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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

1 Corinthians 12:1-2. Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

Although the members of the church at Corinth were highly favored with spiritual gifts, they do not seem to have known how to use them. Paul points out to them, in this chapter, how ignorant they were concerning the very gifts which they possessed. They did not know how to put them to proper’ use in the service of God. The apostle therefore reminds these gift-exalted Corinthians that, only a little while before, they were heathens, carried away by falsehood and superstition, and worshipping dumb idols. They had nothing, therefore, to boast of; and it is probable that, if we also look back to the hole of the pit whence we were dug, we shall find no more occasion for boasting than they had.

1 Corinthians 12:3. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed:

I suppose that, in their assemblies, where everybody talked who liked, there were some people who even spoke blasphemy. They professed to be under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and yet they stood up, and called Jesus accursed. Where there is no rule nor order, there is pretty sure to be something very mischievous before long. Paul gives them to understand that this kind of talk could not go uurebuked.

1 Corinthians 12:3. And that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

If a man really knows Jesus as his Lord, and he declares that truth, then you may fully accept it as being in harmony with the teaching of the Spirit of God

1 Corinthians 12:4-7. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

It is given in order that he may himself profit, and also that he may be the means of profiting those who hear him.

1 Corinthians 12:8. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;

He is prudent,—an experienced man—fit to lead the young, and the feeble, and those who are less instructed than he himself is.

1 Corinthians 12:8. To another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

He has a wide range of practical acquaintance with God’s Word; and though he may not be so judicious as the brother who was just mentioned, yet he is a man of knowledge.

1 Corinthians 12:9. To another faith by the same Spirit;

Paul probably means here some special kind of faith; perhaps, the faith that enabled its possessor to work miracles.

1 Corinthians 12:9-10. To another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits;

So that he is able to detect the impostors who come even into the nominal Church of Christ. They did come then, and they will continue to come even to the end.

1 Corinthians 12:10-11. To another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Whatever Our gifts as a church, or as individuals, may be, they all come from the selfsame Spirit. This should tend to promote unity amongst us. Let us all trace whatever gift we have to the hand that gave it, and to the Spirit that wrought it; let us feel that we are so many pipes connected with one fountain; and, therefore, as all the good that we convey comes from the one source, let us give all the, honour and glory of it to the Spirit of God from Whom it comes.

1 Corinthians 12:12. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

That, is to say, Christ visible—the Church of Christ. We are members of his mystical body. He is the Head; but all who are quickened by the Spirit of God are one with him.

1 Corinthians 12:13-14. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

By the way in which some people act, you might almost imagine that the body was one member, and that the one member was a tongue; but it is not so. God never intended that, in the assembly, all should speak. Let those speak to whom he has given the power to speak. He does not lay all burdens upon one back; let each man bear the personal burden which God has placed upon his back.

1 Corinthians 12:15. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

Where are you, dear child of God, who are in the position of the foot? Have you been comparing yourself with some eminent Christian, who did much in his Master’s service; and have you sorrowfully asked, “Why can not I do what he did? I am only a poor foot, always touching the ground, often limping, and frequently needing to be washed.” Well, suppose you could be made into a hand, it might be a gain to you in some respects, but it might be a loss to the rest of the body. It would certainly be a loss to any of you if your feet were to be turned into hands, for you have need of feet; and the Church, which is here called by the name of Christ, needs its feet as much as it needs its hands. The mercy is that even if you have, in your anxiety,—perhaps I ought to say, in your unbelief,—been saying, “Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body,” it does not matter what you have said, for that does not alter the fact. “Is it therefore not of the body?” Of course, it is of the body still, whatever it may say.

1 Corinthians 12:16. And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

Oh, by no means! The ear has its proper purpose to fulfill; it is designed for a special service in the body, which no other member can render. We must never compare ourselves among ourselves, and wish to be somebody else. You are bad enough as you are, dear friend, but you would probably be much worse if you were somebody else. You may think that you are a very poor ear, but you would decidedly make a much worse eye. Even if your ear is dull of hearing, it can, at any rate, hear better than it can see. It can do its own work better than it could do the work of any other member of the body; and so can you as a member of Christ’s mystical body.

