1 Corinthians 12-14 Purpose of Gifts

1 Corinthians 12-14 Purpose of Gifts


Psalm 137:1-9 Love and Hate
Ps 137:1 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows in its midst, we hung up our harps. 3 For there, those who led us captive asked us for songs. Those who tormented us demanded songs of joy: "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing Yahweh’s song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. 6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I don’t remember you; if I don’t prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy.
7 Remember, Yahweh, against the children of Edom, the day of Jerusalem; who said, "Raze it! Raze it even to its foundation!" 8 Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, he will be happy who rewards you, as you have served us. 9 Happy/blessed shall he be, who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock.

Observations: 137:1-9 This imprecatory psalm laments the captivity in Babylon and calls down curses on those who rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem, namely Edom and Babylon. The Babylonians tormented the exiles with demands for songs of Zion. The psalmist replies that Jerusalem is his greatest delight, and one can't sing joyfully while away from it. He asks God to judge Edom for cheering the destruction of Jerusalem, and to justly repay the Babylonians, destroying their children as Babylon destroyed Israel's.
Application: If we loyally love God, we will hate His enemies, and long for His wrath to be poured out upon them.
Prayer: God, may I find joy in You regardless of my circumstances, and trust that You will execute justice upon the earth, as You've promised. Amen.



TMS John 15:7 Abiding in the Vine
Jn 15:7 “If you abide in Me,
and My words abide in you,
you will ask what you desire,
and it shall be done for you.“

10 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this --- to love one another just as I have loved you.

Observations: 15:7 We need to remain engrafted into Jesus, the true vine, if we wish to live the abundant life (see verses 10-12). We must draw our direction, motivation, and strength from Him, as a function of His word abiding/remaining In us. Only then can we claim the promise of this verse, that we can ask Him what we desire, and expect it to be done for us. This is not a blank check to fulfill our lusts; the promises is qualified by abiding, which changes our desires, and the next chapter elaborates the necessity of asking in Jesus' name (see comments on that post).
John 16:24 "Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete."
Application: For a fruitful prayer life, we need to be abiding in Jesus, and have His words abide in us.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for caring about my joy, and outlining the way to achieve it; I'm glad that You know what's best for me, and will guide me towards it, as I prayerfully trust You. Amen.


1 Corinthians 12-14 This section considers the purpose and exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Body of believers. A gift was God's allotment of grace to NT believers at the time of conversion, given to exert Christ's control over His Body, by empowering believers to serve and build up the Body. To use one's gift for selfish rather than other-centered purposes is not Christlike. See the Goofy About Gifts outline on Truthbase.net.


1 Corinthians 12 Everybody is a Part of the Body
12:1 Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were heathen, you were led away to those mute idols, however you might be led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no man speaking by God’s Spirit says, "Jesus is accursed." No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," but by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. 6 There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; 10 and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages. 11 But the one and the same Spirit works all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires.
12 For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot would say, "Because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body," it is not therefore not part of the body. 16 If the ear would say, "Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body," it’s not therefore not part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now they are many members, but one body. 21 The eye can’t tell the hand, "I have no need for you," or again the head to the feet, "I have no need for you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 Those parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor; and our unpresentable parts have more abundant propriety; 24 whereas our presentable parts have no such need. But God composed the body together, giving more abundant honor to the inferior part, 25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. Or when one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you.

Observations: 12:1-11 Paul now turns his attention to the questions the Corinthians had asked him regarding manifestations of the Spirit. Pagans had spiritual manifestations too that caused them to follow after demonic influences.  The content and result of spiritual manifestations is used to determine whether its good or bad, from God or satan.  When they were pagans, they were led astray to mute idols, and by ignorance, the same could happen regarding speech (most mystery religions had ecstatic utterances).  This section continues the theme of limiting individual rights and freedoms for the benefit of others, in light of God's future reward. After establishing the unity of the Trinity in the operation of “gifts” Paul states the basic principle that the manifestations of the Spirit are given for the benefit of all. The unity of the Body is the goal, and is achieved by diversity of the parts. The Holy Spirit distributes to each person, separately, as He desires. It's His will, not our seeking, that determines what the Holy Spirit distributes.
12:12-31 By the work of the Holy Spirit all believers were incorporated or immersed/baptized into the Body of Christ; this occurs when we believe and are regenerated (cf Eph 1:13). The result is that all are members of the Body, set in place as God desired (12:18), and all have an integral part to play. If the body were just one big part, where would the body be? Therefore, each member has a role to play for the benefit of the body. Recall that in the early church, there was no NT, there were only occasional visits and letters from the apostles. God supernaturally gifted people, with skills and abilities they did not have before they were believers, to meet the needs of the Body. In cases where God's will needed to be known, the Holy Spirit would communicate His words through the prophets. The church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, proclaiming the word of God (Eph 2:20-21). When God's message needed to be authenticated, God's Spirit would confirm His message with miracles. Not all had the same gift (bestowal of grace), and the grace was to be used for the benefit of all. Note that Paul lists tongues last, since that was causing some problems among the carnal Corinthians. Note too, that Paul tells them to earnestly desire the best gifts, but earlier clearly made the case that they already had the gifts as God desired and apportioned to each. So this doesn't refer to seeking a gift for oneself, but rather seeking the manifestation of the gifts for the common good. The eternal truth of God being communicated would have a greater benefit to the body than one individual being healed, because that word would be applicable every day to every believer, present and future. While the healing was an individual benefit that resulted in God being glorified (as did Jesus' authenticating miracles, and those of the apostles) the enduring truth had a longer term impact.

