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The daily summaries are written by Wayne D. Turner, Pastor of Fayette Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia

This is the September 6 reading. Select here for a new reading date:


BibleTrack Summary: September 6
<< 1 Cor 9

For New King James text and comment, click here.

I Corinthians 10-13    Listen Podcast

 

A warning to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 10:1-14)

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

Before Paul gets back to his discussion regarding eating meat offered to idols which he began back in I Corinthians 8:1 (see notes), he makes it clear to the Corinthians in these 14 verses that God does not ignore rebellion against himself. He does so by making reference to God's covenanted people of the Old Testament, the Jews. Even though he had a special protective relationship with the nation of Israel, he punished them, individually and corporately for their disobedient acts. He identifies that special relationship between God and Israel in verses 1-4 as he indicates that all the Hebrews were under the cloud of God's direction (The Shekinah Glory, see notes), miraculously crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 13, see notes), ate the "same spiritual meat" (the manna, Exodus 16, see notes) and drank the same water miraculously provided from the Rock where he refers to it as the "Rock that followed them." Paul is speaking of two Old Testament instances, Exodus 17:1-9 (see notes) and Numbers 20:1-13 (see notes). In the "Ryrie Study Bible" Charles Ryrie has the following entry: "Since the rock is mentioned twice, and is in different settings, a rabbinic legend held that a material rock actually followed the Israelites. Paul, however, says that it was Christ who was with Israel all the way."

Despite the fact that all of these Hebrews were chosen by God, Paul says in verse 5, "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness." Paul then makes reference to 4 separate examples of Israel's disobedience (verse 6, "lust after evil things") and resulting action from God.

So why did Paul recount these four instances of Israel's disobedience? Look at verse 11, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." Here's a principle of God with which many Believers seem to have a problem. God has always used physical chastisement to correct his people when they disobey. There are a host of teachers today who insist that Satan is the source of all sickness in Believers - that God never inflicts sickness on his children. That teaching has no foundation in scripture whatsoever. In the next chapter we'll see that Paul attributes sickness and death among the Corinthians to God's chastising hand (11:29-32, see below) just as he did in these four Old Testament instances. It is a well-established principle of God's dealing with his people. Hebrews 12:6-8 (see notes) says, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." To express it simply: God deals with us just as a good father deals with his son; he corrects him when he disobeys.

Verse 13 ties this section together for the Believer; it's a great promise verse that says, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Now let's understand the context in which this was written; it follows four instances where God's people (Israel) succumbed to the tempting circumstances around them and forsook the leadership of God. Then in verse 14 we see the segue from Israel's struggle with idolatry back to the discussion of the meat offered to idols which Paul began in I Corinthians 8:1 (see notes). In verse 14 Paul says simply, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."

I suppose in speaking of idolatry, we should also point out Paul's reference to it in Colossians 3:5 (see notes), "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." The Greek word used there is "pleonexia" and typically equates with "greediness." However, only used 10 times in the New Testament, context seems to indicate some dishonesty or problems with integrity in the process of exercising that greed. Since Paul equates "covetousness" with "idolatry," and God destroyed Israel and Judah for idolatry, Believers' interests are best served by steering away from any covetous activity in their lives. Although, in the context of this passage of scripture from I Corinthians 8 down through I Corinthians 10, Paul is obviously speaking of literal idolatry as practiced in the pagan temples.

So what about that meat offered to idols (I Corinthians 10:15-22)

15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

Here, Paul makes a distinction regarding knowledge of the origin of the meat eaten. He seems to be saying that the Corinthians should not seek meat offered to pagan gods. Actively seeking it would imply participation in the pagan ritual. Paul implies this differentiation: The meat is not actually contaminated in any way, but to seek it out might be taken as an endorsement of pagan practices.

Paul uses two examples to demonstrate that a substance only has greater meaning within the context of the ritual itself:

Just so, this meat offered to idols only has a pagan spiritual significance within the context of the pagan ritual itself. Therefore, within the context of the ritual, eating that meat is wrong for a Believer (verses 19-22). In very strong words, Paul discourages participation in any way with anything that would endorse or encourage the practice of offering meats to pagan idols.

