About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Chapters 12 and 13
has just spoken about the Lordís Supper that the Corinthians partake of
when they gather together for what was called a love feast. Now
Paul continues to speak to these people about their gatherings.
This time he speaks concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
As a matter of fact 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 is all about the
spiritual gifts. Chapter
12 speaks to the Christ centeredness gifts and ministries of the Holy
Spirit. Chapter 13 states that
the gifts must be demonstrated from a motivation of love while chapter 14
tells us that the gifts must be used to edify the church.
the way through this letter we see the problems that the Corinthian
believers were having. In the
next three chapters Paul answers questions about the abuses of spiritual
gifts in the Corinthian community of believers.
verse 1 Paul begins by saying, "now about spiritual gifts
brothers." What we should
realize is that even though we read the word "gifts" in our
English Bibles, there is no corresponding word in the Greek text.
The Greek word "pneumatikos" is translated as
"spiritual gifts." This
word finds its roots in the word "pheuma" that means spirit.
Pneumatikos means something like "the spirituals." This
is a post Pentecost word in the New Testament.
You can't find it prior to Acts 2.
than says that he does not want his readers to be ignorant, as in without
understanding. Part of
Paulís apostolic ministry was teaching, which is clearly seen in here
and throughout his writings. Teaching
is fundamental to the church, but something I feel is lacking in many
local churches these days.
my thinking that the western world Evangelical church prefers to be
inspired instead of being educated. I
call this "inspired ignorance," something that will sooner or
later cause a Christian and the church to fail badly if not changed.
Christians must be educated in the Word of the Lord in order to not
only survive but to properly represent Jesus to the world in which they
verse 2 Paul says that "when you were pagans Ö you were influenced
and led astray by mute idols." These
idols were mute because they were made of wood or stone.
They had no life in themselves, yet at the same time we should note
that Paul mentioned in chapter 10 verse 20 that there were demon spirits
behind these idols. In fact,
when pagans worshipped mute idols they were worshipping demons.
verse 2 the words "you were led" is an imperfect passive
indicative verb. This Greek
verb was often used when prisoners were led to prison.
It suggests an action outside of one that is continually
influencing the person.
this in mind, that is, these people being influenced by idols and demons
in the past, in verse 3 Paul says that no one can say "Jesus is
cursed" while being influence by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit would never cause anyone to say such a thing.
A demon, or even our own human nature, could say these words apart
from the Spirit of God. Paul
was obviously mentioning this because of abuses that were taking place
within the gathering of these saints.
reverse would also be true as well, according to Paul.
No one can say that "Jesus Christ is Lord" except through
the influence of the Holy Spirit. A
demon would not admit to such a truth and cause someone to proclaim that
Jesus is Lord; yet, our own human nature could repeat these words without
really meaning it. One time I
asked a non-Christian who was quite proud of not being a Christian if he
could say the words "Jesus Christ is Lord."
He repeated these four words without any hesitation.
So, I believe what Paul is saying here is that someone cannot say
these words and really mean it without being influenced by the Holy
verses 4 and 5 Paul says that there are different kinds of gifts, but the
same Spirit, and different kinds of services, but the same Lord.
The English word "gift" that is used here is derived from
the Greek word "charisma." This
is where we get our modern English word "charismatic," as in
Charismatic Movement. Charisma
means a gift of grace. Charisma
finds its roots in the Greek word "charis," meaning
"grace." Paul says
that there are many gifts, and they are gifts of God's grace to the
church. They are not gifts of
works. We cannot work or
strive for these gifts. Either
God gives us these gifts or He doesn't.
in verses 4 and 5 Paul speaks of both gifts and services.
I believe the gifts are the 9 gifts of the Spirit he will mention
in the next few verses while the services are the services you will read
about at the end of this chapter, services like teaching, administrating,
verse 5 Paul also says that there is one Spirit, and that is the Holy
Spirit. These are gifts of the
Holy Spirit, not gifts from demons. Paul
says then that there is one Lord. Of
course that one Lord is Jesus. What
we need to realize is that when the New Testament, and especially when Paul
uses the word "Lord" in reference to Jesus it is in reference to
Jesus being God, not merely a Lord as a king.
The word "Lord" speaks to the Deity of Christ and is
actually a word used in the Old Testament to refer to the Almighty God.
Jesus is Almighty God in human flesh.
Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that there are "different services,
but one Lord." The Greek
word "diakonos" is the word translated as "services"
here. Diakonos simply means to
serve. The KJV uses the word
translate this Greek word as "minister."
This is where we get our modern word "minister," as in
minister of a church. By the
very nature of the word "diakonos" where we get our word
"minister" from, it tells you that a minister should be one who
serves. He should be a
servant, just as Jesus was a servant.
In our day of being a minister is often a career choice for many,
thus we have lost the idea of a servant who has been called of God to
serve His people.
has just mentioned that there is one Spirit and one Lord, and now in verse
6 he completes the Trinity by saying that "there are different kinds
of workings, but the same God." The
English word "working" (operation in KJV) is translated from the
Greek word "energema." It
is rooted in the Greek word "energeia," meaning,
English word "energy" comes directly from this Greek word.
It is God who does the energizing. He
is the one who distributes and makes the gifts and ministries possible in
can note the Trinity in verses 4 to 6. It
is implied, not necessarily taught. The
gifts are from the Spirit. The
way the gifts are used, or the ministry of these gifts, comes from Jesus
as seen in the gifts of Christ in Ephesians 4:11.
Then, we note that God the Father energizes all men, which I
believe speaks to God given talents that people receive from birth.
There are three sources of service gifts that all come from our God
the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.
verse 7 Paul says that "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good." Paul
is saying here that as Christians we have the Holy Spirit within us and
therefore the Holy Spirit will manifest, or show Himself through the
person that He lives in. One
way that this happens is that the gifts that are attributed to Him will be
seen in operation in the life of the person in whom He lives.
