1 Corinthians 12:28-31 ~ 20141012 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/12 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 Jealously Desire Greater Gifts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141012_1cor12_28-31.mp3
27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.
1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Paul is listing some of the diverse grace-gifts, services and workings of the Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus. Distinct and different manifestations of the same Spirit are given to each believer for the common good. The Corinthians are striving for the more showy and supernatural manifestations as signs of elevated spirituality. Paul turns this status seeking upside down and lists their more sensational gifts last and the least exciting or impressive gifts first.
The Last Shall Be First
This fits with what Jesus taught his status seeking disciples.
The disciples, just like the Corinthians, just like all of us, wanted to be first. They wanted to be served. Jesus turned that expectation on its head. The most important is the last of all and servant of all. That is exactly how Paul described the role of Apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. He said they had been put on display as a public spectacle, they were foolish, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, beat up, homeless, manual laborers, reviled, persecuted, slandered, scum and refuse. Those who were the least had become the greatest. Those who lacked honor have been clothed in special honor. The apostles, those who served as the foundational eye-witnesses to the life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus had become first in the church.
Prophets, those who spoke on behalf of God to his people, those who prepared the way and pointed to Jesus, those who convict and convert, those who build up, encourage, teach, and console. In the list of gifts at the beginning of this chapter, prophecy is paired with distinguishing between spirits, the ability to evaluate the genuineness and accuracy of prophecy. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 tells us not to despise prophesies, but to test everything, which may indicate that there was a tendency in the church to despise prophets or prophecies. Prophets had become second in the church.
Teachers, those who make disciples, those who teach truth and encourage obedience to Jesus, those who bring unity to the body, who protect from error, who mature and equip the body for works of service, the teachers are third in the body of Christ.
The rest of the list does not come in a specific order. It is first, second, third, then, then, and three others. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. This is how God sovereignly appointed his church to function.
Then miracles. When we looked at the list at the beginning of this chapter, we saw that miracles, or workings can be power to do mighty deeds, authority over demonic powers, or the power of the gospel to rescue sinners.
Then Grace-Gifts of Healings
Here, as in the first list, miracles or workings of power is paired with healing. Grace-gifts of healings. Both words, gifts and healings, are plural, indicating that there may be multiple gifts of different kinds of healings. Healings can be spiritual or physical, and can be supernatural or medical. Jesus opened the eyes of those who were born blind, and he opened the eyes of those who were blind to the beauty and truth of the gospel. He raised the dead, and he gave life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. Various grace-gifts of healings.
The next two gifts, helping and administration, are new, not mentioned in the other lists. In fact, these two gifts aren't mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.
This idea of helping can mean 'taking hold' in the sense of plants taking root; it can mean physical support in the sense of bandages or splints applied to injuries, it can mean administrative assistance in the sense of carrying out official duties. The word is in the plural, implying that there are different kinds of help. The verb form of this word in found in Acts 20:35. Paul says:
Here we see helping in the sense of caring for basic necessities, giving assistance to those in need. It is also used in the context of serving a master in 1 Timothy 6.
The master is helped or benefited by the good service of a servant. Some servants were put in charge of the finances and investments of a master. Some servants were put in charge of other servants, managing the affairs of the household. Other servants were simply available to help in whatever capacity needed. This is a broad term that can include many different types of service.
This seems to be the idea behind the appointing of deacons in Acts 6.
The deacons were selected to come alongside the Apostles, to assist them in the administration of the daily distribution, to free them up to focus on the activities and responsibilities that they were uniquely gifted and equipped for. They supported and assisted the Apostles both in the mission of advancing the gospel and in administration of the care for the needy.
This gift may overlap with the gifts listed in Romans 12 as the one who serves, one who exhorts or comes alongside, one who contributes, or one who does acts of mercy. It may overlap with the gift listed in 1 Peter 4 as the one who serves.
