I Corinthians 12:27-31

by Lois E. Gibson

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NASB)
27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
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.
29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

Paul returns to the gifts after explaining how we are all members of the body of Christ. He took time to explain how every member is needed and how one cannot think he is not needed or another is not needed because their gifting is different. Everyone cannot have the same function in a body. If they did, the body would cease being a body.

In case anyone felt Paul just went off on another subject (about the body), he brings it back to how God gives gifts to the members of the body of Christ. He directly shows how everyone in the body will not be given the same gifting.

How important is this to understanding the gifts? I'd say it is crucial. Paul didn't take time to write verses 12 through 26 explaining about the body for nothing! It ties into gifts in more than one way.

If we take heed to his words, we will never feel less than another in the body of Christ because of our differences in giftings. We will never feel another is less important because of these differences. Instead, we will see that the encourager is just as important as the teacher is. We will understand that we cannot all have the same function. If we did, we would no longer be a body and we surely could not do all we were meant to do.

A body, though it has many members, functions as one unit. If one part of the body is hurt, the rest suffers with it. If one part of the body rejoices, the rest rejoices with it. Each member isn't off doing his own thing.

Another aspect will be brought out in chapter 14 when Paul explains the use of the gifts and how things are to be when believers gather together. All we do must be done for the strengthening of the church (the body). We shouldn't focus on something that is only edifying to ourselves when we gather together.

In verse 28 he lists some of the gifts. As pointed out in an earlier study, we see that there are other gifts besides the nine Paul initially listed. Paul includes apostles, teachers, prophets, helps and administrations along with some of the nine gifts previously mentioned in chapter 12. God has appointed these in the church. Again, God's Spirit is the Source.

After this he asks some questions with the obvious answer being, 'no.' In this list, the UPC would have no trouble responding 'no' to each of the questions asked.....that is, until we come to this question: "All do not speak with tongues, do they?" It is at this point that we hear how there are two types of tongues, initial evidence and the gift of tongues. They will say 'no' to the gift, but 'yes' that every believer needs to speak in tongues anyway. However, Paul makes no such differentiation.

For something so important, it would be odd for Paul to have neglected pointing this out. It would have only taken him a minute to include another sentence that would say something like, "Now understand I am not speaking of when every believer initially speaks in tongues when God's Spirit enters them."

From what I see in Scripture, Paul only taught one type of tongue, the gift of speaking in tongues. And he made it clear that everyone would not receive this gift, just as everyone would not have the gifts of healing.

Paul spent a bit of time trying to make his point very clear. But he's not finished yet. There's something else we must understand about giftings in order for us to be effective.

Remember Jesus said that there would be some that would proclaim to him all the mighty works they did in the name of Jesus and yet Jesus tells them he never knew them. (Matthew 7:23+) They are to depart from him. Listed in what is said to have been done are miracles and prophecy. How could this be?

Let me share with you how it was for me in my early ministry while in the UPC. I had a focus on the gifts, though I wasn't running after them. I wanted to see the gifts in operation. I wanted to be used by God in this way. I wanted to see some of the same things that I read about in the New Testament. Those things excited me!

As time went on, I saw the focus I had was wrong. Many people had seen miracles and still did not follow the Lord. People were healed and yet didn't even stop to thank Jesus. I realized that while signs and such have their place, our focus should not be on them. There is a danger in more than one way when we place our focus here. I realized what was the most important was a changed life in Christ.

I believe what Paul discusses in chapter 13 shows how meaningless it is to have giftings and do things without love. But I don't want to jump ahead! Chapter 13 is important to remember when we speak about gifts.

This brings us to the end of chapter 12. What I have shared isn't meant to fully cover everything possible. I'm not that knowledgeable for one thing! I am simply sharing what I have come to understand.

Copyright 2004

Posted November 5, 2004

In His Image


August 23, 1997
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