Application: We each have an important function to fulfill in a Body of believers, but not having a particular gift does not exempt an NT believer from serving the needs of others in love.

Prayer: God, may I be sensitive to how You want me to use what You've given me for the benefit of others. Amen.



1 Corinthians 13 Love is the Greatest
13:1 If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. 3 If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, 5 doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 6 doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will pass away. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.

Observations: 13:1-3 The odds are that if you've been to a Christian wedding, there was some mention of this chapter, and rightly so. But it should also be the marching orders for believers in an assembly/church, who were commanded to love one another by their Lord (Jn 13:35). It's one of the key questions on the final exam of life. How have you loved your fellow believers as yourself? Failure to act in love is failure to lay up treasure in heaven, and forfeiture of reward. Note that every time the Scriptures portray the angels speaking, their words are totally intelligible.
13:4-7 The characteristics of love (including the one in the beginning of verse 8) are worth defining, understanding, and applying; see application below.
13:8 Love endures, but gifts cease. Prophecies, tongues, and words of knowledge have a limited time for being useful. In the early church, when there was a need to know God's will, prophecy or a Spirit directed word of knowledge provided that answer (see last chapter comments). Two different verbs and tenses are used regarding the ending of the gifts. For prophecy and knowledge, when “that which is complete/perfect/mature has come” then the partial will pass away or no longer be in effect. Tongues would cease, in and of themselves (subjunctive middle) from a verb that is used of storms subsiding, or people stopping speaking.
There are three options for when this ending takes place, 1) in heaven or the kingdom, 2) when the NT canon was completed, or 3) when the Body reaches a level of maturity where it can grow and reproduce without them (a view which best accounts for all the NT data).
The first view, seeing and knowing clearly, could also be true of the other views. It would be obvious that when this ages ends, so would all that belongs to it. Therefore this view would be somewhat redundant. However, the last verse of this chapter (13:13) makes this view impossible.
Many who favor the second view consider the coming of the NT (canon), a function of the ministry of the apostles and prophets (the gifted men in Eph 4), who laid the foundation of the church, to be the end point Paul had in mind. When people had access to the NT they could know what Jesus said, and the Spirit wanted, because it was clearly and objectively written. They would have full knowledge, and there would be no longer need for supernatural revelation, other than what the Spirit of Truth had guided them to write and say.
The third view builds on the second, and incorporates data from the other epistles, where the ministries of the gifts and gifted men are supplanted the maturity of the Body. See comments in Ephesians 4 where a pretty airtight case will be made for the cessation of the gifted men mentioned there, when their purpose is fulfilled. Tongues aren't mentioned in Ephesians 4, which talks about the purpose of specific gifted men, but the purpose of tongues is spelled out in 1Corinthians 14 (next chapter).
Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest is love. This statement invalidates the first view above, because the end point Paul had in mind, still had these three “graces.” Faith and hope are no longer operative in the kingdom, because faith has become sight, and the hope (of reward) is no longer a hope, but a realized possession.

Application: Look up each of the descriptions of love (in Thayer's Lexicon on OnlineBible or Biblos, or theWord, and then skim all the occurrences of the word in the NT, by plugging Strong's number into the program's search box); understand how such a characteristic would be useful in developing unified interpersonal relationships (with other Body members, family members, roommates, co-workers and other relationships); and then apply one each month.
“Lord, help me be patient and not do X when so and so does Y, but rather help me respond with Z.” (Imagining and ingraining the loving response to an irritation is a way of being transformed by the renewing of your mind - Romans 12:1-2).

Prayer: God, thanks for loving me, and teaching me what it is; may I love others as You have loved me. Amen.


