From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 7-12     Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

 

 

 

 

            In those early days of Christianity, there were those—the apostle makes plain both in this chapter and other places—who spoke by the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This assured that they said the right things, in the right manner, and at the right time.  Yet “words are cheap,” as the saying goes today, and one could claim such guidance without it really existing; the words could even originate in a misguided and over-enthusiastic mind.  And there are some things that, a priori, could never come from that guiding Spirit:  surely at the top of that list would be to call Jesus “accursed” (12:3, NKJV). 

All Paul does is to make passing allusion to the danger, as a forewarning:  First of all, against gullibility.  Second of all, lest they be carried away by enthusiasm for their genuine gifts; as human beings, they could convince themselves that they needed to be saying something even when they were temporarily (or permanently) no longer being blessed by the revelatory gift.

            He stresses a selection of the types of gifts the Spirit could give and, by doing so, conveys the message that there is no room for ego or pride because of the particular endowment one may be exercising.  After all, someone else is utilizing a gift just as useful or significant—merely different. 

Just because you may want that other gift, doesn’t mean you will receive it.  There is no way to “learn” such gifts; there is no ritual or procedure to obtain it.  It is solely within the decision making power of the Spirit who “distributes to each one individually as He wills” (12:11).  Hence if one is not given a gift, either today or in the future, that is the Spirit’s decision, acting for the best long range good.  You can’t (or shouldn’t!) begrudge what you have no control over!

            At length Paul emphasizes that the over-all well-being of the congregation is the purpose, not our individual pleasure, ego, or church standing.  The church is like a human body; every organ in it has something to contribute.  Indeed, without the wide diversity in parts and function, a living body could not hope to exist; likewise the local congregation. 

This cut two ways:  it showed the person who wanted a supposedly “better” or “superior” supernatural gift, that he (or she) was just as important to the successful functioning of the group as the persons who actually had it.  Likewise it pulled the rug out from under any who fell into the trap of proudly exulting in their “superior” gifts; there still was no room for pride since the others were just as needed for the spiritual body to function at its full potential.  There was nothing wrong with desiring the perceived “better” gifts; what was wrong was conceit if possessing them or demeaning of self if one was lacking them.

 

 

[Page 208]   

 

 

How the Themes Are Developed  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things condemnatory of Jesus would never

be heard because of the Holy Spirit’s

inspiration or guidance (12:1-12:3)

 

 

            ATP text:  1Now concerning miraculous spiritual gifts, my comrades, I do not want there to be any misunderstanding.  2You remember how that when you were unconverted Gentiles, you were led astray--however it was done--by lifeless idols.  3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the guidance of the Spirit of God can ever say "Jesus is a curse!"  Nor can anyone say "Jesus is Lord" except due to the Spirit.”

            Development of the argument:  In chapter twelve Paul turns to the usefulness of miraculous gifts in their worship assembly.[1]  Clearly he is responding to their questions:  He uses “now concerning” repeatedly as an introductory phrase when  introducing such matters (7:1; 7:25; 8:1; 16:1; 16:12).[2]  Rather than directly answering them (as he does certain matters about the resurrection in chapter 15), here he attempts to clarify their understanding by summarizing the central truths they need to grasp and embrace.

Much of modern theology is not receptive to the idea of objectively real miracles having occurred in the first century, miracles such as those described in this chapter.  Nor is it pleased with the concept that people spoke in genuine unknown tongues, could predict the future, and exercise other gifts attributed to the direct action of the Holy Spirit.  This is neither the place nor the time to argue that point.  However in interpreting Paul’s words we must never forget that he was firmly convinced that the phenomena was objective rather than subjective and unquestionably of origin from outside those believers manifesting the phenomena. 

            Hence we will simply utilize such terms as “miraculous gifts” and “gifts of the Spirit” for this is the conceptual framework in which Paul works.  Those who deny them can feel free to enter appropriate mental caveats, but the systematic inclusion of reference to the doubts many have would make the prose of this book unworkable.  (Not to mention the fact that the current author believes the claims are far more worthy of full credibility than often granted.)

[Page 209]           Paul begins by expressing the desire that they have an understanding of the spiritual gifts among them beyond that which they already possessed (12:1).  To begin with, when the Gentiles worshipped their idols, their delusion led them anywhere and everywhere (12:2).  In light of the fact that genuine spiritual gifts are under consideration in the verses that follow, the suggestion of some scholars that verse 2 alludes to the pagan parallel phenomena in mystery cults might well be true.[3]  Of course these were ecstatic utterances muttered under the influence of hyper-emotionalism or alcoholic excess, self-generated rather than externally provided as those mentioned by Paul.

In contrast to what happened with idols, the genuine working of the Holy Spirit would never encourage a person to repudiate Jesus as “accursed (ATP:  is a curse)” (12:3).  At the other extreme, the Holy Spirit always approves of the person who recognizes Jesus as “Lord” (12:3), i.e., as supremely authoritative over believers and the human race.  In both cases the utterance is noticeably in a genuine language, the spoken language of the day—non-ecstatic and understandable to one and all, distinguishing the Christian practice of revelation from the contemporary pagan. 

            To us, the idea of the divine (in this context the Spirit) putting a curse on another seems inherently absurd.  Yet the belief that we can invoke the Divine to do so is never that far below the surface.  How many times have you heard someone say “God ---- you,” as if God would honor our invoking of His wrath on another?

            Whether Paul has in mind the divine acting on its own initiative to put a curse upon others through our spoken words or our mouths invoking God’s name to put that curse--with the implicit assumption that the invoking will be successful--are our two alternatives.  The wording of the text makes us expect the former since the subject is what will the Spirit either really or not really do.

            So it is quite possible that Corinthian hostilities toward each other were sometimes so intense that they could imagine even divinity invoking its condemnation on Jesus Himself.  Your opponent has appealed to the teaching of Jesus.  You can’t deny it.  Even you recognize its validity.  So, suddenly, you announce that the Spirit has cursed Jesus for ever saying it.  The Lord becomes a would be victim of intra-church feuding!

            Paul insists that this simply won’t happen—the Spirit won’t do it.  (You may be angry or deluded enough to believe it, but the condemnation won’t be coming from anywhere outside yourself.)        

            On behalf of the assumption that there is no pretense that the Spirit is initiating the act, that it is the Christian himself who is personally invoking the Spirit’s condemnation—and claiming he has been given it—is the cultural background of Corinth in which this type of action was quite common.  In the second half of the twentieth century twenty-seven lead “curse tablets” were uncovered in Corinth; fourteen were found in the one temple of Demeter and Persephone alone (tablets were, traditionally, buried at such sites) and the rest were found in other locations.[4]  Over a thousand cases have been found over the Roman empire.[5] 

“There were at least four areas of life where religious curses were used—(i) rivalry in sport; (ii) love; (iii) politeia including litigation, and (iv) the world of commerce.”[6]  “The procedure involved . . . either defacing the tablet or driving a nail through it while cursing the opponent.  It was then buried in the ground, placed in a well, [Page 210]    bath, fountain or in the temple of Demeter and Persephone.  These actions were accompanied by the verbal imprecations where the god or goddess was called upon to curse an adversary.”[7]            

 

[Page 209]   

 

 

 

Even so there was a wide variety of gifts that the

Holy Spirit could choose to provide

(12:4-12:11)

 

 

            ATP text:  4There are various kinds of miraculous gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit.  5There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord who is served.  6Likewise there are various activities, but the same God who produces the results in everyone.  7To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit to benefit the common good:  8For to one is provided a message of wisdom through the Spirit and to another a message of knowledge through the same Spirit; 9to another great faith by the same Spirit and to another the power to heal the sick by the one Spirit.  10To another is given the exercise of miraculous powers, and to another the gift of supernaturally receiving God’s message.  Another is given the ability to distinguish between prophetic utterances, another various kinds of languages, and to yet another the ability to interpret what is said in those languages.  11Even so one and the same Spirit accomplishes all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He determines best.”

            Development of the argument:  Although there were a variety of miraculous gifts, it was the same Spirit (12:4), Lord (12:5), and God who worked in them all (12:6).   Joseph Maleparampii rightly suggests that, “Paul’s interest is not in the unity of persons in the Godhead or demonstrating the relationship between the three persons, but to convince the Corinthians on the need of diversity within unity, which he argues, lies in the divine plan.”[8]  Just as the Godhead is united but has distinct entities, so are the gifts (in origin, purpose, and usefulness).[9] 

Likewise in their congregational life there would need to come to terms with being both united yet recognizing individual traits, preferences, and abilities.  In regard to abilities (whether manifested in natural or supernatural form), each would be different.  So far as preferences, there would be those who preferred to do things one way and others a different way.  So far as convictions, some would dot the “i’s” one way and cross the “t’s” in a different manner.  In all these areas, today we would speak in terms of “cutting slack for each other,” i.e., insisting upon agreement only when clearly needed.  After all, we ourselves might be in that dissident minority the next time around.

The purpose of their supernatural gifts was always constructive:  to “profit (ATP:  benefit)” the group (12:7).  It’s not an “ego trip” kind of thing, where we are hoping to increase the esteem we, individually, are held in.  These gifts are tools to help a broad cross-section of the members.  Hence “profit” can be found rendered “for the common good” in many translations (BBE, God’s Word, ISV, NASB, RSV, Weymouth).    

[Page 211]         “Each” member of the group (12:7) had something that would benefit the faith community as a whole.[10]  If public worship today has one wide-spread, common fault, it is often that the vast bulk of leadership roles become the near exclusive property of a very few people, week after week after week.  In Corinth and, presumably, other early congregations seemingly “each” member—surely conveying, rhetorically, at least the idea of many or the bulk—had something to contribute.  The supernatural gifts, were certainly a factor but there is every reason to assume that even without them many would still have some natural gift they could utilize.  In light of this, surely modern congregations have enough non-supernaturally blessed individuals to bring out a similar broad-based participation! 

