1 Corinthians 14:12
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
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(12) Even so ye.—Here follows the practical application of the previous teaching and illustration. The “ye” of 1Corinthians 14:9 was addressed to them as human beings generally; but here the Apostle returns to the immediate subject in hand, viz., the exaltation of particular spiritual gifts in the Corinthian Church. He passes now from the contrast between prophecy and tongues to give practical instruction (1Corinthians 14:12-19) as to how they should seek to use the gift of tongues. The word for “spiritual gifts” is, in the Greek, literally spirits, but is evidently meant to imply the gifts, and especially that one under consideration—the gift of tongues.

Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.—Better, seek, then, to the edifying of the Church, that ye may abound. The point cannot be that they were to seek to excel in spiritual gifts, that so they might edify the Church, for the next verse explains how the gift is to be sought so that it may edify others; but the force of the passage here is as given above—they are to seek this gift for the benefit of others, and so they will themselves, by serving others, abound yet more and more (1Corinthians 8:7; 1Thessalonians 4:1).

14:6-14 Even an apostle could not edify, unless he spoke so as to be understood by his hearers. To speak words that have no meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the air. That cannot answer the end of speaking, which has no meaning; in this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All religious services should be so performed in Christian assemblies, that all may join in, and profit by them. Language plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a name for learning or fine speaking.Even so ye - Since you desire spiritual gifts, I may urge it upon you to seek to he able to speak in a clear and intelligible manner, that you may edify the church. This is one of the most valuable endowments of the Spirit; and this should be earnestly desired.

Forasmuch as ye are zealous - Since you earnestly desire; See the note at 1 Corinthians 12:31.

Spiritual gifts - The endowments conferred by the Holy Spirit; See the note at 1 Corinthians 12:1.

Seek that ye may excel ... - Seek that you may be able to convey truth in a clear and plain manner; seek to be distinguished for that. It is one of the most rare and valuable endowments of the Holy Spirit.

12. zealous—emulously desirous.

spiritual gifts—literally, "spirits"; that is, emanations from the one Spirit.

seek that ye may excel to—Translate, "Seek them, that ye may abound in them to the edifying," &c.

This proves that the members of the church of Corinth were very ambitious of

spiritual gifts. The particle outw, which our translation here renders so, plainly signifies therefore in this place. In the Greek it is, because, or

forasmuch as ye are zealous of spirits; the efficient is put for the effect, the Spirit, which is the author of those gifts, for the gifts themselves.

Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church; seek that ye may excel in them, and that will be, if you most desire those which tend to the edifying the church, and use those with which God hath blessed you in the best order and manner for that end. From whence it is observable, that the improvement of the people to whom we preach in the knowledge of God, and in faith and obedience, is the great end which we ought to propose to ourselves in the discharge of our office, and in the use of our gifts.

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts,.... Gr. "of spirits"; that is, "of the gifts of the Spirit", as the Syriac version renders it; and we rightly, "spiritual gifts"; the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, for which the apostle does not blame them; these being what he had before exhorted them to covet earnestly, and zealously affect and desire: but then he further advises,

seek that ye may excel, to the edifying of the church: above all, be desirous of such gifts, and of excelling in them, and abounding in the exercise of them, which may be most profitable and edifying to the members of the church; and what these were, and in what manner to be used, he had before signified: the Alexandrian copy reads, seek that ye may prophesy.

{5} Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

(5) The conclusion: if they will excel in those spiritual gifts, as it is proper, they must seek the profit of the church. And therefore they must not use the gift of tongues, unless there is an interpreter to expound the strange and unknown tongue, whether it is himself that speaks, or another interpreter.

1 Corinthians 14:12. Inference, which the readers have to draw from 1 Corinthians 14:10 f. “Therefore (itaque), seeing, namely, that the unintelligible speaking is, according to 1 Corinthians 14:10 f., something so absurd, seek ye also, since ye are indeed zealous after spirits, with a view to the edification of the church therein, that ye may have abundance.” The οὕτω κ. ὑμεῖς, which is repeated here, must be related to 1 Corinthians 14:10 f., just as the οὕτω κ. ὑμεῖς in 1 Corinthians 14:9 is to 1 Corinthians 14:7 f., and may not therefore be made to refer to all that precedes it back as far as 1 Corinthians 14:6 (Hofmann). As the former οὕτω κ. ὑμεῖς set forth an inference for warning, so the present one infers the requisite precept, and for both what in each case immediately precedes serves as the premis.