1 Corinthians 14 Purpose of Gifts
14:1 Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you (as a Body) may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation. 4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly. 5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.
6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? 7 Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they didn’t give a distinction in the sounds, how would it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who would prepare himself for war? 9 So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand, how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of sounds in the world, and none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I don’t know the meaning of the sound, I would be to him who speaks a foreigner, and he who speaks would be a foreigner to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek that you may abound to the building up of the assembly. 13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16 Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn’t know what you say? 17 For you most certainly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up. 18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all. 19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. 20 Brothers, don’t be children in thoughts, yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature.
21 In the law it is written, "By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord." 22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe. 23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won’t they say that you are crazy? 24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.
26 What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up. 27 If any man speaks in another language, let it be two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. 30 But if a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted. 32 The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints,
34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly.
36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Observations: 14:1-5 The first verse is in the second person plural, addressing the Body, not the individual members. See comments on 12:1-11 for why this can not be a reference to the personal seeking of individual gifts (they were all distributed as God determined). The Body should seek the use or manifestation of the gifts that build up the Body, since that's their purpose. Prophecy accomplishes that purpose by edifying, exhorting, and consoling (which is a good functional definition -verse 3), and as a result builds up the Body. Tongues on the other hand, just build up the person speaking (maybe because their worth or value gets boosted by using their gift?), because no one can understand them. He speaks mysteries to God, but whatever he is saying is a mystery to everyone else, so why would the tongue speaker be wasting everyone's time with the incomprehensible? (Oh, some preachers do that all the time.) If it is only benefiting themselves, it's the selfish behavior that God judges, like that exhibited at the Lord's Supper. If the tongue was interpreted so that people could understand what was being said, the Body would be edified, which is why he'd rather they all prophesied rather than spoke in tongues. Paul's comment that he wishes they all spoke in tongues, but rather that they all prophesied, can be taken a number ways. 1) Once his readers understand the purpose of tongues (a sign to unbelievers14:22), he wishes they all spoke in tongues so more of his kinsmen the Jews would be saved. 2) In light of the comments at the beginning of this section, he can't mean that he wants a church full of tongue speakers, nor a church full of prophets, because God has already distributed to each as He wills. When tongues are interpreted, they can function as prophecy, an intelligible message from God. 3) The grammar of verse 5 is an indicative (“wish”), an infinitive (“to speak”), and a hina+subjunctive (which always expresses a purpose statement = “purpose prophesying”). This yields a translation: “Instead/but I wish that all you desiring to speak in tongues would rather instead purpose to prophesy.” Thus Paul wants all the tongues speakers to prophesy, but this would be incompatible with the fact that they can't change what God has given them, unless they do so via interpretation.
For those tongue speakers who are puffed up by their gift, Paul reminds them that prophecy is greater.
14:6-19 Tongues in Acts 2 were known languages. Angels always spoke intelligibly, even in heaven. The gift of tongues was translatable into known speech. There is no basis for equating tongues with the “ecstatic speech” of the pagan religions (they all had it, particularly the mystery religions), and it was frequently a result of demons possessing the bodies of the “worshipers.” Judeo-Christianity is a cognitive religion, with the understandable truth to an individual with a call for a response of the will (worship = response to revelation -See Gen 22). So to bypass one's mind is to fail to love God with all your mind. Unless the sounds have distinction/meaning, they are useless. The speaker of something unintelligible isn't even speaking to God, much less other believers, but rather the air. See Goofy about Gifts on Truthbase.net.
14:20-25 Children often fail to understand the purpose and nature of things, so Paul gives the purpose of tongues by quoting Isaiah 28:10-11. It's a reference to God raising up the Assyrians to judge the Israelites, who failed to listen to His prophets. The Assyrians spoke a language the Jews couldn't understand, as they were being taken into captivity. In NT times God was judging the Jews by demonstrating His power in a new group, the church. Tongues were a sign of encouragement the believers on the day of Pentecost that God was with them, but a sign of judgment that God was no longer with the Jews. So tongues are sign for unbelievers, not believers. Prophecy on the other hand, is for believers, and a means of convicting unbelievers, by presenting them with propositional truth which exposes their sin. An unbeliever walking into an assembly of people speaking languages no one understands would conclude that they are crazy. But if convicted by the Holy Spirit of truth, will confess that God is among the believers.
14:26 So when the church gathers everyone should bring something to build up the others. See the Catacomb Church Blog under Edification for how this should work. Everyone, means everyone needs to focus on offering something that will build up one another (there's another of the one another passages). If someone is going to speak in tongues, pray for an interpreter, otherwise, not a sound should be uttered, or they have crossed the line into self-centered sin. Prophets who speak for edification, exhortation, and comfort, (in the pre NT canon days), needed to do so in order, so all could hear and learn. In pagan religions the evil spirits took control of the people, in Yahweh worship, the prophets needed to be in control of themselves, yielding to others, for God is the God of order and peace. Women, mentioned previously in chapter 11 (see post comments there) were to keep silent, and listen. If they wanted to ask a question, they should ask their husbands at home (which is why the WEB translated “wives”). Who did single women ask? Could the church solicit questions, giving them permission to speak in a church setting? See more comments on this in the upcoming Catacomb Church Blog.
14:36-40 Paul ends with an admonition for the “spiritual” to recognize the words of the Spirit through His authenticated spokesman. He desires the primacy of prophecy, and forbids the forbidding of tongues (which had value when translated, and for unbelievers who could understand them in their native tongue). The last words are decently/honorably, and in order. Good ones.

Application: Our behavior in church should not be designed to bring attention to ourselves, but benefit to others. Next time you go, bring something that will build up others, and share it.

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, thanks that You limited Yourself for my benefit, may I do the same for the benefit of those for whom You died and rose again, my brothers and sisters in You. Amen.


Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God is a God of order and peace, not random confusion.

Build-a-Jesus:

Us in a nutshell: We need to seek to build up others, especially when gathering in the name of the Lord, or we will engage in unprofitable, unrewardable behavior, worthy of judgment.



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