I Corinthians 12
Spiritual Gifts (vs. 1-11)
1 "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant."
Now concerning spiritual gifts” - rather, things spiritual. The context, however,
shows that Paul is thinking almost exclusively of the gifts (χάρισματα – charismata -
from χάρισμα - charisma - a (divine) gratuity, a (spiritual) endowment, (subjective)
religious qualification, or (objective) miraculous faculty: — (free) gift of the
Holy Spirit. I would not have you ignorant. (see ch. 10:1). The Corinthians had
doubtless inquired in their letter as to the views of the apostle on this important
and difficult subject.
2 "Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as
ye were led.” That ye were Gentiles. The undoubted reading is, that when ye
were Gentiles. The sentence is then in form an anacoluthon; in other
words, it is not grammatically finished. The ancients were much less
particular about these small matters of precision and symmetry than the
moderns; and writers who are deeply moved by their subject, and hurried
along by the strength of their feelings, often fall into these unfinished
constructions (see Romans 2:17-21; 15:25-27; Galatians 2:6; II Thessalonians 2:3, etc.,
in the Greek). Dumb idols. This characteristic of idols (Habakkuk 2:18; Psalm 115:5;
135:16) is fixed upon to show that their “oracles” were mere falsity and pretence.
We find an illustration of the epithet in the statue of Isis at Pompeii, where the ruined
temple shows the secret stair by which the priest mounted to the back of the
statue; and the head of the statue (preserved in the Museo Borbonico)
shows the tube which went from the back of the head to the parted lips.
Through this tube the priest concealed behind the statue spoke the answers
Revised Version. The Greek phrase shows that, under the oracular guidance of
dumb idols, the Gentiles had been, as it were, drifted hither and thither “as the
winds listed.” Every member of this Christly community has PASSED THROUGH
A RADICAL CHANGE. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have
you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even
as ye were led.” The change here spoken of, it is to be observed, is a change from the
spirit of the Gentiles, or the world, to the Spirit of Christ. The most radical change that
can take place in a man is a change in his predominant disposition, or moral spirit.
Such a disposition is in truth man’s moral heart.
3 "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God
calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the
Holy Ghost." Wherefore. Their previous condition of Gentile ignorance
rendered it necessary to instruct them fully respecting the nature and
discrimination of the charisms (gifts) of the Spirit. By the Spirit of God; rather,
in the Spirit; i.e. in the state of spiritual exaltation and ecstasy. The phrase
is a Hebrew one to describe inspiration. Jesus accursed. It may well seem
amazing that the Corinthians should need instructing that such awful language
could not be uttered by any one speaking “in the Spirit of God.” It is evident,
however, that such expressions had been uttered by persons who were, or seemed
to be, carried away by the impassioned impulse which led to “glossolaly” -
(speaking in an unknown language - It is better to use this technical word in order
to dissipate the cloud of strange misconceptions as to the true nature of this
charism.) So terrible an outrage on the conscience of Christians could
never have passed unchecked and unpunished, except from the obvious
inability of the young community to grapple with the new and perplexing
phenomena of an “inspiration” which appeared to destroy the personal
control of those possessed by it. Among Jewish converts glossolaly was
regarded as a form of that wild mantle “inspiration” of which we find some
traces in Jewish history (I Samuel 10:10-11; 18:10; 19:23-24, etc.),
and which was alluded to in the very name Nabo, which implied a boiling
energy. Among Gentile converts the glossolaly would be classed with the
overmastering influences of which they read, or which they witnessed, in
the Sibyls, the Pythian priestesses, and the wild orgiastic devotees of
Eastern cults. They would not like to call any one to task for things spoken
in a condition which they regarded as wholly supernatural. As to the
(1) some of them, not being sincere, might have really fallen under the
influence of impulses which were earthly and demonish, not Divine;
(2) others, not duly controlling their own genuine impulse, may have been
liable to the uncontrolled sway of utterances for which they were at the
(3) or again, being incapable of reasoned expression, they may have audibly
expressed vague Gnostic doubts as to the identity of the “Jesus” who was
crucified and the Divine Word; or
(4) they may have been entangled in Jewish perplexities rising from
Deuteronomy 21:23, “He that is hanged” (which was also the
expression applied by Jews to the crucified) “is accursed of God;” or
(5) by some strange abuse of the true principle expressed by Paul in
II Corinthians 5:16, they may have asserted in this fearful form their
emancipation from the acknowledgment of Jesus “after the flesh.” Similar
phenomena — the same intrusions into worship of downright blasphemy or
of blasphemous familiarity — have constantly recurred at times of
overwhelming spiritual excitement, as for instance in the adherents of the
“everlasting gospel” in the thirteenth century, and in various movements of
our own day. Is accursed; rather, is anathema. The word corresponds to
the Hebrew cherem, which means “a ban,” and “what is devoted or set
apart by a ban;” and to the Latin sacer, which means not only “sacred,” set
apart by holy consecration, but also “devoted to destruction.” No man can
say that Jesus is [the] Lord, but by [in] the Holy Ghost. It involved a
strong rebuke to the illuminati, who professed a profound spiritual insight,
to tell them that no man could make the simple, humble confession of the
divinity of Jesus (for “Lord” is here an equivalent of the Hebrew
“Jehovah”) except by the same inspiration as that which they so terribly
According to Wikipedia: “Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, "enlightened") is a name
that refers to several groups, both historical and modern, and both real and fictitious.
secret society founded on May 1, 1776. In modern times it is also used to refer to a
purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy "power behind the throne",
usually as a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. In this context,
Illuminati is often used in reference to a New World Order (NWO). Many
conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati are the masterminds behind events that will lead
the establishment of such a
Perhaps today, they are known by the term "DEEP STATE!" - CY - 2018)
There is a very similar passage in I John 1:2; but there the “test” of the inspiration is a
confession of the humanity of Jesus as against Gnostics, who treated His human life as
purely phantasmal. Here the test is the confession of His divinity as against Jews and
Gentiles. (For a parallel passage, see Matthew 16:17, “Flesh and blood hath not
revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven..”)
This change, referred to above, is here described:
profane in his spirit towards Christ. “No man speaking by the Spirit of God
calleth Jesus accursed.”
