Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Chapters 12 to 14
Chapter: 1 Cor 12
Passage: 1 Cor 12:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. What subject does Paul now move on to? v.1
2. What had they gone to when they were unsaved? v.2
3. What does he say about what people speak? v.3
4. What does he now say about gifts and the Spirit? v.4
5. What does he say about service and the Lord? v.5
6. What does he say about ways of working and God? v.6
The starting word “Now” indicates Paul is covering another of the questions they had sent to him. He reminds them that when they had been non-Christians they had been led by the enemy into false beliefs, but now they are led by the Holy Spirit, that will have certain effects in their lives. First of all it will affect their speech, for no Christian being led by the Spirit can speak against Jesus, just as no person can acclaim Jesus as their Lord unless it is by the Spirit's help.
So it is the Spirit who inspires Gifts (which he'll shortly go on to describe), it is the one Holy Spirit. There aren't different spirit's who express different gifts like there are different demons who express different spirits. No, it is the One Holy Spirit who inspires each of these gifts, it is the one Lord Jesus Christ who leads us into different forms of Service, it is the One God who releases His power to be seen in different workings.
The emphasis by Paul here in this passage is twofold: first on WHO it is who originates all these “spiritual manifestations”, and then on the unity that there is between them. Perhaps there had been conflicts in Corinth between people with different gifts. It shouldn't be so, says Paul, because they all have the same origin.
A. Find Out:
1. How does Paul describe what happens? v.7
2. What two “messages” can the Spirit bring? v.8
3. What are the next two things that he mentions? v.9
4. What are the next five things he mentions? v.10
5. How do they come? v.11
Each of these gifts, says Paul, is a manifestation or visible expression of the Holy Spirit. They are supernatural and are not able to be done without the enabling of the Lord, and except for tongues and interpretation (which he didn't need) they were all seen in the ministry of Jesus. There is a sense that every one of them requires us to speak out as part of the expression of them. They can be basically divided into gifts of revelation and gifts of power.
The gifts of revelation would be:
The gifts of power are therefore,
Look for each of these in the book of Acts.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul first say about the body? v.12
2. What were we made and how? v.13
3. So what point does Paul again then make? v.14
4. What two illustrations does he use and for what point? v.15,16
5. What does he go on to say about the body? v.17-19
6. With what conclusion, yet again? v.20
Remember, the biggest problem in the Corinthian church was that of disunity (this has come through in a number of ways in Paul's letter). Now he is viewing it in the light of their problems with spiritual gifts. What seemed to be happening was that some people were using their spiritual gifts in such a way that others were feeling inferior and even doubting whether they were in the church at all because they didn't have the same gifting.
Three times in this passage Paul emphasises that there are many parts to the body. Different parts means different gifting and different areas of service (different roles). It was the Holy Spirit coming into us and therefore us into Him, that made us part of this body, and He is the one who gives us the gifts, and we are all different.
Because you are different from other more noticeable parts that doesn't mean that they are the body and you aren't. If the body was made up of all the same bits it would no longer be a body and couldn't function. No the body is made up of lots of different parts and they are all needed.
A. Find Out:
1. What may our temptation be to say? v.21
2. What is Paul's first answer to that? v.22
3. What else does he say about the “lessor” parts? v.23
4. What has God done? v.24
5. What is his conclusion to all this? v.25
6. What do we need to remember? v.26
Paul has been explaining why we all need to be different in the body of Christ, the church. Now he tackles the problem of some people feeling inferior, or some people writing others off. Our temptation may be to look at some members of the church who we may feel are either very young in the faith, or rather weak in the faith, or contributing little to the life of the church, and write them off.
Wrong, says Paul, those parts that seem weaker are actually indispensable. God's heart is for the poor, He uses the weak, it's the world that only uses the strong! He then goes on to describe how we look after the parts of our body and the implication must be that we do the same with people.
In the kingdom of God, as we've said, God particularly cares for the weak and the poor. We should look after them and esteem them. Those who we consider “unpresentable”, because they are people with big social problems, we should protect while Jesus is bringing healing and change to them. Those of us who are “middle of the road” don't need any special treatment, but some members do. If there are members who are hurting or being excluded, the rest of us suffer. We may not realise it, but it IS true.