Although Paul specifies nine different specific manifestations as then being available (12:8-10), it was still the one and same Spirit behind them all (12:11).  An individual could not learn these gifts; instead, specific individuals were selected to be given them as the Spirit Himself determined (12:11).  They became, in effect, the means God used--tools for the improvement and growth of the congregation.

There was no grounds on which one person could feel superior to another since they had no control over which gift (if any) they received.  Nor did they have any right to utilize those gifts in such a manner as to encourage others to think themselves somehow inferior.[11]  Permitting such a mind frame would have led to ego trips for the one that had the gift and depression for the one without.  Paul’s teaching on the diversity of gifts was designed as a cautionary antidote to such thinking.[12]   Even more so was this a warning to any misguided believer who was convinced that a “true” Christian should have all of them.[13]

            Today, through the utilization of a wide selection of individuals in one role or another, much the same result is produced over a period of time:  no one feels they are so pivotal that everyone else falls into non-importance.  Likewise there is a valid reason for each of us to feel that we are contributing something useful to the functioning and well-being of the congregation beyond merely “dropping money in the collection basket.”  

           

 

 

 

 

The reason that more than one type of gift

needed to be provided by the Spirit

was so that everyone would have something

to contribute (12:12-12:20)

 

 

            ATP text:  12The reason for these differences can be illustrated by the fact that though the human body is one and yet has many parts they are still members of the same body--even though they are numerous they yet constitute one body.  The same situation is true in Christ.  13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether we are Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and we are now all encouraged to drink of that same one Spirit.  14For in fact the body does not consist of merely one part but of many.  [Page 212]    15Hence if the foot were to claim, "Because I am not a hand, I am independent of the body," that would not change the fact that it is part of the body.  16And if the ear were to assert, "Because I am not an eye, I am independent of the body," that would not alter the fact that it is part of the body.  17If the whole body were an eye, there would be no ability to hear.  If the whole body were an ear, there would be no sense of smell.  18But now the reality is that God arranged the organs together in the body--every one of them--as He decided was best.  19If all were the same organ, the body could not exist at all.  20Now, however, there are many parts, but one body is made out of them.”

            Development of the argument:  The church consists of many different individuals (12:12) yet it was due to the teaching of the Spirit that all were baptized and partook of these diverse gifts (12:13).  The apostle emphasizes the parallel of the human body to help them gain a perspective on how all of these—and them--were of value:  every single part of the body is useful and has no ground to look upon itself as independent of the rest of the individual (12:14-16).

            Today we have so much increased medical knowledge that we know that not only are all the parts necessary so that we can have a fully functioning body, we now know that even the physical survival of the body is at stake.  For example, without the heart we have no blood flow, but without the lungs we have no oxygen for the blood to carry.  Both are absolute essentials but life exists only because both systems operate in co-operation and simultaneously.  Furthermore, we know that “minor” changes in the functioning of some body parts can expose the whole body to weakness, disease, and even death.  So the image of “all parts being needed” is one that is even more profoundly recognized as true than when spoken by the apostle.           

Furthermore, this image of unity and success through many—a symbolic body of “one” though numbering in the dozens, hundreds, or thousands when everyone is counted—was one fully familiar to the ancients and used to stress that there were group interests that united one and all regardless of one’s individual situation in life.  Peter F. Ellis notes that this is “a metaphor utilized as early as 494 B.C. by Menenius Agrippa, who made use of it to convince the Roman plebians that their interests were the same as those of the patricians who formed with them the same body politic.  Seneca, Epictetus, and the Gnostics made use of the same metaphor.”[14]   

This ability of “part” to contribute to the well-being of the whole, was true regardless of how insignificant that role might appear.  If the collective body only fulfilled one function, other important ones would go wanting (12:17).  Likewise God designed the individual physical parts of the individual to fulfill various purposes and every one of them is needed (12:18-21).  As in the human body so in the body of Christ, the church.  Functions might differ, but they all contributed to the ultimate well being of the entire group.

Perhaps a useful parallel would be the modern corporation.  For 17 years I was at the bill making end of a major American freight corporation.  “Working in the electronic cotton fields,” as I sometimes called it, for most of that time I was one of those responsible for assuring the customer received the right (or as close to right as we could calculate it) freight identification code so that they would neither be undercharged or overcharged. 

Then there were those who calculated what the actual charges would be, those who ran off the calculations so they could be delivered with the freight, and an

[Page 213]    assortment of other functions to verify accuracy and correct past mistakes.  All this was done during the night before the sun rose on a new day so merely the auxiliary paperwork could be completed!  Then add in probably a hundred different other types of work for us to successfully move massive loads of freight across the nation and across the world--and next day we came back and did it all over again. 

Every function was necessary to make the system work and every “insignificant” person—and if you’ve never worked in a bureaucracy from 8 PM-4:30 AM you have no idea what “insignificant” can feel like!—was essential to making everything come together and function.

Most readers are working (or have worked) in such a corporate environment.  Like a church, everyone is necessary to make it work right.  It’s not mere rhetoric from a “PR department;” it also reflects actual reality.  And it’s the reality of the individual congregation as well.    

 

 

 

 

 

            The possessor of one gift was to never

look down upon those with different gifts as inferior

                                   (12:21-12:24)

 

 

            ATP text:  21So the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or, either, the head say to the feet, "I have no need of you."  22In fact, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are just as essential.  23Those parts of the body which we deem less desirable, on these we bestow greater concern.  Likewise our less presentable members receive the distinction of being treated with special modesty, 24which our more esteemed parts do not require.  But God has so composed the body that He gives the greater honor to the parts we regard as lacking in it.”

            Development of the argument:  Some body parts it’s impossible not to recognize as important, especially if you have a health problem regarding them.  I knew abstractly that the heart was important before my quadruple bypass and before my later double bypass.  (Then to make sure I hadn’t “missed the point,” they threw in a diagnosis of congestive heart failure!)  But other parts of the body I’m still inclined to overlook—until injuries of long ago decide to periodically act up.  “Minor” parts of the body like a rib or a vertebrae that will go months and give no problem, but they then “decide” to firmly remind me of past injuries.   

If you are over 40 years old, you almost certainly have some personal situation that illustrates this reality.  We dismiss those “parts” until the pain starts.  So in these verses, Paul works from a human truth that we all realize on some level in order to make a spiritual lesson.

We recognize that everything in the body has some type of importance, if nothing more than a “fall back” capacity (our second kidney, for example).  Yet if all parts of the body are needful, then that is true even of those that we might think less useful, needful, [Page 214]    or “honorable.”  It is easy to downgrade the importance of such body parts.  Our sexuality may sometimes be embarrassing, but without our sexual organs how would the human race exist?[15]  Our excretory organs aren’t things we normally prefer to discuss at the dinner table, but how would our bodies be able to process food and keep us alive without them? 

            Even body parts without such socio-psychological elements of inhibition, can be equally important in their own way. Kenneth L. Chafin tells the story of the brilliant high school fullback he met who was clearly destined for college and, possibly, ultimate professional league greatness.  Yet during an interim summer job he endured one of those “freak accidents” that can occur and lost not his big toe but only a segment of it.  As the result he discovered “that the loss of his big toe [cost] him his fast starts and his agility.”  His career went down the tubes before it even began.[16] 

            Who would think a toe all that important?  Yet it was.  In a similar manner,  insignificant” spiritual “toes” are cavalierly dismissed because they do not offer anything dramatic to the functioning of a church.  Yet they may still do one of those 101 “little” things without which no volunteer organization can survive.  The body can function and thrive only because these “unimportant” parts are available and present.  And, in the physical realm, we consider ourselves “handicapped” when they are absent.      

 

 

 

 

 

This mutual dependence was the standard so that

they would all view each other as essential

members of the congregation (12:25-27)

 

           

            ATP text:  25This is done so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same deep concern for one another’s welfare.  26Hence if one member suffers, all the members hurt with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice together with it.  27Now you are collectively the body of Christ, and each of you is an individual part of it.”

            Development of the argument:  In parallel with the human body, in a similar fashion the church is the “body of Christ” and each individual member an important part of it (12:27).  Hence if one “part” hurts, all the remainder should have sympathy and concern (12:25-26a).  It is not as if we are expressing an encouragement for them that will not return our way.  We all become “injured” by the hurts of life and the assistance of others enables us to survive it—and even prosper.

On the other hand if prosperity and advancement comes to a “part,” all the remainder should rejoice in it happening rather than being envious and secretly annoyed (12:26b).  It would be as out of place for us to hate ourselves for our own success as to be envious at our coreligionist for his or her achievement.  After all we are, in a spiritual sense, part of the same “body” and should look upon their success as bringing honor on  [Page 215]    all the rest of us as well.  On a spiritual level it is to be, if you will, “one for all and all for one.”

            As human beings, it is natural that we consider ourselves “deserving” of acceptance and success.  (Though, oddly and inconsistently, we don’t always  remember to be thankful to God when we are!)  What is much easier to forget is that everyone else has their own dreams and aspirations as well.  If we rejoice when the right “doors” open for us, the proper reaction—Paul warns us—is to rejoice that it has opened for others as well. 

           

 

 

 

 

Even though there was nothing wrong with

desiring the more “important” gifts, there was

still something more important than

all of them (12:28-12:31)

 

 

            ATP text:  28And God has appointed in the assembly, first spiritual ambassadors, second prophets, third teachers.  He also chose some to perform miracles or have the ability to heal, be helpers of others, leaders of diverse types, or speak various kinds of languages.  29Not everyone is an apostle, are they?  Is everyone a prophet?  Is everyone a teacher?  Is everyone a miracle worker?  30Do all possess gifts to remove illness?  Do all speak with other languages?  Do all translate the languages?  31Still earnestly desire the better gifts.  Even so, I will show you an even more excellent way of life.”

            Development of the argument:  Yet again Paul hits on the theme that God did not give each member the same function any more than He did each organ of the human body (12:28-30).  All they had to do was look about and see that:  not everyone could claim to be an apostle or to be a miracle worker or to perform other “important” functions in the church.  So there was no need to argue the point, only state it and for them to grasp the full implications of it.  Just as God had a role for every such individual he also had a role for those who lacked such abilities.  There was room and need for all.

