SPIRITUAL GIFTS & THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST – 1 Corinthians


Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.

And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal.

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:4‭-‬12 ASV

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

Here the apostle called the supernatural endowments of the first Christians GIFTS, because they were foretold under that name (Psalms 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).”

They are also referred to in the several terms of Hebrews 2:4 as “signs and wonders, and manifold powers, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.”

All such supernatural wonders were scheduled to disappear (1 Corinthians 13:8); and their unique purpose was that of “confirming” the word of God (Mark 16:20), certainly not that of flattering the ego of Corinthian charismatics.

Diversities is used nowhere else in the New Testament.

Likewise the word “gifts” is “a typically Pauline word, used only once by any other New Testament writer (1 Peter 4:10).

This is derived from [CHARISMATA], whence the term “charismatic.” another form of the word being [CHARIS] (grace). thus these were “grace-gifts.”

The big point Paul made here is that all gifts came from the same Spirit.

Significantly, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 speak of “same Spirit … same Lord … same God,” giving a strong trinitarian emphasis.

Five other miraculous gifts are enumerated here, making nine mentioned in this paragraph.

Working of miracles

It appears that miracles would be a greater gift than healings, mentioned above them; these included miracles of judgment such as those executed upon Elymas, Ananias and Sapphira, saying that “The miracles of mercy stand higher in God’s esteem than those which execute his judgments and mete out punishment.”

Prophecy

Gifts of prophecy, including the ability to foretell future events, were the endowment of certain Christians in the apostolic age; and there would appear to have been two orders of these, the higher including those mentioned under 1 Corinthians 12:8, and others whose ability concerned the prediction of events such as those prophesied by Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:11).

Discernings of spirits

This was a gift enabling its possessor to identify and expose false teachers. Presumably this gift was held by all of the apostles and prophets of the new dispensation as well as by other persons not so generally known.

Diverse kinds of tongues

The nature of the tongue speaking Paul discussed in these chapters has been the subject of much disagreement. Many of the older commentators have held that only one kind is mentioned in the New Testament, that being the miracle of Pentecost in which the apostles spoke in tongues and were understood by all who heard them, each in his own language.

Nevertheless, there appears to be insurmountable difficulties in such an understanding of what is in view here. “Kinds of tongues” forbids the idea of there having been only one kind; and, besides that, the special gift of interpreting tongues mentioned a moment later and the absolute necessity of having an interpreter (as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:27,28) make it impossible to identify the “tongues” discussed here with the miracle of Pentecost.

There was no interpreter then!

For those who might be interested in a further examination of the interpretation that only the speaking of foreign languages unknown to the speaker (but spoken miraculously) is meant here.

The lack of any need to interpret on Pentecost, plus the opinion of outsiders that the tongue speakers were “mad” (1 Corinthians 14:23); plus the fact that there were many of them engaging in this activity all at once, requiring Paul to restrict it to one at a time (1 Corinthians 14:27); plus the impression that inevitably comes from reading the entire context – all of these things support the conclusion that the phenomenon was different from that of Pentecost.

Why was it?

Why did not Paul condemn it out of hand, instead of containing it by a series of regulations clearly designed to discourage and diminish it?

We do not certainly know. Yet we shall hazard the opinion that whatever purpose of the divine mind was fulfilled by it, the Corinthians had contravened it by their shameless distortion and abuse of it.

Interpretation of tongues

This is perhaps the key to understanding the whole passage.

Through the influence of God’s Spirit some could speak languages they had never learned; but for this to do any good at all, someone was required to interpret what was said, the ability to do so being the “gift” in view here.

Furthermore, such a thing raises all kinds of questions.

Some have supposed that both gifts of tongues and interpretations were held by the same individual; but, if that is so, why did not such an individual speak in the proper language to begin with?

On the other hand if the gifts were not joined in one individual, then only on the mission field could there have been any utility whatever in it.

Perhaps it was this abuse of a genuine gift God had intended for missionary work, making it a plaything and diversion in an established church, which was the thing being done in Corinth.

Despite abuses, however, there was a genuine gift, which appears from Paul’s words that he “spoke with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18), and also his admonition, “forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Paul’s firm declaration, however, to the effect that he certainly would not speak with tongues in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:6ff) would strongly indicate that whatever the gift was, it did not belong in the assembly of Christians; and this agrees with the dogmatic statement that tongues were a sign “not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving” (1 Corinthians 14:22).

From this, it has to be inferred that any tongue speaking Paul did, it was in the mission field, and for the purpose of reaching people whose language he did not know.

The fact of Paul’s doing such a thing at all, coupled with his refusal to do it in the presence of believers, emphasizes the limited nature of the gift and also refutes the conceit that what he did was merely ecstatic jabbering.

The Corinthians had probably prostituted the gift to that low level; but Paul would never have done so.

The fact of his having used the gift himself, however, and the knowledge of its true utility (in certain limited circumstances, and for that age only), were doubtless the facts underlying his refusal to denounce and forbid the thing altogether.

