March 17, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40



Lesson 8.3: Exercise of the Gifts of the Spirit in the Church
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12.1-31

Part 3: The Church, Which Is the Body of Christ, Is Made Up Of Many, Having Different Gifts, 1 Corinthians 12.27-31

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.


Here in these final five verses the apostle sums up the argument, and as he does, he continues to illustrate it by pointing out how the natural body resembles the church of Christ—the relationship in which Christians stand to Christ and one another. The church, that is, the entire collective body of Christians, in all ages, is His body. Every Christian is a member of His body, and all other Christians are related to him since they are fellow-members.



Part 3: The Church, Which Is the Body of Christ, Is Made Up Of Many, Having Different Gifts, 1 Corinthians 12.27-31

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Now ye are the (see Note 1) body of Christ,
Paul did not mean that the Corinthian church was a member in the body of all the churches, but that each Christian is a member of the body of Christ. Not his natural body, which his Father prepared for him, in which he bore our sins on the tree, and which was offered up once for all; nor his sacramental body, or the bread in the Lord’s Supper, which is a representation of his body; but his body mystical, the church; not that the Corinthians were all of the body; they were only a part of it, as is every single congregational church of the universal church of Jesus Christ.

“Now ye” are those Christians who are members of the Corinthian Church. Paul declares they “Are the body of Christ”—the reference to the human body is continued here. The human body is like the Church in that all the members of the human body compose one body with a common head; likewise, all the members of the Christian Church compose one Body with Christ as the head. The specific idea is, that Christ is the Head of the entire church and that he presides over it; and that all its members maintain the relationship of fellow-members within the same body, and is dependent on the same head. The church is often called the Body of Christ; (see Ephesians 1:23, and Colossians 1:18).

What Paul has said with respect to the nature and condition of the human body must be applied to us, because we are not simply a civil society, but, we have been engrafted into Christ’s body, which places us into a special relationship with Jesus Christ and all who have been born again. In view of that relationship all members of the mystical Body should acknowledge that everything he has was given him for the edification of his brethren; therefore, he is obligated to use it, and not bury it within himself, or use it as his own. On the other hand, those who are endowed with superior gifts, must not be puffed up with pride, and lord it over others; but rather let all admit that there is no such thing as a small gift—every gift of God is important, and there are no useless members in the Church. Likewise, those who receive little recognition for their gifts should not envy those above them, or refuse to do their duty by them, but instead, they should stay in the position God has placed them.

 Ephesians 1:23 (NKJV) “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Paul states that the relationship between Christ and His church is similar to that between the head and the body of a human organism. The church is a living organism, not a dead organization. The union of Christ and His church is a real, mystical, perfect, and permanent union. The head directs the body’s activities. The church is a living expression of Christ; it is the means by which He carries out His plan and purpose; it is the agent through which He accomplishes His work. Christ is the full expression of God (Col 1:19; 2:9), and the church is the expression of Christ. The church is filled with His presence, animated with His life, and endowed with His gifts. In Christ the church has everything needed to fulfill its mission.
 Col 1:18-24 (KJV) “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Paul portrays Christ as the center and source of the creation. In the church he is pre-eminent. It is his spiritual body, and he is the supreme head.

Note 1: The term “the,” is not in the Greek, and it is better if it were omitted even though it produces clumsy English. He did not say, “Ye are the body of Christ,” for that would have indicated to these saints at Corinth that they were the whole thing, and might have led to the further supposition that they were merely the one body in Corinth. Then there might be the one body in Ephesus, and so on, until the contradictory and inconsistent idea of there being many “one bodies” might have been reached. He said, “Ye are body of Christ,” that is, they were of the body of Christ and bore the “body of Christ” character in Corinth, each of them being a member in particular.

and members in particular.
“Members in particular” simply means “particular members.” Each church is in miniature of what the whole aggregate of churches is collectively, “the body of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16): and its individual components are “members in particular”, with everyone in his assigned place. Each believer is a member of the Body; he cannot be the whole body. Each is related to the body, in view of the fact that it is a part of it, and all share a common relationship to one another, because of their mutual dependence upon one another, and within the community of believers there should exist mutual care and concern. This describes the members of the mystical Body, but the parts of the natural body are predisposed to act in a similar manner.