Ghost.” “Can say,” not of course merely the words, for all could easily do
that, but with the heart and life. This change is the production of the Divine
Church who has not experienced this transformation; who has not
Spirit — of “the Holy Ghost.” Now, no man is a member of the true
renounced the spirit of the world and come under the control of the Spirit
of Christ. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His”
(Romans 8:9) There are such who are found in connection with no
conventional Church, and there may be conventional Churches where no
such are found. All such, however, wherever found, belong to the Church
of the “Firstborn written in heaven.”- (Hebrews 12:23)
The Presidency of the Spirit (vs. 1-3)
This passage does not direct us to this general topic, but to one particular
point in relation to it. The presidency relates to, covers, and hallows every
feature and every expression of Christian life and worship and fellowship.
The whole life of the regenerate man is directly and fully within the Spirit’s
lead, so that he cannot even speak — if he be a Christian indeed — without
the inspiration, the guidance, the toning, of the indwelling Holy Ghost. The
apostle is giving these Christianized Gentiles a test by which they might
know whether they had indeed the sealing and sanctifying gift of the Spirit.
They could tell even by the character of their utterances. These found
expression for the cherished feeling; and such was the natural depravity of
man that they might be sure no man cherished admiring and loving
thoughts of Christ, and found expression for them by saying, “Jesus is
Lord,” save as he was inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost. If it be true of
so simple an expression of the Christian life as that, it is surely true of all
other expressions. It is even the glory of the Christian man that nowhere
and in nothing is he independent. The “Great heart Guide” is always with
him. He speaks, he acts, as moved by the Holy Ghost. Paul is led to the
impression of this point by the false notion that might be so easily taken up
— the notion that only great gifts and talents are under the presidency of
the Spirit; that He bears no immediate and precise relation to the common
life. The question of practical concern for each one of us is this — How
much of daily life can we recognize as being in God’s lead, and under the
Spirit’s presidency? In answer we may say:
LEAD. This may be opened by dwelling on:
Ø The special things of personal experience.
Ø Of Christian employment and use of gifts.
Ø Of relationship and opportunity.
Ø Of confession and witness, as in the case of apostles and martyrs.
· THE COMMON AND LITTLE THINGS OF A MAN’S LIFE ARE
IN THE SPIRIT’S LEAD. The “three fourths of life which is made up of
conduct.” Our sayings, our doings in home and in business. Every act
which can express character is of interest to the sanctifying Spirit, and may
be done, should be done, in His leadings and inspirations.
4 "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." Diversities - This
word is used in each of these verses. Gifts – again the word – χάρισματα –
charismata - endowments imparted by the Holy Spirit. The word is rendered
free gift” in Romans 5:13. The same Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are not uniform,
but display diversity in unity Just as the sunlight playing on different surfaces
produces a multiplicity of gleams and colors, so the Holy Spirit manifests
His presence variously, and even sometimes with sharp contrasts, in different
5 "And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord."
Administrations. Different individuals render different services, and
even apply the same gifts in different ways, as we see in Romans 12:6-8.
The same Lord. Who, as Head of the Church, directs all ministries and assigns
all functions. He is the Coordinator!
6"And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh
all in all." Operations. that is, manifestations of the Divine power. The same God
which worketh all in all. God is the Source of all gifts in all men. He is the Sun of
the whole universe, and always in the meridian; and from Him, as the Father of lights,
flows every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). It will be seen that this is one of the
many passages which teach with perfect clearness the doctrine of the Trinity in unity.
All in all (for this expression, see ch. 15:28; Ephesians 1:23). There are very similar
passages descriptive of the diversity in unity of God’s dispensations, in Ephesians
4:4-6, 11-12; Romans 12:6-8; I Peter 4:10-11. (I recommend Dispensational Truth
by Clarence Larkin – CY – 2010)
7 "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."
To profit withal. With reference, that is, to the general profit. (Compare the
purpose of the "General Welfare Clause of the Preamble to the United States
Constitution!" - CY - 2018)
Whatever mysteries were connected with these manifestations, there was a grand system
to which they appertained, and it was upheld, applied, and administered, by the Holy Ghost.
As earthly industry must achieve its results by division of labor, so the economy of the
Holy Ghost must differentiate one form of energy from another to function as He ordains.
The broad scope of the diversities in the Church is indicated in the statement that the
“manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” The character
of the Divine communication to “every man” is defined by the word “manifestation,”
which expresses the agency of the Spirit in these human instruments. First of all, the
Spirit is manifested to the man and then through the man. As a condition precedent to his
office, the man has an experience, and it consists in his own conscious knowledge that God
has come to his soul and imbued it with the Spirit. Herein, only, lies his capacity
for usefulness; herein his safeguard against failure. And the measure of the one
manifestation is the measure of the other; for in the degree that a man feels his own
soul alive to God will he impart vitality to his ministrations. Preacher, Sunday
School teacher, Bible reader, tract distributer, Paul on Mars’ Hill or in the prison at Rome,
Bunyan writing in gaol, Hannah More at Barleywood, John Pounds with his ragged school;
no matter what the manifestation, as to where made and how modified by individuality, it is
divinely human to its subject before it is made divinely human in him as an instrument. Finally,
the broad scope (every man.) and the quality of the influence (manifestation) are carried
forward to the object and end, viz. to “profit withal.” Is it not, then, remarkable that
Christianity approaches man at a point where he is most sensitive to self, and where he is
quickest and boldest to assert his unyieldingness to the claims of others, and at this very point
to demand of him “the common profit”? Make any analysis of human nature you please, pride
of intellect is the most lordly of all its imperious qualities. Particularly in the case of fine gifts,
men who are the possessors of them are instinctively disposed to assert a despotic sway over
others, or, if not that, to indulge a feeling of self-congratulation and its counterpart of self
isolation because of their superiority. Yet it is just here Christianity requires humility and
enforces the claims of a most vigorous sympathy. How this “common profit” is to be
subserved, Paul proceeds to show in vs. 8-11. There is no large accumulation in one man, no
fostering of the spirit of self aggrandizement no such exaltation of one as to prove a humiliation
to another. Talents are divided out, and each talent bears the seal of God, and comes
authenticated, not to the intellect, but to the spiritual sense of a redeemed manhood. Go
through this catalogue as drawn out by the apostle; dwell on the significance of each
specification; avail yourself of the helps afforded by our most critical scholars in the
explication of “wisdom” as intuition, of “knowledge” as acquired information, of “faith”
as transcending its ordinary limits as the grace of salvation, of the “gifts of healing” as
adapted to various diseases, of the “working of miracles” as time and occasion called for,
all these charisms proceeding from the same Spirit; continue the enumeration that includes
“prophecy” or the illumination of the mind by the Spirit and the exalted activity of its faculties,
after that the eye of watchful judgment, “discerning of spirits,” so as to discriminate
between genuine inspiration and its alloys and counterfeits, then the “divers kinds of
tongues,” and the power to interpret or translate the unknown language; and all these
the works of “one and the selfsame Spirit” that distributes the charism to each one in
harmony with the law of individuality, and, at the same time, exercises the Divine sovereignty
so that the distribution is made “severally as He will”
The manifestation of gifts of the Spirit is given “TO PROFIT.” They are not:
Ø For mere display.