Thus, it should be clear that these gifts are real, and they should
be part of the church in every generation.
I do not believe these Holy Spirit gifts ended with the first
generation church. The reason
is that the gifts are a manifestation of the presence of Godís Spirit in
the life of the individual. If
Godís Spirit is not resident in a person, you will not see these gifts
in that person. Where the Holy
Spirit truly is in you, you will see His effects in and through your life.
Therefore, it makes no sense that these gifts have been laid aside
after the end of the first generation church, as some say.
I would go as far to say that if the grace gifts are not seen in a
church, then it's not because the gifts of the Spirit have passed away,
it's because that church has passed away.
reason for these gifts is "for the common good."
These gifts are not given to make some spiritual superstar.
These gifts aren't given to make people rich and famous.
The gifts are to make a church and all of its individuals healthy
in all respects.
Note in verse 7, and the same is seen in the following verse, that "to each one a gift is given." This passage states that not all get the same gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, despite the hope of some Christians, not every Christian has the gift of miracles or the gift to heal people of their sicknesses. We actually see this at work in Acts 2:43 and 5:12 and 13 where it is the apostles, not the ordinary believers, if in fact you call them ordinary, who have the gifts of miracles and the gift of healing. Not all Christians healed people or performed miracles.
are 9 gifts that Paul list. Whether
9 is a set number, or 9 is just a sample of gifts is somewhat debatable.
Paul does list 9 of them. You
might want to note that there are also 9 corresponding fruit of the Spirit
that Paul lists in the book of Galatians, chapter 5.
So the number 9 might well be important.
For those who put a lot of stock in Biblical numbers it is
gifts are as follows. The
first gift is a message of wisdom. This
is wisdom that could not be assessable without the Holy Spirit providing
the wisdom. It is supernatural
wisdom, wisdom that a person could not acquire on his own.
next gift is the gift of knowledge. Again,
this is supernatural knowledge, not some kind of knowledge you can get on
your own. It's miracle
knowledge. It's knowledge of
something that you could not have humanly known.
I personally have been used in this gift of the Spirit.
next gift is the gift of faith. Again,
this is a faith beyond human faith. Romans
12:5 says that faith is a gift from God.
The faith Paul is talking about here is not faith leading one to
salvation and continuing on in his walk in the Lord.
This faith is a special faith for a special occasion that requires
faith beyond the norm.
next gift is the gift of healings. This
gift is seen in a person who prays for another to be healed of some kind
of sickness. Some believe that
it's when one gets healed, but in context, I see it as a gift of healing
one person gives to another who needs healing.
next gift is the gift of miraculous power.
This is a gift given by the Holy Spirit to one who needs to do
something in the service of the Lord.
It can be anything that is needed for the common good of the
church. It does not have to be
a healing of a sick body. It's
any supernatural miracle. Jesus
turning the water into wine would have been a gift of a miracle.
next gift is the gift of prophecy. In
a Biblical sense, prophecy is speaking forth what God would want you to
say on His behalf. Prophecy is
more than telling the future, although it is that as well.
A Sunday morning sermon, if given under the supernatural power of
the Holy Spirit where it speaks to the hearts of men and women is a gift
of prophecy. In many
Pentecostal or Charismatic circles you will see a person stand and give
what is called a word from the Lord, a gift of prophecy.
Although one does have to say "thus says the Lord" as an
Old Testament prophet would say, this phrase is often spoken when someone
speaks such a word. I have
been used of the Lord on many occasions with this gift.
next gift is the gift of distinguishing between spirits.
Greek word "glossa" is translated here as "tongues"
into English. This is where get our English word "glossolalia"
where if you were a Charismatic Christian in the 1960's and 1970's you
might remember. This is where someone is given the supernatural ability to see into
the spirit world and see demonic spirits at work.
It could possibly include clearly seeing that one is simply being
motivated by their own human spirit.
next gift is speaking in different kinds of tongues.
This is the supernatural ability to speak or to pray in a language
that you have never learned. I
was given the gift of praying in tongues in 1971 and I have used that gift
every day sense. Some
Evangelicals think this gift is only for missionaries on the mission field
and it is used when you need to speak to someone of a different language,
a language you don't know. It
is more than that. When we get
to 1 Corinthians 14 you will see that it is actually a prayer language.
next gift is interpreting of tongues.
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that if someone speaks forth in an
unknown tongue, that is, the gift of tongues as described above, someone
should interpret that gift. Of
course, this is a supernatural interpretation.
are some things to note with these gifts of the Spirit.
One thing is that these are supernatural gifts as I've been noting
all along. They are beyond any
human ability to perform. If
someone gets up in a meeting and speaks forth some kind of knowledge that
is known to everyone else and claims that to be a gift of the Spirit; it
is not a gift of the Spirit. As
Paul says in verse 11, these gifts are given to individuals as the Holy
Spirit "determines." These
gifts are not gifts upon demand. Gifts
are given to individuals for the good of all, as the Holy Spirit decides
to give them.
11 is important. Paul says
that it is the Holy Spirit that gives these gifts, and, they are given to
each one. This tells me that
everyone in the church should be available to receive one or more of these
gifts. They are not for the super elite.
They are for everyone, every member of a local congregation of the
The last phrase in verse 11 is equally important. To whom these gifts are given and when, is up to the will of the Holy Spirit. Here is where the term "God's will" comes into play. It's not our will. It is His will that determines who receives a gift and when the gift should be given and used.
One question has always been raised when thinking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Are these gifts given to people to keep, as to say, they are always resident within the person, or, are these gifts given spontaneously when needed? That is to say, the gifts are not continually resident within the person. I can only speak from my experience. I believe that I have received, or example, the gift of prophecy, that I use often. I thus believe that gift resides in me. I also have received the gift of tongues, which, I have used every day since receiving this gift in September 1971. So I have to believe that gift resides within me. I'll talk more about tongues when we come to chapter 14
is about to explain how the church is like a body.
