1 Corinthians 12:12-31: Spiritual Gifts (2)

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31: Spiritual Gifts (2)

April 19, 2023


Judges 16Psalm 89:1-18Mark 7:24-371 Corinthians 12:14-31

1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

I’m picking up the breakdown of this chapter at verse 12—diverting from the chapter and section suggestions of the framework we’ve been following!

In the first part of the chapter, Paul established how to determine genuine from false spirituality, and then exalted the beauty of the body of Christ working in harmony with the gifts that the Spirit gives his people.

But what if that beautiful harmony is not the reality? There has perhaps been nothing in church life that has caused more division than the charismatic gifts—when according to Paul, those very gifts are meant to emphasize the organic unity of the body, its unity in diversity. To emphasize the way the gifts are meant to function, Paul spends some time extending the description of the church as a body. He imagines the absurd idea of parts of the human body talking to each and one saying to the other that the other is not needed anymore! How ridiculous! All parts of the body are needed. And even if one part of the body should (arrogantly) assert its individual independence from the rest, or a part of the body feel inadequate because it is not what is perceived to be a “better” part—none of that feeling would change the fact that the body is still one body with different members, and all the members are important.

That’s what church is meant to be like. We are together—and the parts of the body that seem like they lack honor are given greater honor, so that there is no division in the body.

Again, Paul is emphasizing the unity that the spiritual gifts should emphasize and bring to the church. He goes on to ask a series of rhetorical questions to emphasize that no one has all the gifts and to underline again that the different parts of the body—the various Christians within the church—all need each other. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, none of this means that there aren’t “greater gifts.” What Paul means by that, we will have to wait until he comes to chapter 14.

His mention of there being “greater gifts” has immediately made him realize that now is the time to clarify a most important fact of spiritual life. Namely, whatever great gifts there may be (or however gifted someone may be) there is a yet “more excellent way.” Paul consistently returns to this theme: God is not after spiritual pyrotechnics, but character, Christlikeness, and especially (as we shall see when we come to chapter 13) this “more excellent way” of love.


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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