I Corinthians 12:1-6

by Lois E. Gibson

1 Corinthians 12:1-6 NASB
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.
2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

Let's start our journey into 1 Corinthians 12 with verses 1-6. A look into the background of Paul's audience will better help us to understand this introduction into gifts and ministries. Allow me to quote from my NIV Inductive Study Bible in its introduction to 1 Corinthians:

"Sin abounded in the cosmopolitan city of Corinth, the chief city of Greece. Corinth overlooked the narrow isthmus that connected the Greek mainland with Peloponnesus and received ships in its two harbors. At one time it was the home of at least twelve heathen temples. The Corinthians were intrigued by Greek philosophy and captivated by the disciplined training and athletic events held at Isthmus. ...

"The worship ceremonies carried out by a thousand temple prostitutes connected with the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love) bred blatant immorality throughout Corinth - so much so that the Greek verb translated "to Corinthianize" meant to practice sexual immorality.

"Prostitutes openly plied their wares and meat markets thrived on sales from the sacrifices offered in the temples. The Corinthians ate well, satisfied their sexual urges without condemnation, flirted with the wisdom of men, and did all they could to keep their bodies as beautiful as those of the Greek gods. They loved to listen to great orators. ...

"After establishing the Corinthian church Paul eventually went to Ephesus, where he stayed for three years. From there he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian believers, who so desperately needed help and correction. It was sometime between A.D. 52 and 56."

You may wish to read Acts 18:1-18, which speaks of Paul's time in Corinth where he preached for a year and a half during his second missionary journey, establishing the church there. This is where Crispus and his household were saved as well as where Paul met Aquila and Priscilla. Silas and Timothy also helped Paul in his work there. Apollos was instrumental in the work at Corinth. Paul made the decision to go to the Gentiles after receiving strong opposition from the Jews.

In the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, it mentions that "in about the year 97, Clement of Rome wrote a letter, which survives, to the church. It reveals that the church was still vexed by many of the same problems about which Paul wrote to them."

It further states in regard to the city that, "In Roman times the city was notorious as a place of wealth and indulgence. 'To live as a Corinthian' meant to live in luxury and immorality. As a seaport it was a meeting place of all nationalities and it offered all of the attendent vices. The temple of Aphrodite on Acrocorinth was unique in Greece. Its priestesses were more than a thousand heirodouloi "sacred slaves," who engaged in prostitution. Its wealth was derived from its commercial traffic by sea and by land, its pottery and brass industries, and its political importance as the capital of Achaia. At its height it probably had a population of 200,000 free men and 500,000 slaves."

What were some of the problems? There were divisions, quarrels and jealousy in the Corinthian church and some had questioned Paul's authority. There was sexual immorality in the church and believers took other believers before a pagan court. Some were proud and arrogant. Others were getting drunk in celebrating the Lord's Supper and there was disorder in their services. Some were saying there was no resurrection of the dead. Because of these things, Paul had been receiving reports that troubled him. (1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1; 11:18) He had also received questions from the Corinthians concerning different issues. (1 Corinthians 7:1) It appears that Paul had also written an earlier letter to the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 5:9).

Their state was bad enough that Paul could not even address them as spiritual, but as worldly; infants in Christ instead of mature believers. He said their meetings did more harm than good.

Knowing some background of the Corinthian church, we can better understand why he wrote them of wisdom, idolatry, food sacrificed to animals, compared our walk to a race, about not receiving the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God, and spoke much about sexual immorality and marriage.

Now that we have some background to keep in mind, let's take a further look at the first six verses in chapter 12 in the next study.

Copyright 2004

Posted November 4, 2004

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