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 (χάρισματαcharismata -

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

of Isis. Even as ye were led; rather, howsoever ye might be led, as in the

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

speakers:

 

(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

moment irresponsible;

 

(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

finally,

 

(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

abused.

 

                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.

                Historically, it refers specifically to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era

                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",

                allegedly controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations,

                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

                to the establishment of such a New World Order.”  (Very interesting – CY – 2010)

                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:

 

  • Negatively. No man who has experienced it has anything irreverent or

            profane in his spirit towards Christ. “No man speaking by the Spirit of God

            calleth Jesus accursed.”

 

  • Positively. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy

            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:

 

  • THE SPECIAL THINGS OF A MAN’S LIFE ARE IN THE SPIRIT’S

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.

 

 

This article is semi-protected.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

individualities.   

 

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.

 

They are:

 

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

enterprise.

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

GLORY!

 

 

 

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

reverence.

 

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

1:6).

 

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. 

 

  • The “discourse of wisdom” would be that which sets forth the truth of the

gospel persuasively to work conversion (ch. 2:6-7);

 

  • the “discourse of knowledge” would be that which enters into the speculative

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:

 

Ø      Intellectual.

o       The word of wisdom;

o       the word of knowledge.

 

Ø      Pertaining to exalted faith (tides miraculosa).

o       Healings;

o       miracles;

o       preaching;

o       discrimination of spirits.

 

Ø       

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;

James 5:14-15). 

 

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.

Since Palestine was at this epoch bilingual, they could all speak Aramaic and Greek,

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.

 

 

  • Every member of this Christly community has RECEIVED SPECIAL

      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

            three classes:

 

ü      Those of intellect. “Wisdom,” “knowledge,” etc.

 

ü      Those of “faith,” operating faith in words, in deeds, and in

                        “discernment.”

 

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

peculiarities derived from the past and respected as the signs of Providence in the ages

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

aspects.

 

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

Church. 

 

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 —

 

  • THE WAY IN WHICH CHRISTIANITY RECOGNIZES SOCIAL

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.

 

  • THE LAW OF MUTUAL DEPENDENCE THAT GOVERNS ALL

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.”

 

  • THE GROUND ON WHICH WE OUGHT TO PAY SPECIAL

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)

 

  • IT IS A WHOLE. Evidently for it there was a plan, an ideal. It is a

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.

 

  • IT IS A VARIETY. The sides of the body seem to match, but even the

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.

 

  • IT IS A SET OF RELATIONS. No member having any powers or

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.

 

  • IT IS A HARMONY. So long as each part and portion does its own

particular work efficiently and well. Schism in the body is disease, common

helplessness, and the beginnings of death.

 

  • EACH MEMBER CAN ONLY DO ITS PART BY VIRTUE OF THE

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.

 

  • CHRIST HIMSELF IS THE DIVINE FOUNDATION OF

SYMPATHY.

 

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

gracious force.

 

  • THE VAST RANGE OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY.

 

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.

 

  • THE MANIFESTATIONS OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. These

are especially:

 

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

in words.

 

  • THE ADVANTAGES AND BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN

SYMPATHY.

 

Ø      To those who display it, it is advantageous as developing and fostering

spiritual qualities.

 

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

influence.

 

 

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.

 

  • As suffering in any part of the body disturbs the whole frame, exciting

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.

 

  • As pain elsewhere in the body is really a sympathetic effort to relieve

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

member.

 

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

enumeration.

 

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.”

 

 

  • Every member should regard these endowments as PARTS OF A VITAL WHOLE.

      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

            Church.

 

                        “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.”

 

                                                                                    (Pope.)

 

 

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

into a 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

other apostles.

 

  • WHAT HAVE GRACES AND GIFTS IN COMMON?

 

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

cheerily.

 

Ø      Graces and gifts are alike in this — they both can grow and both can

suffer loss.

 

  • WHAT HAVE GRACES WHICH GIFTS HAVE NOT?

 

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

its foot.

 

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

show them.

 

 

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