But what about the meat...I mean really! (I Corinthians 10:23-33)

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.
25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:
29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?
30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

You've often heard the old saying, "What you don't know can't hurt you." By the way, that saying isn't true in every context, but here, perhaps it is. So...is the meat itself really ritually unclean, per se, to Believers if it has been offered in sacrifice to idols? Nope! The anchor verse for this position is verse 23, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." Two words should be noted here, "expedient" and "edify." The word "expedient" comes from the Greek verb "sumphero" and means "to bring together" or "to profit." The Greek verb for "edify" is "oikodomeo" and means "to build up." Here's the question for all Christian activity, "Does it profit and build up others?" Then Paul elaborates by sharing a practice which some might consider hypocritical: Sometimes it's okay to eat the meat and sometimes it is not okay. There are a lot of people who like absolutes; the "sometimes" and "sometimes not" kinda throws 'em. This discussion is really a principled discussion about any number of practices - not just about meat offered to idols. The real issue is whether or not something one allows in his lifestyle becomes a stumblingblock to others - like eating meat offered to idols. Mature Believers don't practice offensive habits around people who are offended by them.

Verse 25 is clear, "Don't ask!" Verse 26 explains why - wherever it comes from, it all belongs to God. Paul expands on this lesson in verses 27-29. If you go to a feast where you suspect the meat has been offered to idols, go ahead and eat it. However, if someone says, "Hey! That meat has been offered to idols!" Then, don't eat. That's really simple; don't you agree? Verse 32 says, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:" That verse covers everybody - Jews, Gentiles and Believers. Paul's talking about projecting a testimony here. Mature Christians are willing to limit their liberty in Christ to project a positive testimony.

How far do you carry this testimony thing? Let's see what Paul's personal practice was in verse 33, "Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." When he was around those who might take offense to certain aspects of the liberty he experienced in Christ, he limited his liberty for their sakes; that's just what spiritually-mature Christians do. If you're looking for a memory verse that accurately encapsulates Paul's position here, there it is in verse 31, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Paul completes this discussion in 11:1 when he says, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." In other words, Paul recommends that others adopt his practice regarding this meat offered to idols which he has just outlined in these preceding verses.

For more perspective on this issue, Paul also deals with it in Romans 14 (see notes). In that passage, Paul expands the discussion beyond that of eating meat offered to idols; he covers all aspects of a Christian's personal testimony before the world.

Paul presents himself as an example (I Corinthians 11:1-16)

1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

Verse 1 is really a completion of the previous chapter. Incidentally, chapter divisions in the Bible were added in 1205 by Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris (he later became Archbishop of Canterbury), who put these into a Vulgate edition of the Bible. It was Robert Stephanus, a Parisian book printer, who took over the verse divisions already indicated in the Hebrew Bible and assigned numbers to them within the chapter divisions already assigned by Stephan Langton. While riding on horseback from Paris to Lyons he affixed his own verse divisions to the New Testament and numbered them within Langton's chapter divisions. Prior to that time when folks looked at Old and New Testament manuscripts, there were no divisions - just one continuous long epistle from beginning to end.

In this new topic beginning with verse 2, Paul outlines the relationship that exists among God, husbands and wives. I should point out that there is no distinction in the Greek between "husband" and "man" ("aner" is translated both ways), nor is there a distinction between "wife" and "woman" ("gune" is translated both ways). Context alone dictates how these Greek words are appropriately rendered in English. The relationship of God to a wife through her husband is an important concept stated in verse 3 and reinforced throughout the Old and New Testaments. The discussion here is a symbol of this authority. Some have taken these verses to mean that a woman should wear some sort of a head covering when going to church. Since there is no scriptural evidence of this practice outside of this passage, it is difficult to say what their practice really was. In first-century Hebrew culture, it is very likely that women did wear some sort of a head covering. However, such was not the case in the first century in Roman and Greek culture.