1 Corinthians 12:17-18. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

That is the best rule for each part of our body: “as it hath pleased him.” Could any of you suggest a better place for your eyes than where they are? We have read the old heathen fable of a giant who had one eye in the middle of his forehead; and whenever I have seen his portrait sketched by fancy, I have felt at once, that it was no improvement upon the human face. No, the eye is best where it is; so is the ear, and so is the mouth. They are all best just where they are. So are you, my brother or my sister, best where you are, if you are in the place where God evidently meant you to be.

1 Corinthians 12:19. And if they were all one member, where were the body?

There would be no body at all

1 Corinthians 12:20-21. But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee:

You know how very quick the hand always is to go up to the eye when it is in danger You do not have to wait to tell it what to do; but, in an instant, the hand is up, for there is a fellow feeling between the members of the same body. “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee.” And the hand never feels that it may leave the eye to take care of itself; it is ready at once to protect it.

1 Corinthians 12:21-23. Nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

They are covered and concealed; and so we take more trouble with them than we do with other parts of our body.

1 Corinthians 12:24. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

Here is a lesson for us with regard to church-fellowship,—always to take most notice of those who are the least noticeable, and to be most gentle with those who require the most tenderness. You know that there are some of our fellow-members who are not all we should like them to be. We believe that they are children of God; but they are, somehow or other, “cut on the cross.” They are crotchety, and weak in many ways. Now, we should try, as far as ever we can, to adapt ourselves to them. If you have ever had the gout very badly, you know that, if a person walks across the room too heavily, you feel it. Do you, therefore, say to your father, when he is thus laid aside, “You cannot expect me to take notice of such a thing as that? Nor would you be so cruel as to say to anybody else, “If he has a gouty foot, I cannot help it, and I shall tread on it every now and then.” No; you are not so brutal as that. So, if there be a member of the body that is more tender than the rest, and especially if that tenderness is the result of disease, let us try to minister to it as far as ever we possibly can. Let us give “more abundant honour to that part which lacked.”

1 Corinthians 12:25. That there should be no schism in the body;

That is, no division, no rent in the body.

1 Corinthians 12:25-26. But that the members should have the same care one for another.

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. I am afraid that this second half of the verse refers to a duty which is more neglected than is the other. It is an easier thing to suffer with those that suffer than it is to rejoice with those that rejoice; and I will tell you why it is so; because, in giving compassion to those that suffer, you have some sense of dignity. Condescension is often a sort of pride; but when a brother is better off than you are,—when he has more talent than you have,—when he is more successful than you are,—for you to go and rejoice with him, and be as glad as if it were all your own gladness,—ay, to enter into his joy, and say, “God be thanked, my brother, for thy prosperity! I would increase it if I could, for I feel that I am a partner with you;”—ah! this needs great grace. So, may God give us more grace continually, and deliver us from everything like envy, which is of Satan, and yet is all too common even among professing Christians.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

God grant us grace, then, that we may abound in this most excellent grace of a true Christian life, which is infinitely more essential than the highest gifts or the most remarkable talents that God himself can bestow upon us?


Verses 12-31

1 Corinthians 12:12-13. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Oh, what a sacred oneness that is which subsists between all the Lord’s people! We are not simply brethren, but we are one; we are not allied by affinity, but by actual identity; we are parts of the same body; we are brought into spiritual membership with each other, as real and as effectual as that membership which subsists between the various parts of the body. Yet we are not all alike, although we are all of one body; some are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are bond, some are free; and yet, in some things, we are all alike, for we have all been baptized by one Spirit. And, moreover, we have all been made to drink into one Spirit; we have had one spiritual baptism, and we have had one spiritual drinking. Would to God that we felt more one, that our hearts beat more in tune with each other; that we had a sympathy with each other in woes and sufferings; that we had a fellow feeling with all who love the Lord; and could at all times weep with those that weep, as well as rejoice with those that rejoice

