1 Corinthians 12

1 Corinthians 12:3

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

(a) No one can say. Here is a test to tell whether someone is acquainted with the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If they curse Jesus, they are not. If they call him Lord, they are. It’s a simple test, but one which brings comfort to those who are anxious about their salvation.

In his other letter to the Corinthians, Paul exhorts us to “examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). How do we do that? And how do we know if we are truly saved? One way to settle this issue is to ask yourself this question: Is Jesus Lord? If your answer is yes, rejoice, for you could not have said that without the Spirit’s aid.

(b) Jesus is Lord whether you believe it or not, but recognizing Jesus as Lord and calling on his name is how we know we are saved (Rom. 10:13).

(c) Except by the Holy Spirit. No one has ever recognized Jesus without the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes to the lordship of Jesus, and it is the Spirit who is our pledge or guarantee of what is to come (2 Cor. 1:22).

Further reading: “How do I know I am saved?

(b) Except by the Holy Spirit. Paul is about to unpack the various gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:8

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

(a) Wisdom The gift of wisdom is the ability to receive spiritual insight – a word of wisdom – that illuminates and brings clarity to situations. A word of wisdom helps us understand the Holy Spirit’s read on a specific situation. To have the wisdom that comes from above is to see earthly problems from a heaven perspective (Jas. 3:17). A word of wisdom, which is specific, can be contrasted with a spirit of wisdom (Eph. 1:17).

(b) Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions and sound judgments. Wisdom is only as good as the knowledge on which it is based which is why we can distinguish between earthly and heavenly wisdom (Jas. 3:15–17). Wisdom that comes from above refers to the insight and direction that comes from the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

(c) Knowledge. The gift of knowledge is the ability to receive spiritual revelation – a word of knowledge – that helps us to know something that we could not have otherwise known. An example would be Ananias learning from the Holy Spirit that a man named Saul from Tarsus could be found praying in a house on Straight Street (Acts 9:11–12). Another example would be Peter learning from the Holy Spirit that three men were looking for him (Acts 10:19–20). Knowledge, in this context, refers to knowledge that comes by the spirit rather than through natural senses.

1 Corinthians 12:9

to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

(a) Faith. Although all believers have faith, the gift of faith is an undiluted confidence in the Lord that inspires others to have greater confidence in the Lord (Rom. 1:11–12).

(b) Healing. The gifts of healing are the various abilities to reveal Jesus the healer by healing the sick (Mark 16:18, Acts 5:16).

1 Corinthians 12:10

and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

(a) Miracles. The gift of miracles is the ability to co-labor with Jesus the miracle-worker by working miracles such as healing and deliverance (e.g., Acts 19:11–12). Other examples include feeding the 5000 (Matt. 14:19–20) and instantaneous travel (Acts 8:38–39).

(b) Prophecy. The gift of prophecy is the ability to impart truth from God’s heart in a way that encourages, strengthens, and comforts people (see entry for 1 Cor. 13:2).

(c) Distinguishing of spirits. The gift of spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish the authentic from the counterfeit and to separate truth from error (e.g., 1 John 4:1). This includes the ability to recognize false prophets and false teachers who preach another Jesus or another gospel (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:4, Gal. 1:6–7).

(d) Tongues. The gift of tongues is the ability to speak, pray, or praise the Lord in an unknown language (Mark 16:17, 1 Cor. 14:14). Other languages include human languages (e.g., Acts 2:4–6) and heavenly languages (1 Cor. 13:1). Speaking in unknown tongues is evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and a spiritual gift that has been evident since the birth of the church (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, 19:6).

When we speak or pray in tongues, we are speaking or praying to God with our spirits rather than our minds (1 Cor. 14:2, 14). For this reason, the one who speaks in tongues edifies only themselves (1 Cor. 14:4). While speaking in tongues is to be encouraged within the church (1 Cor. 14:39), to be beneficial to others, this gift will need to be accompanied by the related gift of interpretation (1 Cor. 14:13, 27). Although every believer has the ability to speak in tongues (1 Cor. 14:5), not every believer exercises this spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:9–10, 30).

(e) Interpretation of tongues. The gift of interpretation is the ability to make sense of what has been spoken in an unintelligible tongue (1 Cor. 14:13).