It does appear from this passage that the hair plays an important part in the discussion of a covering. In relationship to a woman, Paul seems to be making a point that long hair for a man is not appropriate; it indicates submission and not authority. Verse 15, conversely, would indicate that the whole issue of a woman's covering is solved with her long hair; her hair is her covering. Whatever the historic context of this passage, I am convinced that if it were important for a woman to wear a covering on her head in addition to her hair, it would have been a subject receiving attention elsewhere in scripture. Therefore, I am relatively certain that Paul's solution to the hair-covering issue is for a woman to be covered with hair, distinguishable in style from that of a man. That's the main point of his discussion here concluded in verses 14 and 15.

How long is long and how short is short? Search me. I believe to get caught up in that argument is to minimize the point; this text is about relationships and authority; style is incidental to the emphasis of the passage. For a discussion of personal preference in one's lifestyle, I always defer to I Corinthians 8 (see notes) and 10 (see above) along with Romans 14 (see notes). Romans 14:21 has always served as my guide on such issues, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." A Believer committed to Christ simply does not want to cause others to stumble; that Believer will live accordingly. He won't let a hairstyle preference hamper his personal testimony.

In the process of this discussion, Paul is very specific and emphatic about the relationship between husbands and wives, invoking their order in creation to make his point in verses 7-12. He first refers back to the order of creation in Genesis 1:26-2:25 (see notes), the creation of man in God's image and the woman from the man.

From the record of creation, Paul concludes three things:

However, after making those three distinctions, Paul concludes in verse 11-12, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God." In other words, husbands and wives complete each other, and they have separate and distinct roles within the marriage relationship. However, can it be denied from this passage that Paul is asserting that the husband should serve in the dominant role within the family structure? That concept doesn't diminish the concept of equality between husbands and wives, but rather designates roles within the marriage relationship. Hey! In an army, somebody's gotta be in charge!

Incidentally, it occurs to me that the practice of removing one's hat in church or during prayer must have been originally derived from verse 4. It's not completely clear the meaning of Paul's reference to angels in verse 10. It would appear that angels have certain expectations of order within the family and church; we wouldn't want to disappoint them, would we?

Finally, in I Corinthians 11:16 says, "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." Well...that settles that issue - NO CONTENTION WITHIN THE LOCAL ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS! This verse is obviously intended as a follow up to the discussion of verses 1-15. Therefore, with regard to the relationship of men and women within the family and the church, follow the guidelines prescribed in order to avoid contention within the assembly. Within the church, this passage implies that men are to take the leadership role.

When the Lord's Supper is not really the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:17-22)

17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

Well...they called what they were doing the Lord's Supper, but their abuse made it irreverent and just plain ol' wrong. Paul says in verse 20, "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper." It was a strange custom they observed - perhaps more akin to the pagan love feasts so popular in their city than to any semblance of a scriptural observance of communion. Paul tells them to do their eating and drinking at home. Here's the problem: To these carnal Christians, their rendition of the Lord's Supper was just more akin to hedonistic pleasure than legitimate observance. They just couldn't seem to bring themselves to quit their disgusting practice. So...in verse 17 Paul characterizes their coming together for communion as improper ("for the worse"). This has caused "divisions" (Verse 18). There's heresy associated with the practice (verse 19), but there are some who are honorable ("that they which are approved"). Don't do your eatin' at church while calling it the observance of communion!

A brief explanation of the ordinance (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

Paul explains the purpose and simplicity of the ordinance that brings into focus the sacrifice Christ made for each of us on the cross. The institution of this ordinance is found in Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20 (see notes).