Even so there was nothing wrong with them desiring “the best gifts” (12:31)--so long as they realized they were still of value and importance whether they themselves possessed them or not.  Spiritual balance was essential:  striving for the most they could accomplish and attain, while leaving themselves free of self-condemnation and self-reproach for what was not within their reach.     

            Whether we received a specific spiritual gift was beyond our control back in those days.  Then it was because God was the giver and it was ultimately His decision and His alone.  The same lack of control is typically still true today of the various things we would regard as “success” in the secular or religious spheres, though now the impediments come from others and not by divine decision.

I recall once (and only once) reading a job opening description at my freight company job that read as if I had written it myself—with myself specifically in mind!  I [Page 216]    optimistically applied for the promotion—and didn’t get it.  Downcast is the only word that fits.  Downcast until two or three months later when I spoke with the young man who received it and discovered that the job as described basically no longer existed and he had no idea what it was going to turn into.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  My “dream” had clearly begun to turn into someone else’s “nightmare.”

In the religious sphere we may have our dream—to do this or that; it can be a 1,001 different things.  As Paul pointed out for his earlier age, there was absolutely nothing wrong with desiring such success.  But he closed the chapter with the caution that, receive it or not, there was something better and he discusses that in the next chapter:  Love.  Not so ego-satisfying, perhaps, but just as great or even greater in importance.  In comparison to that, all else was secondary.              

           

 

 

 

 

 

Invoking of Explicit Old Testament

Quotations to Justify His Teaching:

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Old Testament Concepts Are

Repeatedly Introduced and Woven

into the Heart of His Argument

 

 

 

 

 

 

12:2:  Idols were, by their very nature, unable to tell or teach any one anything.  Paul uses the expression “dumb idols (ATP:  lifeless idols)” to describe them.  He does not mean “dumb” in our modern sense of stupid, foolish, or foolhardy (though he would hardly have denied the propriety of the term in that context!) but rather in the literal sense of being unable to speak, of always being silent.  In other words, he takes the human condition of lack of speaking ability and applies it to the ever present worship of images of his day.  The man or woman in his society who could not speak could at least  [Page 217]    communicate non-verbally through hand motions (and today through both sign language and computer); the idol just sat there motionless and useless to one and all.   Hence “dumbness” became an effective synonym for useless and even nonexistent.

To the extent that one takes the idolatry = demonic rhetoric of Paul literally (1 Corinthians 10:20), they represent objectively existing creatures who have sold out any potential virtue or good they could possibly have.  If we take it as a rhetorical description of their worthlessness or the powers that encourage their worship, their practical value is similarly non-existent because of this limitation.  A “god” who can’t communicate is like a baseball game without a baseball; an essential prerequisite is lacking.

This crucial inability is contrasted implicitly and explicitly throughout the Old Testament as we find prophet after prophet warning of the allure of speechless deities.  In Isaiah 41:22-24, 28-29 this communicative failure is presented as fatal to their credibility,

           

Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come.  Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.  Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination. . . .  For I looked, and there was no man; I looked among them, but there was no counselor, who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.  Indeed they are all worthless; their works are nothing; their molded images are wind and confusion.”

             

            Yes, many idols were beautiful creations, made of the best “silver and gold” available (Psalms 115:3).  But the Psalmist expands the criticism far beyond the inability to communicate to the obvious fact that they can’t do anything at all,

 

                        They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not         see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell;       they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor    do they mutter through their throat.  Those who make them are like them; so is   everyone who trusts in them (Psalms 115:5-8; cf. 135:15-18).

 

            Not only is it true that these creations of human talent and skill could not do anything, it was inherently absurd for a person to pray to the image as if it could.  Yahweh deals with this from the standpoint of the person who should be least likely to fall into that intellectual trap, the creator of the image, “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols?  Woe to him who says to wood ‘Awake!’  To silent stone, ‘Arise!  It shall teach!’  Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in all there is no breath at all” (Habakkuk 2:18-19). 

 

 

            12:4-11, 26:  Miraculous gifts in the Old Testament narratives.  The nine supernatural gifts Paul discusses he describes as coming from the Holy Spirit (12:4, 7, 8, 9, 11).  Yet these gifts are also depicted as “God” (= Yahweh in the Old Testament) [Page 218]    working in them (12:6) and even as the “Lord” (= Jesus) working within them.  In light of this Pauline teaching that these gifts came from all three (or from one on behalf of the others, if you wish), we can turn to the Old Testament and examine how it identifies them as Divine gifts.  Some of these are easy to illustrate; others are far more tenuous.

            In addition to the “gifts” of the Spirit, later in this chapter (12:28), Paul refers to how “God has appointed . . . in the church” a number of offices and functions:  (1)  “apostles,” (2) “prophets,” (3) “teachers,” (4) “miracles,” (5)  “gifts of healings,” (6) “helps,” (7) “administrations,” (8) “varieties of tongues.” 

            Comparing these two lists, we find four of the categories (prophets, miracles, ability to heal, tongue-speaking) explicitly mentioned as gifts of the Spirit in the earlier listing.  A fifth, that of “teachers,” could certainly be implied by the reference to words of “wisdom” (12:8) and “knowledge” (12:8).  Hence it is far more likely than not that all of the second list are also considered gifts of the Spirit.  Hence we have included this list for discussion under the current heading.  (Supplemental material on the meaning and application of the terms is provided in the “Problem Texts” section as well.)

            Obviously some of these can—and were, even in the first century—found among Christians without any claim that they were miraculous gifts.  For example, “teachers” describes a function and one which, obviously, could be with or without supernatural assistance.  Likewise, “wisdom” and “knowledge” could be quantitatively and qualitatively enhanced by a supernatural presence but would be feasible to have even without it as well.

            Whether supernaturally sharpened and improved or not, the very fact that there were a multiplicity of “gifts”—and in light of how extensive this list is, do we really believe that Paul is intending an all inclusive listing?—there were at least two lessons they needed to learn from this list:  (1)  don’t be so self-centered that you resent those who have different “gifts” than you; (2) no one then or today is likely to ever have more than a very few of them.[17]  

   

            1.  “The word (ATP:  message) of wisdom” (12:8) (= “teachers?,” 12:28):  When we read of Joseph predicting the coming years of prosperity followed by years of dire shortage, we also find that Pharaoh reacted with great enthusiasm to his proposal that an individual be appointed to gather up vast supplies of food to see the land through the crisis (Genesis 41:36-37).  The ruler then speaks of Joseph’s ability to interpret his obscure dream as an indication that the young man had received a special blessing of the Spirit,

 

                        And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man           in whom is the Spirit of God?”  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God           has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.  You shall         be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only           in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” (41:37-40).

 

            In Daniel 5, mysterious words appear on the walls while the king is fasting and a terrified ruler desperately seeks for someone who can tell him what they mean.  How wide spread was her opinion is not stated, but the queen is confident that Daniel could [Page 219]    because, “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.  And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him” (5:11) and he had proven this by his “knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas” (5:12).  Hence the Spirit’s gift was not only wisdom but the ability to explain and teach interlocked with it (cf. the next point in our list below).    

            The wisdom given by the Spirit did not necessarily have to be in regard to the revelation of divine truth.  In Exodus 31 we read of a man being “filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (31:3); this involved wisdom and insight and skill “to design” and construct the articles to be (ultimately) used in temple worship (3:4-5).  In Exodus 35:30-34, we again find the same person being described as one God “has filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship” (35:31) so that he might produce the artistic beauty of the instruments of worship.

A second specific individual is also mentioned as a leader of this construction worship but the reference to the divine elements in their skills is presented in the context of all those selected to carry out the work:  God is described as “put[ing] wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:6).  Although the Spirit is not explicitly mentioned here, the abilities do come from God and it seems irresistible to interpret this as a shorter way of saying “the Spirit of God” as in verse 3.  (Not to mention an early attribution of deityship to the divine Spirit as well.) 

In Exodus 35, reference is again made to the second individual and all involved are described as ones whom “He (contextually, God) has put in his heart the ability to teach” (35:34).  In other words the gift of God/the Spirit is that of being able to teach others how to do the quality work appropriate to the place of worship.  Also, “He (again, contextually, God) has filled them with skill” (35:35), which would be appropriate and necessary to carry out that function.  Again, wisdom and teaching went hand in hand. 

(Aside:  It would be well for those considered pillars of philosophical, religious, or scientific wisdom today to apply this principle to themselves—to recognize that if they are unable to communicate it in a manner that others can understand their own “wisdom” is horribly crippled.) 

 

            2.  “The word (ATP:  message) of knowledge” (12:8) (= “teachers?,” 12:28):   The Exodus era is recalled in Nehemiah 9:20 as one in which “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them.”  Divinely granted knowledge of artistic workmanship and design is also attributed to the Spirit in Exodus, “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:3). 

            In 2 Samuel 23, David’s dying words are quoted as referring to himself as “the anointed of the God of Jacob and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1b).  He then proceeds to attribute the teaching he did through his Psalms to the guidance of Yahweh’s Spirit, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (23:2).           

            Micah speaks in terms of teaching against sin and injustice because “I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord” (Micah 3:8-9). The Spirit gives him the strength of will that he could not provide himself--the “power”--that he could not have summoned

[Page 220]    unaided to confront the religious power brokers of the kingdom.[18]  The strength of his argument also does not come from native talent but from the “power” that the Spirit has given him to present it forcefully and convincingly.[19]  This is in marked contrast with the self-serving avarice that marked the pseudo-prophets of the age and which Micah had justly denounced.[20] 

            The Spirit’s activity is also used in a Messianic connection.  The coming “stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) is pictured as having the Spirit “rest upon Him.”  This is done in such a manner that the Spirit seemingly is the source (the giver of) His “wisdom and understanding,” “counsel and might,” and “knowledge” and “the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). 