In reality, since Jesus is not physically on earth at this present
moment, I believe we are His replacement body.
You may have never thought about it in this way, but I do not
believe Paul was talking figuratively when he spoke of the Body of Christ.
Many, if not most, Bible teachers suggest that the term "Body
of Christ" is symbolic or figurative.
I don't see it that way. I
see this term as being literal and that is why I believe the church is the
literal replacement Body of Christ on earth.
In verse 12 Paul states that the body, as in our body, is a unit. That means that the body, like our body, is one complete thing. Paul goes on to say that the body is made up of many and various parts. All these parts form the one unified body. This is obviously true with our own physical body and it is also true concerning the church, the Body of Christ. We are many, with varying gifts, talents, ministries, personalities, and so on; yet, we are still just one body. It is, however, in these differences we find much conflict.
present day doctrine of tolerance in many respects has crept into the
is obviously differences of duties and personalities in the church, the
Body of Christ, that needs to be tolerated, but, unlike our present day
doctrine of tolerance there is one head that determines that actions and
thought process of each and every individual in the church.
Individualism is balanced by ultimate truth that comes from Jesus,
the Head of the body.
verse 13 Paul uses the word "baptize" in relationship to
individuals in the church, the Body of Christ.
When we read or hear the word "baptize" we often think of
water baptism or Spirit baptism, but I do not think that Paul is talking
about those forms of baptism here as some think.
This is how I view the word "baptism" in this chapter.
of all the Greek word "baptizo," simply means to immerse.
As in water baptism, when one gets drenched with water, and in
Spirit baptism when one gets drenched with the Spirit, here, one gets
drenched with people in the Body of Christ.
Paul is saying that when we become a true Christian, when we
receive the Holy Spirit into out lives, we are immersed into the Body of
Christ, the church. In
actuality, and this is something few have thought about or understand, we
are immersed into the lives of people when we become a Christian.
If western world Christians thought in these terms, they would view
church much differently. In
turn, church would be more like Jesus meant it to be.
To put it another way; we are not immersed into an organization.
We are immersed into a living organism, the Body of Christ.
verb "baptize" here is a Greek aorist passive indicative verb.
Aorist means a one time action.
That would confirm my point that when one receives the Holy Spirit,
which is a one time action, it is at that time when he becomes immersed
into the lives of people in
the Body of Christ. The
passive form of this verb means that you are the recipient of an action.
This means that you are not doing the action.
The action is being done unto you, which is, the Holy Spirit doing
the baptizing into the Body of Christ.
The indicative part of this verb means it is a certainty.
Therefore, there is no doubt that when you received the Holy Spirit
into your life, He immersed you into Jesus' replacement body on earth.
also says in verse 13 that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who baptizes us,
or immerses us, into the Body of Christ.
I would suggest then, that when one receives the Holy Spirit, it is
at that point that he is immersed into the Body of Christ.
That would mean that one who does not have the Holy Spirit, is not
part of the Body of Christ. I
believe I can safely say that from what Paul says here.
then goes on to say in verse 13 that there is no distinction between
ethnic peoples in the Body of Christ.
It does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich
or poor, or any other distinction you can think of.
If you have the Holy Spirit living within you, you are a vital part
of the Body of Christ.
a personal testimony to the truth that Paul just mentioned, I have never
been a wealthy person. I've
actually been quite poor. My
personal experience at times has proven Paul's point.
I have been in very close relationship with very wealthy people in
the Body of Christ. My poverty
and their wealth did not take away from the good relationships we had.
To me, that has been simply amazing.
It goes to show you that if we are willing to submit to the unity
of the Spirit, such things as wealth, or lack thereof, mean little.
ends verse 13 by saying that "we were all given one Spirit to
drink." This phrase needs
some consideration. The verb
"to drink" is an aorist Greek verb, meaning this drinking is a
one time action. To me, and I
admit I am not totally certain of this at this point, that when we
received the Holy Spirit, it was at that point, that we were given Him to
drink, and to drink not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of
those to whom the Holy Spirit joined us in the Body of Christ.
The one time action aspect of this verse that is seen in the aorist
tense suggest to me the one time action of being given the Holy Spirit.
Once we receive Him, our drinking is a continuous action.
verse 14 Paul reiterates that the body, our physical body, is made up of
many parts but it is till one body. He
really wants us to get this thought into our heads.
The reason for this is because the Corinthian church was divided
into many factions. The
Christians there were making more than one body out of one body and that
is just not right, but that is what the church has consistently done over
verse 15 Paul goes on to say that a foot cannot claim independence from
the body because it is not a hand. Neither
can an ear claim independence from the body because it is not an eye.
Therefore, we as individuals in the Body of Christ, the church,
cannot be independent from each other, from the rest of the Body, and if
we do claim and live out this independence, we will die.
A foot cannot live apart from the body.
Separating one's self from the living Body of Christ is a very
serious matter that people don't take seriously these days.
in verse 17 Paul says that "if the whole body were an eye, where
would be the sense of hearing." It
is obvious that the body consists of a variety of parts.
One part cannot claim to be a whole body.
One part cannot function properly on its own.
Each part is vitally important.
We need both the sense of seeing and the sense of hearing for the
Body of Christ to function as it should.
As a matter of fact, verse 18 says that "God has arranged the
parts of the body Ö just as He wanted."
It is Godís choice and His alone to call people to certain
functions in the Body of Christ. It
is His choice to place people in His Body where ever He wants them to be
places. This should make us
understand that we must hear from the Lord through His Holy Spirit to know
where we are to be placed in the Body of Christ.
Again, I really don't think that the average western world
Christian thinks in these terms. We
are very much a consumer orientated church.
We find a group that best fits our needs and leave the will of the
Lord out of our decision. This
is not New Testament thinking.