Following are the essentials of communion from this passage:

What about those unexplained illnesses and deaths in the Corinth church? (I Corinthians 11:27-34)

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

Now we come to a portion of scripture that gives a lot of Believers trouble. Let me introduce it by asking this question, "Is God ever directly responsible for making a Believer sick or causing him to die?" This passage answers that question. There are many Bible preachers and teachers who teach that ALL sickness comes from Satan and ALL wellness and prosperity comes from God. Along with that teaching it is said that (1) since all sickness comes from Satan; (2) God wants everyone to be healthy; (3) God has power over Satan; (4) all we must do is claim health and rebuke Satan in order to be healed...all the time; (5) and if we are not healed, it's because of a lack of our faith in God's power to heal. It's a handsome doctrine that I, too, once embraced for a short time in my early years. Only one problem...a BIG problem: it's not a scriptural doctrine, and there is no local assembly where one may see this principle in action. Those churches all have the same proportion of illnesses as any other church. As a matter of fact, Paul deals with this very notion back in I Corinthians 10:1-14 (see above).

Here's the reality of the issue. In fact, this passage clearly states that God himself had caused illness to come on some of the Corinthian Believers. Some would argue, however, that God only permitted Satan to make them ill. NOT SO! Look at our passage, I Corinthians 11:30-32, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Hebrews 12:6-8 (see notes) clearly says, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth..." So, who made them weak, sick and dead? Indisputably...it was God who did so. Should that surprise those of us who have studied the Old Testament? In fact, review I Corinthians 10:1-14 (see above) again to see the four examples of physical chastisement Paul cites for Israel's disobedience.

Meanwhile...back at the Corinthian church, what was so sinful that God had taken the lives of some there while afflicting others with sickness? It was rebellion! You say, "There must have been more to it than that!" Well...not really. I mean the circumstances were probably a little bit unique by today's standards, but ultimately they were afflicted for rebellion. Their actual act of rebellion was their refusal to observe the Lord's Supper with proper intent. Many have misunderstood what the word "unworthily" means in verses 27 and 29. Actually, the definition is given in verse 29, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body." "Unworthily" here has been misunderstood to mean "has each sin you ever committed in your life been remembered and confessed before God prior to taking communion." That's not what the Greek word "anaxios" means here, nor is that concept supported in context. The definition is given in verse 29 when it says, "not discerning the Lord's body." It means that they were not observing the Lord's Supper in a worthy fashion - making it instead akin to the pagan love feasts. Their observance was not at all a reflection on Christ's sacrifice...an unworthy observance, you see. If confused on this issue, go back to verses 23-26 (see above) to review the essentials of the practice of communion.

There's a principle here. Rebellion against God is rebellion against God - Old and New Testament. When a Believer refuses to do what God directs him to do, then he should expect a nudge from God. Chastisement is God's loving way of correcting his children; it's just the way that a good father corrects his children. There's one more point that is important to mention here: CONFESSION. I Corinthians 11:31 says, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." I John 1:9 (see notes) says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Listen...it's just plain ol' easier, in the midst of our own rebellion, to just confess it before God and get God's forgiveness.

There's some implied eternal security doctrine in verse 32, "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Chastisement is God's method of dealing with disobedient Believers - NOT to "be condemned with the world." A clear distinction is made here between the way that God deals with disobedient Believers as opposed to the way God deals with those who have rejected Christ for salvation.

I Corinthians 12
What about spiritual gifts?
For those who may be embracing the practice of speaking in tongues, I respectfully ask that you read these notes on the next three chapters with an open mind. All three chapters (12-14) should be taken together for a full overview. Click here to see the notes on I Corinthians 14.

In chapters 12-14 Paul deals with a problem at the Corinthian church which he felt no need to deal with in any of the other churches - at least by letter. That problem was the abuse of the manifestation of spiritual gifts. More particularly, the problem at the church seemed to be an unbridled manifestation of the vocal, showy gifts in the church services - tongues and prophesying. I think it is important to note that there are no passages in the scripture promoting speaking in tongues in church services. New Believers in Acts 2 (see notes), Acts 10 (see notes) and Acts 19 (see notes) spoke in tongues at salvation as a sign to the Jews (I Corinthians 1:22, see notes). The practice is mentioned nowhere else except in these three chapters to the Corinthians.