Helping is paired with administrating. This word is also in the plural; indicating that there are different forms of administrating. A closely related word is translated in Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17 as 'pilot' or 'shipmaster'. Both forms of this word are derived from a Latin word meaning 'to steer'. This word paints the picture of a pilot or helmsman, one who wisely navigates a ship through dangerous waters, carefully avoiding the rocks of false teaching, faithfully holding her steady through the winds of dissension and division, and the waves strife and status seeking, wisely able to see the big picture, keep the destination in mind, and keep the ship from veering off course.
This gift may overlap with the gift listed in Romans 12 as 'one who leads'. It seems this concept of piloting fits the picture of the leadership gifts painted in Ephesians 4.
We need leaders, those who can steer, those with steadfastness, vision, and wisdom to keep us on course.
We need helpers, those who come alongside, those who help others to take root, those who are a support to the broken, those who serve, those who assist others, who free others up to do what they were meant to do.
These gifts may seem plain, ordinary, unspectacular, even natural, but these gifts are just as necessary, (arguably much more necessary) than the more showy gifts, they are a free gift of God's grace to the church. Helping, administrating, coming alongside, steering are just as supernatural, just as Spirit wrought, just as as originated in the triune God, just as empowered by God, just as divinely ordained and purposed for the good of the body and the glory of Christ as any of the other gifts. As Paul has said, those who seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those we think less honorable, we give greater honor.
Various Kinds of Tongues
Last on the list, the favorite of the Corinthians, is tongues. Tongues or languages, as we saw before and will look at more carefully in chapter 14, are words of prayer or praise spoken to God, in languages not always understood by the speaker, requiring explanation to be understood by others.
Not Anyone is Everything
The structure of these sentences in the original makes it clear that the answer to each question is no. Clearly, not all are apostles. Not everyone was an eye-witness to the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously not all are apostles.
Not all are prophets. In the broad sense, many may speak on behalf of God to the people. Many may convict, convert, console, build up, and encourage. Paul tells us that we should all desire to prophesy, but not everyone is a prophet.
Not all are teachers. All believers may teach truth, encourage obedience and make disciples of Jesus, but James warns that not everyone will be a teacher.
Not all work miracles or possess grace-gifts of healings. Not all speak in languages or interpret.
Some groups even today make speaking in tongues the necessary evidence of salvation or of Spirit baptism, or a mark of a higher plane of spirituality. This passage expressly prohibits that kind of nonsense. Not all speak with tongues. None of these grace-gifts can be the infallible sign of spirituality, because not every Spirit baptized divinely equipped follower of Jesus has all the gifts. These are gifts freely given by God's grace to be used for the common good. Each one is a body part, a limb or an organ. If I had all the gifts, I would be a complete body and I would have no need of you. But no one does. I need you. We need each other. No one can say they do not belong.
Covet Earnestly the Greater Gifts
Paul says something startling to transition into chapter 13. He tells us to covet the greater grace-gifts.
This word is translated here and three times in chapter 14 as 'earnestly desire' or be 'eager for', but often this word is used in the negative sense of covetousness or envy, as it is in 13:4, 'love does not envy'. This is where we get our word zeal, zealous or zealot. It is a powerful emotional word, and communicates passion and strong desire.
The Corinthians were eager for gifts that granted them high social or spiritual status. Paul exhorts them with a touch of irony to be zealous for the greater gifts, but to allow him to redefine the greater gifts as those that build up others rather than self, those that they had despised, those they considered the lowest, the most menial or ordinary. Zealously pursue self-sacrificial service to others.
If one member is honored, all rejoice together; Paul holds up the greater gifts for honor, so that the whole body can rejoice. He exhorts us to long for the greater gifts to be in full effect and power in our local congregation; that the greater gifts, the gifts that build up, would be manifest. Not that I would seek any gift for myself, but genuinely seek the health of the whole body, of which I am a part, and in which I suffer if the greater gifts are absent.
And he will show us a superabundant far surpassing exceedingly better way, something even greater than all the greatest gifts, the way of love.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org