19 makes a lot of common sense. "If
we were all one part, where would the body be?"
Well, there would be no body. There
would be no life. There would
simply be a pile of dead eyes, or dead ears, or dead whatever.
Paul reiterates this again in verse 20, now fro the third time.
There is only one body and that one body is made up of a variety of
different parts. Paul wanted
these Corinthian believers to know that yes, they had their distinctive
differences, but these differences were not to disrupt the body.
They were to enhance the Body of Christ to make it one unified body
with varying and effective parts working together in unity, which, was not
light of what Paul is saying here, and, if you look at the western world
church today, the Body of Christ that is supposed to be a unified
functioning body, is dysfunctional. If
our physical bodies were as dysfunctional as the western church is, we
would suffer a disabling illness that would cause us to cease to be a
verse 21 Paul says it all again. He
is really trying to make this point clear.
He says that "eye cannot say to the hand, I donít need
you." As Christians, we
simply cannot live as isolated Christians, even though the tendency at
times is to do just that. The
more independent and isolated we are from each other, the less effective
the church is, and, the less effective we are as individual believers.
We are created to function within the unified structure of the Body
actually says in verses 22 to 24 that the "weaker parts, the less
honourable parts, the unpresentable parts" of the body are just as
important as the rest of the body. There is no part of the Body of Christ,
the church, that should be thought of as second class.
Each member has his or her role to play.
Each member is important.
verse 25 Paul says that the reason for everyone being first class
Christians in the church is so that "there will be no division,"
and that there should be "equal concern for each other."
There should be true equality among people in the church.
Paul is not talking about some kind of Christian socialism or
communism here. Note the word
"honour" seen in these verses.
Equality is to be thought of in terms of honouring and valuing one
another for who each of us
are, and that is, an important person in the Body of Christ.
goes on in verse 26 to say that "if one part suffers than all parts
suffer and if one part is honoured then every part rejoices with it."
There is no "poor me" attitude in a functioning church.
There is no "look at me, the honoured on" attitude
either. How many times have
you heard people say, "it must be nice" when someone else other
than them are honoured. There
is no place for such a thing in the Body of Christ.
There is no spirit of competition.
There is no place for one to try to out-do another.
That's all about pride and we know that pride precedes a nasty fall,
and, for that reason, the church has often taken a nasty fall.
verse 27 Paul says clearly that "you are the body of Christ." The
Greek text says that "you are now Christ's body."
I personally take these words literally; not figuratively or
symbolic. Paul does not say
"figuratively speaking, you are the Body of Christ."
He says "you are Christ's body."
This is where I get the idea that we are indeed Jesus' literal
replacement body on the earth. Since
He is no longer here in physical form, He has filled us as individuals and
the church with His Spirit, making us His living and active replacement
body on the planet.
then says, once again, "you are a part of it."
Each and every true believer is a functioning part of Jesus
replacement body on the earth. Each
and every believer has a vital part to play in making Jesus' replacement
verse 28 Paul says that in the church "God has appointed first
apostles." I would think
that apostles come first because it was these men that spread the news of
Christís salvation throughout the known world and built the church in
the first place. He goes on by
saying the second group of people God placed in His body are prophets.
Once the apostle established the church the prophets would speak
Godís words to the church. Then
thirdly comes teachers, teaching the established church the ways of God.
might wonder just why after saying everyone is equal in the Body of Christ
why Paul lists these three ministries as first, second, and third.
Is he listing them in terms of importance or might he be listing
them in terms of chronology, as in, how a local church is established.
will notice that in Ephesians 4:11, at least in our English Bibles, Paul
lists five ministries, many Bible teachers call the "gifts of
Christ." He lists three
here. He omits the ministry of
evangelist and pastor. That
being said, he really doesn't omit the ministry of pastor because the
Greek construction of Ephesians 4:11 actually combines pastor and teacher
into one ministry. So, here in
1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul most likely uses the word "teacher" to
specifically mentioning three ministries Paul list others that include,
those having the gift of healing and those who have the gift of performing
miracles. There are a couple
of things to note here. Healing
and miracles we saw earlier in this chapter to be gifts of the Holy
Spirit. Here, we see that
these gifts reside in certain, not all, people in the Body of Christ.
The point here is that these gifts are ministry gifts.
I'm not saying others who do not have these ministry gifts can't
perform healings and miracles from time to time.
I'm saying that there should be designated by God, people in the
church who job is to heal and perform miracles.
last few verses of Mark are debatable.
Many, and for good reason believe they should not be part of the
New Testament, but, let's say they are.
Jesus said that "these signs will follow those who
believe." Some people say
that these signs should be resident in every Christian.
Paul seems to say differently here in 1 Corinthians 12.
That being said, these signs should follow those, meaning those in church as
a whole. That
is to say, all local churches should have an expression of these gifts.
the above ministry gifts is the gift of helps.
This is the ability to help others.
This may not be an exciting gift, but let me say, those of us who
have benefited from others who have this gift are quite thankful.
are two other gift ministries listed in verse 28.
They are administration and tongues.
Tongues, of course are one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but
here, tongues are more than a gift. It
is a ministry resident within a person.
especially in today's church is real important.
Not everyone is capable of administration.
It takes a special person with gifts inherent within him by birth.
I call the gifts of administration and helps, and other such gifts,
gifts from God, or, God given talents from birth. You
will recall that Paul spent a couple of years collecting money for the
poor saints in
ends this chapter by asking a few questions.
The answer to these questions are obviously "no."