A. Find Out:
1. How does Paul describe them, corporately & individually? v.27
2. How many ministries does Paul mention? v.28
3. What does he ask about this? v.29.30
4. What does he instruct them to do? v.31a
5. What does he say he will now do? v.31b
Paul has been going to some lengths to say to the individual, “You are important!”. He's said (v.14-20) that the body is made up of lots of different parts, and then gone on (v.21-26) to say they are all needed whatever their part. Now he mentions some of the most obvious gifts of ministry that Jesus gives to his church.
There are apostles, or sent ones, sent to found the church with special grace and wisdom. There are prophets to speak the now-word into the new church. There are teachers who impart and convey the Scriptures to the new church. There are workers of miracles who persevere against the odds doing the impossible to open doors as God leads them. There are those with gifts of healing to bring health and wholeness to the church. There are mercy bringers, people specially graced with ability to under gird others in need. There are tongues speakers who utter the cry of the heart in the worshipping congregation.
Paul's point in mentioning these, and these aren't every gift (check this list with Rom 12:6-8 and Eph 4:11), was to emphasise that there are many different gifts that God gives to the body for the spreading of the Gospel and establishing the church - but we won't have them all, we're only one part. Now there's nothing wrong in aspiring to greater even more fruitful giftings, to be used more fully by the Lord, that's why he says “eagerly desire” gifts that will build & establish.
A. Find Out:
1. What is the first worthless gift if there is not love? v.1
2. What further gifts are worthless without love? v.2
3. What further might we do that's worthless without love? v.3
4. What negatives does love NOT do? v.4-6
5. What positives DOES it do? v.4-7
Remember, the subject that Paul is now discussing is that of spiritual gifts and unity. The Corinthian church appears to have been strong on spiritual gifts, so strong in fact in some people, that it made others feel inferior and was a source of division. It is this that Paul directly deals with now.
Look, he says, it doesn't matter how spiritually gifted you are, but if you don't have love all your gifts are worthless. We need to avoid the error of going to the opposite extreme here. Paul is not saying don't have spiritual gifts, indeed he has just said “ eagerly desire the greater gifts” and will soon repeat that (14:1). Chapter 13 is not providing grounds for anyone to say we shouldn't have spiritual gifts. It is saying when you have spiritual gifts make sure that you use them in an attitude of love. God is love (1 Jn 4:8,16) and we are commanded to love (Jn 15:17) so anything that we express from God must come in love.
To hammer home this point Paul then describes some of the characteristics of love: first note the positives - it's patient, kind, rejoices in the truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Then the negatives - it doesn't envy, boast, be rude, be self seeking, get angry easily, hold onto wrongs or delight in evil. We need to meditate on these two lists and check our lives against them.
A. Find Out:
1. How is love contrasted with prophecy etc.? v.8
2. How do we do things now? v.9
3. What will happen? v.10
4. What happens when we grow up? v.11
5. How are now and in eternity different? v.12
6. What remains and what is the best? v.13
Pursuing the subject of spiritual gifts and unity, Paul now points out that spiritual gifts will eventually pass away but our experience of love will never pass away. He is of course referring to when we pass into eternity and see Jesus face to face.
When that happens there will be no need of prophecy or tongues or words of knowledge, because we'll be with him and our communication will be open and direct, we'll just know Him who IS Love. We live and use the gifts in a period when we are imperfect but when we see Him face to face we'll be made perfect.
It's a bit like when I was a child, says Paul, and thought childishly, but when I grow up the things I did as a child pass away. It will be like that when we meet Jesus. At the moment our comprehension of him is like looking in a poor mirror, but when we see him face to face we'll see him perfectly and have no need of spiritual gifts. For now faith, hope and love are key ingredients to the Christian life but in eternity, it will only be love that is left!
In all this Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to have a right perspective about spiritual gifts. Yes, they are important in service but not as important as love. THAT is what they should major on.