            These gifts interlock to provide the skills and talents needed to be an effective leader.[21]  These would make him invulnerable to the bad advice that had misled past Israelite rulers.[22] 

The list of six gifts or endowments given by the Spirit is presented in doublets in the text and it is natural to seek to carry out such a three-fold division in the interpretation of them as they apply to leaders.  Hence one commentator suggests that the first doublet “are the intellectual facilities of the judge (cf. Deuteronomy 1:13; 1 Kings 3:9, 12), the second the practical qualities of the administrator and warrior (cf. Isaiah 36:5), and the third the fundamental principles of all moral life (Proverbs 9:10; Psalms 111:10).”[23] 

            In regard to the Suffering Servant, He is pictured as being set aside by the Spirit to be a teacher of both redemption and divine justice,

 

                        The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to           preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to       proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are   bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of           our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give       them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the           spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of             the Lord, that He may be glorified (Isaiah 61:1-3).

 

            This passage was read by Jesus to a synagogue audience and He applied it to His own ministry (Luke 4:16-21).

 

            3.  “Faith (ATP:  great faith)” (12:9):   Paul speaks in terms of faith coming by hearing (Romans 10:8-17, especially verse 17) and that his preaching had originated by God through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-16, especially verse 13).  Hence the Spirit could be looked upon as giving or conveying faith by virtue of having given the message that convinced them of its truth. 

            Much as this fits with Paul’s teaching (and with the Old Testament teaching of the Spirit as teacher; see section 2 above), yet it is hard to see this as doing adequate justice to Paul’s point.  Miracle working power, speaking in tongues, etc., are clearly direct actions of that Spirit.  To have him shift to some kind of indirect work of the Spirit in the midst of this list would be unexpected and unlikely.  Hence, though the teaching lacks Old Testament precedent it also lacks any clear New Testament parallel as well.    

 

[Page 221]           4.  “Gifts of healings” (12:9; 12:28) (ATP:  “the power to heal the sick,” 12:9; “the ability to heal,” 12:28):  This has reference to the ability to remove some physical or other disability that has been plaguing an afflicted person’s life.  We read of Elisha and how he raised a dead child (2 Kings 4:18-37), how he gave Namaan the leper the instructions which resulted in his being cured of the disease (2 Kings 5:1-19), and even of how the prophet’s bones restored a dead man to life (2 Kings 13:21).

            In Exodus 15:26 protection from “the diseases . . . which I have brought on the Egyptians” was promised if they were faithful to Yahweh’s will.  (Cf. the same promise in Deuteronomy 7:15).  In Exodus 23:25 such steadfast service was promised to be rewarded with both food and water as well as the removal of “sickness . . . from the midst of you.”        

            Rather than being presented simply as a gift of God, the healing talent is linked to the gift of the Spirit in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”  Though the healing here is clearly emotional and spiritual, it would be a natural deduction for the Jewish reader to conclude that the Spirit could enable one to perform all forms of healing, including the physical.

 

            5.  “Working of miracles (ATP:  the exercise of miraculous powers)” (12:10); “miracles (ATP:  perform miracles)” (12:28):  Since “gifts of healings” has already been specified, Paul is presumably pointing to all forms of non-healing miracles, whatever form they might take.   Although the Old Testament narrates many acts of direct Divine intervention, fewer are described as happening through the hands of intermediaries. 

            Perhaps the two best known examples come from Moses at Pharaoh’s court pleading for the freeing of his people:  the rod he carried was turned into a serpent; on another occasion his hand turned leprous and was then restored.  In the life of Elisha we read that he made the waters of the city Jericho drinkable (2 Kings 2:19-22), removed the danger from a batch of poisoned food (2 Kings 4:38-41), and fed a hundred hungry men who lacked nourishment (2 Kings 4:42-44).

 

            6.  “Prophecy (ATP:  the gift of supernaturally receiving God’s message)” (12:10); “prophets” (12:28):   Prophets and prophecy might or might not involve speaking of future events; the core concept is that of relaying the message God has given one about whatever subject He has chosen.  This is well illustrated by the case of Jeremiah, who was told by Yahweh that even before his birth “I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).  As prophet his role was simple but challenging due to the foes he would face (1:8):  whatever I command you, you shall speak” (1:7).  The mission would be far more than a predictive one, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (1:10).

When prophecy occurred it was not necessarily an-going phenomena; it could happen once and never again.  Hence we read of the seventy elders who assisted Moses (see point 12 below) being given this gift by the Spirit only one time, “Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to [Moses], and took of the Spirit that was upon him, [Page 222]    and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened when the Spirit rested upon them that they prophesied, although they never did so again” (Numbers 11:25).

Joshua was annoyed that two men were prophesying back in the camp, separate from this group.  Perhaps it was unknown to him that “the Spirit rested upon them” even though he was aware that they had not “gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp” (11:26).  Moses rebuked him, challenging his motives (“Are you zealous for my sake?,” 11:29) and then expressed the wish that all shared in the gift, “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (11:29).  

            By not happening at the tabernacle itself, the incident illustrated that God was quite capable of having His Spirit act wherever and whenever it suited His own plans.[24]  Although it is sometimes assumed that this gift was ecstatic prophecy[25] (presumably upon the basis that this was the only “real” kind ever practiced--itself a religious and theological judgment as to the limits upon Yahweh’s power and ability), there is nothing in the text to ground this upon.[26]

            Prophecy did not have to occur in the context of a formal religious service.  First Samuel refers to how a person might have an on-going ability (10:5) or be given the gift only temporarily (10:6, 10-13).  The newly anointed King Saul was forewarned by Samuel that the experience would mark his transformation into a new man as well, “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man” (10:6; on the inner change that resulted, 10:9). 

            Hence prophecy could have the ability to change a person’s life.  In 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 prophecy convinces the unbeliever of Christianity’s truthfulness and thereby leads to his or her conversion.  In 1 Samuel, as the result of personally participating in the gift of the Spirit, Saul’s inner nature is transformed and the validity of Samuel’s ordination of him to be king is confirmed in his own eyes.

            On a later occasion in Saul’s kingship we again read of him being given the prophetic ability temporarily (1 Samuel 19:20-24).  In this case the gift was given to him to distract (and rebuke?) him for his determination to unjustly kill David.      

 

            7.  “Discerning of spirits (ATP:  the ability to distinguish between prophetic utterances)” (12:10):  The idea here is presumably that of having the ability to determine who was a true prophet and who was not.  In the Old Testament the true prophets played a de facto role in such because we repeatedly read their denunciations of those who were leading Israel aside.

            But on many matters it certainly did not require a specialist to make the judgment.  In Deuteronomy 13 the nation is warned of how in certain cases they all could play such a role,

 

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods”-- which you have not known—“and let us serve them,”  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His [Page 223]    voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall put away the evil from your midst (13:1-5)

 

            A very simply standard:  teaching you to follow pagan gods equals death penalty, which equals removing the danger from the nation.  In one sense, this might make some feel guilty:  after all, the man had accurately predicted the future.  A few chapters later we have the example of a situation where any inhibition was surely removed for the prophet had been wrong,

 

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.  And if you 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 happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (18:20-22).

 

            8.  “Different kinds of tongues (ATP:  various kinds of languages)” (12:10); “varieties of tongues (ATP:  various kinds of languages)” (12:28):  Joel 2:28-29 speaks of how the Spirit would be “pour[ed] out” and how individuals would prophesy, have visions, and receive dreams.  Speaking in tongues is not mentioned explicitly, but this text is quoted in Acts 2:16-21 as precedent for the apostles being able to speak in tongues they had not been taught.  Probably the train of reasoning is this:  The text speaks in terms of their being multiple means of the Spirit speaking to mankind.  Since the apostles had received the baptism of the Spirit on that Pentecost day, speaking in foreign languages was simply another application of the principle of the Spirit teaching found in the Joel text.

 

            9.  “Interpretation of tongues (ATP:  the ability to interpret what is said in those languages)” (12:10):  Although we do not read of this gift being practiced in the Old Testament, we do read of those gifted with the ability to supernaturally interpret prophetic dreams.  This ability of Joseph in ancient Egypt is attributed to “the Spirit of God” (Genesis 41:38).

 

            10.  “Apostles (ATP:  spiritual ambassadors)” (12:28):  At first it would seem a futile endeavor to seek for an analogy to apostles in the Old Testament.  Although we do not read of a group of such individuals at a given time, we read of individuals who might well be described by the meaning of the word “apostle,” i.e., one specially sent on a mission by God. 

            For example, Moses, Joshua, and the judges occupied unique positions in the Old Testament.  Although prophetic and miraculous functions are, upon occasion, attributed to them, their status is pictured as something unique and distinctly different in their leadership over Israel.  Hence we might speak, admittedly loosely of them, as being “apostles of the Old Testament.”

 

[Page 224]           11.  “Helps (ATP:  helpers of others)” (12:28):  The expression carries the connotation of assistants, helpers, those who made the work of some one in authority much easier.[27]  In the New Testament we can think in terms of deacons (or any man or woman, for that matter) who made the congregation’s and presbyters’ work easier.  In the Old Testament context we would most naturally think in terms of the Levites who served the temple’s needs while the priests carried out the rituals. 

            In neither Testament, however, are such individuals described as automatically having been given a special gift of God’s Spirit to qualify them for the work or to enable them to carry it out.  Nor would one necessarily have to occupy a formal church office in order to be a “help” to the church leadership.  The emphasis is on needed work being done and not what “post” or “title” the person may have, if any.

 

            12.  “Administrations (ATP:  leaders of diverse types)” (12:28):   The terminology suggests a more formal position than those who “help;” it most naturally alludes at least to one carrying a greater weight of authority and position, whether on a de facto or official basis.  Hence, it would point to positions of leadership within the spiritual community.  Within a New Testament context one thinks in terms of elders/presbyters, although why Paul would shy away from the term if this is what he has in mind is rather strange.  Probably he has in mind de facto leaders, instead of such formally appointed ones (however see the discussion in the problem text section).