He asks, "are all apostles?" The
answer is "no." "Do
all work miracles? Do all have
gifts of healing? Do all speak
in tongues? Do all
interpret?" The answer is
still "no." We all
do not have all these gifts, or at least all at once in one gathering of
are different thoughts on whether these gifts are given permanently to
people or given when needed. One
might have a gift of healing in one meeting and the gift of tongues in
another, or so some might say. Others
believe that one always has the gift of healing, and can use it as the
Spirit leads whenever it is needed. It's
my thinking that the gifts mentioned in the last few verses are what I
call "ministry gifts." They
differ from the nine gifts mentioned earlier in the chapter in that the
gift itself is a person with a particular ministry.
the use of tongues. When Paul
asks, "do all speak in tongues?" Many
use this verse to say that all Christians do not or should not speak in
tongues. There is some
controversy over this point. Some
believe that all can speak in tongues while some believe that only some
can speak in tongues. They use
this verse to back up their point, yet, as we see in chapter 14 Paul seems
to distinguish between speaking forth in tongues in a meeting where an
interpretation is needed and tongues as a personal prayer language.
I do not believe that Paul is speaking about a personal prayer
language in this verse. I
believe he is speaking about a ministry give to one to speak in tongues in
a gathering of the saints. This
ministry, not the prayer language, is not available to all.
closes this chapter by saying, "eagerly desire the greater
gifts." Personally, I
wished Paul had not have said these words because of the debate that has
arisen over what gifts are more important than others.
People who believe that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer for
today use this verse in their defense, and sometimes state that love is
the greatest gift. I donít
believe that love is a gift. It
is a fruit of the Spirit, something that is produced and worked into a
Christian over time. Paul
makes that point in Galatians 5.
you note, the NIV has an alternate translation for this verse.
It would read, "you are eagerly desiring the greater
gifts." This might
suggest that the Corinthians are on the right tract by desiring greater
gifts than what they already have. This
translation differs in that Paul would be pointing out the fact that they
are already desiring greater gifts instead of encouraging them to desire
a young Christian I was told to seek the giver of the gifts and not the
gifts. The reason for this
advice is that I desired to pray in tongues.
The man who told me this did not believe in praying in tongues.
So, this was his way of getting me away from tongues.
He then said we should desire the important gifts, which wasn't
tongues in his opinion. I
disagreed. I suggest that the
important gift of the Spirit, or, the most important ministry gift, is the
one that is needed at any given moment, whether that is tongues, a
miracle, or a healing.
thing to note is that Paul has just talked about equality of the members
in the Body of Christ. Though
everyone is different, we are all important.
Why then would he think differently concerning the gifts that come
from the Holy Spirit? Why
would he think that some gifts are more important, or greater than others?
I think we should factor this
point into our thinking when we interpret this verse.
important thing about this section of Paul's letter concerns what I call
"functional relationships" in the Body of Christ.
Paul states that the church is in fact the present physical body of
Christ on earth. I don't
believe he is using the term "Body of Christ" as an analogy.
He is using the term as a real thing.
The church is the physical replacement body of Jesus on earth. Within
the body are members who are joined to one another, and as is my body, one
member is not joined to all the body or to every body part.
It is only joined to a few parts that it is connected to.
There are two reasons why members are joined in the body.
The first is for friendship and support.
The second is for ministry. We
often understand being joined in a friendly relationship, for mutual
fellowship and encouragement. We
don't often see our relationships as being functional, that is, the place
where we do the will of God. We
leave this up to the organized church structure.
That is not New Testament thinking.
is how we should view the church, view our friendships with other
Christians. We should note who
are Christian friends are, strengthen those relationships because Jesus
has put these relationships together.
Then we should ask our friends and the Lord, "what can we do
together to serve Jesus"? This
is the functioning part of relationships.
This is what church is all about.
Church is not about organizational structure.
It is about friends functioning together in the work of the Lord,
and you don't need a massive organizational structure to do this.
Some people over the years have been forced to live this way due to
persecution. This might well
be our fate in the western church at some point, not so far off in the
future. We might as well start
living it now.
this point I'd like to insert and article I wrote on 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Into Christian Community
might think this is heretical, but I believe that if we substitute the
term "community of Christ" for the word "church" in
the New Testament, we'll understand church better.
I say this because I believe our present western world concept of
church does not reflect the Bible's concept of church.
I hope you know that the Apostle Paul, Peter, and even Jesus, never
spoke our English word "church".
Church is not a sacred word.
1974 I listened to a four cassette tape teaching series on Christian
community entitled "Gathered For Power" by Graham Pulkingham, an
Anglican minister from
I understood Pulkingham correctly, he said that church has traditionally
fallen into two categories. Some
churches are task orientated; others are community orientated.
Most western world churches are task orientated.
Their focus is on church activities.
Few western world churches are community orientated.
Their focus is on personal relationships.
view church as being relational. When
we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, He not only joins us to Jesus,
He joins us to others in the community of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 the Apostle Paul says the process by which
we are joined in Christian community is via a baptism.
He says that we have been baptized into the Body of Christ.
Paul isn't talking about water baptism.
Neither is he talking about joining a church, going to church, or
church being a casual concern. Being
baptized into the community of Christ means to be submerged, immersed,
saturated in fellowship with those to whom we are joined.
That's what the word "baptize" means.
From the relationships in which we are baptized, ministries, or
tasks, are born.
agree with Pulkingham. In our
western world task orientated church, ministry stems from ecclesiastical
structure and not from personal relationships.
It's the church that provides the tasks or the ministries.
Whether it's a volunteer Sunday school teacher or a paid pastor, we
apply for the job and the organization of church accepts or denies our
present day westernized church doesn't link baptism with church.
To our detriment, many think of water baptism, not church baptism,
when they read 1 Corinthians 12:13. In
water baptism we're totally immersed into water.
In church baptism we're totally immersed into the lives of those to
whom Jesus has joined us in the community of Christ.
community is more than warm feelings we get from fellowshipping with
others in a Sunday service. Christian
community is being immersed into the lives of those to whom Jesus has
joined us, not just for the fun of fellowship, but for the work of the
Lord. In New Testament terms
ministry stems from personal relationships in Christian community.
