be left to pious feeling, to good sense, and to the views of Christians themselves, about what will promote their edification and the conversion of sinners. The rule in such questions is plain. Let all be done “decorously,” as becomes the worship of the great and holy God; let all be without confusion, noise, and disorder.
In view of this chapter, we may remark:
(1) That public worship should be in a language understood by the people; the language which they commonly employ. Nothing can be clearer than the sentiments of Paul on this. The whole strain of the chapter is to demonstrate this, in opposition to making use of a foreign and unintelligible language in any part of public worship. Paul specifics in the course of the discussion every part of public worship; “public preaching” 1Co_14:2-3, 1Co_14:5,1Co_14:13, 1Co_14:19; “prayer” 1Co_14:14-15; “singing” 1Co_14:15; and insists that all should be in a language that should be understood by the people. It would almost seem that he had anticipated the sentiments and practice of the Roman Catholic denomination. It is remarkable that a practice should have grown up, and have been defended, in a church professedly Christian, so directly in opposition to the explicit meaning of the New Testament. Perhaps there is not even in the Roman Catholic denomination, a more striking instance of a custom or doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible. If anything is plain and obvious, it is that worship, in order to be edifying, should be in a language that is understood by the people.
Nor can that service be accepable to God which is not understood by those who offer it; which conveys no idea to their minds, and which cannot, therefore, be the homage of the heart. Assuredly, God does not require the offering of unmeaningful words. Yet, this has been a grand device of the great enemy of man. It has contributed to keep the people in ignorance and superstition; it has prevented the mass of the people from seeing how utterly unlike the New Testament are the sentiments of the papists; and it has, in connection with the kindred doctrine that the Scripture should be withheld from the people, contributed to perpetuate that dark system, and to bind the human mind in chains. Well do the Roman Catholics know, that if the Bible were given to the people, and public worship conducted in a language which they could understand, the system would soon fall. It could not live in the midst of light. It is a system which lives and thrives only in darkness.
(2) preaching should be simple and intelligible. There is a great deal of preaching which might as well be in a foreign tongue as in the language which is actually employed. It is dry, abstruse, metaphysical, remote from the common manner of expression, and the common habits of thought among people. It may be suited to schools of philosophy, but it cannot be suited to the pulpit. The preaching of the Lord Jesus was simple, and intelligible even to a child. And nothing can be a greater error, than for the ministers of the gospel to adopt a dry and metaphysical manner of preaching. The most successful preachers have been those who have been most remarkable for their simplicity and clearness. Nor is simplicity and intelligibleness of manner inconsistent with bright thought and profound sentiments. A diamond is the most pure of all minerals; a river may be deep, and yet its water so pure that the bottom may be seen at a great depth; and glass in the window is most valuable the clearer and purer it is, when it is itself least seen, and when it gives no obstruction to the light. If the purpose is that the glass may be itself an ornament, it may be well to stain it; if to give light, it should be pure. A very shallow stream may be very muddy; and because the bottom cannot be seen, it is no evidence that it is deep. So it is with style. If the purpose is to convey thought, to enlighten and save the soul, the style should be plain, simple, pure. If it be to bewilder and confound, or to be admired as unintelligible, or perhaps as profound, then an abstruse and metaphysical, or a flowery manner may be adopted in the pulpit.
(3) we should learn to value “useful” talent more than that which is splendid and showy; 1Co_14:3. The whole scope of this chapter goes to demonstrate that we should more highly prize and desire that talent which may be “useful” to the church, or which may be useful in convincing unbelievers 1Co_14:24-25, than that which merely dazzles, or excites admiration. Ministers of the gospel who preach as they should do, engage in their work to win souls to Christ, not to induce them to admire eloquence; they come to teach people to adore the great and dreadful God, not to be loud in their praises of a mortal man.
(4) ministers of the gospel should not aim to be admired. They should seek to be useful. Their aim should not be to excite admiration of their acute and profound talent for reasoning; of their clear and striking power of observation; of their graceful manner; of their glowing and fervid eloquence; of the beauty of their words, or the eloquence of their well-turned periods. They should seek to build up the people of God in holy faith, and so to present truth as that it shall make a deep impression on mankind. No work is so important, and so serious in its nature and results, as the ministry of the gospel; and in no work on earth should there be more seriousness, simplicity, exactness, and correctness of statement, and invincible and unvarying adherence to simple and unvarnished truth. Of all places, the pulpit is the last, in which to seek to excite admiration, or where to display profound learning, or the powers of an abstract and subtle argumentation, “for the sake” of securing a reputation.