1 Corinthians 12:14-15. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

Do not get comparing yourself with others, and saying, “Ah! if I were such-and-such a person, I might then think myself to be part of Christ’s body.” No, you might not; if you were just like him. As there are only certain members of a sort in a man’s body, so, by a parity of reasoning, there would not be more than a certain number of members alike in the mystical body. We do not imagine that there will be many members of this body, the Church, of one class, or of one character; so that, if you are different from others, you are filling a different office in the body. You may, from that fact, rather draw an inference of comfort than one of sorrow and despondency. Even should you say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body, are you therefore not of the body?” Oh, no! you are of the body still, though you do not think that you are.

1 Corinthians 12:16-17. And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?

If we were all preachers, if we could all see into God’s truth, and set it forth in a public manner, where should we get our congregations?

1 Corinthians 12:17. If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

There must be different members to fill different offices. If we were all so one that there was no distinction whatever, if we were all of one rank, all of one age, all of one standing, the body would be incomplete.

1 Corinthians 12:18-21. But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Brethren, you sometimes think there are some belonging to the Church whom we could well spare; but there is not one superfluous member in the whole body. If they be truly united to Christ, they have all their offices, all their places. There is not a poor old woman, who has not been able to get up to the house of prayer for several years, who is not of some use to the Church; for she lies upon her bed, and there she intercedes with God. There is not: a member of the Church so humble, so illiterate, so uninstructed, that he or she may not be of essential service to the whole body. There is some little part, my brother, which you are to take in the great Church of Christ; you may not be able always to tell what it may be, but still there is a place for you to fill. There is a linchpin in a chariot; who thinks much about or thanks that pin? Indeed, it is so very small and insignificant, who would imagine it is necessary to the locomotion or speed? The wheels carry it round, but who would suppose that, if it were taken away, the wheel would fly off? Perhaps you are like one of these little linchpins which keep the wheel right; you may not know what use you are; but, possibly, you prevent someone else from turning aside. Let us each keep in our station, endeavoring, God helping us, to exert the influence which he has given us.

1 Corinthians 12:22-24. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need but God both tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

A moment’s thought will tell you that those parts of our frame which are tenderest are the most necessary parts; and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these, by clothing them more than other parts, we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness; for our comely parts have no need of being covered, and therefore we leave them exposed.

1 Corinthians 12:25. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

We have heard this text urged by some who are in the Church of England as a proof that we are wrong in departing from it. They tell us that there should be no schism in the body; we beg to tell them that there is no schism in the body that we know of. We do not belong to their body, and therefore we make no schism in that body, we are quite clear of them. We have neither stick, nor stone, nor part, nor lot in their State Establishment; therefore we do not create a schism in the body. When they divide themselves into Puseyites and Evangelicals, they make a schism in their own body; but, as long as we are all united, as long as the members of a church walk together in unity, there is no schism in the body. We are different bodies altogether. They say that a schismatic is one who departs from a Church, and makes a rent from it; by no means, a schismatic is one who makes a rent in it, not from it. We, I say, are not schismatics. Those who are in the Church, and yet do not agree with its fundamental principles and its Articles of Faith, they are schismatics; but we are not.

1 Corinthians 12:26. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;

Is that true of our churches? I am afraid not. The members of the one Church of Christ have not been brought to that unity of feeling and sympathy which they ought to have.

1 Corinthians 12:26-30. Or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

God intended that there should be different offices in his Church; let us look on each other as being different, and yet united in the common faith of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:31. But covet earnestly the best gifts:

I would not wish you, brother, to repress your aspirations after these blessings; I am most anxious that you should earnestly desire and seek to possess a large share of all these spiritual endowments.

1 Corinthians 12:31. And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Which is, holding the truth in love, and walking in charity one toward another.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-corinthians-12.html. 2011.

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