The conclusion, therefore, is valid, which may be summarized thus:

All of the nine gifts in view here were miraculous.

All disappeared completely at the end of the apostolic age.

The mess at Corinth was a mingling of the true gift of tongues with emotional and psychologically induced ecstatic utterances, which were not miraculous at all but nonsense.

A further element of the disorder was the perversion and prostitution of the true gifts (on the part of a few), making it a device of self-glorification.

It was this mixture of genuine and false elements which made it impossible for Paul to condemn the false without appearing also to condemn the true gift. Remember, he was not present, but was writing a letter.

Therefore, he laid down the rules which would eliminate and destroy the false, but which would leave undisturbed the true gift.

Thus, there were three kinds of tongues in New Testament times:

(1) those spoken by the apostles on Pentecost

(2) the gift of tongues in this passage which required an interpreter

(3) the false tongues which had invaded Corinth.

Paul had the true gift of 1 Corinthians 12:10 here; but it may never be supposed that he engaged in the non-sensical blabberings affected by the Corinthian tongue speakers.

The nine miraculous gifts mentioned here are:

(1) wisdom

(2) knowledge

(3) faith

(4) healings

(5) miracles

(6) prophecy

(7) discernments of spirits

(8) tongues

(9) interpretation of tongues

Is the true gift of speaking in tongues on earth today?

The answer has to be negative.

What is admittedly true of all other gifts in this list may not be denied as true of the eighth and ninth also.

Wonderful as was the true gift of tongues, it cannot fail to be significant that it appears last in Paul’s list, both here and in 1 Corinthians 12:30.

Why? Perhaps it was the fact of its being so easily counterfeited.

In those days, as now, anybody could do it, not the real thing, of course, but the counterfeit.

This is not intended as a denial of the sincerity of some who practice this; but the sincerity of its advocates has never been a reason sole for accepting any proposition, religious or otherwise.

THE ONE BODY

The great Pauline teaching that the church comprises the spiritual body of Christ is among the most important teachings revealed to man.

God’s device of accounting people righteous is that of forming them into a corporate unity, of which Christ is head, all the saved being members of it, the body itself being identified as “Christ,” and therefore partaking of the perfect righteousness of the Son of God himself.

God saves people, not by injecting righteousness into them (on the grounds of their faith and/or obedience), but by transferring them “into Christ,” identifying them “as Christ,” and making them, in fact, to be Christ. By this heavenly device, man becomes truly righteous and thus saved, not as John Doe, but as Christ.

Faith and obedience of the gospel are the conditions antecedent to God’s transfer of sinners into Christ, baptism being the action through which God effects the actual entry into Christ; but neither the faith of the sinner nor any act of obedience is the ultimate ground of his redemption, that all-important ground being the perfect faith, obedience and righteousness of the Christ himself.

Any man failing to fulfill the prior conditions of being “in Christ” is not a part of the body in view here.

For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13 ASV

In one Spirit were we all baptized … Throughout the New Testament, Christian baptism is revealed to be one of the two essential elements of the new birth, without which no man may see the kingdom of God.

These are: obedience to the ordinance of baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus joined these two essential elements by his requirement that people be “born of the water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5ff).

Peter joined them on Pentecost by the command that all people should “repent and be baptized … and … receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38ff).

There is no doubt whatever that Paul’s words here refer to the same twin essentials of the new birth, the same being a prior condition of participation in the body of Christ.

In one Spirit …This is actually `by one Spirit,’ making the Holy Spirit the agent or administrator of baptism.

In a similar way, Christ was named as the actual administrator of the rite of baptism, even though his disciples actually did the baptizing (John 4:1,2).

The unity of the GODHEAD makes it correct to refer any action ordained and commanded by God, to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit; and when the action is obeyed, it is proper to say that any one of them did it.

This truth does not exclude the reception of the indwelling Spirit in Christian hearts, as Paul dogmatically emphasized that in the very next clause, “made to drink of one Spirit.”

We were all baptized … and were all made to drink of one Spirit … the word `baptized’ relates to the actual act of baptism.

The mention of the Spirit as the administrator of baptism in this verse provoked Charles Hodge to declare that the baptism in view, therefore, is “the baptism of the Holy Ghost!”

If that is true, it would make Paul here declare that all of the Corinthians were baptized in the Holy Ghost, or had received the Holy Spirit baptism!

Who could believe such a thing?

This refers to the reception of the ordinary gift of the indwelling Spirit by the Corinthians in consequence of primary obedience to the gospel. “There is no evidence that all the disciples at Corinth, or any of them, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

It is true of course that all of them had themselves baptized, and in consequence had all received the gift ordinary of the Holy Spirit, common to all Christians; but to suppose that those carnal Corinthians had “all” participated in the baptism of the Holy Spirit is impossible. Of course, the design of many scholars is to get water baptism out of this text altogether; but that is also impossible.

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