Paul teaches believers to understand their differences the way God does. Just as God made our bodies with many parts, and we appreciate and use them all, so we should view the body of Christ. There is in our fallen nature, this desire to be with others that are like us and we use differences as a way to separate ourselves by race, ethnicity, social standing. But God wants us to operate together, valuing our differences, as the parts of our body do. Paul then extends this to spiritual gifts which are given for the edification of the body. The gifts are not to lift up the individual, but to help the body. Finally, Paul comes to a description of the mature believers as they operate together in their gifts, where in 1 Corinthians 14:32 “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” and love mediates as each exercises preferential care for those around them in 1 Corinthians 14:39–40 So then, my brothers, desire to prophesy, and do not prevent speaking with tongues. 40 But let all things be done decently and according to proper procedure.
By One Spirit We Were All Baptized
1 Corinthians 12:12–20
We seem to have a natural tendency to gravitate to people that are like us. In fact, I believe God understands this tribal nature and acknowledged it with the children of Israel. We may understand these differences as ways for us to separate ourselves, to create divisions between us and others based on race or gender or social standing or ethnicity. But Paul puts forward a different model, not one of distinctive separation but of unity and utility. Who can deny the wonder of our bodies and who would change any part to have more of another? This is the example Paul uses to represent the diversity in the body of Christ. Just as our bodies have many different parts that each have their own function, yet all work together, so is it with the Church, the one body of Christ in
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (LEB) For just as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, although they are many, are one body, thus also Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free persons, and all were made to drink one Spirit.
The context is spiritual gifts but Paul’s use of “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free” is not to limit our thinking to this list, but to prompt our thinking to extend his comments to include every nationality, every language, every culture, every level of social standing.
There is one more important point here, he does not intend that these all bring their characteristics into the body of Christ to make it an amalgamation of every kind. Instead, he says, “all were made to drink one spirit” and by this, there is a connecting effect. Now, every person can become, not what the world says, you can be anything you want to be, but now they can become uniquely what God made them to be in
1 Corinthians 12:18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body just as he wanted.
In Christ, there is great value in diversity. God is big enough to hear and understand and manage all of our thoughts and perceptions without being conflicted. Are you able to listen, to hear, to value what your fellow believers have to say?
Now You Are the Body of Christ
These Three Remain: Faith, Hope, and Love
1 Corinthians 13:1–13
Paul has dealt with the natural diversity that tends to cause division between people and has told them to operate as one body with many members. Using the example of our bodied, he describes each part of the Church with their own distinctive function. This same natural thinking that separates people has carried over into their understanding of spiritual gifts so the focus has turned to the power of the gift rather than the blessing it is meant to be to the body of believers.
Paul corrects them and explaining the use of the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are important, but they are secondary in their value. It is like offering someone a cup to drink but without any water as he says in
1 Corinthians 13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
There is something more important than these gifts. Our focus, our intention should first be on the giver of the gifts, the one that has shown us love. This is the greatest gift, and it comes to us as we have faith in God and hope for a good future rise and we experience his love. As he says in
1 Corinthians 13:12–13 For now we see through a mirror indirectly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know completely, just as I have also been completely known. 13 And now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Seek for the Edification of the Church
1 Corinthians 14:1–12
Tongues Are for a Sign
Let All Things be Done Decently
1 Corinthians 14:26–40
Paul comes to describes what the operation of the gifts of the spirit look like in a Church where love is flowing. As he says in 1 Corinthians 14:26 “each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. All things must be done for edification”. Some have said that when the unction of the Holy Spirit comes on them, they must speak out, but that isn’t what Paul says in
1 Corinthians 14:32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
The Holy Spirit is the power of God, but God doesn’t override our will. As Paul goes on to say in
1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace”.
There is a good flow, a good order, a loving preference for one another that is exercised by mature believers in
1 Corinthians 14:39–40 So then, my brothers, desire to prophesy, and do not prevent speaking with tongues. 40 But let all things be done decently and according to proper procedure.
- 1 Corinthians 12:12–20 By One Spirit We Were All Baptized
- 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 These Three Remain: Faith, Hope, and Love
- 1 Corinthians 14:26–40 Let All Things be Done Decently
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
- 1 Corinthians 14:1-40