This is why Pulkingham's teaching series was entitled
"Gathered For Power". The
power of God is best demonstrated in community, as seen in the book of
Acts. For this reason, if we
replace the word "church" in the New Testament with the words
"the community of Christ", we'll understand church from a
teaching of koinonia, or community, isn't new.
Over the centuries believers have attempted to live in community,
but as it always seems to be, community eventually evolves into an
ecclesiastical maze of doctrinal, cultural, and economic, distinctives.
From my understanding of church history, what pushes Christians
away from the maze and into community are the pressures experienced from
an anti-Christ culture. Persecution
drives us into finding support and ministry in personal relationships.
This is certainly the case in countries like
western world is plunging head long into an anti-Christian cultural abyss.
Christians are now being pressured to cave into the demands of an
anti-Christ culture. As in
singer/songwriter, Larry Norman, put it this way in his song entitled
"Right Here In America" (Street Level album 1971).
"There are Christians in
Corinthians 13 is often called the Love Chapter.
Many times over the years you might have heard all or parts of this
chapter read at weddings, yet, do those getting married really understand
what is said in this chapter?
Is love a matter of hormones or is it a matter of something else?
word "love" is used and spoken more often than any other word in
the world of the arts.
It's the most used, and really, over used, word in modern popular
kind of love is demonstrated in movies and portrayed in the arts, but
again, is what we see in the movies really love?
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 will answer this question for
is not fuzzy feelings and sentimental emotions.
Love is not something that is demonstrated in words alone.
You donít really make love, you demonstrate, or give love.
Love apart from action is not love.
Love is serving others.
Love is putting others before yourself.
Love without sacrifice is not love.
culture tells us that we must love ourselves before we can love others.
People even use Jesus' words to back that up.
Yes, in Mark 12:31 Jesus did say that we should love others as you
love yourself, but what did He mean?
Jesus knew, and so should we, that as humans we love ourselves
above all else.
So, Jesus was simply saying that as you love yourselves, which you
do, love others.
In other words, put others over and above yourself.
In the way you love yourself, love others.
love is not demonstrated in some kind of action, then there is no love.
The Apostle John, in 1 John 3:18 tells his readers not to love in
word alone, but in action.
That's not hard to understand.
Simply saying the words "I love you" doesn't mean "I
said other things about love as well. "If
anyone obeys God's words, Godís love is truly made complete in himĒ (1
Godís perfect love is only made complete in us when we obey Him.
Apart from God, we cannot begin to love as we should.
also said this.
"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in
him" (1 John 2:15).
When we are pre-occupied with all that our culture entices us with,
we fail to love.
How true that is.
know that we have passed from death to life because we love our
brothers," John said in 1 John 3:14.
Demonstrating love to others proves that we have pass from death to
life, proves that we are genuine Christians.
John 3:18 demands we love not just in action but also in truth.
Attempting to love apart from upholding the truth of Scripture is
Sometimes an act of love demands we speak the truth, even if it
within the boundaries of Biblical truth means that we can't compromise
what is right in the process of love, and if we do, we fail to love.
John 3:16 is important too.
"This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down His
life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Real love demands sacrifice, something we all struggle with.
could go on with many other Scriptures from John, but we are studying Paul
and 1 Corinthians 13, so I will end my quotes from John.
thing that does not sit well with me is when I hear people say "love
ya" as they leave your presence.
I wonder why people can't say, and say with meaning, "I love
Is "love ya" just another way of saying good-bye or is it
a meaningful expression of true heart felt in action love?
Somehow, if it is a meaningful expression from the heart, I think
we'll take the time to say "I love you" and then show it by the
way we live.
we study 1 Corinthians 13 we should know that in the Greek culture of
Paul's day there were a number of different words that expressed some form
Take, for example, the word "philos." This
Greek word was a brotherly love, friendship love, or reciprocal love.
"Eros" meant sexual or sensual love.
It's where our English word "erotic" comes from.
There were other words but the one we want to zero in on is
It was the least spoken word for love in the Greco-Roman world,
probably because it meant "sacrificial love."
People were probably more interested in eros love, as they are in
every generation and culture.
Sacrificial love is seldom in style.
first century Christians took this unused word for love and gave it a
Christian meaning. We, therefore, say that "agape" means God's
love because it is selfless, sacrificial love.
It is the love that God has for us.
It is the love that Jesus demonstrated while on the cross.
It's the love Paul speaks of here in 1 Corinthians 13.
I will now turn to the text of 1 Corinthians 13 to see how it fits
into the context of spiritual gifts and ministries that Paul was
addressing in chapters 12 and 14.
NIV actually opens 1 Corinthians 13 with the last half of the last verse
of chapter 12.
It says, "now I show you a more excellent way".
Paul has just encouraged these people to desire the best gifts, or
he commended them on desiring the best gifts, whatever way you interpret
Desiring the gifts of the spirit is a good thing, but now he wants
to show his readers the way in which these gifts should be used.
Remember, these gifts are for the common good of all in the Body of
Christ, not for our own good. So,
Paul is about to show these people an excellent way to live their lives
and use their gifts.
1 says that "if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have
not love, I am only a resounding gong Ö"
Note hear that Paul says "if I speak in the tongues of men and
Don't confuse yourself with the word "if" and think that
Paul did not speak in tongues because we will see in chapter 14 that he
note that Paul specifies the tongues of men and of angels.
There are more than 7000 different languages and dialects in the
world, so God has many different tongues that He can give you to use for
the common good. If He chooses
not to give you a language of common man, He could give you a language
spoken by angels. Whatever
kind of language that is, I have no clue.
There are some people who claim to speak in tongues but the sound
that comes out of their mouths some weird and gibberish.
For that reason they claim to have the tongues of angels, which I
question. Paul does not really
say here that tongues are both the language of men and angels.
He says that "if I speak in the tongues of men and angels.