Notice should be taken of the reality that indifference, contempt, hatred, envy, and strife, are very unnatural in Christians. It is similar to the members of the same natural body having nothing to do with one another and as a result they do not do their part to maintain a healthy body. This is the scope of the apostle's argument by which he hopes to suppress the proud, self-centered, and contentious spirit that had prevailed among the Corinthians, as a consequence of their spiritual gifts.

We learn from the entirety of the apostle’s comparison several important truths:
1 That for the natural body to exist there must be a diversity of its members: likewise, for the mystical body to exist there must be the diversity of gifts and offices.
2 That the lesser parts of the natural body are just as truly members of the natural body as the greater, more honorable parts; and their service to the body is equally as necessary as the other; similarly, inferior Christians are as much the members of Christ's body, and just as useful and necessary, as the other members of Christ's body—those having the most desirable spiritual gifts.
3 That all the members of the natural body are prepared and placed according to the wisdom and pleasure of Almighty God; in a similar manner the members of Christ's mystical Body are positioned in the church in the position or office determined by the infallible wisdom of God; for that reason they ought to be satisfied with it, and attempt to be useful.
4 That there is no division of the members of the natural body, since all the members take care of, and are employed for, the good of the whole; so it ought to be with the mystical Body, that there is within it no divisions or separate interests, but in its place there is mutual regard for their common interests, as well as sympathizing, sorrowing, and rejoicing together.

You, my friend, are the Church, since the Church is the body in which Christ dwells, lighting up the body with His Divine presence; His dwelling place is this sanctified tabernacle of flesh and blood, from whose lips He shall speak, whose hands He shall provide work for, and whose feet shall bear the Gospel throughout the world—"that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." If this is true, the Church as the body should reflect and manifest the expression of the Divine soul that is within. It should always be prepared to respond to the Divine will. My action does not spring from the body, but from the mind and will within. And that is how it should be with the Church as the body of Christ, continually responding to the will of the Divine Spirit within, and offering all its powers to the service, adoration, and worship of the Divine power.

 1 Corinthians 3.16 (NKJV) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

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

And God hath set
“Hath set” means “has appointed, constituted, ordained.” God has established these various orders or ranks or areas of service in the church. The apostle has presented the central idea of the chapter “that God had conferred various gifts on the members of the church (see 1 Co 12.18), which he illustrated by comparing the Church to the human body. Now he goes on to present the specifics of his argument, and to expound upon the ranking of the various gifts which existed in the Church. Here Paul gives some additions to the gifts included in verses 4–11. The emphasis is twofold. First, on the source, “God hath set;” and secondly, on the priority. The list is arranged with the most important gifts first and the least important last. In this arrangement “apostles” are first, and “tongues” are last.

There is another list of the Gifts of the Spirit found in Ephesians 4.11; but it is different—“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. Notice that he only mentions three of the gifts listed here; apostles, prophets, teachers and that he added two that were not listed here; evangelists and pastors. It is doubtful that the apostle ever intended that this list be all inclusive.

 1 Corinthians 12.18 (NKJV) “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body  just as He pleased.” God is the One who sovereignly gives the gifts, and He gives them as it pleases Him. He is the One to be pleased. These gifts are in the body so that the body can function.

some in the church,
Here the word “some,” means “whom,” thus the clause reads, “and whom God hath placed in the church,” or, they whom God hath constituted in the church in the manner mentioned in the remainder of the verse; first, apostles, etc.

The various offices of the members are pointed out to show that all had positions to which they were assigned by the Spirit. Nine spiritual gifts have already been named; nine positions in the church are now given. Paul has made it clear that God has made obvious distinctions among the members of the human body, so that some occupy a more prominent place than others, and He has made a similar distinction in the Church. And to prove it, the apostle enumerates the principal offices, and the rank in which they should stand.

The carnal Corinthians set great store in the more spectacular gifts, like many carnally minded believers today. To them the most desirable thing was to speak in an unknown tongue. Their assessment, however, was a mistaken one. The gifts are divided according to the sovereign will of the Spirit. No one gift was given to everybody; but each individual member had at least one gift.

first apostles,
“Apostles” are those persons (the twelve—see Luke 6.13-16) sent directly by Christ to lay the foundation of Christian churches, and to care for and have the oversight of them. The apostles received their commission and doctrine directly from Him; and He gave them the power to perform miracles with which to validate the truth of their mission and ministry; they were sent into all the world to preach the Gospel, to plant churches, and to ordain officers for them; they were not confined to any particular church, but had power and authority in all the churches, to preach the word, administer ordinances, advise, counsel, direct, rebuke, and censure. In rank, they are given the highest authority in the Church; and He has endowed them and qualified them to a greater degree than he has others. There were some others who must be included, since they too were apostles; Paul, and evangelists like Barnabas and others; men sent by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. The Lord created the Apostles for the purpose of spreading the gospel throughout the entire world, and He did not limit them by assigning them to certain parishes; but instead, He endowed them with gifts that enabled them 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 some ways tied to their particular churches. The Pastor does not have 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 Paul places Evangelists after the Apostles, but here he passes them over.

