1 Corinthians 12:1
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.
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(1) Now concerning spiritual gifts.—Again the sequence of the topics treated of is probably decided by the subjects contained in the letter from Corinth (see 1Corinthians 7:1; 1Corinthians 8:1), and the Apostle replies to inquiries regarding the comparative value and importance of certain spiritual gifts. In this early age the Church was full of the divine energy of spiritual youth. From the indwelling Spirit of God resulted certain marvellous “gifts,” some of which ceased with the apostolic age—some of which seem to have lingered for centuries, even to our own day—declaring themselves intermittently in times of profound religious awakening. The party spirit with which the Corinthian Church seems to have been saturated naturally led to diverse views as to the relative importance of certain of these gifts—some were unduly exalted, some unduly depreciated. The truth that these gifts are valuable as evidence of the indwelling Spirit, and so far as they could be useful for the Church, was forgotten. The Apostle reserves for consideration in more detail (see 1 Corinthians 13) the special gift of tongues, which was, perhaps, the gift most exaggerated and most misunderstood at Corinth, and deals in this chapter with the subject of spiritual gifts generally. The subject of the chapter is The Source, Object, and Value of Spiritual Gifts, and the chapter may be thus subdivided:—

1Corinthians 12:1-3. The confession of Christ as Lord is the true evidence of the Spirit.

1Corinthians 12:4-11. The gifts of the Spirit are diverse in character, but the origin is the same.

1Corinthians 12:12-30. The analogy of the human body shows that the spiritual Body (the Church) is not a collection of independent parts, but a living organism consisting of mutually interdependent members.

I would not have you ignorant.—Better, I do not wish you to be ignorant.

1 Corinthians 12:1-2. Now concerning spiritual gifts — Miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, bestowed on many believers in those times, for their confirmation in the faith, and the conviction of infidels. The abundance of these gifts in the churches of Greece, strongly refuted the idle learning of the Greek philosophers. But the Corinthians did not use those gifts wisely, which occasioned the apostle’s writing concerning them. In doing this, after putting the brethren at Corinth in mind that before their conversion they were worshippers of idols, which, being themselves dumb, could not impart to their votaries the ability of speaking foreign languages, as Christ had done to many of his disciples; and after giving the Corinthians a rule by which they might judge correctly of every one who pretended to possess those gifts by divine inspiration, He, 1st, Speaks of the diversity of the gifts, which God by his Spirit had conferred on his church, of the various administrations and offices appointed by the same Lord, and of the different operations of Him that worketh all in all, 1 Corinthians 12:1 to 1Co 11:2 dly, He describes the unity of the body, with its various members, and their uses, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30. 3dly, Shows the way of exercising gifts rightly, namely, by love, 1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 13:13. throughout; and adds, 4thly, A comparison of several gifts with each other in chap. 14. I would not have you ignorant — Of the Author, nature, ends, and uses of these gifts. Ye know that ye were Gentiles — Idolatrous heathen, and were then destitute of all spiritual gifts. Whatever gifts, therefore, ye possess, ye have received them from the free grace of God; carried away — By a blind credulity; unto, and after, these dumb idols — The blind to the dumb: idols of wood and stone, unable to speak themselves, and much more to open your mouths, as God has done; even as ye were led — By the subtlety of your priests, or by some diabolical imposture, or pretended miracles.12:1-11 Spiritual gifts were extraordinary powers bestowed in the first ages, to convince unbelievers, and to spread the gospel. Gifts and graces greatly differ. Both were freely given of God. But where grace is given, it is for the salvation of those who have it. Gifts are for the advantage and salvation of others; and there may be great gifts where there is no grace. The extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were chiefly exercised in the public assemblies, where the Corinthians seem to have made displays of them, wanting in the spirit of piety, and of Christian love. While heathens, they had not been influenced by the Spirit of Christ. No man can call Christ Lord, with believing dependence upon him, unless that faith is wrought by the Holy Ghost. No man could believe with his heart, or prove by a miracle, that Jesus was Christ, unless by the Holy Ghost. There are various gifts, and various offices to perform, but all proceed from one God, one Lord, one Spirit; that is, from the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the origin of all spiritual blessings. No man has them merely for himself. The more he profits others, the more will they turn to his own account. The gifts mentioned appear to mean exact understanding, and uttering the doctrines of the Christian religion; the knowledge of mysteries, and skill to give advice and counsel. Also the gift of healing the sick, the working of miracles, and to explain Scripture by a peculiar gift of the Spirit, and ability to speak and interpret languages. If we have any knowledge of the truth, or any power to make it known, we must give all the glory of God. The greater the gifts are, the more the possessor is exposed to temptations, and the larger is the measure of grace needed to keep him humble and spiritual; and he will meet with more painful experiences and humbling dispensations. We have little cause to glory in any gifts bestowed on us, or to despise those who have them not.Now concerning - it is now time that I should speak of spiritual endowments. He had no doubt been consulted in regard to them, and probably various questions had been proposed, which he now proceeded to answer.