If you read the 11 chapters leading up to chapter 12, you'll have to admit that the people at Corinth were, as a whole, pretty...well...spiritually challenged. Let's review for a moment; they were called carnal and not spiritual in chapter 3; they were divided and contentious. He rebukes them for their haughty attitudes in chapter 4, for their embracing immorality in chapter 5 and their disregard for personal testimony before the secular court system in chapter 6. They lacked the spiritual insight to honor Paul as God's messenger in chapter 9 to the point that he chose not to even allow them to add to his financial support. In chapter 11 we find them emulating the pagan love feasts in the name of the Lord's Supper. So, let me ask you this question. Why is it that so many churches today are comfortable emulating the practices of the most carnal, immoral, contentious, rebellious, ordinance-abusive church in the New Testament? I could go ahead and tell you why right now, but I think it will be more meaningful to you if we just systematically formulate the answer over these next three chapters.

The Holy Spirit speaks spiritual things (I Corinthians 12:1-3)

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

The Corinthians were unregenerate pagans, for the most part, prior to salvation. Paul makes a distinction between the kinds of statements that will be made by demonic-inspired individuals as opposed to Holy-Spirit-led individuals i.e. the Spirit of God, who would never curse Jesus but rather acknowledge him as Lord.

The Holy Spirit gives different people different gifts (I Corinthians 12:4-11)

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Paul explains that there are differing, complementary gifts manifested in Believers when they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Paul lists 9 spiritual gifts as follows:

  1. "the word of wisdom"
  2. "the word of knowledge"
  3. "faith"
  4. "the gifts of healing"
  5. "the working of miracles"
  6. "prophecy"
  7. "discerning of spirits"
  8. "divers kinds of tongues"
  9. "the interpretation of tongues"

The scripture gives us very little insight regarding the exact form of practice for "the word of wisdom, "the word of knowledge," and the "discerning of spirits." It would appear that the very vocal gifts in operation in the church were "the word of knowledge," "prophecy" and "divers kinds of tongues" as seen in Paul's discussion of I Corinthians 13:8-10 (see below) and all of I Corinthians 14 (see notes). Based upon the discussions of those two chapters, it appears that these three manifestation gifts were prophecy related. In other words, they were used for the purpose of sharing direct revelation from God to the people. Of course, "the interpretation of tongues" goes along with "divers kinds of tongues."

The less-popular gifts of these eight verses are faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles and the discerning of spirits. We assume from this passage that "faith" refers to one's ability to trust God amidst unfavorable circumstances. The plural form of "gifts" of healing is curious. Some have taken this to mean that there were those who had the power to heal others, while many see it as manifestations of individual healings. However, the next gift mentioned is that of "the working of miracles." That would seem to indicate that there were those around whom healings and miracles seemed to take place in the course of their exercise of spiritual giftedness. The "discerning of spirits" in verse 10 is definitely the ability to determine that which is of God and that which is not.

The problem seemed to be (made evident in I Corinthians 14, see notes) that there was more personal recognition and glory heaped upon those who seemingly served as God's voice in the services (specifically, speaking in tongues and prophesying). There apparently was jealousy from those who could not muster up tongues or a prophecy in the services, and a great sense of personal pride for those who could. Paul's goal in these verses is to show that the Holy Spirit manifests himself in Believers in quiet activities as well; it's not all about being the center of attention in a worship service.

How about an analogy? (I Corinthians 12:12-26)

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

In these next few verses Paul uses an illustration of a human body. In his analogy, everybody wanting to speak in tongues in a church service is like every part of the human body wanting to be another, more visible part instead. Paul is personifying and imagining a foot being jealous of a hand, and an ear being jealous of an eye. In verse 23 Paul speaks of the parts we keep covered up and out of sight as the most important parts of the body. In other words, it's a good thing our hearts or kidneys don't give up their functions to become hands. It is obvious from this illustration that Paul is minimizing the importance of those showy manifestations taking place in the church services at Corinth.