Ø For personal aggrandizement.
Ø For the welfare of the Church.
Ø For the welfare of the individual members.
Ø For the welfare of the world. The Church has a large mission to those
outside her pale. She is made rich very largely that she may make them rich.
She is placed in a world parish, that she may carry the gospel of the grace
of God to all within the bounds. Her strengthening and enrichment are
for the world’s weal; her special endowments fit her for this grand
Ø For the glory of God. This is the ultimate object. As the Church’s
endowments come from God, so should they return to Him. The Church is
for itself, is for the individual, is for the world, — but these only
comparatively; supremely and specially the Church is for God. And all her
gifts and graces should REDOUND TO THE DIVINE HONOR AND
Their origin is of God. They should be used, then:
Ø With reverence. Our qualifications for Christian service as truly come
from God as the ancient gifts of tongues or miracles. We feel that the latter
should have been used very reverentially; not more so than the former:
both are equally of God. We are God endowed now as truly as were any of
the early Christians, and God endowments should be used with utmost
Ø With care. Lest the good gift be perverted by ill use. Our gifts may do as
much harm if wrongly used, as good if rightly used.
Ø With diligence. The value of the earlier gifts we can easily perceive; we
need to realize that modern gifts are equally valuable for modern times. If
we felt the value of that which is entrusted to us, we should be more likely
to use it diligently. “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee” (II Timothy
Ø With the thought that they will have to be accounted for. These are
talents, and the reckoning day will surely come. The time is short in which
they can be used. The need of their employment is stupendous. Let none
suppose that they are unendowed. “To every man his work;” and never yet
was work given without gift for the work.
Our gifts are tested by their relation to Christ (v. 3). “By their fruits ye shall know
them.” (Matthew 7:16) And this test applies to all spiritual gifts
ancient and modern. Unless they tend to the exaltation and honor of
Christ, they are not what they profess to be. If genuine, they are under the
control and administration of the Holy Ghost, and He who was sent to
glorify Christ (John 16:14) will never abase and dishonor Him. If men
have all other credentials, yet cast reproach upon the Head of the Church,
we must instantly reject their testimony and regard them as charlatans.
Here is the supreme end of our spiritual gifts — “that He may be glorified.”
“Try the spirits.” (I John 4:1)
Their distribution is from God. (v. 11) The choice of our spiritual gifts does
not rest with us. What rests with us is the right employment of those we possess.
To murmur because we are not endowed as others are is worse than foolish;
it is criminal, for it impugns the wisdom and the goodness of God. Some
five talent men will do nothing because they are not ten talent men. They
mourn and complain because of what they lack, and certainly they appear to
have a large lack — of common sense. We are not the Lord; we are servants,
and THE GREAT SPIRIT “divideth to every man severally as He will.”
Let us take our talents thankfully, use them diligently, and never wrap them up
in the napkin of repining and discontent. Our condition was once akin to that
of the Corinthians, who were carried away unto “dumb idols" (v. 2). From the
idolatry of sin we have been brought into the Church of the Redeemed, and
made the worshippers and servants of the true God. Abounding gratitude
should leave no room for the faintest murmur. In truth we have nothing to
murmur over, but everything to be devoutly thankful for.
8 "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word
of knowledge by the same Spirit." The word of wisdom….the word of knowledge.
In modern usage, “knowledge” is the learning which we by use and effort acquire;
“wisdom” is the insight which gradually dawns upon us from thought and experience.
In the language of the New Testament, the distinction between the two words is not
so clearly marked, but “wisdom” seems to belong more to the human spirit, and
“knowledge “to the intellect.
gospel persuasively to work conversion (ch. 2:6-7);
and theoretical elaboration of systematic theology.
9 "To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same
Spirit” - To another. Various attempts have been made to classify the
gifts thus enumerated, as:
o The word of wisdom;
o the word of knowledge.
Ø Pertaining to exalted faith (tides miraculosa).
o discrimination of spirits.
o Tongues; and
o their interpretation.
These attempts are not very successful.
Paul probably uses the phrases“to one” and “to another” (ἄλλοι δὲ …..ἑτέροι δὲ -
allοι de…….heterοι de) others yet….different ones yet merely as a variety of style (as in
Hebrews 11:35-36), with no very definite classification in view, as he does not mention
all the χάρισμα (see v. 28). Faith. Faith in its highest energy, as a supernatural power;
the faith that removes mountains (Matthew 17:19-20). The gifts of healing. Not, that is,
by medical knowledge, but by supernatural power (Mark 16:18; Acts 5:15-16;
10 "To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another
discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the
interpretation of tongues:" The working of miracles; literally, active, efficacy
of powers; such as “the signs of an apostle,” to which Paul himself appealed in
II Corinthians 12:12, which included “wonders and mighty powers” (compare
Romans 15:18). Prophecy. Not “prediction,” but elevated and inspired discourse;
the power of preaching to edification. Discerning of spirits; rather, discernings,
or powers to discriminate between true and false spirits. It was necessary in those
days of intense enthusiasm and spiritual awakenment to “test the spirits, whether
they be of God” (1 John 4:1). There were such things as “deceitful spirits” which
spoke “doctrines of devils” [there seem to be a lot of these today and dear reader,
if you know not the Lord, then you will be easily duped! Trust in Jesus today! –
CY – 2010] (l Timothy 4:1; Revelation 2:1, 2; see ch.14:29). Divers kinds of
tongues. There is no need for the word “divers." The particular variety of the
ecstatic, and often entirely unintelligible, utterance known as “the tongue” differed
with the individuality or temperament of the speaker. Recent lines of research, by
that historical method which can alone furnish correct results, have led to the
conclusion that, whatever may be thought of the “tongues” on the day of Pentecost
(which is a separate question), the “tongue” spoken of (for the most part with relative
disparagement) by Paul as a charism (gift) of the Spirit was closely analogous to that
wild, rapt, unconscious, uncontrollable utterance which, with varying details, has
always occurred in the religious movements which stir the human soul to its utmost
depths. The attempts to explain the word “tongues” as meaning “foreign languages,”
or “the primeval language,’’ or “poetic and unusual phraseology,” etc., are
baseless and exploded. The notion that by this gift the early Christians knew languages
which they had never acquired, is not only opposed to the entire analogy of God’s
dealings, but to every allusion in the New Testament (except a prima facie but
untenable view of the meaning of Acts 2:4) and to every tradition and statement of
early Christian history. The apostles (so far as we have any record of their missionary
work in the New Testament) had not the slightest need to acquire foreign languages.
and therefore could address Jews and Gentiles throughout the civilized world. Every
single allusion which Paul makes to this subject excludes the possibility of the
supposition of a miracle so utterly useless and meaningless, so subversive of every
psychological consideration, and so alien from the analogy of all God’s methods,
as the talking in unacquired foreign languages by persons who did not understand
them. The interpretation of tongues. Sometimes, but not always (ch.14:13), the
speaker, on relapsing from his ecstasy, was able to express his outburst of
unintelligible soliloquy in the form of reasoned thought When he was unable to
do so, Paul ordains that another should convey in ordinary language the impressions
left by the inspired rhapsody (vs. 14:27-29).