There is a conscious ranking of offices and functions of the Lord's church in this passage, as indicated by “firstly ... secondly ... thirdly ... then.” Of the offices which Paul mentions, some are permanent, and others temporary. Those that are permanent, are offices which are necessary for the government of the Church; those that are temporary were appointed at the beginning for the founding of the Church, and the raising up of Christ’s kingdom; and in a short time these ceased to exist. Paul and others in his day had a unique apostolic authority, which will never be repeated because the foundation of the church has already been laid (see Ephesians 2:20). However, God still has His “special ambassadors” in the church today, though not with the same authority as the original apostles.

 Ephesians 2.20 (NKJV) “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” The church is not in the Old Testament, although there are types of it in the Old Testament. Christ said, “… upon this rock I will build my church …” (Matt. 16:18), and when He spoke that, it was still future. The church began on the Day of Pentecost, after Christ had returned to heaven. To say that the church began beyond the Day of Pentecost makes the church Siamese twins—a Jewish church and a Gentile church coexisting. It is true that the church was all Jewish when it began, but there was a period of transition when Gentiles were brought into it. The church is one body, made up of both Jew and Gentile, and Christ is the Head of that body.
 Luke 6.13-16 (NKJV) “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.” Judas was replaced after his suicide.

secondarily prophets,
The gift of prophesy is second in importance. Paul speaks of this gift in Romans 12:6: “And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith.” This word prophesy means, “To predict future events;” but it also means, “To declare the Divine will; to interpret the purposes of God; or to make known in any way the truth of God, which is designed to influence men.” Its first meaning is to predict or foretell future events; but since those who did this were messengers of God, and as such, they generally related predictions, instructions, and exhortations in regard to men and the sins they are guilty of, and dangers they faced if they would not repent, and their duties they owe to Christ and other Christians. But, in time the word came to denote anyone who in any way communicated the will of God; and eventually it came to denote those who openly expressed devotion or praise for God. The word in the New Testament is commonly connected to teachers (see Acts 13:1; 15.32; 21.10). In this verse prophets are mentioned as a class of teachers immediately after apostles; they are believed to be under the influence of revelation: “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Cor 14:39; NKJV). It was desirable and useful for a man to be to speak under the teaching of the Holy Spirit and to use his gift to edify the church. It is enlightening to note that Paul places the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, which these preachers require, above those which we are apt to regard as exclusively miraculous. The "wonders" stood in a lower, not in a higher, position when compared with the ordinary gifts of grace.

Today there are preachers who have placed “Apostle” before their name; however, if anyone claims the title of “prophet” today, let them be held to the standard of a true prophet: 100% accuracy, in every word (see Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

 Acts 13:1 (NKJV)  “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”
 Acts 15:32 (NKJV) “Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.”
 Acts 21:10 (NKJV) “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.”
 Deut 18:20-22 (NKJV) “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

thirdly teachers,
“Teachers” were those who were skillful at expounding the Scriptures to people and giving instruction in doctrine, either as itinerary preachers, going from place to place, or as settled, fixed ministers in the church. Teachers are purposely distinguished from prophets by assigning them third place in the list, immediately following prophets, which indicates that they exercise a lower function. Probably it consisted mainly of the exposition of the evangelical passages in the Old Testament; and it was in this area that Apollos apparently showed his power and eloquence (see Acts 18:24). Teachers, for the most part, taught truths already revealed; while the prophets made new revelations and spoke all their prophesying under the Spirit’s influence. Teachers had the “word of knowledge,” but the prophets “the word of wisdom” (see 1 Corinthians 12:8). Teachers hold a high place, and are preferred to those persons who work miracles. Under “teachers” are included “evangelists, pastors, elders, and overseers;” the ordinary ministers of the word, who have the gift of expounding the Scriptures; not by extraordinary revelation, but by the ordinary gift of the Spirit, which may come through reading, meditation, and prayer; and whose work is to preach the word, administer ordinances, feed and govern particular churches, over whom they are administrator.