I Corinthians 12:13 is worth a special note here, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." The term "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is used incorrectly in some circles, but here is the exact definition by Paul; it is the process whereby we are saved. That's right. All Believers become Believers by being "baptized" by the "Spirit" into the "body" of Christ. In other words, if you haven't been "baptized by the Holy Spirit," you haven't been saved. This doctrine is further confirmed by Paul in Romans 8:9 (see notes), "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." So, to simply restate it, all Believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit.

It should be pointed out that the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit is a separate process from the "filling" of the Holy Spirit. That is best seen in the discussion of Ephesians 5:18 (see notes), "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." To sum it up, the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit takes place at salvation for every Believer, while the "filling" of the Holy Spirit is a continuing process according to the discussion of Ephesians 5:1-21 (see notes).

How about a priority list (I Corinthians 12:27-31)

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28 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.
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Now, just in case they misunderstood which gifts were most vital to the local assembly, Paul orders them according to their value in the church. Yes, he does order them!

Take a look at the order of these gifts:

Hey! Why is this list different than the one found in verses 4-11? Don't miss the point of the list here; the items in the list are included to highlight one important reality: What's last in the order? Tongues! He concludes this chapter with the statement, "But covet earnestly the best gifts:" In other words, "You Corinthians get your priorities in order!"

The qualities of love (I Corinthians 13)
Now we come to an oft-used passage in weddings - the love chapter. Here's a question. Why, when Paul is in the midst of discussing the manifestation of spiritual gifts in the church service, does he seemingly pause that discussion to talk about love? In fact, he is still talking about the manifestation of spiritual gifts. Here's the deal. It is obvious that these Corinthians had developed a skewed system of determining whether or not a person was led by the Holy Spirit. Remember, they were carnal - not spiritual; he says so in I Corinthians 3:1-2 (see notes). Despite this fact, when they showed up for church on Sundays, it would appear (only appear) that everyone of them was under Holy Spirit leadership. Why? Because they carried on with the manifestation of spiritual gifts with a passion. Looking ahead to chapter 14 (see notes), we see this fact verified in 14:26, "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." So, you see, even though Paul called them carnal, they were wild with their carrying on in the church services. Chapter 13 is sandwiched here between 12 and 14 to demonstrate what the authentic indicator of leadership of the Holy Spirit really is - not showboating in the service, but a continual demonstration of love. He's not talking about love on Sundays only, but continually - all the time.

The spiritual gifts are nothing without love (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Paul is making a big point here. Speaking in tongues does not indicate Spirit leadership. Prophesying does not indicate Spirit leadership. The gift of knowledge does not indicate Spirit leadership. The gift of faith does not indicate spirit leadership. The working of miracles through faith does not indicate spirit leadership. All of these are contained in the list of spiritual gifts he mentioned in 12:8-10. It's interesting that he is not challenging them directly on the authenticity of the quality of their claim to possess these gifts, but he is saying that the real indicator of Spirit leadership is love, not the practicing of the manifestation of the gifts. He uses some pretty blunt language to describe their uselessness at the end of verses 1, 2 and 3 - "...I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," "...I am nothing" and "...it profiteth me nothing."

How can you tell if a person is led by the Holy Spirit? (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Here's the real indicator of a Spirit-controlled Believer - love (aka "charity"). The familiar Greek word here is "agape." It literally means sacrifice as you can see from these four verses. These four verses complement Galatians 5:22-23 (see notes), "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Let's be clear about this. These are the authentic indicators for which to look when determining whether or not a person is controlled by the Holy Spirit. Many misguided people, like the Corinthians, think that the indicator is how much a person carries on in the service with the spiritual gifts of 12:8-10 (see above). No, no, no! It's all about love demonstrated all day, seven days a week. Let's draw a painful conclusion here. If Paul proclaims in chapter 3 that they were, in fact, not spiritual - not led by the spirit (and he did), then how is it that in I Corinthians 14:26 (see notes) we see that they manifested a seemingly unbridled passion of the demonstration of the spiritual gifts? Answer: (please forgive me for saying) they were faking! Let's be honest here; what other conclusion can one draw? Isn't that, in essence, exactly what Paul is saying about these Corinthians? Of course he is.