He is not saying that one of the gifts of the Spirit is the tongues
of angels. He is simply saying
that if he spoke in the language of angels and did not love, he is
language the Lord gives you means very little if you do not love, Paul
tongues become a resounding gong.
Therefore, if you do not love, you are turning Godís precious
gift into a meaningless gesture.
You are not only making a show of yourself as you speak in tongues;
you disgrace the precious gift that God Himself has given you.
I dare say that there have been many gifts given to men and women
that they have abused.
This appears to be what was happening in
does not say that the tongues you speak become a sounding gong if you
speak them without love.
He says, that "I," the one who speaks without love,
becomes a sounding gong.
The tongues are still a gift from God.
It's the speaker that becomes stupid and foolish, a noisy
remind you that the word "love" here and throughout this chapter
is the Greek word "agape," meaning sacrificial love.;
verse 2 Paul says the same thing about some of the other gifts of the Holy
Spirit, such as, prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and
He says that if I can do all of these things and do not love, then
"I am nothing."
All of these powerful gifts used in the wrong way, used out of
selfishness and not love are meaningless.
Even more than that, the one who is using them is useless, or,
nothing as Paul says.
Once again, you disgrace and nullify the good gifts that God has
goes on in verse 3 to say that even if I give everything I have to the
poor, and not do it in love, I am nothing.
He takes his argument one step farther by saying "if I give my
body to the flames," meaning, giving his body in death for the sake
of Christ, I die for nothing.
I am nothing.
Once again, it's not the gifts of the Spirit that are nothing; it's
Paul who is nothing.
word "flames" is most likely in reference to Christians being
burned in the fire because of their association with Jesus.
is not saying that you will not make it to heaven if you become a martyr
for Jesus without love.
He is saying that it wonít benefit you in this life.
You are simply nothing.
You are no big hero.
Your death will not reap a heavenly reward, and Christians will be
rewarded for the works they do that are done from faith and love.
See 1 Corinthians 3 that I've discussed earlier.
All Christians will be rewarded with heaven, but beyond that, we
will be rewarded for our good works.
These good works do not save us, but they do provide a special
reward for us.
verse 4 Paul proceeds to explain what love is.
He says, "love is patient."
The verb "love is" is a Greek present active indicative
means that love is a present and certain reality that one is actually
It's more than words.
It is a present and certain action.
The Greek word translated as "patient" is translated from
two Greek words meaning "long" and "temper."
In modern terminology, love does not have a short fuse.
also says that love is kind.
I remember President George Bush Senior saying that he wanted a
more kinder and gentler
says that love doesnít envy.
If someone has something that you would like, you donít lust
You may like to have what others have, but you are at least happy
that the other person has whatever it may be, even though you canít have
are some people who just can't stand others having something nice or
You often hear people saying, "O, that must be nice."
They say it with a hint of sarcasm and covetousness.
The word "covet" can easily be inserted in place of the
word "envy" here.
does not boast, it is not proud," Paul says.
A loving person is a humble person.
He does not have to boast about what he can do or what he has.
He simply does what he needs to do and makes no big deal about it,
even though he may be the best in his field.
When it comes to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, love is
not proud about such a ministry.
The one with this ministry puts all the attention on Jesus, not
In our day of superstar ministries, not all go according to this
rule of love.
verse 5 Paul says that love "is not rude."
Another way to say this that the Greek text seems to suggest is
that love does not behave in an unbecoming manner.
Rudeness seems to be gaining in popularity in these days of social
donít mind being rude.
They could not care less what they say to people.
Some even like being rude and think it is cool, yet Paul says that
being rude is not loving.
The way I see it is that rudeness is fast becoming second nature to
North American culture.
"is not self seeking."
Our world today is very self seeking.
We tend to seek out our own interests ahead of other people's
love ourselves instead of loving others.
This is not just seen in the world around us.
It is sadly seen in the church, especially in ministries that have
become well known and popular.
There are way too many self seekers in today's western world
"is not easily angered."
Another way to say this is that love is not easily provoked.
If seems as if Paul is saying that at times we do get angry, yet
the more we love, the longer are fuse gets.
Our reaction time is stretched out a lot farther and so we are not
easily upset and angered.
"keeps no record of wrongs." Although
it is really almost impossible to forget a wrong, depending on how bad it
was, we can still live in love and act as if it did not happen.
The memory may still be there, even fresh in our minds, but we live
as though the wrong was never committed.
What I am saying here is not forgiveness.
It is love.
Forgiveness and love are two different issues altogether.
I won't get involved in the subject here, but unless one repents
and asks for forgiveness, you can't forgive him.
God does not forgive those who do not repent, and neither should
being said, we still love the one needing forgiveness, as God does too.
It might well be our love that brings that one to repentance that
leads him to being forgiven.
verse 6 Paul says that "love does not delight in evil, but rejoices
in the truth."
One who loves flees from evil.
Paul says that the person who loves "rejoices in the
Of course there is only one truth that Paul must be speaking of
here and it is God's truth.
It is Scriptural truth.
Here again, like we see in the Apostles John's first letter.
We cannot divorce love from truth.
If we do, we weaken love to the point that it is no longer love.
Real love demands truth.
We must present the truth in the process of love and if we neglect
it, we fail to love.
It's often called "tough love."
If your son does something wrong you don't cover up the wrong in
the name of love.
As an act of love, you confront him with the truth of his wrong in
order to help make him a better person.
Christians must then rejoice in what is Biblical truth, and, when
Biblical truth is ignored or put down, we speak up.
verse 7 Paul says that "love always protects."
After what Paul has just said about the importance of truth in the
process of love, the word "protect" here can't mean that we hide
or cover over the sin of a person we are protecting.
The Greek word translated as "protect" can mean to cover,
but it believe Paul is talking about covering or protecting a person from
outside influences that would hurt him.
It's about preserving the good within a person.
says that "love always trusts."
Does this mean we believe, even trusts, a person who continues to
sin against us.