11 "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every
man severally as He will.” One and the selfsame Spirit. The unity of the source
from which all the charisms flowed ought to have excluded the possibility of a
boastful comparison of gifts, and all depreciation of those gifts which, because
they were less dazzling, were deemed inferior. Paul afterwards shows that the less
dazzling might be infinitely the more valuable for purposes of spiritual edification.
ENDOWMENTS FROM GOD. “now there are diversities of gifts, but
the same Spirit,” - (vs. 4, 12). Without pausing to interpret the meaning of
these endowments, I simply remark that they seem capable of being divided into
ü Those of intellect. “Wisdom,” “knowledge,” etc.
ü Those of “faith,” operating faith in words, in deeds, and in
ü Those of language. “Tongues,” speaking and interpreting,
Now, all responsible men have intellect of some kind and amount. All men
have faith of some sort. Man has an instinctive tendency to believe; hence
his credulity is proverbial. And he is necessitated to believe; he could not
carry on the business of life without faith. All men also have a language of
some kind or other. What, then, do we mean when we say that the
endowments here refer to intellect, faith, and language? Simply this, that
the man who has come into possession of the Christly Spirit and purpose,
and is thus a member of the genuine Church, will receive
Ø a new force and elevation of intellect;
Ø a new object and energy of faith;
Ø a new style and emphasis of expression — a new tongue. This great
variety of endowments reveals:
§ The sovereignty of the Spirit. Why did he bestow any at all?
Still more, why so different to different men? The only answer
is because it pleased Him so to do. “He worketh all things
after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
§ The affluence of the Spirit. All these great and varied spiritual
and mental endowments came from Him. He is the inexhaustible
Fountain, not only of all life, but of all spiritual endowments.
§ The benevolence of the Spirit. All these varied endowments
bestowed for what purpose? To “profit withal.” All for the
highest usefulness; spiritual happiness is the end of the creation.
Since all our endowments are the free gifts of God, there is no
reason for those of the humblest to be dissatisfied, nor for
those who have the most splendid to be exultant.
The Church Compared to a Body and Its Members (vs. 12-31)
12"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that
one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ." As the body is one, and
hath many members. To this favorite image Paul reverts several times (Romans 12:4-5;
Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:19). It is probable that he was familiar with the image
from the fable of Menenius Agrippa, who had used it as a plea for civil
unity (Liv., 2:32). So also is Christ. Christ and the Church form one body, of which
Christ is the Head; one Vine, of which Christians are the branches (John 15.); one
building, of which Christians are the living stones. The human body is an organism.
It is “one, and hath many members.” By an organism we understand “a whole
consisting of parts which exist and work each for all and all for each; in other words,
which are reciprocally related as means and end.” The principle of life is a principle
of organization, weaving a form for itself, shaping that form to itself, and impressing
thereupon its own distinctive image. The principle assumes various organizations —
simple in some, complex in others — and, in every case, the life power is the
animating and determinative force. In the Church, which is His body, Christ is the
constituting Power. He is its Life, and without Him it is nothing. Through the Spirit
He maintains those operations which impart vitality to all the institutions and agencies
of the Church.
13 "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be
Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to
drink into one Spirit." By one Spirit. Rather, in one Spirit. The diffusion
of one spirit is the element of unity. Are we all baptized; rather, we were all
baptized. Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free.
Moreover, as these were national and social differences, they were all
obliterated by baptism, which made us all equal members of one holy
brotherhood (Galatians 3:28). Such is the almighty energy of the Holy Ghost in
begetting vitality and transforming national and race distinctions into its own
likeness, that they are made one. This is also true of “bond or free.” The
characteristics of individuality as to races and social positions remain, but
whatever is incapable of unity is removed and the organism subdues to itself
every element and constituent it adopts Have been all made to drink into one
Spirit. The word “into” is probably spurious. We have all been given to
drink of one Spirit, which is as the outpouring of living water (Acts 10:45;
John 7:37). Viewed externally, we see Jews and Greeks, bond and free, with their
derived from the past and respected as the signs of
preparatory to Christ’s advent. A rich and picturesque mosaic is thus presented by the
Church. Along with this, the Church is also a type of the future man, from whom all
selfish antagonisms have gone and over whom the sentiment of brotherhood is supreme.
14 "For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because
I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the foot shall say, etc. So Seneca says, “What if the hands should wish to
injure the feet, or the eyes the hands? As all the members agree together
because it is the interest of the whole that each should be kept safe, so men
spare their fellow men because we are born for heaven, and society cannot be
saved except by the love and protection of its elements” (‘De Ira,’ 2:31). And
Marcus Aurelius: “We have been born for mutual help, like the feet, like the hands,
like the rows of upper and lower teeth. To act in opposition to one another is
therefore contrary to nature” (‘Enchir.,’ 2:1). And Pope:
‘‘What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame,” etc.
The human body has various correlated parts. Each constituent or “member” must
be recognized as something in itself, as having an autonomy, as created for a distinct
function and ordained to do its own special work. Not else could the body be
worthy of its place as the head of the physical world and represent the mind of man.
In this wondrous organism, which may be likened to a community, every cell is an
independent activity, a citizen with rights of its own and entitled to protection against
all hostile influence. Paul has given due prominence to this idea of each organ as
performing its functions and as essential to the whole. If the unity is brought about
from within, then it follows that every member must share the animating principle.
