1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.…
I. THE APOSTLE LAYS DOWN A BROAD GENERAL PRINCIPLE RESPECTING SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION (ver. 3).
1. This made the broad separation between the, Church and the world, and is far above all distinctions as to gifts. It is far more important to ascertain that a man is a Christian than what sort of Christian he is (vers. 4-6). In what we differ from the world and not in what we differ from other Christians consists our distinction in the sight of God. Does baptism teach of a difference between Christians (ver. 13)? There are varieties, but they are all of "the selfsame Spirit."
2. Let us bring this home personally. What is it that waked up the energies of these Corinthians most? Was it that which stimulated the apostle at Athens (Acts 17:16)? or was it rather the difference between party and party? What is it that wakes up the polemical energies of this day? Is it opposition to evil, or is it opposition to some doctrine held by other Christians? Were half the energy spent in trampling down sin which is spent in religious controversy, the kingdom of God will soon be established in this world; but "if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
II. THE PLACE AND VALUE ASSIGNED BY ST. PAUL TO DIFFERENCES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
1. These differences are the very conditions of Christian unity. The distinction between a society and an association is that artificial association binds man to man on the principle of similarity, while natural society binds men together in diversity. The idea of the Church presented in the Bible is that of a family which is not a union of similarity, for the father differs from the mother, etc., and yet together they form a most blessed type of unity.
2. St. Paul carries on this principle, and draws out of it special personal duties; he says that gifts are granted to iudividuals for the sake of the whole Church. After this he applies the principle to —
(1) Those possessed of inferior gifts. These are —
(a) Not to envy. Observe here the difference between the Christian doctrine of unity and equality, and the world's doctrine of levelling all to one standard. The intention of God is not that the rude hand should have the delicacy of the eye, or the foot power of the brain, but to proclaim the real equality of each in mutual sympathy and love.
(b) Not to despond. There are few temptations more common to ardent spirits than to repine at their lot, believing that in some other situation they could serve God better. St. Paul says that it is the duty of every such man to try to be himself, to do his own duty; for here in this world we are nothing apart from its strange and curious clockwork; and if each man had the spirit of the Cross it would not matter to him whether he were doing the work of the mainspring or of one of the inferior parts.
(2) Those gifted with higher powers. These duties were —
(a) Humility. They were not to despise those who were inferior. As with the natural body the rudest parts are the most useful, and the delicate parts require most care, so is it with the body politic; the meanest trades are those with which we can least dispense.
(b) Sympathy (ver. 26). How little, during eighteen hundred years, have the hearts of men been got to beat together! Nor can we say that this is the fault of the capitalists and the masters only, it is the fault of the servants and dependents also.
(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.