1 Corinthians 12:28-31
And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings…
I. IN THEMSELVES. The gifts of the Church of Corinth were bestowed according to God's pleasure: they were "divided to every man severally as He willed." They were profitable to others. They were not the highest perfection of human nature, for a man might have them and yet perish. So it is with ours. Consider —
1. What a gift is. It is that in which our main strength lies. One man is remarkable for intellectual, and another for moral qualifications. One is highly sensitive, and another unimpressionable. One has exquisite taste, and another, like the English, persevering and able to improve inventions. All God's gifts are not sublime. You would all acknowledge prophecy to be a gift, but St. Paul says the humblest faculties are also gifts.
2. All these are gifts, sometimes we fancy they are not, because sad moralists remind us that these things are vain. "Beauty is fleeting; strength is soon but labour and sorrow; the path of glory leads but to the grave." True, all these are transient; and because so, we are forbidden to set our hearts upon them; but still men covet them, and the apostle says it is right: God gave them: do you honour Him by despising them? They are good so long as they are desired in subservience to the greater good, but evil if they are put in the place of this.
3. They are to be earnestly cultivated. The world makes very little of charity; and religious men, perceiving the transcendent excellence of this grace, make very little of talents. Now, on the contrary, St. Paul prays that the whole soul, the natural man as well as the spirit, may "be preserved blameless till the coming of Christ."
4. He allows a distinction — "the best gifts." The same apostle who so earnestly urged contentment with the gifts we have, bids us yet to aspire. And just as St. Peter said, "Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge," etc, so would St. Paul have said, "Add to your nobility of rank, nobleness of mind; to your strong constitution, health by exercise; to you memory, judgment; to your power of imitating', invention."
II. IN COMPARISON WITH GRACES. He who treads the brilliant road of the highest accomplishments is, as a man, inferior to him who treads the path of Love. For in the spiritual world a man is measured not by his genius, but by his likeness to God.
(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.