1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

(a) Baptized. Every believer has been baptized or placed into Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). See entry for Baptism.

(b) The body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

1 Corinthians 12:14

For the body is not one member, but many.

The body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

1 Corinthians 12:25

so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

(a) No division means that within the church there is to be no clergy/laity distinction and no distinction based on gender or race (Gal. 3:28). Each part should have equal concern for one other. Just as there is no division in a body, there should be no division in the church. “Each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5).

(b) The body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

1 Corinthians 12:27

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

You are Christ’s body. The body of Christ is the Church, of which Christ is the head (Eph. 5:23). “We who are many are one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5).

Spiritual union is such an alien concept to the natural mind that the Bible provides many pictures to help us grasp it (e.g., a vine and its branches, the temple of the living God, the Lamb and the bride). But the metaphor which appears most often in the New Testament is that of the body of Christ of which every believer is a member (Rom. 12:4, 5, 1 Cor. 6:15, 10:17, 12:12-20, 22-25, 27, Eph. 3:6, 4:4, 4:15-16, 5:23, 30, Col 1:18, 2:19, 3:15).

See also the entry for Union.

1 Corinthians 12:28

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

(a) First… second… third. Paul is listing different roles or ministries given by God for the equipping of the saints (Eph. 4:11–12).

It would be a mistake to interpret these roles in terms of ranks or positions of authority. The church has only one Head and no hierarchy (Eph. 1:22). The church is a family, not an army. These roles are coaches, not colonels.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there any suggestion that some are to rule over others (Matt. 20:25–26, 1 Pet. 5:3). A better way to think about apostles, prophets, teachers, and so on is they are God’s gifts to the church. God gave us apostles and prophets so the church might be built up and strengthened (Eph. 4:8, 11).

(b) Apostles. The original word (apostolos) means a delegate or ambassador, or someone who has been sent out as a messenger for God. Although we have all be called to go and proclaim the good news, those with an apostolic gifting excel in this activity. See also the entry for 1 Cor. 1:1.

(c) Prophets. Although all believers can prophesy (1 Cor. 14:31), not all do. Those who excel in this area may be recognized as prophets. Examples of prophets include Agabus (Acts 21:10), Judas and Silas (Act 15:32), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8–9).

(c) Teachers. Although all believers may teach (Heb. 5:12), not all do. Those who excel in this area may be recognized as teachers. Before Paul and Barnabas were commissioned as an apostles, they were numbered among the teachers of Antioch (Acts 13:1–2).

(d) Miracles; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:10.

(e) Healings; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:9.

(f) Helps. The gift of helps or service is the ability to reveal Jesus the Servant-king by helping or serving others (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:15). The original word (antilepsis) means relief.

(g) Administrations. The original word (kubernesis) is found nowhere else in scripture and means to steer or pilot the ship. They are the organizers and administrators who keep things moving and stop the ship running aground.

(h) Tongues; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:10.

See also the entry for “Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:29

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?

(a) All are not. Not everyone is an apostle or prophet. Not everyone works miracles or teaches. But this doesn’t mean you cannot do these things. Jesus said anyone who believes in him can do the works he did and greater works besides (John 14:12). For this reason we are to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:31, 14:1).

(b) Apostles; see previous verse.

(c) Prophets; see previous verse.

(d) Teachers; see previous verse.

(e) Miracles; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:10.

1 Corinthians 12:30

All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

(a) Healings. Although every believer has the ability to heal the sick (Mark 16:18), not every believer exercises this spiritual gift. See entry for 1 Cor. 12:9.

(b) Tongues. Although every believer has the ability to speak in tongues (Mark 16:17, 1 Cor. 14:5), not every believer exercises this spiritual gift. See entry for 1 Cor. 12:10.

(c) Interpret. Although every believer has the ability to interpret tongues, not every believer exercises this spiritual gift. In settings where there are no interpreters, speaking in tongues should be kept private (see 1 Cor. 14:27–28).

1 Corinthians 12:31

But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

The greater gifts are those that make a greater contribution. For example, prophecy is a greater gift than speaking in tongues because it benefits everyone, while speaking in tongues only benefits the speaker (see entry for 1 Cor. 14:5).

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