1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.…
I. THEIR NATURE. They are —
1. Ordinary. These the Spirit conveys to us through our own endeavours, as he who both makes the watch and winds up the wheels of it may be said to be the author of its motion. Amongst these we may rank oratory, philosophy, etc. And God ordinarily gives these to none but such as labour hard for them. God is ready to do His part, but not to do His own and ours too.
2. Extraordinary. These are entirely from God, as, e.g., the gifts of miracles, healing, etc., which might indeed be the object of men's admiration and envy, but never the effect of their endeavours. Some will perhaps inquire how long these extraordinary gifts continued in the Church. Just as long as the settling of a new religion in the world required. Wherefore the purpose of miracles being extraordinary, and to serve only for a time, they were not by their continuance to thwart their design, nor to be made common by their being perpetual. The exact period of their duration can hardly be assigned; but certain it is that now these are ceased, and that upon as good reason as at first they began. For when the spiritual building is completed, to what purpose should the scaffolds any longer stand?
II. THEIR DIVERSITY. WHAT IS MEANT BY THIS DIVERSITY OF GIFTS. Note here —
1. Something by way of affirmation, which is variety. This variety is —
(1) For use. In the Church there are, and must be, several members having their several uses and stations (ver. 28); the employment of so many parts subserving the joint interest and design of the whole — as the motion of a clock is a complicated motion of so many wheels fitly put together; and life itself but the result of several operations, all issuing from and contributing to the support of the same body (vers. 29, 30). As in the natural body the eyes do not speak, nor the tongue see, so neither in the spiritual is every one who has the gift of prophecy endued also with the gift and spirit of government, etc. Now God has use of all the several tempers and constitutions of men, to serve the Church by. E.g. —
(a) Some men are of a sanguine and cheerful disposition. And these are fitted for the airy, joyful offices of devotion. Again, there are others of a reserved arid severe temper, and these are the fittest to serve the Church in a retirement from the world, and a settled composure of their thoughts to meditation, and in dealing with troubled consciences.
(b) Some, again, are of a fervent spirit; and God serves His Church even by these as being particularly fitted to preach the rigours of the law to obstinate sinners. And on the contrary, there are others again of a gentler genius, and these are serviceable to speak comfort and refreshment to the weary, etc. And thus the gospel must have both its Boanerges and its Barnabas; the first, as it were, to cleanse the air and purge the sold, before it can be fit for the smiles of a Saviour.
(2) For ornament — to dress and set off the spouse of Christ. Where would be the beauty of the heavens and the earth; where would then be the glory and lustre of the universe, if our senses were forced to be always poring upon the same things without the quickening relish of variety? And, moreover, does not such a liberal effusion of gifts equally argue both the power and the bounty of the giver?
2. As this diversity of the Spirit's gifts imports variety, so it excludes contrariety; different they are, but they are not opposite. There is no jar or contest between them, but all are disposed of with mutual agreements and a happy subordination; for as variety adorns, so opposition destroys. The spirit of meekness and the spirit of zeal, e.g., do equally serve and carry on the great end and business of religion.
III. THEIR LESSONS.
1. If the Spirit works such variety and multitude of supernatural gifts, it is but rational to conclude that He is a being superior to nature, and so God.
2. This great diversity of the Spirit's gifts may read a lecture of humility to some, and of contentment to others. God, indeed, has drawn some capital letters, and given some men gifts, as it were, with both hands; but for all that none can brag of a monopoly of them. He has filled no man's intellectual so full, but he has left some vacuities that may sometimes send him for supplies to lower minds. Moses with all his knowledge and ruling abilities required Aaron's elocution; and he who "speaks with the tongue of angels" may yet be at a loss when he comes to matters of controversy. And this should prevent the despondency of the meanest understandings (vers. 21, 22). Let not the foot trample upon itself because it does not rule the body, but consider that it has the honour to support it. Nay, the greatest abilities are sometimes beholding to the very meanest. The two talents went into heaven as easily as the five.
3. We have here a touchstone for the trial of spirits; for such as are the gifts, such must be also the Spirit from which they flow.
4. This emanation of gifts from the Spirit assure us that knowledge and learning are by no means opposite to grace; since we see gifts as well as graces conferred by the same Spirit.
(R. South, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.