Spiritual gifts - The word "gifts" is not in the original. The Greek refers to "spiritual" things in general, or to anything that is of a spiritual nature. The whole discussion, however, shows that he refers to the various endowments, gifts, or graces that had been bestowed in different degrees on the members of the church - including the distinctions in graces, and in degrees of office and rank, which had been made in the Christian church in general 1 Corinthians 12, as well as the extraordinary endowments of the gift of tongues which had been bestowed upon many, 1 Corinthians 14.

I would not have you ignorant - The subject is of so much importance that it demands particular attention and special care; compare the note at 1 Corinthians 10:1. I would not have you ignorant in regard to the nature of those endowments; the spirit with which they should be received; the rules to which they who are thus favored should be subjected; and the feelings and views which should be cherished in all the members of the church in regard to them. Nothing is of more importance in the church than the doctrine respecting the influences and endowments of the Holy Spirit.


1Co 12:1-31. The Use and the Abuse of Spiritual Gifts, Especially Prophesying and Tongues.

This is the second subject for correction in the Corinthian assemblies: the "first" was discussed (1Co 11:18-34).

1. spiritual gifts—the signs of the Spirit's continued efficacious presence in the Church, which is Christ's body, the complement of His incarnation, as the body is the complement of the head. By the love which pervades the whole, the gifts of the several members, forming reciprocal complements to each other, tend to the one object of perfecting the body of Christ. The ordinary and permanent gifts are comprehended together with the extraordinary, without distinction specified, as both alike flow from the divine indwelling Spirit of life. The extraordinary gifts, so far from making professors more peculiarly saints than in our day, did not always even prove that such persons were in a safe state at all (Mt 7:22). They were needed at first in the Church: (1) as a pledge to Christians themselves who had just passed over from Judaism or heathendom, that God was in the Church; (2) for the propagation of Christianity in the world; (3) for the edification of the Church. Now that we have the whole written New Testament (which they had not) and Christianity established as the result of the miracles, we need no further miracle to attest the truth. So the pillar of cloud which guided the Israelites was withdrawn when they were sufficiently assured of the Divine Presence, the manifestation of God's glory being thenceforward enclosed in the Most Holy Place [Archbishop Whately]. Paul sets forth in order: (1). The unity of the body (1Co 12:1-27). (2). The variety of its members and functions (1Co 12:27-30). (3). The grand principle for the right exercise of the gifts, namely, love (1Co 12:31; 1Co 13:1-13). (4) The comparison of the gifts with one another (1Co 14:1-40).

I would not have you ignorant—with all your boasts of "knowledge" at Corinth. If ignorant now, it will be your own fault, not mine (1Co 14:38).1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Paul teacheth that none can own Christ but by the Holy


1 Corinthians 12:4-6 whose gifts are diverse,

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and dealt out to different persons to profit withal.

1 Corinthians 12:12,13 As many members make up one natural body, so

Christians in general form one mystical body,

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 and as every member is equally a part of the natural

body, and hath a necessary function allotted it.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 So is it with Christ’s body, the church; to the

several members of which God hath assigned different

gifts and offices for the general good.

The word gifts is not in the Greek, but supplied by our interpreters. In the Greek is no more than concerning spirituals, which is equally applicable to spiritual offices, or administrations, operations, and gifts; of all which he afterward treateth something, but mostly concerning gifts, which are chiefly spoken of in this chapter: and our translaters agree with the best interpreters, in supplying the text with the word gifts. This church eminently abounded in these abilities to spiritual actions given them of God (for spirtual gifts signifies nothing else); and as they abounded in them, so they erred much in the abuse or ill use of them, as we shall afterward read in this chapter. Therefore the apostle tells them, that as to them, he would not have them

ignorant, either of the favour of God in enriching them with them, as he had said, 1 Corinthians 1:5, or yet in the due and right use of them, so as God might have glory from their good use of them: or of the errors that they had ran into, or might further run into, in the ill use of them.