Food must be provided for blood, blood must nourish the organs, the organs must
be tributary in specific ways to the organism, or the organism must perish. So in
the Church, different men are different organs. Such are the numerous offices of
the Holy Ghost as the Executive of Father and Son; such are His relations as
Remembrancer, Testifier, Convincer; that there must needs be much diversity
of gift; and hence there are gifts of healing, helping, governing, extraordinary
faith, and “divers kinds of tongues.” Light is distributed in colors, and colors in tints
and hues, and tints and hues multiply themselves in minute differences. Sound breaks
up in notes. Form assumes multitudinous shapes and attitudes. The ocean rolls in
restless lines and the earth curves to a curving sky. “Not one member, but many,” and
the manifoldness in the magnificence of the universe is repeated, as far as may be, in the
complexity of the human organism, and, in turn, this exists for the Church. But
Reciprocity of action must be fully maintained. The organs of the body are distinct
but not separate, since they combine in one organism and are subordinate to a
unitary result. They are supplied with blood by the same heart and they are all
dependent on nerves running from nervous centers. Spinal cord, medulla,
cerebellum, cerebrum, are local in position, but not local in function. Not an organ,
though independent in structure and functional operation, can insulate itself and
be independent of the whole. Our pleasures and pains alike testify to this dominant
mutuality. A beautiful landscape is not limited to the retina; a musical sound enters
the rhythm of heart and lungs, and the ear is only a fragment of the joy; so that
localized sensibility, however intense, becomes generalized feeling. The special
senses exist for a sensorium. Paul regards the body, therefore, as an assemblage
or confederation of organs, and enlarges in verses 15-26 on the idea in its several
16 "And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;
is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were
the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” In the body
there is between the members an identity of common interest and a perfection of
separate functions. All are not equal in strength and delicacy, but each is happy,
and EACH IS NECESSARY TO THE WELL BEING OF ALL! There could be
no better image of the ideal relation of Christians to each other and to the
18 "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body,
as it hath pleased Him." God did not this arbitrarily, but in furtherance of one
wise and beneficent design, so that each may be honored and indispensable, and
therefore contented in its own sphere.
19 "And if they were all one member, where were the body? The interests of
the individual must never overshadow those of the Church. In the Church, as in
the body, the hypertrophy (overuse) or the atrophy (disuse) of any one member is
injurious, not only to itself, but to the whole.
20 "But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot
say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet,
I have no need of you." A rebuke to the pride of those who thought their own gifts
to be exclusively valuable.
Mutual Service (v. 21)
These words indicate, not only the principles that ought to govern the
Church of Christ, but also the Divine order and law of all human society.
The New Testament Church, like the ancient Jewish commonwealth, bears
a representative character. We have to regard it, not only as a spiritual
fellowship distinct from the world, united by a different bond, ruled by
different laws, inspired by a different spirit, living a different life, advancing
to a different destiny, but also as a fellowship that is called to illustrate
before the world the Divine idea of social human life. Taking this broader
view of the passage, observe —
DISTINCTIONS. These are suggested by the “eye,” the “hand,” the
“head,” and the “feet.” The distinctions that exist among men are of
various kinds — natural and acquired, essential and conventional. There
are distinctions intellectual, moral, educational, national, official,
circumstantial. All these are recognized in some way or other by the
religion of Christ. But they do not receive from it precisely the same
recognition. They are not recognized by it to the same extent. There are
certain social distinctions that are far too deeply rooted in the instinctive
tendencies of our nature, or in the moral necessity of things, ever to be
obliterated. If they could be leveled in one age they would inevitably rise
again in the next. If leveled in a violent and repressive way, they only
spring up afterwards in some exaggerated and extravagant form. The
French Revolution began with glorious dreams of “liberty, fraternity, and
equality;” it ended in a “Reign of Terror” in which every man’s hand was
against his brother, in a military despotism that crushed the hopes and
energies of the people in the dust, in social separations broader and deeper
than had been known before. The religion of Christ is in no way
antagonistic to those radical and natural tendencies — it does but mold
and regulate them. It seeks to control, but not to crush them, wisely to
direct the current, but not to stay its course. Revolutionary as it is in its
purpose and workings, it is truly conservative, gradually transforming the
whole life of man, but demanding no violent changes, developing the form
of the nobler future out of the crude, imperfect, and misshapen past. Hence
what seems to some the strange silence of apostolic teaching in reference
to many of the dark facts and phases of the social life of the world as then
existing — slavery, polygamy, military tyranny, oppressive laws, etc. The
chief lesson for us here, however, is this — that in the body politic, the
living frame of society, each man according to his distinction has his own
special function and special work to do. There is the eye — the discerning,
perceptive, observant power; the head — the regulative, guiding,
governmental power; the hand — the operative faculty, the power that
does the finer and more skilful work of the world; and the feet — the part
of the frame that bears the heavier burdens, does the drudgery, endures in
the way of physical toil the more painful pressure of life. Each member has
its own particular work to do, and which another cannot do. The eye
cannot handle, the hand cannot see, the head cannot bear the heavy
burdens, the feet cannot direct. There are men of fine speculative,
philosophic thought, but who have little practical capacity; a nice
discernment of the truth of things, but no power to embody even their own
ideas in real and substantial forms. Again, there are men of great
administrative ability, quick for all the practical business of life, “born to
rule” or to manage affairs; place them where you will they will soon assert
their power, and others will recognize it and follow their leading. While
there are also men to whom physical toil is a natural instinctive delight, and
whom the educational influences of life never have fitted or, perhaps, could
fit for any other function. Distinctions that grow thus in a natural way out
of radical qualities in men Christianity recognizes. Also those that belong
to the parental and family relations, or that may be necessary to assert the
majesty of law (Romans 13:1-6). But as to any further distinctions, any
that rest upon a purely fictitious and conventional basis, having no
foundation in nature, which merely feed the lust of power and the pride of
life, it would seem to acknowledge none.
PARTS OF THE SOCIAL FRAME. The conditions of our life in this
world INVOLVE US ALL in a thousand subtle ways, in the obligation
TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER and subject us all, whether we will or not,
to the law of self sacrifice. All nature, in its purely physical aspects,
is framed on this principle.
“Nothing in the world is single,
All things, by a law Divine,
In another’s being mingle.”