After teachers come those that work miracles; which is not a gift distinct from apostles, prophets, and teachers, who also had the power to perform miracles. The Bible does not say that there were private Christians, at that time, who were neither apostles nor prophets, nor teachers, and yet had the power for doing miracles:

 Acts 18.24 (NKJV) “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.” Apollos had learned of the ministry and message of John the Baptist from Jewish pilgrims while still in Egypt but knew nothing beyond that point. He came to Jerusalem during the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. He had heard of the message of John the Baptist that the Messiah was soon to come and that this coming was fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Armed with these limited facts, he traveled far and wide faithfully proclaiming what he knew. Apollos is described as an eloquent man being mighty in the scriptures, meaning that he was an effective speaker and especially able to present the messiahship of Jesus to the Jews.
 1 Cor 12:8 (NKJV) “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit”

after that miracles,
Some in the early church were invested by the Holy Spirit, on some particular occasion, with an extraordinary power to work miracles, for the purpose of convincing unbelievers, and validating believers. These miracles were always through the initiative of the Holy Spirit; not through the command of any man. The miraculous gifts included casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, etc. This gift was only for the early charge.

 Mark 16:17 (NKJV) “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues”

then gifts of healings,
Some people had a power conferred upon them to heal diseases in an extraordinary way (see 1 Corinthians 12.9). This gift belongs to the category of “The Miraculous.” It was promised to the disciples of the Savior, but was conferred on many in the early church. The gift of healing was not given only to the apostles, and other extraordinary persons, but to the common elders and ordinary officers of the church. It seems that this gift was conferred on some in a greater degree than on others. For instance, the sick were healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them (see Acts 5.15, 16). James recommended using oil and prayer for healing the sick (see James 5.14, 15); but the laying on of hands was one of the most frequent methods cited in the New Testament. This is another gift of the Spirit that ceased to exist soon after the passing of the apostles; but today the Lord heals countless Christians in response to their prayers.

 Acts 5:15-16 (KJV) “Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.”
 1 Cor 12:9 (NKJV) “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit.”
 James 5:14, 15 (NKJV) “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” The prayer for the sick must be offered in faith to be effectual. Often our sickness is due to sins against our body. The Lord, who raises the sick in answer to prayer, will forgive these.

“Helps” is derived from the Greek word that denotes “aid, assistance, help;” it follow then that the reference is to those who render aid, assistance, or help; helpers. It is impossible to say for certain whom they were, or the nature of the office which they discharged. They might have been those to whom was entrusted the care of the poor, and the sick, and strangers, widows, and orphans; also baptizing, and administering the Lord's Supper; that is, those who performed the office of deacons. Or they may have been those who helped the apostles by assisting  them in their work, like those Paul refers to in Romans 16:3, “Greet Priscilla, and Aquilla, my “helpers” in Christ Jesus;” and in 1 Corinthians 12:9, “Salute Urbane our helper in Christ.” Possibly, the word refers to the secular affairs of the church, to the care of the poor, the distribution of charity, or to the instruction of the new Christians, or to aid provide directly to the apostles. There is no evidence that it refers to a distinct and “permanent” office in the church; but it may refer to aid rendered by any class in any way. Most likely, many people were profitably and usefully employed in various ways to promote the secular or spiritual welfare of the church.
The Old Testament Levites were designated by the Talmudists as “helps of the priests.” Charles Spurgeon had this comment regarding the gift of helps: “It strikes me that they were not persons who had any official standing, but that they were only moved by the natural impulse and the divine life within them to do anything and everything which would assist teacher, pastor, or deacon, in the work of the Lord. They are the sort of brethren who are useful anywhere, who can always stop a gap, and who are only too glad when they find that they can make themselves serviceable to the church of God in any capacity whatever.” In Matthew 10.3 it says, “Philip and Bartholomew.” An old Puritan preacher once did a great sermon on this text. His point was that Bartholomew is never mentioned by himself, but always with the phrase and Bartholomew. He is always spoken of doing something good with someone else. He was never the leader, but always a helper. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that these were the apostles‘ helpers; men 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.

“Governments” is derived from the Greek for word meaning “to govern;” and is usually applied to the government or “steering” of a ship. It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is intended here. Doddridge and Amyraut, supposes that distinct offices may not be here referred to, but 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 over councils, and in directing the affairs of the church.

