1 Corinthians 12

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Read 1 Corinthians 12

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Love Is Indispensable

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Go Deeper

Chapter 12 continues in correcting certain practices of the church of Corinth by redefining spiritual gifts and the importance of unity in the body. For the beginning of the chapter, Paul is clearly defining what these spiritual gifts actually are so they are not ignorant to the truth. The Gentiles of the early church were very new in their head knowledge of what is true. It is like that of a new believer, they are more informed of the world than they are the word. He is carefully defining who the Holy Spirit is and what its role is. Similarly, too often we inform our view of scripture based on our cultural beliefs, rather than scripture informing our view of the world. Paul is teaching against this culturally informed view of the Holy Spirit the hierarchy that the church had toward it.

Eugene Peterson describes it this way: “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” All kinds of gifts. To all kinds of people. For all kinds of work. For one unified purpose. It’s been said that if you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go together. There is power in teamwork. There is an effectiveness and vastness to teamwork. 

Yet we often compare and compete with one another regarding our roles, talents, and gifts within the body of Christ. Sometimes, we desire the gifts of another. Other times, our jealousy prevents us from celebrating another’s role. We can even begin to believe that someone else’s gain is our loss. Paul reminds us that we all gain when we all see and believe that we need each other in order to be the most powerful force on the planet. 

This teaching of unity of the body points back to remembering the gospel. The Jews and Gentiles all being welcomed into God’s family is countercultural for everyone in the church, none of them are used to this new reality they are living in. But the beauty of it is we have all equally been welcomed in if we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Verse 23 says, “and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” That is us! We have been welcomed into God’s family, given Jesus’ inheritance, and promised eternity. So together as one body, we live by the truth that we have been brought in and now we have one unified goal in mind: make disciples of Christ.

  1. What do we learn from Paul’s example of how to teach new believers complex ideas in this chapter?

  2. If spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit, does that mean gifts are assigned by personality? Or are they all something everyone can have? Why or why not?

  3. In what ways do you struggle with comparison within the body of Christ? How does this passage speak against that?

Keep Digging

There are two competing schools of thought regarding spiritual gifts within Christian tradition. There are cessationists and continuationists. To learn more about both viewpoints, check out these two helpful blog posts from The Gospel Coalition:

Why I Am A Cessationist

Why I Am A Continuationist

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6 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 12”

  1. Wow what we culturally learned vs what The Word actually says ….. just that Lord show us- reveal in us- help us see this in our lives so we let culture, traditions and cliché s GO

  2. Spiritual gifts originated in the heart of God. Paul points out they are distributed by the Holy Spirit for the common good of all, each is indispensable, proving God is at work. They are given to minister to the needs of the body of believers and to build up the church. These gifts should never compete, compare or divide. This happens when we remove our eyes from the Giver and place it on the gift. The goal is unity where each can operate in love and humility, so the beauty of the gospel is not hindered by our pride and foolishness.

  3. Spiritual gifts in something we assume we understand, but verses 4-7 remind us that there so many different kinds of gifts that God places in His people to come together for His kingdom. It’s easy to compare or envy another’s gift, but they are neither “better than” ours or “less than” ours. Instead each person’s gift is intentional for God’s plan in their life.

  4. This text has caused a great many controversy’s in the church. This is where I believe doing a word study on the Greek words could be helpful. The word “gift” is in italics in the KJV which means it was a added word. While almost every English translation presents Paul as introducing spiritual gifts in 12:1, Paul does not use his typical word for spiritual gifts. Instead, the Greek word Paul used here is “matters related to the Spirit. The manifestations of the Spirit of God is the evidence of Holy Spirit given to all so we can all profit as the body of Christ. We as the body of Christ should all work together and be unified to make Christ known in our thoughts, actions, and through out the world.

    God thank You for giving me understanding of Your Word. Thank You that there is not so much confusion around Your Word so that I can know what You want me to know. God You are so intricate with all details about You and Your Word. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for my life being glorifying in my thoughts, actions and to those I speak to in Jesus name amen.

    A. Lexical Definitions
    1. There are two Greek words that describe spiritual gifts; they are pneumatikoì and charísmata.
    2. Pneumatikoì means spiritual things, things pertaining to the Spirit, or spiritual gifts. The word emphasizes the fact that spiritual gifts have their origin from the Holy Spirit (pneúma hágion).
    3. Charísmata comes from the same root as the word “grace” (cháris) and therefore means “gifts of grace” or “grace-gifts.” This word emphasizes the fact that spiritual gifts are the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit and not natural talents.
    4. Charísmata are supernatural gifts of enabling, given by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation to a believer, to be exercised in the building up of the body of Christ.

  5. v 3: “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.“

    Through the power of the Holy Spirit, please let me say this every day for the rest of my life . . . “Jesus is Lord”!

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