Every form of physical existence draws its life from those beneath it, and in
its turn has to surrender its life to them. The lower forms exist for the
higher, the highest can never assert its freedom from the law of dependence
on the lowest. So in the complex system of human life, no grade in the
social scale, no order of faculty, no kind of “interest,” can claim exemption
from the common bond. Take e.g. the relation that exists between the men
of thought and the men of action, the theoretical and the practical. They
are apt to think and to speak slightingly of each other; the one intolerant of
being brought continually to a merely utilitarian test, the other always
ready with the charge of speculative dreaming. This is a mistake. God has
set the one over against the other, “that the one without the other should
not be made perfect.” Thought without action is worthless. Yet it is
thought that rules the world, and if there were no “eye” to guide it the
labor of the “hand” would soon cease. So also of social conditions. The
tendency sometimes seen in those upon whom the burdens of toil and
privation press most heavily, to look up enviously, suspiciously, and even
defiantly towards those who occupy a higher level, may be very senseless;
but, on the other hand, what more false and irrational than the tone of lofty
superiority that social distinction sometimes assumes? Can the head, then,
say to the feet, “I have no need of you”? What would become of the
loftiest dignities of the world if there were none to bear the heavier burdens
and do the rougher work of life? From what do the fairest forms of our
civilization spring, our comforts and indulgences, and all the thousand
pleasant associations of our life? of what are they the fruits, but of patient,
life consuming labor in field and factory and mine? All the bright and
beautiful things of the world, all the pride and glory of man’s existence in
it, have their roots more or less directly in the base earth. The eye and the
head, with all their fine sensibility and lofty faculty, can do nothing without
the hands and the feet. Christianity gives the utmost sanctity and force to
this lesson. It is in the light of the incarnation, the sympathetic humanity,
the lowly life, the beneficent ministry, the sacrificial death, of the Lord
Jesus that we see what a wondrous bond of brotherhood it is that unites
the whole human family together, and that we learn to understand the great
law that God has formed us all to “live not unto ourselves.” The gospel
makes us more keenly sensible of our obligations than of our rights, of
what we owe to others than of what they owe to us. It inspires us with the
spirit of Him who was “among us as one that serveth” and who “gave his
life a ransom for many.”
HONOUR TO OUR FELLOW MEN. The Law of Christ teaches us to
reverence our common humanity in all its conditions. “Honour all men.
Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (I Peter 2:17).
These utterances would seem to embrace all the points of Christian duty in
this respect. But the whole drift of the apostle’s teaching, in this as in so
many other places, is to the effect that special honor is due to the faithful
discharge of personal responsibility. Whatever station men occupy,
whatever function they perform, it is the profitable use of faculty for the
common good that confers upon them the noblest distinction.
“Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part; there all the honor lies.”
22 "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be
more feeble, are necessary:" This is the point of the Aesop Fable of
The Belly and the Members below:
ONE fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were
doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held
a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the
Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two,
the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and
the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began
to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition:
the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry,
while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that
even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body,
and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.
23 "And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon
these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more
abundant comeliness." The shelter and ornament of clothing are used
to cover those parts of the body which are conventionally regarded as the least seemly.
The whole of this illustration is meant to show that rich and poor, great and small,
high and low, gifted and ungifted, have all their own separate and indispensable
functions, and no class of Christians can wisely disparage or forego the aid derived
from other and different classes. The unity of the members in one body corresponds
to “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) which should
prevail in the Church.
24 "For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body
together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members
should have the same care one for another." No schism in the body.
What is exclusively called “schism” is not necessarily such. There may be
difference of fold in the one flock. There may be no real discord or dissension,
though there may be varieties of ecclesiastical government. Unity, as the whole
argument shows, does not demand the existence of uniformity. That the members
should have the same care one for another. Thus the early believers “were of one
heart and of one soul;” and the moment that a complaint arose that one of the
weakest and smallest interests was neglected, the supposed neglect was
amply remedied (Acts 4:32; 6:1-6).
26 "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or
one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." St. Chrysostom
illustrates this verse by saying that if a thorn runs into the heel, the whole body
feels it and is troubled; (same with a tack in the shoe – CY – 2010) and that, on
the other hand, if the head is garlanded, the whole man is glorified.
The Law of Order in the Human Body (vs. 12-26)
complete thing. It has its appointed parts; nothing whatever can be added
to it, and nothing can be taken from it. Though it may be unrealized as yet,
God sees His Church to be, as perfect, a whole.
left and the right have their special functions. Every limb and member and
joint has its individual mission. And so in the Church of Christ. No two of
its members are really alike, and each has his fitted place and appointed work.
abilities by itself; doing its own particular work only with the aid of all the
other members. The whole being is set in mutual dependence and helpfulness.
particular work efficiently and well. Schism in the body is disease, common
helplessness, and the beginnings of death.
COMMON LIFE. Use our Lord’s illustration from the vine and the branches.
(John 15) The member must abide in the body, and the branch in the vine.
Apply in each case to the Christian Church, and impress that, in the body
and in the Church, there can be
Ø no unnecessary part;
Ø no idle member; and
Ø no dishonorable or unhonored portion; since each has its
particular use for the good of the whole.
Sympathy (v. 26)
The desirableness and preciousness of sympathy are unquestionable.
Selfishness is the curse of human nature and human society. There is a
tendency towards absorption in individual interests, pleasures, and
sorrows, which needs to be counteracted. Sympathy is as natural a
principle as selfishness, though not so strong. Christianity tends to
strengthen it for the conflict; and in the new humanity the love of the
Saviour awakens and fosters regard for all those for whom Christ died.
Ø Christ’s words are the law of sympathy. It was He who uttered
admonitions which have been so potent to affect the heart and influence
society; e.g. “Do unto others,” etc.; “Love one another,” etc. And His
apostles’ words are His; e.g. “Bear ye one another’s burdens;” “Look not
every man,” etc.; “Rejoice with them,” etc.
Ø Christ’s life was the model of sympathy. In the Gospels we behold Him
sympathizing with sufferers, mourners, doubters, and inquirers, the
ignorant and uncared for, sinners who repented of sin, and others. He is
still the High Priest touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
Ø Christ’s cross is the motive to sympathy. It presents the Redeemer
suffering with and for mankind; and those who can say, “He gave Himself
for me,” feel the constraint of the cross, the love of Christ.
Ø Christ’s Spirit is the power of sympathy — an unseen, but mighty and
Ø The whole Church of the Redeemer demands its exercise. Christians are
members of the one body, and subject to the one Head. Their mutual
relations to one another are consequent upon their common relations to
their Lord. Hence their interdependence and sympathy. When the head is
crowned, the whole body is glorified; when the eyes brighten, all the
features respond; when a limb aches, the whole frame is depressed. In such
sympathy the body is a picture of the Church as it should be, and as it is
just in proportion as it is pervaded by the Spirit of the Lord.
Ø The whole race of mankind is included in its scope and action.
Christianity alone can attack human isolation, and serve as the bond of
universal brotherhood. The wanderers have to be gathered into the fold,
and to this end they must first be pitied and yearned over and sought.