Now concerning spiritual gifts,.... Though the word "gifts" is not in the original text, it is rightly supplied by our translators, as it is in the Arabic version: for the apostle does not mean spiritual graces, nor spiritual words, or doctrines, nor spiritual meats and drinks, nor spiritual men, each of which are mentioned before in this epistle; though the latter is thought by some to be here intended, and that the apostle's view is to show the difference between those that are spiritual, and those that are not; but as spiritual gifts are the subject of the apostle's discourse throughout this chapter, and the two following, they seem very manifestly to be designed here. The apostle having gone through various heads of discourse, which he either of himself, or at the request of others, wrote upon, proceeds to a new subject, that of spiritual gifts, which he seems to have been desired to give his thoughts upon, and advice about; since there were some in this church who were discouraged, because they had not the gifts which some had; and others that had them were elated and puffed up with them, and treated those below them with neglect and contempt; and with a view to both these the apostle writes as follows,

brethren, I would not have you ignorant; neither of the author of these gifts, who is the Spirit of God, who dispenses them according to his sovereign will and pleasure, and not according to the deserts of men, and are not acquired by the industry, or through the merit of any, but are his free grace gifts; nor of the nature of them, for there are differences and diversities of them, some have one, and some another, but no man all; nor of the design and use of them, which is the edification of the whole body; and every gift, though ever so mean, is of service; and therefore as, on the one hand, none ought to be discouraged, so, on the other hand, none should be lifted up with pride, or give way to a boasting spirit.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
1 Corinthians 12:1. Δέ] leads over from the matter previously discussed to another, in connection with which also abuses had crept into the church (see on 1 Corinthians 11:18). We are warranted in assuming that the discussion of such a subject, so comprehensive and entering so much into details, was occasioned by questions put in the letter from Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Corinthians 8:1).

τῶν πνευματικῶν] is to be taken (with Chrysostom, Luther, and most expositors) as neuter, stating the theme in a quite general way: On the forms of action which proceed from the Holy Spirit and make manifest His agency in the life of the church. The speaking with tongues is specially taken up only in chap, 14, so that it is a mistake to regard πνευματ. as referring to this alone (Storr, Heydenreich, Billroth, Baur in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 644, and Wieseler in the same, p. 711, also Ewald). The πνευματικά are in their nature the same as the χαρίσματα, 1 Corinthians 12:4. Other interpreters make it masculine (Grotius, Hammond, Clericus, Locke, Semler, Morus, Rosenmüller, Stolz, Heydenreich, Ewald, Hofmann, also David Schulz, d. Geistesgaben der ersten Christen, p. 163; and Hilgenfeld, die Glossolalie, 1850, p. 16): concerning the inspired, whether genuine or not; Ewald renders: “concerning the men of the Spirit” (speakers with tongues). But in 1 Corinthians 14:1 we have the theme recurring as τὰ πνευματικά.

οὐ θέλω ὑμ. ἀγνοεῖν] I will not leave you in ignorance. Comp 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Theodore of Mopsuestia puts it aptly: ΘΈΛΩ ὙΜᾶς ΚΑῚ ΤῶΝ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚῶΝ ΧΑΡΙΣΜΆΤΩΝ ΕἸΔΈΝΑΙ ΤῊΝ ΤΆΞΙΝ, ὭΣΤΕ ΒΟΎΛΟΜΑΊ ΤΙ ΚΑῚ ΠΕΡῚ ΤΟΎΤΩΝ ΕἸΠΕῖΝ.1 Corinthians 12:1-11. § 39. THE VARIOUS CHARISMS OF THE ONE SPIRIT. In treating of the questions of Church order discussed in this Div. of the Ep., the Ap. penetrates from the outward and visible to that which is innermost and divinest in the Christian Society: (1) the question of the woman’s veil, a matter of social decorum; (2) the observance of the Lord’s Supper, a matter of Church communion; and now (3) the operation of the Spirit of God in the Church, wherein lies the very mystery of its life. The words διαιρέσεις in 1 Corinthians 12:4 and πάντα ταῦτα in 1 Corinthians 12:11 give the clue to Paul’s intent in this §. Many Cor[1812] took a low and half superstitious view of the Holy Spirit’s influence, seeing in such charisms as the “tongues”—phenomena analogous to, though far surpassing, pagan manifestations (1 Corinthians 12:2)—the proper evidence of His working, while they underrated endowments of a less striking but more vital and serviceable nature (1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Corinthians 14:12). For the moment, Paul’s object is twofold: first, to lay down a general criterion of the presence of Christ’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), and then to show the wide manifoldness of His working in the community of believers (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