A. Find Out:
1. What are we to desire and how? v.1
2. To whom does a tongue speaker speak? v.2
3. To whom does one prophesy and why? v.3
4. How do speaking in tongues and prophesying differ? v.4
5. What did Paul say he wanted? v.5a
6. What did he conclude about tongues and prophecy? v.5b
Some of us move into “unbelief mode” when we hit these verses. Whereas we would accept all of the rest of Paul's teaching, when we come to these we start making excuses. Let's look at them.
First, Paul's definite direction: “eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (v.1) and “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues”. Nothing unambiguous about that. Summary: go for spiritual gifts!!!!
Second, what he says about tongues: it is speaking to God - it is not another form of prophesy, it is the heart cry of the individual to the Lord. When it is truly that and interpreted when used publicly, it is a beautiful revelation of the work of grace being done in our hearts. As it comes it softens the hearts of the rest of us to be more open to the Lord. How rarely we see it like that in the Church! Note: it also edifies or builds up the individual himself. We each need building up and this is one personal way that the Holy Spirit has given us. Let's use it!
Third, what he says about prophecy: go for it more than tongues! When you prophesy you “strengthen, encourage and comfort” and build up the individual and thus the church. Not a wonder the enemy tries to discredit it. Paul wants all of us to prophesy. Some of us won't because of lack of faith, but he still wants us to!
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul ask about tongues? v.6
2. To what does he compare it? v.7,8
3. So what does he conclude about tongues? v.9
4. What point does he make about language in general? v.10
5. What does lack of interpretation do? v.11
6. So what is his conclusion about this? v.12
From what Paul now says in this passage it seems obvious that some in the Corinthian church were “going over the top” in respect of tongues. Perhaps they insisted that this was THE gift to indicate you had been filled with the Spirit. Perhaps you were deemed a second class Christian if you didn't speak in tongues. Whatever was the problem, Paul gets tongues in the right perspective. (Don't forget in all this he's said he would like all of them to speak in tongues, v.5)
Tongues without an interpretation simply blesses the individual who is bringing it (v.4a) and does little to build up the whole church. That is the central thrust of what Paul is saying. It's revelation or teaching that builds up the church as a whole, not unintelligible words. He compares it with musical instruments where notes have to have order to make sense. He compares it with languages in the word in general where, unless you have an interpreter, all a foreign language does is emphasise your difference and isolates you from that person.
So what's the conclusion to all this? Yes use tongues as an individual to build yourself up, use it with an interpretation in the assembly, but otherwise seek God for gifts that, in love, will bless and build up the whole church. Let that be your main aim.
A. Find Out:
1. What happens when you pray in a tongue? v.14
2. So what did Paul say he did? v.15
3. What is the limitation on speaking in a tongue? v.16,17
4. What could Paul claim? v.18
5. Yet what did he prefer? v.19
6. So what did he tell them to do? v.20
Paul continues to speak about the use of the gift of tongues in the church. Having just said we should seek to excel in gifts that build up the church, he now says seek to interpret what you pray in a tongue so that others will understand what you say.
In these verses we see more what “speaking in tongues” actually is. In v.2 we saw that it was speaking to God. Here again we are told that it is praying (v.14), not prophesying as apparently sometimes seems to happen with so-called interpretations in some churches. It is praise and thanksgiving (see also Acts 2:11 & 10:46). Tongues is the cry of the spirit of a person to God and when it is interpreted we, the listeners, can marvel and wonder at the beauty of that cry as it is revealed. It is in fact the cry of the spirit of a person inspired by the Holy Spirit to praise God from the innermost being and as such is perhaps the most beautiful expression of praise and thanksgiving possible.
Paul was able to testify that he prayed much in tongues, yet for the sake of the church, in a public situation he would rather bring some teaching that would bless, edify and build up his listeners. Tongues are good but in public they are limited in building up the church.
A. Find Out:
1. What had the Law said? v.21
2. For whom does Paul say tongues is a sign? v.22a
3. For whom does he say prophecy is? v.22b
4. What will an unbeliever think about tongues? v.23
5. What will he think when he hears prophecy? v.24
6. With what result? v.25
At first sight some contradictory verses. Paul, like the good Rabbi that he was, uses an Old Testament quotation (Isa 28:11,12) with a double meaning. Originally it had meant foreign people would speak to the hard unbelieving hearts of Israel. Now, Paul says, these unknown languages are a sign revealing unbelievers. When an unbeliever comes in and hears tongues without interpretation they will show their lack of understanding and their unbelief by rejecting as rubbish what they hear. They won't realise that this is something of the spirit.
Prophecy, on the other hand, is a sign that reveals and releases belief . When a believer hears it they realise it is a word from God and accept it and their belief is revealed. Indeed, even when an unbeliever comes into a meeting and hears this word of revelation that exposes the truth about them, they will be convicted and worship God.
The implication of what Paul is saying is fairly obvious: if unbelievers come into the meeting, in the case of tongues they will simply write it off and show their unbelief, but in the case of prophecy they will actually be convicted. Obviously therefore, the effect of prophecy is greater than that of tongues, so go more for prophecy than tongues (reinforcing what he said at the beginning of the chapter).
A. Find Out:
1. What may we have when meeting together and why? v.26
2. How should tongues be ordered? v.27
3. What restriction needs there to be? v.28
4. How should prophets bring order? v.29
5. What should happen when a second revelation comes? v.30
6. How should prophecy be ordered? v.31,32
Paul now moves on to give guidelines for the use of certain gifts.
First, note his assumption that gifts are CHURCH WIDE! In verse 26 he says “ everyone has….” meaning that he expects everyone in the meeting to be involved in bringing a contribution to the direction of the meeting. Very far from ordered “services” today!
Second, consider the GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF TONGUES:
Third, consider the GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF PROPHECY:
A. Find Out:
1. How is God described? v.33
2. What was the practice in the church in respect of women? v.34,35
3. What does he ask them? v.36
4. To whom does Paul appeal and why? v.37
5. So what does he encourage them to do? v.39
6. So what is Paul's overall guidance? v.40
Paul has just been speaking about maintaining order in the use of the gifts when the church comes together. God doesn't want there to be disorder or chaos in the meeting, but peace and blessing. That's why Paul has given the instructions he has so far.
With this in mind he also reminds them of the practice of the early church to require women to be silent in the meeting. This was a throw-over from Judaism. Wherever Paul had been going across Asia Minor he had gone first to the Jews and therefore the congregations he has been setting up still had a very Jewish element to them, especially that of requiring the women to be quiet and not participators. That was a practice and not a principle that gradually fell away, but Paul says it because he wants to emphasise the order requirement.
He appeals to those who are spiritual to accept his teaching on all these matters, reminding them that they are just one church among many and shouldn't see themselves as doing their own thing. In conclusion he encourages the use of prophesy (for building up) and asks that they don't go overboard and reject tongues. Simply make sure it's all done decently and in order is his final exhortation.
In this second group of 13 studies we have seen Paul explaining:
These three chapters are packed with encouragements: that God gifts us and forms ministries in us, that we are all important in the body, that love is for us all to major in, that tongues and prophecy are for all of us, that tongues is used to bless us personally, that prophecy is used to bless others and the church generally. Some may (outside Scripture) seek to claim that gifts no longer operate, but churches that still believe that Jesus still moves by his Spirit in the same way to equip and bless, know blessing, joy and growth as the Lord uses them, in the same way He used this somewhat chaotic church in Corinth.
1. It is the Holy Spirit who brings gifts to the faithful.
2. We are all part of Christ's body and all needed.
3. Love is to be the all-prevailing gift of the church.
4. It is right to desire spiritual gifts to be used of God to bless others.
5. In church order helps bring blessing.
Thank the Lord for His abundant provision of all good gifts to enable us to do the works of Jesus. Pray for your faith & love to be increased to receive what He wants to give you.
PART 3 : "Final Questions"
In this last Part Paul goes on to discuss the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead - our eternal future in Christ. Watch how he logically works through this teaching.