Some believe the reference is to pastors and elders, who have the rule and government of the church; others believe it stands for lay elders, who were a sort of ruling elder in the church, as distinct from pastors. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that Paul intends to call attention to those who had the gift of discerning spirits. Whereas, De Dieu, said the word meant counselors; men of wisdom and intelligence, who are the very best persons for the pastor, elder, or overseer to consult with in matters pertaining to the church.

There is no reason to think that this was intended to be a permanent office. 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 and that there should be “governments” in the church, or an order of men entrusted with the sole office of governing, is not to be learned 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 agree. Calvin refers it to the elders to whom the exercise of discipline was entrusted. Grotius takes it to mean the pastors or elders who presided over particular churches. Locke supposes that they were men who had the power of discerning spirits. The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government; but the passage does not determine the form of the office, or its manner of operation; nor does it prove that such an office was to be permanent in the church.

diversities of tongues.
“Diversities [kinds] of tongues” is that gift of the Holy Spirit which enables one to speak various languages. That is, the ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speakers. The nature of this gift is determined by the account given in Acts 2:4–11, where it says that the apostles “began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” People from all the neighboring countries asked with astonishment, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” It is impossible to deny that the miracle recorded in Acts consisted in enabling the apostles to speak in languages which they had never learned. What is important though is not that they spoke in “unknown tongues,” but what they said; they were witnessing to people who had come to Jerusalem from around the world, and communicating the gospel to them. This was a wonderful experience and a miracle; but it was never repeated—not in the New Testament; not since Pentecost. Paul reports in several places that this gift was abused by the Corinthians. I know from personal experience that the experience of tongues is still being abused by many Christians. I was saved when I was nine years old in a Pentecostal church, and the adults immediately gathered around me and began speaking in tongues and urging me to “pray through,” so I could too. Believe me, I was terrified and never went to church there again. Later, my daughter attended a Church Camp where they held classes on “how to speak in tongues.” I am proud of her for telling them that they did not believe that that was something that should be taught, but a gift of God given only to whom He pleases. I could go on and on, but I will relate only one more personal experience. A pastor who knew my views on this visited me at home to let me know he was going to devote his evening services to speaking in tongues. He wanted me to attend in hopes that I would receive the gift. It was a wonderful gift for the New Testament church and it was needed; but tongues ceased soon after the church spread into the world.

“Diversities of tongues” is ranked as last in value. They are emotional gifts, which had only a very subordinate part in the work of edification, and are, therefore, placed below the gifts of knowledge, of power, and helping others. Paul may have intentionally placed it last in order to curb the pride of the Corinthians, who gloried so much in their ability to make a show of this gift; or because he meant to say more about it later on.

Interpretation of tongues was a separate gift, and like tongues was given to some in the early church, but not to all.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

These questions imply, with strong emphasis that it could not be, and should not to be, perfect equality in the endowment of the gifts of the Spirit. It was simply a matter of fact that all men were equal or that all were qualified for the offices which others held. 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 essential 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 were not.

It may be the case, that one individual in the Corinthian Church was endowed with many gifts, and was established in two of the offices which he has identify, which does not contradict the apostles teaching thus far. Paul’s has a two-fold objective, first, he wants to show that no one has been so gifted in everything that he does not require the aid of others; and secondly, that offices as well as gifts are distributed in such a manner that no one member can compose the entire body, but each member contributes its portion for the mutual advantage of all; it is in coming together that they constitute an entire and perfect body. Paul intends here to take away every opportunity for boasting, envying, ambition, arrogance, contempt for the brethren, malignity, and everything of that nature. Therefore, he asks these questions (Note: see verse 28 for a description of these offices and gifts.):
Are all apostles?

Only a few had this office given to them, which is also true of each of the other gifts.

are all prophets?
No; some are apostles, so they rank above them and some are teachers, and are inferior to them; but very few in Corinth had that particular gift, prophesy.

are all teachers?
No; the largest number of church members are hearers, or persons that are taught in the word; they are neither in the office of teaching, nor do they have the qualifications for it.

are all workers of miracles?
No; in those early times, when the gift of doing miracles was bestowed, it was not given to all, only to some; and now there are none that possessed it.