Now, notice these specific qualities that are manifested when authentic love is in control:

Verse 4: "Charity suffereth long" - One gladly endures the burden that another places on him.
Verse 4: "is kind" - One is kind to another, even though he might be inconvenienced by him.
Verse 4: "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" - One is not motivated by ego or pride.
Verse 5: "Doth not behave itself unseemly" - Greek: "aschemoneo" is used in the context of not embarrassing the ones you love with inappropriate conduct.
Verse 5: "seeketh not her own" - Pursues the interests of others over their own.
Verse 5: "is not easily provoked" - One remains tolerant of others even in the face of provocation.
Verse 5: "thinketh no evil" - One does not desire to see harm (Greek: kakos) come on another.
Verse 6: "Rejoiceth not in iniquity" - One does not enjoy seeing another stumble in sin.
Verse 6: "rejoiceth in the truth" - One celebrates (Greek: sugchairo) another's obedience to the truth i.e. God's will.
Verse 7: "Beareth all things" - Greek: stego - to put up with annoyance or difficulty
Verse 7: "believeth all things" - Gives the benefit of the doubt i.e. assumes the best and not the worst.
Verse 7: "hopeth all things" - Greek: elpizo - anticipates with favor rather than disdain
Verse 7: "endureth all things" - Greek: hupomeno - Without reciprocation, remains favorably disposed toward

So, here's the deal: When your love is authentic toward someone else, the characteristics seen in verses 4-7 will be realized. Consider the demands of an infant. Though there is no reciprocation or apparent thankfulness on the part of the baby, a mother unselfishly meets all of the child's needs without resentment or expected payback. That's a demonstration of love. Real love towards another works that way no matter what the age.

Let's take a look at a real-life application...marriage: Verses 4-7 are perhaps the key verses to understanding the difference between a dating couple and a married couple. Before two people marry, the attributes of verses 4-7 generally come quite naturally. It is not atypical to see quite the opposite at some point after the marriage ceremony. Since "agapao" means "to sacrifice for," if two people attempt to exercise the qualities of love found in these verses, a marriage relationship can be restored. In other words, when two people are mutually considerate of one another, a natural love relationship grows; when two people are mutually inconsiderate of one another, the love relationship diminishes. Proverbs 10:12 (see notes) sums it up nicely: "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins."

These gifts are temporary (I Corinthians 13:8-13)

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Verse 8 says that love is a permanent quality of Spirit leadership; the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge are only temporary. "How temporary?" you might ask. All three of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit were for the purpose of providing direct revelation from God to Believers - the equivalent of what we have today in the Word of God, our Bible. Verse 9 emphasizes that each time someone manifested one of these gifts, it was just a partial manifestation of God's revelation - never the whole thing. The Bible is the whole thing; it is not partial. He says that when the whole thing is manifested, partial revelation of God's word will no longer be necessary.

Then he gives two analogies to make his point.

So, when do we get this clarity, this fullness of God's revelation. Paul didn't know when the New Testament canon would be closed, but I'm convinced he knew it would. He knew that a time was coming when people would not be subject to just a partial revelation of scripture provided by bits and pieces of prophecies, tongues and words of knowledge.

So, is this talking about the rapture of the church when it says in verse 10, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." There are a three primary reasons why I'm convinced Paul is not talking about the rapture.

In fact, we do proclaim that our Bible is the complete Word of God. So, here's the deal. Do you hold in your hands the completed revelation from God in your Bible? If you believe "yes," then you must admit that a partial revelation (i.e. tongues, prophecy or word of knowledge) is just plain ol' inferior to your Bible. One more question: Is it likely that Paul felt that the canon of the New Testament would one day be established as complete (Greek: telion ie. "perfect") just as the Old Testament canon had been completed prior to his day? Absolutely!

So, with that established, why speak in tongues and prophesy today at all? That's a good question. We'll answer that question in our summary of I Corinthians 14 (see notes).


For commentary on another passage, click here.


Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner