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.
8-10. Three classes of gifts are distinguished by a distinct Greek word for "another" (a distinct class), marking the three several genera: allo marks the species, hetero the genera (compare Greek, 1Co 15:39-41). I. Gifts of intellect, namely, (1) wisdom; (2) knowledge. II. Gifts dependent on a special faith, namely, that of miracles (Mt 17:20): (1) healings; (2) workings of miracles; (3) prophecy of future events; (4) discerning of spirits, or the divinely given faculty of distinguishing between those really inspired, and those who pretended to inspiration. III. Gifts referring to the tongues: (1) diverse kinds of tongues; (2) interpretation of tongues. The catalogue in 1Co 12:28 is not meant strictly to harmonize with the one here, though there are some particulars in which they correspond. The three genera are summarily referred to by single instances of each in 1Co 13:8. The first genus refers more to believers; the second, to unbelievers.
by … by … by—The first in Greek is, "By means of," or "through the operation of"; the second is, "according to" the disposing of (compare 1Co 12:11); the third is, "in," that is, under the influence of (so the Greek, Mt 22:43; Lu 2:27).
word of wisdom—the ready utterance of (for imparting to others, Eph 6:19) wisdom, namely, new revelations of the divine wisdom in redemption, as contrasted with human philosophy (1Co 1:24; 2:6, 7; Eph 1:8; 3:10; Col 2:3).
word of knowledge—ready utterance supernaturally imparted of truths ALREADY REVEALED (in this it is distinguished from "the word of wisdom," which related to NEW revelations). Compare 1Co 14:6, where "revelation" (answering to "wisdom" here) is distinguished from "knowledge" [Henderson]. Wisdom or revelation belonged to the "prophets"; knowledge, to the "teachers." Wisdom penetrates deeper than knowledge. Knowledge relates to things that are to be done. Wisdom, to things eternal: hence, wisdom is not, like knowledge, said to "pass away" (1Co 13:8), [Bengel].