Study Notes

1Corinthians 12:12-31


Paul began a new topic in chapter 12, saying,

1Cor. 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.

In the last two sections, we have examined the working of the gifts — what they are and how they are used. But let's not lose the context of Paul's reason for discussing the gifts. In context, what he is talking about is the diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit. Different gifts, same God.

1Cor. 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

So, after having examined these gifts, let's get back on track with Paul's point: diversity and unity. The Corinthians had all kinds of diversity — they were divided about everything. Any question in the church would quickly become two factions opposing each other.

1Cor. 1:10 -11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.

They were divided over which teacher to follow. Divided over who in the church was superior. Divided over whether to deal with immoral situations in the church. Divided over personal matters, taking each other to court. Divided over whether Christians should be married. Divided over whether Christians should eat meat that's been sacrificed to idols. Divided even at the communion table and potluck dinners between the have's and the have-not's. They were divided over the proper place of authority of men and women — even divided about the proper length of men's hair.

Even with the spiritual gifts, Paul had to point out that they weren't to be cause for more factions and divisions, but that they came from the same Spirit. He appealed to them to have unity in their diversity. And on that note, continues in verse 12...

12:12-26 The Body Of Christ

The body of Christ is not a unique term to the book of 1Corinthians. Christ is the...

Eph. 1:22-23 ...head over all things to the church, which is His body...

Eph. 5:30 ...we are members of His body.

Col. 1:24 ...His body (which is the church)...

In Ephesians 4, it is written that

Eph. 4:15-16 ...the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

And in Colossians 2,

Col. 2:19 ...holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

This is a deep spiritual truth that none of us have even begun to grasp. This goes far beyond any picturesque speech or word pictures. The church is the body of Christ on earth. He has ascended and left us to continue His work on earth. Just as He loved people, so we are to love them. Just as He reached out to people, so we are to reach out to them. To teach them, to feed them, to minister to them, to heal them. That is why we are here.

So every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ. We all look different, we are all located in different areas. We all have different functions. Diversity and unity. Some people in the church are hands. Some are knees, others toes. Some are pastor/teachers — caring for the people and teaching them. Others are elders — meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the church. Some are deacons — meeting the physical needs of the people in the church. Others are called to prayer. Some clean the church, some give financial gifts to the church, others administer the things in the church, some serve the church, some care for the children in the church. Different parts of the body performing the functions that God has called them to do. Different jobs, same Spirit, same unified purpose.

Wanting To Be A Different Part Of The Body

Think of the mess we would have if everyone was just one part of the body — nursery workers. The church had 100 nursery workers, but no one to teach. Paul wrote to the Romans,

Rom. 12:4-8 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly : if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

So whatever part you've been called to be, be it. Whatever gifts you've been given, exercise them. Don't sit there thinking that the grass is so much greener on the other side of the fence. Think of how freakish it would be if the foot decided it wanted to be the mouth and just moved right on up there. There's this big foot sticking out of the mouth! When parts want to be other parts that they're not called to be, the Body is deformed.

I Am Not A Part Of The Body

Now, let's say the leg wants to be somewhere else, like the shoulder. The body, not wanting to be deformed, says "No, leg, stay where you are." Well, when the leg doesn't get that place up on the shoulder, it gets upset and leaves.

But just because you leave doesn't make you not a part of the body. Like verses 15 and 16 say,

1Cor. 12:15-16 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

When parts of the body say, "I'm not in the body" , that part of the body is still there, but it refuses to function — it's paralyzed. A body with a paralyzed part has difficulty accomplishing what it desires to do. The other parts have to compensate — they can't do their jobs well, they get injured and tired. All because the leg wants to be something else.

Parts Working Together

Instead of being deformed or paralyzed, we need unity in our diversity. Each part needs the other parts. Without the feet, the mouth can talk all he wants, but won't get anywhere. The legs might walk the body to work, but without hands, we're not going to get much done.

We all need each other in the Body of Christ. There is no part that is not essential. You have a part in the Body, and you're doing one of three things as that part: you're either trying to be a different part, which makes us deformed; not doing anything at all, which makes us paralyzed, or you're working together with all the other parts, which makes us healthy.

12:27-28 First, Second, Third, The Rest

Though many believe that miracles and tongues are the greatest things for the Body of Christ, God disagrees. Here the Word says, "first apostles." The greatest office in the church is an apostle — "one who is sent out." The Biblical definition of an apostle is given by Peter, who stood up and said,

Acts 1:21-22 "It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us —one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection."

So I don't know that there are true apostles today, but there are those who do the work of apostles — someone who the Lord hand-picks and sends into a place that has not heard the gospel. Laying the foundation for a church to be born.

The second greatest office in the church is that of a prophet. Remember that we learned earlier that prophecy was the forth-telling of the Word of God. Many claim to be prophets today, and I have no problem with that — as long as we can hold them to the Biblical standard of prophets — one strike and you're dead.

Deut. 18:20-22 'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken.

The third greatest office in the church is that of a teacher. Many people want to be teachers also. But the Bible warns:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

So the apostle brings the gospel of God, the prophet brings the Word of God, and the teacher brings the understanding of these things.

Then comes the miracles, tongues, healings, etc. The church is so mixed up today. So many have forsaken the hearing and teaching of the word of God for excitement and feelings and healings and miracles. Brethren, this should not be!

12:29-31 All Are Not

Paul rhetorically asks if all are called to these positions and gifts. And of course the answers to Paul's questions are all "no." All are not apostles, all are not prophets, all are not teachers, all do not work miracles, all do not speak with tongues. I don't know how in the world some church denominations have grown to believe that every person who is truly saved speaks in tongues — it is beyond me.

Earnestly Desire The Greater Gifts

Finally, Paul says,

1Cor. 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

What are the greater gifts? The gifts that edify the whole Body of Christ instead of just you. Now, the chapter divisions were not written in the original languages. They were added hundreds of years later for clarity. This is one place where I wish that they were slightly different. So our study of chapter 13, will pick up the last half of the last verse in chapter 12.

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