For Everyone // A Verse by Verse Study of 1 Corinthians 12

By God’s grace I desired to give a simple “verse-by-verse” interpretation of the most detailed chapters on the gifts of the Spirit.  This sermon and its notes are based on 1 Corinthians 12 with brief references to chapters 13-14 in the same book, which will be discussed in detail next week.  I also tried to develop a more complete idea of all the “gifts” Paul mentions in other letters like Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 (see the chart below for details).

1 Corinthians 12:1-31, “For Everyone”

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

We should not be ignorant or inexperienced in regards to the gifts of the Spirit.

2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.

The Corinthians were most likely influenced by demonic spirits and superstition in their former religious practices. However, the Holy Spirit is not of demonic or human origin. He is in nature God.

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed, and no one can say, Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Paul gives the test to see if a spirit influencing a person is of demonic origin or from the Holy Spirit. The demonic spirits are not able to confess Jesus is Lord without exposing their evil nature.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Paul gives a tri-unity statement about God’s gifts:

  1. v. 4, “different kinds of gifts,” The Holy Spirit gives the nine spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:8-11.
  2. v. 5, “different kinds of service,” The Lord (Jesus/Son) gives the five-fold ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13 for service.
  3. v. 6, “different kinds of workings,” God (the Father) gives seven gifts for work in the church mentioned in Romans 12 & 1 Cor. 12:28.

Note: Due to the later part of v. 6 which reads, “but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work,” the three different categories of gifts mentioned to come individually from each person of the Trinity (Father, Lord/Son, and the Holy Spirit) might be better looked at as all of the gifts coming from the Trinity as a whole.  In other words, another way to see the Trinity in these verses might be to assume Paul is relating all the different kinds of gifts to the triune nature of God. Either way, each person of the Trinity is mentioned as well as three different categories of gifts.

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7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

As in the previous verse 7, “in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work,” Paul says “each one” or “every one” is given the manifestation (visible working) of the Spirit. Therefore, no one is excluded from any of the spirituals gifts. However, the Spirit gives them as He determines, v. 11.

8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

The Nine Gifts of the Spirit are Listed:

  1. The Gift of the Message of Wisdom: A message from God about the future. Example, Agabus predicting a drought in Acts 11:28.
  2. The Gift of the Message of Knowledge: A message about the past or present from God. Example, Jesus knowing about the woman’s perversion in John 4:18.
  3. The Gift of Faith: A supernatural endowment of faith. Example, Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:29.
  4. The Gifts of Healing: The many aspects of physical healing. Example, Jesus healing the blind man in John 9:1-12.
  5. The Gift of Miraculous Powers: An extraordinary move of God’s power. Example, the building shaking after the disciples prayed in Acts 4:31.
  6. The Gift of Prophecy: Speaking the heart of God to His people for encouragement. Example, Paul telling the jailer he and his whole household were going to be saved in Acts 16:31.
  7. The Gift of Distinguishing Between Spirits: The supernatural ability to discern if a spirit is from man, God, or the devil. Example, Paul rebuking the evil spirit out of the girl who told the future in Acts 16:17-18.
  8. The Gift of Tongues: Speaking a message in tongues to the church, 1 Cor. 14:5.
  9. The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues: Spiritually interpreting the message to the church so they can understand, 1 Cor. 14:5.

Four Reasons Why the Gift of Tongues & Interpretation is Not the Same As the Baptism in the Holy Spirit With the Evidence of Speaking in Other Tongues:

  1. None of the examples of people receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues in Acts had a separate interpretation given with a message of edification.
  2. Paul wrote when people “prayed in tongues” no one understands them because they utter mysteries, 1 Cor. 14:2.
  3. Paul also stated that praying in tongues is for personal edification (1 Cor. 14:4) and the gift of tongues with interpretation is for church edification, equal to prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5).
  4. Lastly, Paul wrote that just as he could sing and pray with his mind and understanding whenever he desired to, he could also pray and sing with his spirit, 1 Cor. 14:15. However, the gift of tongues with interpretation could only be given when the Spirit willed, 1 Cor. 12:11.

11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Paul gave verse 7 and 11 as “book ends” to, (a) express the availability of all gifts to all people and (b) that the Spirit gives as He wills and determines.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

The Body of Christ is like a physical body with many different parts all operating as one.

13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

All the believers (slave or free, Jew or non-Jew/Gentile) in Corinth had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Paul also alludes to Jesus’ example of “drinking” from the Spirit in John 7:37-39 & Isaiah 12:3.

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

The body has many parts and so does the Body of Christ.

15 Now if the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

The parts of the body don’t work against each other, but rather they support each other. Therefore, the different parts of the Body of Christ shouldn’t be jealous or divisive with each other but rather should be supportive of each part.

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, I dont need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I dont need you! 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Paul reiterates the point to make the need for unity very clear. Most likely because there was division in the church to who was most spiritual, what gifts were most valuable, and who was greater than the others.

28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

Paul then combines the “three different kinds of gifts” (service/spirit/working) to make his point clear and give a general ranking of function. Like in a marriage- the woman is not a different kind of human being in nature, but rather is same in nature but different in function. The same is true in the Body of Christ.  There is an order of the gifts according to their function but all believers are the same in nature- they are all “born again children of God!”

Thus, Paul basically states the service gifts come first in the order of function.  As a result “apostles” come first because they start the churches, “prophets” come second because they guide the church spiritually, “teachers” then come third because they teach the people the commands of Jesus. He then skips the rest of the “five fold service gifts” (pastors & evangelists) most likely due to time. He then simply combines some of the “spiritual gifts” (miraculous powers, gifts of healing, & tongues) and the “working gifts” (helping & guidance) to show they come after the “service gifts.”  Meaning, after the service/leadership orientated gifts are set up all the other gifts can come and function as the Spirit wills.

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Paul then asks the rhetorical question concerning the gifts to show not everyone has all the gifts all the time. Like he said in the previous verses 7 & 11, everyone is welcome to all the gifts- but ultimately the Holy Spirit gives them out to each person as He wills.

31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Paul then removes any doubt about desiring the gifts as a bad thing by commanding the people to desire gifts. However, they are first to desire the things of love then the spiritual gifts. Then Paul gives the introduction to the discussion on the importance of love. However, to sneak ahead into chapter 14, after he ends the discussion on love- he immediately takes up from verse 31 in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to say, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit.” Therefore, it is clear Paul wanted everyone to be receive and function in God’s gifts!

I don’t believe anyone can honestly and with an open mind read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12 verse-by-verse and not walk away believing God has gifts to give everyone!

For further study read Dr. Gordon Fee’s Commentary on “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” and Dr. Stanley Horton’s book, “What The Bible Says About the Holy Spirit.” 

Click here to read the study on 1 Corinthians 13-14.


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