            As narrated in the Pentateuch, Moses alone was the ultimate decision maker for Israel.  This, in turn, brought immense psychological pressures upon him as he alone had to bear the direct impact of the people’s mutinous moods and had to find a way to provide for their survival requirements (cf. Moses’ despair in Numbers 11:10-15).  This was an untenable burden for a single individual on a long-range basis and so we read of the appointment of Spirit gifted individuals to assist him,

 

                        So the Lord said to Moses:  “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of            Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them;         bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  Then             I will come down and talk with you there.  I will take of the Spirit that is upon    you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people    with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).       

 

            The Suffering Servant of Isaiah is depicted in terms of being able to accomplish good for others due to having the special gift of the Spirit, “Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!  I have put My spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:1).  Giving “justice” suggests leadership and being either a judge, ruler, or rescuer of those receiving it.   For a linkage of this leadership image of the Servant with that of being appointed a teacher by the Spirit, see section 2 above.

            The Servant is also to be a teacher and a law-giver, according to 42:2-4.  “The Servant’s function being prophetic, he is, like the prophets, endowed with the spirit of Jehovah.”[28]

 

 

[Page 225]           12:12-25:  The usefulness of each and every church member.  Paul argues here that just as every single part of the body serves a useful purpose (even those we may feel embarrassed about), likewise every member has a potential usefulness.  It may not be a dramatic one; it may seem small and insignificant to others--but it all works together for the ultimate betterment of the group.

            The Old Testament recognized that the “rugged individualism” of “standing alone,” proudly defiant and not needing anyone is folly.  (Not to mention that it represents pride incarnate.)  The cynical (but all too often embarrassingly realistic) author of Ecclesiastes points out that no one can adequately or safely stand alone against the world,  

 

                        Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.         For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone            when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together,             they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?  Though one may be      overpowered by another, two can withstand him.  And a threefold cord is not      quickly broken (4:9-12).

 

            He begins with the minimum number--of the need for at least some one else (4:9), but by the time he ends, he makes allusion to how even a greater number (“a threefold cord”) is of even greater usefulness.  Paul recognizes this principle of mutual profit and applies it to the local congregation as a functioning group of men and women.  

            On a larger scale, the point was illustrated by the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah.  On one occasion, half of the people worked on the walls while the other half stood guard against attack (Nehemiah 4:16-23).  Which was more important to the success of the project when faced with the potential for assault against them?  As in Paul’s illustration, each had the need for the other (1 Corinthians 12:21).  The principle was already known.  Paul simply gives expression to it.

            Ecclesiastes 5:9 makes the point by the example of the king’s relationship to the farmers of the land.  He is at the pinnacle; they are at the base of power.  They are dependent upon him for wise leadership.  On the other hand “even the king is served from the field,” i.e., without their crops he won’t eat either.  They need each other.  Mutual dependence exists. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Allusions to the

                                    Old Testament:  None

 

 

 

[Page 226]   

 

 

Problem Texts

 

 

           

 

 

            12:3:  There are things which the Holy Spirit will never instruct a person to speak.  In particular, the Spirit will never have a person call “Jesus accursed (ATP:  Jesus is a curse).”  In other words certain claims of Spirit guidance are inherently self-refuted by the nature of the statement being made.[29]  Some argue that this was entirely theoretical:  the contrast is between what they did say (Jesus is Lord) and what it was believed the Spirit, at least theoretically, could tell them to say (Jesus is cursed).[30]

            But assuming that actual behavior is under consideration, why would one call “Jesus accursed” in the first place?  We would not expect it to be in the church assembly.[31] 

            The rejection of Jesus’ teaching scenario.[32]  To begin with a possibility raised at the beginning of the chapter, one can imagine a reckless individual, acting under the supposed influence of the Spirit, repudiating some teaching the congregation generally recognized as originating with Jesus.  This could have been rationalized in various ways by the speaker:  different circumstances, extraordinary conditions, perhaps even a challenge to whether the teaching was ever intended to be more than an interim ethic for the Palestinian disciples alone.  At its worst it could be a brazen rejection of Jesus “by the (supposed) Spirit” as having been flat wrong on that particular issue.  The strongest argument against this, is that one is heavily pushed to find much in the way of a “doctrinal” deviation attributed to the Corinthian church; their problem was far more in the application of generally accepted principles.  And when a “doctrinal” issue was involved it seems to have been the province of a distinct minority.             

            The traditionalist Jew possibility.  There is no hint that such individuals—outsiders to the Christian community—were under discussion.  If one hated Jesus this behavior would, perhaps, be expected, as least among the fringe.  But the imagery is of what is being said in the assembly rather than outside it and by “friends” of the faith rather than foes.

The reaction to persecution scenario.  If one were being savagely abused as the result of persecution by either Jew or Gentile, mob or government action, one might recklessly dismiss Him as a cruse upon their lives or “accursed.”[33]  Although Paul refers to a “present distress” (cf. 7:26) there is no indication that this had been disruptive of the ability to the church to freely assemble or that any were in jail or otherwise suffering for their faith at the moment.  “Distress” in the form of pressure or potential danger, perhaps; but in the sense of “body count” (to use our modern expression), no.  If there had been, some type of overt mention—and encouragement--could scarcely have been avoided.  Not all distresses endured by a congregation are faith based; some occur because of the location and affect the wider population as well.

[Page 227]         Hence a different frame of reference is surely intended here since the words are in a context of what His disciples were doing in a period when any persecution was of marginal or no immediate impact on the congregation. 

            Acceptance of a technically valid condemnation of Jesus but whose “validity” was caused by the brazen violation of equity and justice demanded by the Torah.   Deuteronomy 21:22-23 described one who is hanged from a tree as “accursed of God.”  By extension, this was easily applied to those who were crucified on the wood from a tree.  In a different epistle of his, Paul himself refers to this application, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13). 

            Hence it was not that in some sense Jesus was “cursed” due to His crucifixion, but in what sense that was pivotal.  If a Corinthian faction believed the Mosaical system was still fully authoritative in all its particulars, then Jesus would have been counted a sinner due to the fact that He had been crucified (had not the law insisted “everyone who hangs on a tree” to die is “cursed”?) rather than being simply an unjustly judicially murdered individual.  The difference here is that between a person who is treated as “cursed” and a person whose behavior has led him to be “cursed” by execution, and thereby legitimately judged a sinner. 

            Hence their error was that they accepted as valid an accusation that could only technically rather than justly be applied to Him.  The true Spirit could not guide them into such a fundamental misunderstanding.  The problem here is finding an identifiable group in Corinth so vigorously attached to Law observance that they would be tempted to drag out such a charge.  After all we are dealing here not merely with the desire to be fully observant but to blacken the name of the very founder of one’s faith!

            Another possibility is that we have here a very primitive docetic theology.[34]  “Jesus” the man, the human, the mortal is cursed, in contrast to his role as “Christ” who is pure and just and moral excellence embodied.  When the Spirit truly speaks, it affirms both the earthly Jesus as holy and righteous and the risen Jesus as “Lord.”[35]

            The root for the much later clear separation of the two roles could well have lain in an attempt to reconcile the Old Testament condemnation of those who are executed with the New Testament affirmation of Jesus’ unique role and importance in character and God’s plans.  The physical Jesus had to be “accursed” because He was crucified.  Hence to do so oneself would not be non-Christian but merely affirming what the Torah demanded. 

It would also be a means of confirming that one had fully embraced the Jesus-Christ dualism that became popular in the future.  Indeed, Origen tells us that in his day it was utilized in this manner:  certain Gnostic groups “admit no one to their fellowship who has not cursed Jesus.”[36]  To read a developed system of thought into this early a period, however, would be unfair to the Corinthians, but we could well be dealing here with the “seeds” that would, when fully grown, develop into just such a doctrine.

             Regardless of the reason the person used such derogatory language, why did the Corinthians not automatically reject such an individual?   Being Christians and honoring Christ seems incompatible with such insults.  Their culture believed in even formalized, religiously backed cruses, as we saw near the beginning of this chapter.  The unspoken but ever present influence of traditional culture is never to be arbitrarily

[Page 228]    dismissed.  Furthermore, one could imagine individuals feeling that it was inappropriate (even sacrilegious?) to attempt to control the Divine as it was directly manifested in their services together.[37]

In the act of becoming god-possessed, almost anything could come out of a pagan prophet(ess)’ mouth and not be regarded as overly odd or inconsistent with that god’s control.[38]  Hence, Margaret E. Thrall’s suggestion deserves consideration that the Corinthian behavior is best explained on the basis of the fact that they were acting in a way compatible with their polytheistic heritage.  In “some pagan religions,” she observes, “the devotee undergoing divine inspiration would try to resist the invading power of the god and so would curse the deity by whom he felt himself being possessed.  Presumably the Corinthians thought the same thing was happening when their fellow-Christians cursed Jesus.”[39]  In such a case it would reflect rejection not so much of Jesus in any abstract sense but of being chosen to manifest His presence in front of the church assembly. 

In a Christian context, this makes most sense if the tongues were ecstatic gibberish as in the polytheistic sects, the approach Thrall herself adopts.[40]  Yet it also offers at least a reasonable scenario if we adopt the genuine languages interpretation of the nature of the tongues.  One can easily imagine how the feeling of being “controlled” by an outside force—even when it was supposedly being of benefit to one—could be psychologically overwhelming, alarming, and even terrifying.  Yet if this had been the problem in Corinth would we not expect concrete and explicit words of encouragement, assuring the Corinthians that they had misinterpreted the intention and function of the phenomena?

 

 

            12:3:  “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (ATP:  the Holy Spirit’s influence).”  Yet obviously individuals without any such professed gift continue to do so.  Indeed, even the rank atheist could, if he or she really wanted.  What then is the point Paul is driving at?  Earlier we suggested that the Holy Spirit always endorses the claim that Jesus is “Lord” (12:3).  Even if that belief is carried out imperfectly and inconsistently, the root conviction is one always taught by the Spirit.  At least to that limited extent the person enjoys the approval of the Spirit.

Yet far more than this is likely in the apostle’s mind.  Since Paul was not one to encourage or tolerate insincerity, the most logical context in which to interpret his assertion is one in which the person is fully committed to that belief.  He doesn’t say it, but his mind-frame on the subject of acceptable reverence and worship surely requires it.  In such a context to say that “Jesus is Lord” is not merely to say the mere words but say them as heart-felt expressions of one’s deepest convictions.[41]  To say them this way could never be done without the approval and blessing of the Divine Spirit.  It does not require direct Spirit guidance but merely the acceptance of the message that the Spirit revealed through the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).   

