We begin with this foreword:
The word of God is the Tree of Life; and this Tree of Life is in the church today in the person of the Holy Spirit. He was given to the church on the Day of Pentecost to complete the divine order of the church of our Lord. His work is to glorify Christ, the Living Word of God and the Corner Stone of the church; to convict men of sin and to reconcile them unto God through His chosen vessels; to teach truth; to intercede for the saints with groanings too deep for words; to give strength; to aid and comfort---to manifest the attributes of our Heavenly Father in the Body of Christ; and to give gifts to men for the edifying of the same Body. Therefore there is nothing of more importance in the church than the doctrine of the influences and special gifts of the Holy Spirit. These doctrines should be received and regarded with the utmost respect.
From our studies we have learned that there was division in the church at Corinth; they were not of one mind and one accord. Usually at the root of division are a people of exaggerated self-importance---ego; and its first cousin, arrogance, most often accompanies this ego. Where such people are seated in the congregation or in the pulpit there is division; and division brings with it many, many other problems. After addressing the problems of quarrels, immorality, and the error in their communion services and etc. the Apostle Paul begins to address the abuse of the gifts of the Spirit. He had no doubt been consulted in regard to them by some of the members of the church at Corinth, and probably various questions had been proposed, which he now proceeded to answer.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.”
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:1 NASU)
The whole discussion here shows that he refers to the various endowments, gifts, or graces that had supposedly been bestowed in different degrees on the members of the church at Corinth ---including the distinctions in graces, and in degrees of office and rank, which had been made in the church in general, as well as the extraordinary endowments of the gift of tongues which was presumed to have been bestowed upon many (1st Corinthians 14).
We use the words “supposedly” and “presumed” because of the abuses. Among carnal minded members of the church the gifts had become a status symbol. Therefore many were claiming to have that which they had not received. No doubt there were many that their gifts were genuine. But the abuses had caused many to stumble.
Therefore the subject is of so much importance that it demands particular attention and special care. The Apostle Paul states that he would not have them ignorant (KJV) in regard to the nature of those special gifts of the Spirit; he instructs them on the attitude with which they should be received; and of the rules to which they who are thus favored should be subjected; and the feelings and views which should be cherished in all the members of the church in regard to them.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:4 NASU)
There are different endowments conferred on the members of the Body of Christ. Produced by the same Spirit---the Holy Spirit of God. The reason he refers to these various endowments is evidently to show those whom he addressed, that since they are all produced by the same Holy Spirit, have all the same divine origin, and are all intended to serve some important purpose and goal in the Body of Christ, the church, that therefore, none are to be despised; nor is a man to regard himself as elevated to a lofty position that would authorized him to treat another with contempt. The Spirit of God has divided and conferred those gifts according to His sovereign will; and His arrangements should be regarded with submission, and the favors of these gifts, which He confers, should be received with thankfulness and a willingness to serve.
“And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.”
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:5 NASU)
The phrase “varieties ministries” properly denotes that there are different positions of service that are to be regarded with special respect in the ministries that Christ has appointed. Those ministries are specified in 1st Corinthians 12:9-10,28.
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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. 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.
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:9-10,28)
The statement “and the same Lord” refers to the Lord Jesus, by whom these various orders of ministers were appointed, and under whose control they are. The reason for this statement is to show that all these offices had their appointment from Him; and that since all were His appointment, and all were necessary, no one should be proud and think of himself as being in an elevated station; and no one should be depressed, or feel degraded because he has been designated to, what seems to be to the carnal minded, a more lowly office. All who have been endowed with special gifts of the Spirit should feel honored to be chosen of the Lord, but at the same time they should view themselves as humble servants of the people, for that is their calling.
“There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:6 NASU)
There are different operations on the mind and heart, and different powers given to man, in building up the Body of Christ. Or it may be, possibly, that the Apostle Paul refers to the works of God mainly for “illustration,” and by the word “effects” means the works that God has performed in creation. His works are various. They are not all alike, though they come from the same power. The sun, the moon, the stars, the earth are different; the trees of the forest, the animal wild life, the birds of the air, the inhabitants of the sea are different; the flowers, and shrubs, and herbs are different from each other; yet, as much they may vary, they are formed by the same hand; are the productions of the same God, are to be regarded as proofs of the same wisdom and power. The same variety or multiplicity should be expected in the people of His church; and we should expect that the endowments would be various also.
As stated before, the same God produces all these operations. They should not, therefore, be undervalued or despised; nor should anyone be unduly elated, or pride himself on what has been conferred on him; in other words, they definitely should not be viewed as a status symbol.
God’s work is seen everywhere. It is seen in the delicate insect’s wing the same as in the mighty limbs of the elephant; it is seen in the lowly violet the same as in the loftiest tree of the forest. All God’s children therefore, should regard themselves as under God’s direction, and should submit to His arrangements. If God’s people regard their endowments as gifts from Him they will be thankful for them, and they will not be inclined to despise or attempt to look down upon others who have been placed in, what seems to be to some, a more humble position in the church.
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
____________________(1st Corinthians 12:7 NASU)
The word “manifestation” means properly that which makes manifest, conspicuous, or plain; that which illustrates, or makes any thing seen or known. Thus, conduct manifests the condition or state of the inner man; and the actions are a manifestation, or “showing forth” of the inner character and feelings. The idea the Apostle confers upon the reader here is, that there is given to God’s children, such gifts, endowments, or graces as shall “manifest’ or “make known” the work and nature of the Holy Spirit’s operations on the mind and heart; through such endowments the Spirit makes known the attributes of God to the peoples who have eyes to see and ears to hear (Galatians 5:22-23). All that He produces in the mind and heart is a manifestation of His character and work, in the same way as the works of God in the visible creation are a manifestation of His perfections.
The Apostle is speaking only of those who are the church of the Living God, and His declaration should be confined to them alone. Whatever may be true of the Holy Spirit’s work on the hearts and minds of peoples of the world, this statement should be confined wholly to God’s children, the Spirit of God gives to each child of His such graces and endowments as He pleases; that He distributes His gifts to all, not equally, but in a manner which He shall choose; and that the purpose of this is, that all that belong to Christ should use His endowments for the common good of the Body of Christ.
James C Sanford