Πρὸς τ. οἰκοδ. τ. ἐκκλησ. has the emphasis (in opposition to Hofmann). The absurdity referred to is meant to point the readers, with their zealous striving after gifts of the Spirit, to the right way, namely, that with a view to the edification of the church[6] they should seek after ever richer endowments. Consequently it is just as superfluous to isolate οὕτω κ. ὑμεῖς as a sentence by itself (τινές in Theophylact, Mosheim, Flatt, Heydenreich), which, moreover, would be quite unsuitable in respect of sense, as it is to assume a suppressed inference after 1 Corinthians 14:11 (Estius, Rückert).

Καὶ ὑμεῖς] you too; for the Corinthians were in fact to form no exception from this general maxim, as in their striving after higher charismata, and especially after the gift of speaking with tongues, seemed, alas, to be the case!

ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμ.] on which account you have all the more need of the right regulative! A pointed hint for the readers, the force of which they could doubtless feel for themselve.

πνευμάτων] the genitive of the object, to which the zealous striving relates. The plural expression is purposely chosen κατὰ τὸ φαινόμενον (comp. Hofmann) in keeping with the emulous doings at Corinth. For the specifically different manifestations, in which the manifold working of the One Spirit displayed itself, assumed indeed, in presence of such jealous seeking and striving, such an appearance to the eyes of the observer of this unseemly state of things, as though not one Spirit, but a plurality of spirits, differing in kind and importance, were the object of the rivalry. What were διαιρέσεις χαρισμάτων, and hence only different φανερώσεις τοῦ πνευμάτος, presented themselves, as matters stood at Corinth, to the eye and pen of the apostle as διαιρέσεις πνευμάτων. Πνευμάτων, therefore, is just as far from standing for πνευματικῶν (Beza, Piscator, Storr, Flatt, and others) as it is from denoting the glossolalia (Heydenreich, Billroth).[7] To suppose a real plurality of spirits, after the analogy of the persons possessed by a number of evil spirits (see Hilgenfeld, p. 52 f.), so that a number of divine spirits would be meant, is at variance with the N. T. generally, and at variance with 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:7 ff.

ἵνα περισσ.] Οὐκ εἶπεν· ἵνα κτήσησθε τὰ χαρίσματα, ἀλλʼ ἵνα περισσεύητε, τουτέστιν ἵνα καὶ μετὰ δαψιλείας πολλῆς αὐτὰ ἔχητε· τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἀπέχω τοῦ μὴ βούλεσθαι ἔχειν ὑμᾶς αὐτὰ, ὅτι καὶ περισσεύειν ὑμᾶς ἐν αὐτοὶς βούλομαι, μόνον ἂν εἰς τὸ κοινῇ συμφέρον αὐτὰ μεταχειρίζητε, Chrysosto.

ἽΝΑ] sets before us the object of the striving as its design, as at 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 4:2.

What we are to conceive as the contents of the περισσεύειν (to have to the full, 1 Corinthians 8:8; Php 1:9; Php 4:12, al.) is self-evident, namely, what was previously meant by πνευμάτων, spiritual gifts.

[6] πρὸς τ. οἰκ. τ. ἐκκλ. belongs to ζητεῖτε, not to περισσ. (Grotius and many others), because Paul has not written: ζητεῖτε, πρὸς τ. οἰκ τ. ἐκκλ. ἵνα περισσ. That would be the correct way of putting it first with the emphasis, if it were meant to belong to περισσ., 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10; Acts 19:4. This also in opposition to Hofmann, who takes πρ. τ. οἰκ. τ. ἐκκλ. as only a subordinate thought (“which then comes to be profitable for the edification of the church”) belonging to περισς. The edification of the church is in truth just the normative test for the appreciation and right pursuit of the charismata (vv. 3, 4, 17, 26; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16). The article before οἰκοδ. does not denote the edification already otherwise taking place, but is simply = πρὸς τὸ οἰκοδομεῖσθαι τ. ἐκκλησίαν. Paul might either put it or leave it out (ver. 26; Romans 15:2; Ephesians 4:29).