Ø Sympathetic suffering with the sad and distressed, as opposed to
indifference or malicious pleasure in others’ misfortunes.
Ø Sympathetic joy in the advancement and honors of others, as opposed to
envy and jealousy.
Ø Sympathetic action; for emotion leads to practical interposition and help.
Aid, gifts, self denying effort, may prove the reality of the feeling expressed
Ø To those who display it, it is advantageous as developing and fostering
Ø To those who partake of it, whose cheerfulness is augmented and whose
sorrows are relieved.
Ø To society in general, which is thus leavened by Christian spirit and
The Common Bearing of a Christian Church (v. 26)
“Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” This is a
matter of the most ordinary experience in the human body. A pain in any
portion, even the most remote from the seats of life, affects the whole. A
glance at history will show us that it is the same with the body politic.
Whatever is physically, morally, or spiritually injurious to any one portion
of society, or of the Church of Christ, is sure in the long run to produce
injury, moral and spiritual deterioration, to the rest.” So whatever tends to
exalt the character and purify the aims of any one class in society, is sure in
a greater or less degree to affect every other. If the one thought is
calculated to alarm us by calling our attention to the infinite mischief which
may be wrought by one act of thoughtlessness or selfishness, it is an
immense encouragement to be reminded by the other that no work for
good, undertaken from unselfish motives and carried out in an unselfish
spirit, can possibly be without effect. Chrysostom says, “When a thorn
enters the heel, the whole body feels it and is concerned; the back bends,
the belly and thighs contract themselves, the hands come forward and draw
out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard the affected member
with intense gaze.” John Howe says, “It is a most unnatural thing to rejoice
in the harm of another. In the body, when one member is suffering, all the
members suffer with it. And to delight in the harm of others is as contrary
to the spiritual nature which is diffused in the true body of Christ, as if the
head or any other member should rejoice that the hand or foot is in pain.”
Two points may be fully treated.
sympathetic feeling in the most distant parts, so suffering, and even more
truly sin, in the lowest and lowliest member of a Christian Church, affects,
injures, and grieves the whole. Every member ought to suffer and
sympathize with the sufferer or the sinner.
local pain, so sympathetic pain in other members of the Church finds its
proper use in the help afforded, and relief given to the suffering or sinning
27 "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." Each Church
is a sort of microcosm of the whole Church. Paul does not mean that the Corinthian
Church is a member in the body of all the Churches, but that each Corinthian
Christian is a member of the Church.
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." Hath set; rather, appointed.
First apostles. Apart from the twelve (Luke 6:13) and Paul and Barnabas, the
name was in a lower sense extended to leading and eminent Christians, especially
to those who had taken part in founding or ruling Churches (Romans 16:7).
Prophets. Wise spiritual preachers. It is instructive 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. Teachers. Those who have the minor gifts of
instruction and exposition (Acts 13:1). Helps. All the services rendered by
the power of active sympathy; by the work of deacons, sisters of mercy, etc.
(Acts 6:3-4). See Acts 20:35; I Timothy 6:2; Luke 1:54; and Romans 16:3.
Governments. Powers of leading and organization. Compare what happens
when people are disobedient to God (Isaiah 3:12-15) – Diversities [kinds] of
tongues” - 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 of practical life, which sum up the previous
29 "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers
of miracles?" It is God’s providence which “has appointed divers orders in
His Church,” and has “ordained and constituted the services of angels and of
men in a wonderful order.”
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." Covet earnestly; literally, be zealous for, strongly desire.
That which we aim at we usually attain; and we should aim at that which really is,
not at that which seems, the most splendid charism (gift). And yet show I unto you
a more excellent way.” The “more excellent way” is the way of love, which he sets
forth in the next chapter, and which lies open to all Christians without distinction.
The verse means either, “And further” (besides bidding you aim at the better gifts),
“I show you one supreme way of attaining them;” or, “And I show you a still
more eminent way.” I bid you desire the best gifts, and further show you a truly
royal road (viam maxime vialem), a road par excellence, which leads to their
attainment. The way of love would lead to them, and it was itself the best of them.
“All the way to heaven lies through heaven, and the path to heaven is heaven.”
The whole is here called the “body of Christ.” As the soul resides in the body,
directs the body, reveals itself in the body, so Christ in the true Church. “For as the
body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body,
being many, are one body, so also is Christ,” (v. 12) Great is the variety in the
various faculties, organs, and parts of the human body. Some are larger and more
comely than others, but each, even the most insignificant and uncomely, are equally
essential. “Those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are
necessary,” (v. 22) - How preposterous would it be for one vital part of the
body to contend with another for importance and supremacy! Yet not more
absurd than for one member of a Church to contend with another. This is
Paul’s argument against the divisions that were rampant in the Corinthian
“What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame:
Just as absurd to mourn the task or pains,
The great directing Mind of all ordains.
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the soul.”
The Comparison of Gifts and Graces (v. 31)
The most important aspect of religion is the practical one. It is a power
working for good upon the whole of our human natures, effecting vital
changes, and molding our conduct and conversation to the pattern of a
new model; a Divine power, quickening every right and good faculty our
natures may possess, and consecrating to God their exercise; a power
seeking to crush and kill all wrong within us and about us, checking every
form of evil influence. The great Redeemer takes possession of our natures
that He may fit them to be His own abode. And no view of Christ’s work
should be so precious to us as that which represents Him, amid daily scenes
and by daily sanctifyings, changing the desolated mansion of our nature
palace of divinest purity and beauty, WHEREIN THE KING OF KINGS
MAY DWELL! This gracious work may be represented as the culture of the
Christian graces, and our text reminds us how much more important for us
are the graces of Christian character than the gifts of Christian ability. By a
“gift” we understand something which enables us to do; by a “grace,”
something which enables us to be, A gift is something, as it were, put into
our hands, that can be used by us; a grace is some change effected in our
very natures, which makes us unquestionably better men and women. We
observe the distinction more clearly in the similar words, “talent” and
“character.” Our text suggests that graces are better than gifts — they are
“the more excellent way;” and even gifts are worth very little save as they
are united with graces. It is very remarkable that Paul should be the one
to set graces above gifts; since in personal endowments he surpassed all the
Ø They have a common Divine origin. The apostle said of himself,
inclusive of his great mental powers and cultivated capacities, and also
inclusive of his beautiful moral qualities and high spiritual attainments,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.” (ch. 15:10)
Ø Graces and gifts have a common purpose to effect. Both are for the use of
“edifying.” That word is made from a Latin term which means “to build
up,” and it brings before us the Pauline figure of Christian life as a Temple
in course of construction. We seem to see the gathered stones and material;
we watch the toiling workmen; we discern some indications of the design
of the eternal Architect; and, whether we be men of gifts or men of graces,
we must not be mere lookers on; we must be adding something, either to
the stability or the beauty of that uprising building. If we have gifts, we are
to put them to use in kindly and wise actions, helping our brothers to carry
their burdens, or teaching them how best to lay stone upon stone. If we
have graces, then we are enabled to exercise a holy influence on those
around us, inspiring and inspiriting their souls; throwing a Divine
fragrance, like that from the flowers of paradise, over all our relations
with others; helping our fellows to work more heartily and bear more
Ø Graces and gifts are alike in this — they both can grow and both can
Ø Graces have power to come to all and enrich all. In any very large sense
gifts can only come to the few. We almost feel as if we could count up the
men and women who, in each department of gift, have risen high above
their fellows. We have a special name for such — we call them “geniuses,”
and. we know that real genius is very scarce. But we may all have great
graces; they are like the beams of God’s sweet sunlight, that fall alike on
the castle that crowns the hill and on the cluster of cottages that gathers at
Ø Graces are better than gifts, because they last for ever. The things which
we have must one day drop out of our hands; the dead hand holds nothing.