            Some take the assertion to mean that no teaching or action inspired by the Spirit will ever be inconsistent with an acceptance of Jesus’ power and authority as spiritual “Lord” over the church.[42]  Hence if a person claiming guidance by the Spirit teaches something that clearly contradicts the teachings known to have come from Christ, that person is self-condemned as either lying or deluded.  Whatever the true origin or roots of the teaching, it can’t be the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

[Page 229]           12:7-10:  The difference between the nine different types of “manifestation of the Spirit.”  Some of the miraculous gifts listed by Paul make sense by themselves, while others require more consideration as to how they differ from others that sound closely related.[43]  (Some aspects of this have already been touched on above in our discussion of Old Testament precedents.)

 

            1.  “The word (ATP:  message) of wisdom” (12:8):[44]  Earlier in the book, Paul had rebuked the Gentile mentality of using philosophical “wisdom” as a reason for rejecting the Divine wisdom.  Here he reiterates that though it is a “wisdom” far different from that which the world might seek, it remained a genuine--indeed, superior-- wisdom, in that it originated with God.  

            The text speaks of “the word of wisdom” rather than “the teacher of wisdom.”  In other words, in this and “the word of knowledge” that follows a formal church office is not likely to be under consideration.  Hence, potentially, this “word” could come from any church member.  And when they possessed or gained this insight (“wisdom”)[45] or understanding of truth (“knowledge”) it was to be shared with others rather than kept to oneself.

            From a practical standpoint, one of the most important aspect of “wisdom” is that it provides us with the ability to use and apply knowledge.  Peter Benson writes of how his father once worked with a man blessed with a photographic memory.  He could even recite large segments of the corporate catalog.  Yet he never moved far up the corporate totem pole because he lacked the wisdom to apply his vast array of facts to the needs of his customers and company.[46]  Knowledge he had in abundance; the wisdom to utilize it was minimal.    

In a parallel manner, Kenneth Boa suggests that in the spiritual arena wisdom means “the ability to apply the principles of the Word of God in a practical way to specific situations in a practical way to specific situations and to recommend the best course of action at the best time.”[47]  To know that a person has a sin that needs to be dealt with is fine and good as far as it goes; to have the wisdom to help the person work him/herself out of it is far better.    

Likewise wisdom allows one to constructively deal with concrete church problems.[48]  Recognizing the problem may be hard enough; getting others to agree that there is a problem may be difficult.  But even having gotten that far, there is the need to apply one’s insight in the most constructive manner so that a bad situation won’t be made worse and that the individual amenable to change is willing to embrace it rather than walk off with indignation.

 

            2.  “The word (ATP:  message)  of knowledge” (12:8):  The word for “knowledge” is gnosis and, of course, Paul means the apostolic, Jesus-centered gnosis rather than the deviations that might be hidden under the term.[49]  He has revealed knowledge in mind rather than the knowledge obtained by natural human investigation and discovery.[50]  In short, spiritual knowledge, about God, about Jesus, about anything that only Divine revelation could raise from the level of speculation to the level of

[Page 230]    certainty.[51]  (Though that certainly wouldn’t rule out the confirmation or denial of Jesus traditions that word of mouth had been passing along.  In such cases, “this world” knowledge is verified by an “absolute fact checker” that never gets things wrong.)

            The fine line between “wisdom” and “knowledge” is hard to define.[52]  I would think in terms of the underlying philosophy, the undergirding approach to reality as constituting “wisdom.”   Call it the underlying reasoning ability to make use of knowledge, if you will.  It involves the “tools” whereby we apply to life situations that which we learn and advocate.[53] 

In contrast, “knowledge” constitutes of hard data, concrete and observable facts.  The former provides the world-view and the framework which allows one to properly integrate fact (“knowledge”) with theory.[54]  One might elaborate further on the nature of “wisdom” by arguing that it in particular implies “special qualities of maturity and insight.”[55]  In contrast, “knowledge” only requires the accumulation of facts and information.

            Others basically reverse this analysis.  They refer “wisdom” to the data and information itself; “knowledge” becomes the ability to present that “wisdom”  in a convincing matter.  This is apparently the idea in mind with those who interpret “knowledge” as the ability to effectively present the fundamental truths of the Jesus faith.[56] 

            The connection between receiving knowledge and the Spirit was linked especially strongly in regard to the apostles, who were promised that when “the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).  This the Spirit would be able to do because He would function as the faithful conduit of the Father’s teaching as delivered through Christ (verses 1-15). 

The possession of a full knowledge of the Divine will is connected to “the Holy One” in 1 John 2:20 and 2:27.  Although this has been connected with the Spirit by some interpreters,[57] contextually this seems more likely to refer to the Father or the Son (2:24).  In all fairness, however, John 16’s picture of a “chain of revelation” (Father to Son to Holy Spirit to man) could easily be taken to imply that a reference to any one of these should also be interpreted as referring to the action of the other two as well—especially in the Johnanine writings.  Alternatively, that the revelatory role of any one of the three has the full backing and support of the other two.   

 

             3.  “Faith (ATP:  great faith)” (12:9):  This has properly been called a “startling” comment since “all Christians must have faith.  Perhaps Paul means a special intensity of faith (13:2:  faith so as to move mountains), or a faith especially effective in sustaining others.”[58] 

            Related to this would be the idea of having such depths of conviction that one can endure intense hardships and martyrdom.  Not just an “easy” death but one so unusually harsh that one could not imagine an unaided person successfully withstanding the temptation to apostasize.[59]

           

4.  “Gifts of healings (ATP:  the power to heal the sick)” (12:9):  Claims are cheap; demonstrating Divine power far harder.  Hence if one could, for example, lay hands on the sick and they be immediately healed, one had vastly enhanced the credibility of the message one taught.[60]  Although they were certainly Divine [Page xxx]    [Page 231]    manifestations of love for individuals,[61] God utilized these occasions to further an even greater purpose--confidence in the gospel they were hearing and being taught.

The plural (“gifts” rather than “gift”) is odd.  Some have suggested that it “may indicate that this manifestation of the Spirit takes different forms at different times, rather than remains a permanent fixture in the recipient’s Christian life.”[62]  Alternatively it might refer to the ability to cure specific types of ailments, in contrast to Jesus who could cure all.

 

            5.  “Working of miracles (ATP:  exercise of miraculous powers)” (12:10):  The canonical gospels speak or imply other types of miracles beyond healing:  miracles over nature, miracles of insight into another’s thinking (the Samaritan woman at the well), escape from danger (Jesus successfully evading those desiring to stone Him), etc.  Rather than list the various types in detail, Paul lumps together all supernatural acts under “miracles.” 

            “Miracles” renders the Greek dynameis, which literally is rendered “acts of power.” [63]  And that, of course, is what miracles claim to be in the New Testament:  acts of Divine power intervening and altering the normal course of human affairs for the better.  To limit it to just exorcisms[64] unduly restricts the meaning of a term that encompasses far more.  Perhaps the broadness of the stated power is intended to convey that God can use the believer however He wishes to accomplish whatever He wishes, as  the human intermediary in the act, to show others that it is not empty chance at work.

 

            6.  “Prophecy (ATP:  the gift of supernaturally receiving God’s message)” (12:10):  Perhaps the best modern equivalent term would be “preaching.”[65]  Old Testament prophets functioned in this “forthtelling” sense as well as “foretellers,” the sense we normally attribute to the term.[66]  It was the means whereby the Spirit could assure that those who had observed Jesus during His ministry and had gone forth as apostles would get their facts straight and keep their memory accurate (cf. John 16:13-15).  In the broader context, of those who had been converted, the gift assured that their message reflected the Divine will rather than personal predilections.

            John E. McFadyen suggests that the person would be “one who could speak with enthusiasm, intelligence, and power, able to bring his truth mightily home to the conscience and to carry conviction to unbelievers (14:24f).”[67]  Although such dynamism does not inhere in the word, we certainly would expect most successful ones to possess all those attributes:  when we read the Old Testament prophets they certainly give that over all impression of driving home their points forcefully, though not always successfully, to their target audience.   

 

            7.  “Discerning of spirits (ATP:  the ability to distinguish between prophetic utterances)” (12:10):  The idea here is testing the validity of the alleged source of the “supernatural” power and in light of the previous entry in the list, having the ability to determine who was a true prophet and who was not.  In 1 John 4:1 the terminology is used in this sense, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  In an age when the scriptures speak of genuine prophecy teaching and predicting the future, it also

[Page 232]    contains many rebukes of false prophecy as well. 

            Since some would claim to be guided by the Spirit, it was only proper that there would be individuals who could tell whether the claim was justified.[68]  1 Corinthians 14:28 refers to how others were to “judge” the message of a prophet, though this is more likely to refer to a general duty of the listening audience rather than to the responsibility of a specially gifted individual.  The belief in miraculous gifts was not to result in credulity and gullibility.  There were too many strange things going on in the world that might mistakenly be misinterpreted as supernatural acts.[69] 

            Furthermore, in a congregation in which a number of claimed supernatural gifts were being exercised, those gifts could be abused.  Indeed, theoretically they could even be demonic in inspiration.  Hence the importance of having someone who could provide good counsel on such matters.[70]

            There were immediate tests that could be applied (the fulfillment of predictions being the most obvious), but if one knew a person he or she recognized as unquestionably a true prophet and that person pointed to another and said, “he is not” that would provide powerful evidence as well.  Indeed, one can properly speak of the Old Testament prophets “discerning the spirits” in this sense in all their various rebukes of contemporary false seers.  Through their own gift of the Spirit they were able to tell whether the ability of others was genuine like their own.  The terminology is not used, but the concept is inherent in their behavior and actions.   