[1812] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.1. concerning spiritual gifts] Rather (1) spiritual persons, or better (2) spiritual matters, agencies. The word gifts is not in the original.

I would not have you ignorant] See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 10:1.

Ch. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Spiritual Gifts; their origin and character

“We have often to remind ourselves that this Epistle was addressed to a Church in a state of faction. One cause of rivalry was the merits of their respective teachers; another was the endowments of various kinds given to the members of the Church.”—Robertson. This and the next two chapters are concerned with the great outpouring of spiritual energy which followed the preaching of the Gospel. St Paul deals with it in his usual manner. He characteristically lays down broad principles in this and the next chapter before he proceeds to the details of ch. 14. He is specially solicitous to do so here because of the danger, so often since experienced in the Church (see ch. 1 Corinthians 14:32), of the belief that a condition of great spiritual exaltation absolved men from the necessity of consulting their reason. The Apostle teaches that spiritual gifts are no less to be restrained in their exercise by considerations of decency, of order, of what is due to others, than gifts of a more ordinary kind. Therefore he takes occasion to shew (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) that all gifts proceed from one source, and that miraculous powers are no more gifts of the Spirit than some others not supposed to be miraculous, and then (1 Corinthians 12:12-30) that neither he who possesses them has any right to despise him who does not, nor he who does not possess them to envy him who does, since ‘each has his own proper gift of God.’ He goes on further (ch. 13) to point out the ‘more excellent way’ of love, and finally, in ch. 14, proceeds to lay down the regulations necessary for the preservation of order in the Christian assemblies.1 Corinthians 12:1. Περὶ δε τῶν πνενματικῶν, Now concerning spiritual gifts) This is in the Neuter gender, ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1. Some may wonder, that there is no discussion in the other epistles also on the gifts, in which however other churches were not wanting, ch. 1 Corinthians 14:36; Galatians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. The abundance of gifts in the Greek churches was a powerful confutation of the learned but vain curiosity of the Greeks. The abuse of them afforded Paul an occasion of writing to the Corinthians; and here we may observe the mark of divine wisdom, inasmuch as every book of the Sacred Scripture, even of the New Testament, has discussed certain subjects peculiar to itself. The Corinthians abounded in spiritual gifts, and yet Paul had occasion to write to them, as well on other matters, as also on this topic, and that too without delay: comp. ch. 11 at the end. Now, there is set forth here; I. The unity of the body, verses 1–27. II. The variety of its members and functions, verses 27–30. III. The grand principle, on which the gifts may be rightly exercised, viz., by love, 1 Corinthians 12:31, and in the whole of the following chapter. 4. The comparison of the gifts with one another, ch. 14.—οὐ θἐλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, I would not have you ignorant) This expression is repeated in 1 Corinthians 12:3 in synonymous terms, as if after a parenthesis.—ἀγνοεῖν, to be ignorant) ch. 1 Corinthians 14:38.Verses 1-11. - On spiritual gifts in general. Verse 1. - Now concerning spiritual gifts; rather, things spiritual. The context, however, shows that St. Paul is thinking almost exclusively of the gifts (charismata) of the Spirit. I would not have you ignorant (see 1 Corinthians 10:1). The Corinthians had doubtless inquired in their letter as to the views of the apostle on this important and difficult subject. Spiritual gifts

The charismata, or special endowments of supernatural energy, such as prophecy and speaking with tongues. "Before this consciousness of a higher power than their own, the ordinary and natural faculties of the human mind seemed to retire, to make way for loftier aspirations, more immediate intimations of the divine will, more visible manifestations of the divine power.... It resembled in some degree the inspiration of the Jewish judges, psalmists, and prophets; it may be illustrated by the ecstasies and visions of prophets in all religions; but in its energy and universality it was peculiar to the christian society of the apostolic age" (Stanley).

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