[7] The endeavour to be a speaker with tongues was rather only a particular mode, in which the πνεύματα ζηλοῦν, this general tendency, came into manifestation especially in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 14:12. οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς is parl[2063] to 1 Corinthians 14:9; but the application is now turned into an exhortation. P. leaves the last comparison to speak for itself, and hastens to enforce his lesson: “So also with yourselves; since you are coveters of spirits (ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων), seek that you may abound (in them) with a view to the edifying of the church”—or “for the edifying of the church seek (them), that you may abound (therein)”. The latter rendering, preferred by Cv[2064], Mr[2065], Al[2066], Hf[2067], Sm[2068], is truer to the order of the words, and reproduces the emphasis of πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομ. τῆς ἐκκλ. ζητεῖτε has its object supplied before hand in the previous clause, and ἵνα (περισσεύητε) bears its ordinary sense as conj. of purpose. Spiritual powers are indeed to be sought (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 12:31), provided that they be sought for the religious profiting of others, with a view to abound in service to the Church. The ἵνα clause is thus parl[2069] to πρὸς τ. οἰκοδομήν (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:35, 2 Timothy 3:16); cf. John 10:10, and other parls. for περισσεύω.—ζηλωταί, zealots, enthusiasts after spirits (Ev[2070]),—used perhaps with a touch of irony (Hn[2071]). The Cor[2072] have already the eagerness that P. commends in 1 Corinthians 14:1; but it is not prompted by the best motives, nor directed to the most useful end: this word was common amongst Greeks as describing the ardent votaries of a school or party, or those jealous for the honour of some particular master (cf. Galatians 1:14).—πνεύματα differs somewhat from τὰ πνευματικά (1 Corinthians 14:1), signifying not “the (proper) spiritual” powers, but unseen forces generally (see 1 Corinthians 12:10, διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, 1 John 4:1, and the warning of 1 Corinthians 12:3; cf. the notes); “the Cor[2073] sought supernatural endowments, no matter what their nature might be” (Ed[2074])—at any rate, they thought too little of the true source and use of the charisms, but too much and too emulously of their outward impression and prestige (see πνευμάτων, 1 Corinthians 14:32).—Everling (Die paul. Angel, u. Dämonologie, pp. 40 ff.) infers from this passage, along with Revelation 22:6, the conception of a number of Divine “spirits” that may possess men; but he overpresses the turn of a single phrase, in contradiction to the context, which knows only “the one and the self-same Spirit” as from God (1 Corinthians 12:11).

[2063] parallel.

[2064] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[2065] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[2066] Alford’s Greek Testament.

[2067] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[2068] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[2069] parallel.

[2070] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[2071] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[2072] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[2073] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[2074] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

12. spiritual gifts] Literally, as margin, spirits, a word obviously standing here for the gifts of the Spirit.

seek that ye may excel] i.e. by prayer, see next verse. Excel should rather be translated abound. Be plenteous, Wiclif. Have plenty, Tyndale.

1 Corinthians 14:12. Πνευμάτων, of spirits) [of spiritual gifts]. Plural as 1 Corinthians 14:32; 1 Corinthians 12:10. As there is one sea, and many seas, so there is one spirit, and many spirits; one trumpet gives many sounds.—προς τὴν οἰκοδομην, to edification) that the Church may be as much as possible edified.

Verse 12. - Even so ye. A general form of conclusion from the previous remarks. Of spiritual gifts; literally, since ye are zealots of spirits. That ye may excel to the edifying of the Church; rather, seek them to the edifying of the Church, that ye may abound. The same word is used in Matthew 5:20 ("exceed"); 1 Corinthians 8:8 ("are we the better"). 1 Corinthians 14:12Spiritual gifts (πνευμάτων)

Lit., spirits. Paul treats the different spiritual manifestations as if they represented a variety of spirits. To an observer of the unseemly rivalries it would appear as if not one spirit, but different spirits, were the object of their zeal.

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