Although a prophet would be an obvious person to test the credibility of prophetic claims, the text does not limit that role to such an individual.[71]  If anything, by listing it as a separate category, it would seem as if a non-prophet would do the judging.  In it’s own way, this makes considerable sense:  a prophet judging a prophet is open to the challenge of conflict of interest; a non-prophet doing so removes such distracting issues and forces concentration on the content, intent, and validity of the purported “revelation.” 

In a non-miraculous context the “discerning of spirits” would describe the ability to separate claimed motives from real ones.  There are always those seeking to push some agenda that they have not been open and above board with.  Although there is no need to be paranoid about the subject, there is no reason to be gullible either.  If someone can, believably, piece together the evidence and the reality, then we are in their debt for we are able to avoid having our friendship being taken advantage of. 

 

            8.  “Different kinds of tongues (ATP:  languages)” (12:10):  If we understand this correctly, different contemporary languages are under consideration (cf. the usage of “tongues” in Acts 2 and our detailed consideration of the issue in chapter 14, later in this book).  “Different languages” would, then, be an equivalent term.[72]  Ecstatic tongues would be manifestly so numerous in nature that the use of the term “different” would be redundant.  Furthermore, whether the word “tongue” could meaningfully be applied to it at all--except in the broadest since of being produced by the tongue--would be highly questionable. 

Just as the other items in Paul’s list were not idle demonstrations of Divine power—but methods whereby the believing community could grow in maturity and assurance—so was the gift of foreign language speaking.  Ecstatic speaking would, by its nature, have been an end in itself; foreign languages would have been a tool to direct further group spiritual growth.       

[Page 233]           Richard L. Pratt, Jr., and Ra McLaughlin are convinced, that “It is likely that some of the ‘different kinds’ may have included infallible speech by apostles and prophets, when the Spirit inspired them infallibly. Yet, it is also likely that not all ‘tongues’ were infallibly inspired any more than all preaching or proclamation was.”[73]  I must confess considerable difficulty here.  The context is talking about supernaturally granted gifts; God grants gifts for our spiritual edification that are not inerrant?  One may deny that He gave them at all, in which case errancy would obviously be common since God was not really in the picture at all.  But He let things get so out of hand when He was involved?

 

            9.  “Interpretation of tongues (ATP:  the ability to interpret what is said in those languages)” (12:10):  Since genuine foreign languages are under discussion, “interpretation” carries with it the connotation of translation.  For that matter how could one “translate” gibberish, which has no inherent meaning or signification?  In contrast, one can provide a genuine “interpretation” (even just in the sense of explanation) if the source being worked from is itself equally a genuinely coherent communication rather than merely ecstatic phrases and terms.  Through this “interpretation” of another language, the message was made available to those listeners who did not speak it and, thereby made the meaning available to the maximum number of listeners.     

            Paul seems to be making a conscious effort to deflate the exaggerated local preference for tongue speaking.  Here, in verses 7-10, it comes next to last in the list, only one step ahead of interpreting them.  It has the same location in verse 30 and it comes dead last in verse 28.  It was not that Paul regarded the ability as unimportant but that the Corinthians had developed such an exaggerated opinion of it that it was necessary to “reduce” it to its proper proportions—one Divine gift among many.[74] 

 

 

            12:13:  “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”  Coming after a heavy emphasis upon miraculous gifts of the Spirit, it would be easy to take this as an indication that Holy Spirit baptism is under consideration.  But Paul insists that “we were all baptized into” the church by this means.  It is doubtful that there have been many creedal systems related to Holy Spirit baptism (indeed, probably none) that has taught that a person must receive that baptism to enter the church and that all Christians have received it.  Indeed, as we read through Acts and the epistles it is water baptism that plays that key entry role.  Hence Paul seems clearly to have something different in mind.

            Some would take it to mean the receiving of the Spirit when one is baptized (cf. Acts 2:38).[75]  But the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is linked with the act of baptism, not with the result, as would be the case in Acts 2:38.

            The most likely possibility is that this is an allusion to the teaching role of the Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 2:9-13, Paul emphasized that the message he had taught was provided to him by the Spirit.  Hence when they were baptized one could speak of it as being done by the instruction of the “one Spirit” (12:13). 

            The text could equally accurately be translated baptized “in” the Spirit, “the Spirit being the element, as water is the element in baptism.”[76]  They were, so to speak, “immersed” in the Spirit’s teaching, fully exposed to it.  Their challenge now would be whether to heed it.

 

           

[Page 234]           12:13:  Believers have “all been made to drink into one Spirit (ATP:  all encouraged to drink of that same one Spirit)”  “Into” is omitted by the most widely accepted Greek texts.  Hence the wording becomes “we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (NRSV) or “God gave all of us one Spirit to drink” (GW).

            Even without the “into,” the allusion remains perplexing.  Whether we think in terms of the idea of “wind” (which “spirit” often carried the connotation of in the Old Testament) or in the fully embodied sense of the Spirit of the triune godhead, it is an unexpected image. 

The imagery is used in John 7, however.  There Jesus speaks of how one may avoiding thirsting by coming to Him and “drink[ing]” (7:37).  He explains by adding, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (7:38).  This is, in turn, explained by the author of John as referring to the receipt of the Holy Spirit by those who believed in Jesus (7:39). 

            That which you drink becomes part of you.  By “drinking” the Spirit, the Spirit is incorporated into one’s being and essence.  If one believes in a literal, personal indwelling of the Spirit then the reference would be to the incorporation of that being in our nature or essence (cf. the promise of the Spirit to all who are baptized, Acts 2:38).  If one prefers a more abstract concept, then it is that the Spirit’s teaching becoming part of the fabric of one’s self-identity.

 

 

            12:28:  Types of church office and functions.  In verse 28 Paul provides a list of that which God has “appointed . . . in the church.”  (For further discussion see the earlier part of this chapter.)  Some of these “positions” we would tend to classify as church officers (apostles and teachers).  Others seem to be stressing the fact that one has a function rather than an office (prophet, miracle worker, “gifts of healings,” “varieties of tongues”).  Some involve the gift of a supernatural ability (those describing function, that we just mentioned), while others do not necessarily require any such connotation (teachers, administrators, and helpers). There is also at least a limited degree of overlap:  apostles obviously also played the de facto role of prophets.[77]

            When Paul speaks of how God has appointed these in the church:  first apostles” (12:28), he is describing not only chronology but also importance.  As those with the power to authoritatively bind and loose (Matthew 18:18) and directly appointed by either Jesus or the apostles collectively in casting lots from qualified replacements (Acts 1), they enjoyed a continuing importance in the growth and maturing of the early church.  Their lack of egocentricity is shown by the relative scarcity of data on even the most important.  Did any secular ruler ever select and send forth a band of more self-effacing envoys (the root concept of “apostle”) than those that Jesus selected?   

            “Second” comes “prophets.”  The term is selected to continue the Old Testament tradition of individuals being selected to reveal the Divine will though without personally occupying an authoritative organizational position (such as the apostles).  The apostles could not do all the work; “prophets” permitted that revelatory role to be shared and to avoid insinuations that the apostles were hogging to themselves the exclusive role in performing that function.

[Page 235]           “Third,” says Paul is “teachers.”  If the idea of a miraculous gift—in the narrow sense--is intended, then the idea is of individuals provided by God with a peculiarly useful insight into the meaning of the Old Testament and the gospel or an unusually effective ability in presenting it.  Of course individuals without a direct Divine infusion may be blessed with such abilities and, when utilized constructively, would have been equally respected by the apostle.  

            After this Paul stops numbering the “positions” (a term that should be used loosely of some of these), perhaps because the very act of designating a relative importance could easily degenerate into needless and futile arguments.  In a given situation one of these might well be of more importance than another; but in a different set of circumstances that honor might go to one with a different gift.

            Since local church leadership is referred to in both Acts and a number of epistles, the lack of any explicit reference to such individuals in Corinth is surprising.[78]  Elders and deacons are missing in both the list found in 12:8-10 and here as well.  It is quite possible that the local divisiveness had made the acceptance of such people a practical impossibility--except, perhaps, when visiting temporarily from other places.  One might tolerate a reining in of their “right” to do and say as they pleased since they actually occupied no official local position and any inhibitions they psychologically imposed by their presence was a merely passing nuisance; to accept someone who would be resident would hinder their license.  Indeed, it might involve recognizing as authority figure someone connected with a different clique!  Even so Paul vaguely refers to two functions in the church that might allude to explicit leadership positions.

            “Administrations (ATP:  leaders of diverse types)” could easily suggest the idea of administrators, i.e., the functional equivalent of presbyters, though not necessarily holding any such formal office.[79]  The underlying Greek word, in the narrow sense, applies to the pilot of a ship, who had the responsibility to guide the vessel into the harbor, avoiding all navigational hazards, and safely taking it to its berth at the dock.[80]  This is its only usage in the New Testament.[81]  Such a person is conspicuously not the captain of the boat, yet has one of its most important jobs. 

The person invested with such a responsibility, by the very nature of his work, had to have great “skill and wisdom.”[82]  Hence the word would apply to “those possessing powers of leadership and organization, those having administrative ability” of one sort or another, regardless of whether or not occupying a formal church office.[83] 

            Further inferential evidence may back this conclusion.  “In classical Greek,” George T. Montague observes, “the noun is used for a statesman who steers the ship of state.  In the Greek Old Testament the noun appears three times; it is connected with wisdom (Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 24:26) and means ‘wise or right direction.’ ”[84]  From this he concludes that here it carries the connotation of “director” of the congregation.  Even so, the lack of either “bishop” or “elder” to describe the post strikes one as odd unless it were due to special local conditions.

            Yet if it does refer to a formal leadership position, it remains fascinating that it is placed so far down the list.   The fact that Paul could place it almost at the end, while placing “prophets and teachers” so high, is highly suggestive that he ranked the ability to spiritually help a congregation far higher than formal office holding.[85]   This is in contrast to our society, which, intentionally or not, is strongly inclined in the opposite direction.      