What we are in ourselves we must be for ever, we cannot cease to be when
death severs the mortal from the immortal.
Ø Graces are better than gifts, because they have the power of working
always. Gifts are dependent on men’s wills, and those wills are so often
wholly self-ruled. We very seldom can get the full benefit of the gifts of the
gifted. If a man be a gracious soul, he cannot help working for his fellow
men and for Christ. The glory of our graces is just this — they are either
independent of our wills, or they are simply and gloriously triumphant over
our wills. Be beautiful, be gentle, be humble, be true, be generous, in a
word, be Christ like; let only your soul be filled with the graces of the
Spirit, and you will become, you cannot help becoming, one of God’s most
constant and most efficient workers, in nursery and kitchen, in home and
friendship, in office and shop, in society and in the Church. Could we see
deeply into the reality of things, we should be ready with one voice to
acknowledge that goodness is the true greatness, and our supreme concern
would be to become beautiful for Christ.
This section has been fitly spoken of as a colloquy in a highly dramatic style.” The body
itself is thoroughly dramatic. It represents and interprets the mind. It acts the soul.
Downward it may go and imitate the beast, even descend below the beast. Upward it
may go, and go so high that the faces of Moses and Stephen glow with a light never on shore
or sea. Now, this colloquy presents one member of the body arrayed against another and
vainly asserting its independence. If a discontented foot envy the hand, or the ear envy
the eye, “is it therefore not of the body,” participating in its fights, enjoying its privileges,
ennobled by the organism? They are for the sake of each other, so that “the eye cannot
say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no
need of you? Furthermore, in the case of feeble organs, does the body turn
vindictively against them? — in the case of those less honorable, are they despised?
in the case of the uncomely parts, are they treated with contempt? Nay, in the well ordered
commonwealth of the body, where the instincts, endowed by the Almighty with a measure
of His sovereignty, retain their sway, parts that are feeble, less honorable, less comely, appeal
to pity and sympathy and taste to be cheered and comforted. The whole glandular system,
though assigned to the functions of secretion and excretion, is yet a wonderful provision for
emotion, not only for emotion as respects others, but as self regarding and self relieving.
A whispered. need of assistance from the very humblest organ is heard in every recess of the
corporeal structure. Temple it is even in ruins, and its ministers, inhabiting dim vaults and
mysterious crypts, hear the prayer for compassion and aid, and hasten to give sympathy
and assistance. Beyond all this, what vicarious work the organs do in their considerate
kindness to one another? No doubt we are open to the charge of reading between the
apostle’s lines and of going beyond his intended meaning. Be it so; on the lines or between
them, no matter, if the philosophy and spirit of the thought he observed. Paul’s inspiration
was for our day as well as his own, and perhaps it would not be very extravagant to say
that the Christian scholarship of the twenty-first century sees depths in some of his
conceptions that he never saw. For it is the nature of inspiration to be ever unfolding its
manifoldness of meaning, holding tenaciously to its original ground, and yet pressing
back its horizon to embrace fresh territory, and thus making itself a specially quickening
power to successive ages. One thing, however, is very clear, namely, Paul saw the analogy
between the Church and the human body. By virtue of the connection of its organs, he takes
occasion to urge on the Church very weighty and solemn duties. Mutual forbearance, respect,
honor, must be sacredly cherished. The organic life of the Church makes it Christ’s body.
“Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The main thought is restated
and reinforced as to apostles, prophets, etc. (vs. 28-30); and surely nothing has been left
unsaid which could convince and persuade the Corinthians that their spiritual organization
was not a thing to take care of itself, nor to be trusted to haphazard, nor to be surrendered
to self-appointed leaders. It was a life, a sphere, a discipline and culture, a joy and
blessedness, for all. Were the weakliest among them to be overlooked as useless? If there
were poor widows with only two mites to cast into God’s treasury, they had their place and
vocation. If there were little children, their looks and ways told of the kingdom of heaven.
Were there uncomely parts? Grace was strong enough to do them abundant honor. One of
the invaluable blessings of Church life is to show respect and regard for such as society
excludes from its esteem, and alas! too often treats with disdain, and thereby dooms them
to a fate more wretched than poverty. In honoring them, the Church teaches these persons
to honor themselves, and that, once secured, improvement outward and inward is made
far easier. In brief, wherever anything was lacking, there “more abundant honor” should
be bestowed. And why all this? That none be neglected, that all be partakers of one
another’s sufferings and pleasures, and that the community be indeed a communion of one
heart and mind. “That there should be no schism.” This was the dread that hung over Paul:
“schism;” this was the terror that darkened his path far more than the enemies and
persecutors that pursued his steps. “Members should have the same care one for another.”
Brotherhood should sanctify individuality, and consummate and crown all the gifts of the
Divine Giver. What a wonder this, to set before a city like Corinth! What an ideal to lift
up in its resplendent glory in a period such as the first century! And this by the “ugly little
Jew,” a wandering tent maker, who had nothing and would have nothing to commend him
to the carnal philosophy and popular tastes of the age, and who could only speak from
his own soul and the Spirit in that soul to the souls of men. Yet the doctrine of Christ’s
headship of humanity was his stay and strength, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost were his
tokens and pledges of victory for his cause. He would have others share his assurance
and participate with him in the infinite blessedness. Therefore, he argues, “covet earnestly
the best gifts,” and the best way to secure these best gifts he will proceed at once to
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