1 Corinthians 12:28-30
And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings…
Apostles are set in the first place or rank, because they were called to their office by the Lord Jesus Christ himself; they had immediate personal knowledge of his life and character and teachings; and they were the actual founders and practical rulers and referees of the Church. Next come the "prophets," who were not persons merely endowed with the power of foretelling future events, but persons to whom direct revelations and communications from God came, and so were empowered to enlighten the Church upon the mysteries of the faith and upon the claims of duty. Compare the older Jewish prophets as directly inspired teachers. Then "teachers," regarded as those with ordinary powers of intellect, and the natural gifts of instructing others, who educated and trained the Church in Christian doctrine. After that "miracles," or the power of working miracles. This is set on a new and lower range, perhaps, because only exercised occasionally, and so not comparing with the more regular and orderly arrangements for the Church's culture. "Miracles" are distinguished from" gifts of healings," which we are to suppose were traceable to personal power on nervous systems, of which there seem to be modern instances. "Helps" may refer to such minor services as succouring the needy, tending the sick, etc. What the apostle meant by "governments" is very difficult to decide. Stanley thinks that reference is intended to the faculty otherwise known as "discerning of spirits." The word used, however, means "guiding the helm of affairs," and reference may be to those officers who managed, or ruled, the temporal affairs of the Church, and answered, in some measure, to the elders, or rulers, of the synagogue. "Tongues" St. Paul puts last; for, from other passages, we know that he did not greatly value the mere power to express Christian feeling in ecstatic and incomprehensible language, or in some foreign and unknown tongue. He thought that it could bear a very feeble relation to the Church's edification unless it were properly interpreted. St. Paul constantly urges the variety of the gifts entrusted to the Church, and the common honourableness of them all; but he as earnestly impresses upon us that, from the human standpoint, and in view of the preservation of order and efficiency in Church relations, the gifts must set men in different positions, and bring on them different forms and degrees of responsibility. Three things may be unfolded.
I. SOME GIFTS NECESSITATE POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY. The man of gifts, as an apostle or as a ruler, can only use his gifts in offices of authority. So now a man may have the gift of organizing or of managing men, or the gift of mastership and business; then such men we must all be willing to set in the high places.
II. OTHER GIFTS AS TRULY NECESSITATE POSITIONS OF DEPENDENCE. They are gifts of dependence and service. They can only be put to use in lowly places. Those having them can only be faithful in what men may call lesser places. Ambition in men is limited by their gifts. A right ambition leads a man to press for the position in which he can use his gifts. A wrong ambition sets a man upon seeking offices and positions for which he has no gifts.
III. EVERY MAN IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST SHOULD HAVE HIS OFFICE BY VIRTUE OF HIS GIFTS, AND NOT OF HIS CLAIMS OR OF HIS AMBITIONS, The true idea of selection for office is the discovery of the men among us with the gifts related to the office. The injury of the Church comes by the pressing of men into offices upon other than this ground. God provides the fitted ones; we too often fail to wait on him for the right men, and foolishly fill Church offices on other than Divine grounds. The inquiry for each one to put to himself is first this: "What are the gifts entrusted to me?" And then this: "What is the sphere in which I may find exercise for these gifts?" The most honourable place that any man can occupy is that which is precisely fitted to his gifts, whether to man's view it seem to be lowly or seem to be high. - R.T.
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.