Have all the gifts of healing?
No; when these gifts were in existence, no one had all of them. Those who were sick were to send for the elders. The sick were anointed with oil by the elders (not by the common members of the church) in order to remove their sickness.

do all speak with tongues?
The problem existing at Corinth was that a few who had the genuine gift of tongues were displaying it for the benefit of their own vanity in the public assemblies of the congregation, where it was never intended to be used, since it was absolutely unnecessary and unneeded there. Then, to make matters worse, there were evidently a great many others who were getting in on the action by exhibiting a kind of tongue speaking (called ecstatic utterances) which had absolutely nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, since it was only useful for one thing; flattering the ones who practiced it, which brought the scorn of the entire community upon the whole church. With marvelous diplomacy, Paul avoided condemning “tongues” in theory, because that might have reflected poorly upon those who really possessed the gift; but he promptly gave orders which diminished and removed the objectionable conduct altogether. However, before he would give those orders (see 1 Cor. 14), he would show them “a most excellent way.” That way was the way of love; love being the first fruit, of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians (see Galatians 5:22). The immortal words of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians comprise the apostle's exhortation for the Corinthians to walk in the way of love.

Paul’s message to the Corinthians is clear, the gift of tongues is not for every believer, just as the gifting of apostles, prophets, teachers, and the working of miracles or healings and so forth are not for every believer. Great damage has been done in the church by promoting tongues as necessary to really live as a Christian, or as the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This has caused many to seek the gift of tongues, or to “fake” the gift of tongues, often only to assure one’s self or others that they are indeed filled with the Holy Spirit. The fact of scripter is that all receive the baptism of the Spirit at the moment they are saved, and not all speak in tongues; therefore, tongues cannot be the confirming factor of Spirit baptism!

 Gal. 5.22 (NKJV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” This is the self-denying, self-sacrificing, Christlike love which is the foundation of all other graces. A divine exposition of this kind of love is found in I Corinthians 13.

do all interpret?
That is, can they all interpret unknown tongues, or strange languages? No. This also was a peculiar gift bestowed on some persons only.

The force of the apostle's argument is this: Seeing that the natural body, which he had alluded to before, cannot be all eyes, all ears, all hands, or all feet; likewise, the mystical body, the church, cannot have all its members be those who only govern, or prophesy, or teach, or work miracles, or heal diseases; but one has this gift, and another has that gift; one has this office in the church, and another that office; all which are to be working for the common good of the church, and mutual benefit of each other. Each member of His Church is dependent upon the Head (Jesus), and in need of one another, yet, each has a definite and distinct task to perform.

Some of these gifts have disappeared. They are not in the church because they are not needed in the church today. There are no longer apostles in the church, nor are there prophets—in the sense of being able to foretell future events.

31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

But covet earnestly the best gifts:
The “best gifts” are the highest spiritual gifts. He says here that we should covet them (be zealous for, desire, want, long for, yearn for, crave); but that appears to be a contradiction in light of what he has just said about them in the preceding verses. He said that the Holy Spirit bestowed gifts as he wills, not according to what we want; so how can this apparent contradiction be explained? The gist of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian Church seems to be this, (I will speak as if I was the apostle.) “I have proved that all gifts in the church are produced by the Holy Spirit; and that he awards them as he pleases. I have been showing that no one should be proud or elated on account of having received exceptional gifts; on the other hand, no one should be depressed, or sad, or discontented, because he has a more modest rank. I have been attempting to suppress and subdue the spirit of discontent, jealousy, and ambition; and to produce in all of you a willingness to occupy the station where God has placed you. But, I do not intend to deny that it is good to desire the most useful gifts, and that a man should wish to be brought under the influence of the Spirit and to become a very useful member of the Body of Christ. 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 and to want to receive them or that for a man to seek to excel in spiritual gifts and in usefulness is wrong. But, in spite of that, each and every one of you cannot be apostles, and all cannot be prophets. I hope, therefore, that you will NOT seek such offices, and exhibit a spirit of ambition. My wish, rather, is to regulate those desires which I would not repress as improper in order to show you that, instead of aspiring to offices and exceptional gifts which are beyond your grasp, that there is a way which is really valuable that is open to all of you, and where all of you may excel.”

and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
There is something better than the nine gifts which he named in the preceding verse; he calls it “a more excellent way,” that is, a more excellent way of ministering to the welfare of the church, and of edifying your own souls, and he tells what it is in the next chapter; Christian love towards one another. Charity, or love for God and our neighbour, is more excellent than a load of gifts, which are very extraordinary, supernatural, and miraculous. Love is better than the all of the gifts of the Spirit, because they will not accompany us to heaven, whereas love will go with us and there it will grow from a little spark into a glorious eternal flame.

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Zondervan Publishing, 1996