I don't believe Paul is saying that.
I do think Paul is a man of wisdom.
He is not stupid.
If someone is constantly out to get him, he will not trust him.
I believe Paul is speaking here, and all this is in context of
living and exercising your gifts in the Body of Christ, brothers and
sisters in Jesus who whom you have been joined.
Unless you have some reason not to trust a brother or sister in the
Lord, you trust him or her.
then says that "love always hopes."
Hope is an optimistic characteristic.
I think Paul is saying here that we always hope for the best in the
relationships we have with one another.
There is nothing wrong with hope.
In some Christian circles I think hope gets a bad rap, so to speak.
Hope is not weak faith.
Hope is not doubt.
Hope, in Biblical terms is an expectation of the future that you
know will come about because God's plans will be accomplished.
Hope is actually a result of faith.
Faith is trust.
We trust in our Lord and because of our trust, we have confident
hope that what He as said will be accomplished.
last thin in verse 7 is that "love always perseveres."
The Greek word translated as "persevere" here is made up
of two Greek words.
They are, "to abide" and "under."
In other words, whatever situation we find ourselves in, love
causes us to stay on track.
It's God's love shown to us that causes us not to be swayed away
from the course we are called to be on.
must remember that the love Paul is talking about here and throughout this
chapter is agape love.
It's God's type of sacrificial love.
It's this kind of love that God is attempting to put into our
foreign to who we are as human beings.
All that Paul has said and will say about love is first seen in
God's love towards us, which, He would like to see us extend to those He
places before us at any given time.
verse 8 Paul says that love never fails (NIV).
Other translations say that love never ends.
The point here is that true agape love does not give up.
There is no end to such love.
continues to say in verse 8 that prophecy, tongues, knowledge, will at
some point in history cease to be.
There will be an end to prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, as will
be the case with all of the spirit gifts mentioned in chapter 12.
Some segments of the church tell us that the gifts of the Spirit
have already ended.
I will speak to that later.
I believe that these gifts are still available for us today.
They are necessary for us to properly represent Jesus to the world.
If Christians really have the Holy Spirit within them, it is only
natural to believe He will use them by allowing them to use these gifts.
verse 9 Paul says that we now know and prophesy in part. We
do not know or understand the full extent of God and how He works.
We do not have complete understanding of anything in Godís
We see and know bits and pieces of all there is to know.
The puzzle has many parts still to be put into place.
Everything we believe, think, do, or whatever, in this present age
is in part.
I don't think we need Paul to tell us that, but he did, and, it has
caused us some problems over the years.
problem I just mentioned in the last paragraph arises from verse 10.
"But when perfection comes, the imperfect will
In my understanding this verse has been misinterpreted in some
That which is imperfect is clear.
in context, the imperfect is our understanding of things as we have
Paul says that at some future point all that is imperfect will
That will take place, according to Paul, when the perfect comes.
The question is this.
What is that which is perfect that Paul is speaking about here?
of the Brethren persuasion say that which is perfect is our Canonized
people who claim this say that we donít need the imperfect gifts of the
Spirit because that which is perfect, the Bible, has already come.
I see no common sense in that thinking.
First of all, although the Bible is God's inspired Word, it is not
a complete revelation of all there is to know.
If that was true, we would not know in part as Paul has just said.
We would know in full.
Besides that, the Bible we read is not the original writings that
To be clear, there are textual difficulties that have to be worked
through, thus making the Bible not that which is perfect.
attribute the word "perfect" to Jesus Himself.
He only is ultimate perfection.
Until Jesus returns we will know in part.
Only after He enters directly into human history again will we
Only then will the gifts of the Spirit cease to be.
I believe that will happen with the creation of the new heaven and
earth as seen at the end of the book of Revelation.
Before that day comes, even in the thousand year rule of Jesus from
verse 11 Paul explains all of this by comparing this present life to when
he was a child.
He thought and understood like a child, but when he became a man,
as he says, "I put childish things behind me."
We are all like children in the present age.
We live our existence in life with partial understanding of all
God creates a new heaven and a new earth, we will then grow up into
manhood, or you might say, we will mature.
Our lack of understanding and imperfections will be left behind.
If our manhood doesn't come about at the creation of the new heaven
and earth it might possibly come about when we return with Jesus to earth
in our supernatural glorified bodies.
It might well be at this point in time that we, like Jesus, will be
Beyond that, all things will come into perfection with the new
heaven and earth.
verse 12 Paul says that "now we see but a poor reflection as in a
mirror, then we shall see face to face."
Here Paul uses another analogy to explain his thinking.
It is like looking into a dirty mirror and not really being able to
see our face as we would like, but, someday that mirror will be clean and
we will see face to face.
We will see things like never before.
All aspects of our life will become clear and in focus.
says that in this life he knows in part.
Even Paul with all of his great revelations only knew in part, yet,
when Jesus comes he says this.
"Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
Who fully knows us?
The only one who fully knows us is Jesus Himself.
At a future time we will know all things, just as Jesus knows all
things about us right now.
This is why the Apostle John says that we will be like Jesus in 1
If we will be like Jesus, we will be perfect, just like Him.
Paul closes this section in verse 13 by saying that three things remain, and these are faith, hope, and love. He then says that the greatest of these three is love. Paul seems to be saying that there are three important things that make up our lives as Christians now. We need all three right now in order to be effective believers. We need faith. Faith is trust. We need to trust Jesus in the present life. Sometimes that trust is difficult, but when our perfection comes, trust will not be difficult. When that which is perfect comes, there will be no need for hope, but love? Well, love is an eternal virtue. When our perfection comes, we will love perfectly.
We should remember the context of chapter 13 is between chapters 12 and 14. The context is important because we learn how to express our gifts of the Holy Spirit and our ministry in the church. As Paul says in the next section, we need to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts" while at the same time exercise them in a loving way, something that the Corinthians were having a hard time doing