[Page 236]            In regard to a different post of importance, we read of “helps (ATP:  be helpers of others).” This could easily refer to “deacons,” where the root idea is of servants, helpers.[86]  Acts 6:1-6 refers to individuals set apart to carry out welfare functions for the needy among the Jerusalem Christians so that the apostles would not be burdened with the task.  (Whether they occupied the position of official “deacons” or simply exercised deacon-type functions is unclear.) 

The Greek papyri as well as the LXX utilize the term “helpers” in this sense of assisting the needy.[87]   Hence the term could easily apply to those whose task involved hands on assistance to either the sick or the poor[88] or who helped handle whatever other problems might arise among their co-religionists.[89]         

              As already noted, “administrations” and “helps” need not refer to a formal church office and, indeed, could simultaneously coexist with such.  The New Testament is consistently more interested in getting a task successfully accomplished rather than in any kind of “bureaucratic” status building through office holding.  Indeed, even today one of the greatest challenges to church office holders/leaders is the need to preserve their function as “servant leader” rather than allowing their reasons for office holding to be buried beneath office procedure, formal religious observance, and the conflicts that inevitably have to be handled.

            It should be remembered that the list here is far from complete.  When the New Testament lists what God has put in the church, “gifts” are used to describe them, “gave some to be,” etc.  Although different expressions may be used, they share the core idea that they are there because God has willed it.  Carl F. H. Henry has concisely summarized the similarities and differences found in the various lists,[90]

 

The separate listings reflect much the same ministries and have the same general character.  The list in Ephesians 4:11 enumerates only teaching gifts; that in 1 Corinthians 12:28 begins with teaching gifts, adds practical gifts, and finally, extraordinary gifts.  But like Paul’s catalogues of virtues, his various lists of gifts are not identical; he apparently gives a representative and not exhaustive statement of them.  Some are mentioned only once in each source (e.g., administration, helpers, in 1 Corinthians 12:28; discernment of spirits, words of wisdom and of knowledge, and faith in 1 Corinthians 12:6-8; evangelists in Ephesians 4:11).  In the summary list of Romans 12, Paul mentions prophecy first among the differing gifts (verse 6), with an implicit reference to apostolic or scriptural controls (“according to the analogy of faith”). . . .  Evangelists are not included in the Corinthian listings.      

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

 



[1] For the case that “spiritual persons” is the subject of verse 1 and not “spiritual gifts” see the entire scholarly article of John D. Ekem, “ “Spiritual Gifts’ or ‘Spiritual Persons’?  1 Corinthians 12:1 Revisited,” 54-74.  At: http://www.axbe40.dsl.pipex.com/archive/381/ 381sample-ekem.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[Page 237]      [2] Richard L. Pratt, Jr., and Ra McLaughlin, “Spiritual Gifts:  Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?  1 Corinthians 12:1-30,” IIIM Magazine Online (Volume 3, Number 53; December 31-January 6, 2002).  At:  http://www.thirdmill.org/newfiles/ric_pratt/ NT.Pratt.1Corinthians.12.1-30.html.  [November 2010.]

 

[3] Ekem, 63-65.

 

[4] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, 164-165.

 

[5] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, 167.

 

[6] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, 165.

 

[7] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, 167.

 

[8] Joseph Maleparampii, The “Trinitarian” Formulae in St. Paul:  An Exegetical Investigation into the Meaning and Function of Those Pauline Sayings which Compositely Make Mention of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, in the European University Studies, Series XXIII (Frankfurt, Germany:  Peter Lang, 1995), 47.    

 

[9] Cf. Ibid., 24.    

 

[10] Mary F. Carson, Prophecy in the Writings of Paul (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1967), 179.    

 

[11] Cf. Maleparampii, 45.

 

[12] George B. Duncan, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Believer (Atlanta:  John Knox Press, 1973), 60.   

 

[13] Josef M. Nielen, The Earliest Christian Liturgy (St. Louis, Missouri:  B. Herder Book Company, 1941), 269.  

 

[14] Ellis, 94.   

 

[15] Ruef, 135-136, thinks Paul has specifically in mind just the sexual organs.    

 

[16] Chafin, 156.    

 

[17] James M. Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Kregel Publications, 1998), 100.

 

[Page 238]      [18] Bruce K. Waltke, “Micah,”  in Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Nahum, and Habbakkuk, volume 2 of The Minor Prophets:  An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, edited by Thomas E. McComiskey (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Books, 1993), 74.

 

[19] James L. Mays, Micah:  A Commentary, in the Old Testament Library series Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976), 85.  On both Moses and the hoped for Messiah having these characteristics, see Delbert R. Hillers, Micah:  A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Micah, edited by Paul D. Hanson with Loren Fisher, in the Hermeneia--A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1984), 46.

 

[20] Thomas E. McComiskey, “Micah,” in Daniel-Minor Prophets, in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Regency Reference Library/Zondervan Publishing House, 1985), 418.

 

[21] Sawyer, 121; John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33, in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, Publisher, 1985), 171.

 

[22] Joseph Jensen, Isaiah 1-39, in the series Old Testament Message:  A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Wilmington, Delaware:  Michael Glazier, Inc., 1984), 132.

 

[23] Wade, 82.  J. Skinner, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah:  Chapters 1-39, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges series (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1896; 1915 printing), 104, utilizes this type of three-fold division but more concisely.  For “moral life,” however, he substitutes “religious.”  Although a useful tool for both sermonic and interpretive purposes, Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah; volume 1:  Chapters 1-18, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965), 382, cautions that the terms used in the verse are often overlapping and that absolute distinctions can not be (always) drawn between them.

 

[24] Noordtzij, 104; Sakenfeld, 76.

 

[25] Rita J. Burns, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, in the series Old Testament Message:  A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Wilmington, Delaware:  Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983), 228-229, contends that this was “ecstatic prophecy which Israel probably encountered for the first time when it arrived in the land of Canaan (cf. 1 Samuel 10:6, 10-13; 1 Kings 22:6, 10-12.  The present text represents an attempt to legitimate Israel’s adaptation of this Canaanite phenomenon by anachronistically projecting its origins to Mosaic faith and practice as developed prior to Israel’s entrance into the land.”

 

[26] R. K. Harrison, 188-189.

 

[27] Cf. Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image:  Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan, 2001), 310.

 

[Page 239]      [28] J. Skinner, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah:  Chapters 40-66, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges series (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1898; revised, 1917), 30.

 

[29] E. H. Robertson, 79. 

 

[30] For those supporting this approach, see Bridges, 52.    

 

[31] McFadyen, 169.  

 

[32] Coffman, 192-193. 

 

[33] For a discussion of the slender evidence of active persecution at the time, see Bridges, 52-53.   

 

[34] Fuller, 45.

 

[35] Lambrecht, “1 Corinthians,” 1622. 

 

[36] Origen, Contra Celsum VI, xxvii, as quoted by Montague, 148.   

 

[37] For a discussion of this approach, see Bridges, 56-57.   

 

[38] Ellis, 93.   

 

[39] Thrall, 87.    

 

[40] Ibid., 92.    

 

[41] Cf. Baird, Urban Culture, 137.   

 

[42] Selby, 366.   

 

[43] For a short and concise summary of claims from the early centuries, with supporting contemporary quotations, that some of these gifts were still being practiced, see Talbert, 82-83.

 

[44] On the difficulties of clearly distinguishing “wisdom” from “knowledge,” see Barrett, Corinthians, 284-285.   

 

[45] Montague, 150.   

 

[46] Peter Benson, “1 Corinthians 12:  The Spiritual Gifts:  Individual and As A Body.”  At:  http://unityinchrist.com/corinthians/cor12-14.htm.  [November 2010.]

 

[Page 240]   [47] Boa, 308.

 

[48] Benson, Peter.

 

[49] Mare, 262. 

 

[50] Nelson, 129.   

 

[51] Pratt and McLaughlin.

 

[52] Parry, 132.        

 

[53] Nelson, 129.   

 

[54] For other theories see Parry, 132.        

 

[55] Bruce, Corinthians, 119.  

 

[56] For example, Orr and Walther, 282. 

 

[57] Allen, 144.   

 

[58] Raymond E. Brown, n. 59, 531 and Pratt and McLaughlin. 

 

[59] Mare, 262.

 

[60] Cf. Ibid. 

 

[61] Nelson, 131.   

 

[62] Pratt and McLaughlin. 

 

[63] Mare, 262.

 

[64] Barclay, 123. 

 

[65] Thrall, 97; though speaking on 14:1, the point applies here as well.

 

[66] Metz, 429; Orr and Walther, 282.      

 

[67] McFadyen, 172.  For similar language see 178.  

 

[68] McGarvey and Pendleton, 123; Orr and Walther, 282; Metz, 429.     

 

[Page 241]       [69] Cf. the remarks of Barclay, 124. 

 

[70] Cf. Montague, 155.  For possible examples of this phenomena in the New Testament record consult the list on the same page.   

 

[71] Cf. Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 468. 

 

[72] For objections to this approach, see Coffman, 197.  

 

[73] Pratt, and McLaughlin.   

 

[74] Cf. Duncan, 63, who overstates the case slightly by saying that it comes “last” in all three listings.   

 

[75] Parry, 135.        

 

[76] Bratcher, 119.  

 

[77] Parry, 138.        

 

[78] Montague, 154, who notes that the only hint of such is the extremely vague and ambiguous reference to “administrations” in 12:28.   

 

[79] Cf. Parry, 139, and Raph P. Martin, The Spirit and the Congregation:  Studies in 1 Corinthians 12-15 (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 33.        

 

[80] Barclay, 129, Raymond Bryan Brown, 368, and Nelson, 144.  

     

[81] Boa, 310.

 

[82] Robertson and Plummer, 281.   

 

[83] McGarvey and Pendleton, 127. 

 

[84] Montague, 161.   

 

[85] Alexander B. MacDonald, 50-51.    

 

[86] Cf. Ralph P. Martin, Spirit, 33, and Robertson and Plummer, 281.   

 

[87] Raymond Bryan Brown, 368.

      

[88] Weiss, Commentary, 237.   

 

[Page 242]      [89] Gutzke, 122.  

 

[90] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, Authority, Volume 6, Revised Edition (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, 1999), 390.