12:27-31 Contempt, hatred, envy, and strife, are very unnatural in Christians. It is like the members of the same body being without concern for one another, or quarrelling with each other. The proud, contentious spirit that prevailed, as to spiritual gifts, was thus condemned. The offices and gifts, or favours, dispensed by the Holy Spirit, are noticed. Chief ministers; persons enabled to interpret Scripture; those who laboured in word and doctrine; those who had power to heal diseases; such as helped the sick and weak; such as disposed of the money given in charity by the church, and managed the affairs of the church; and such as could speak divers languages. What holds the last and lowest rank in this list, is the power to speak languages; how vain, if a man does so merely to amuse or to exalt himself! See the distribution of these gifts, not to every one alike, ver. 29,30. This were to make the church all one, as if the body were all ear, or all eye. The Spirit distributes to every one as he will. We must be content though we are lower and less than others. We must not despise others, if we have greater gifts. How blessed the Christian church, if all the members did their duty! Instead of coveting the highest stations, or the most splendid gifts, let us leave the appointment of his instruments to God, and those in whom he works by his providence. Remember, those will not be approved hereafter who seek the chief places, but those who are most faithful to the trust placed in them, and most diligent in their Master's work.
31. covet earnestly—Greek, "emulously desire." Not in the spirit of discontented "coveting." The Spirit "divides to every man severally as He will" (1Co 12:1); but this does not prevent men earnestly seeking, by prayer and watchfulness, and cultivation of their faculties, the greatest gifts. Beza explains, "Hold in the highest estimation"; which accords with the distinction in his view (1Co 14:1) between "follow after charity—zealously esteem spiritual gifts"; also with (1Co 12:11, 18) the sovereign will with which the Spirit distributes the gifts, precluding individuals from desiring gifts not vouchsafed to them. But see on 1Co 14:1.
the best gifts—Most of the oldest manuscripts read, "the greatest gifts."
and yet—Greek, "and moreover." Besides recommending your zealous desire for the greatest gifts, I am about to show you a something still more excellent (literally, "a way most way-like") to desire, "the way of love" (compare 1Co 14:1). This love, or "charity," includes both "faith" and "hope" (1Co 13:7), and bears the same fruits (1Co 13:1-13) as the ordinary and permanent fruits of the Spirit (Ga 5:22-24). Thus "long-suffering," compare 1Co 12:4; "faith," 1Co 12:7; "joy," 1Co 12:6; "meekness," 1Co 12:5; "goodness," 1Co 12:5; "gentleness," 1Co 12:4 (the Greek is the same for "is kind"). It is the work of the Holy Spirit, and consists in love to God, on account of God's love in Christ to us, and as a consequence, love to man, especially to the brethren in Christ (Ro 5:5; 15:30). This is more to be desired than gifts (Lu 10:20).