I Corinthians 12-14 Overview

by Lois E. Gibson

There are many good things found in 1 Corinthians 12-14 which I never saw the way I did after leaving the UPC. This didn't happen right away, but over a period of time.

This will be an introductory of these chapters. By no means am I an expert on them but I'd like to share what I have come to know.

As an overview, chapter 12 speaks of different kinds of gifts the Spirit may give to a believer (and I might point out here that I do not believe that Paul was giving an exhaustive list of only nine gifts). The gifts are always given for the common good and are solely the work of the Spirit. Paul also spends time explaining how we are the body of Christ and though a body has many parts, each is important and necessary for the functioning of the body. It is a beautiful description.

Chapter 13 is what many refer to as the love chapter. A problem some have in isolating this chapter (we often see it displayed on cards and plaques) is that one may not realize how this is intricately tied into what Paul is teaching about the gifts and body of Christ. Paul purposely wrote this section of his letter where he did and understanding such brings greater meaning to it when we see it in light of its context. In this chapter we see that though we might do all manner of good things, if love is not the motivating factor, then what we do is really meaningless. While gifts will pass away, love will forever remain. And what is love? Paul shares what true unselfish godly love is and we can only have this love through God's Spirit living in us.

Chapter 14 spends much time in showing the purpose of the gifts and Paul zeroes in on tongues because it is apparent that the believers at Corinth were using this gift disorderly and without understanding. Paul spends time showing that for tongues to be beneficial there must be understanding through interpretation. He therefore sets guidelines for the church to follow in the use of gifts.

In Apostolic churches we are taught that the "initial evidence" of tongues is different from the gift of tongues. They must make this differentiation in order to counter Paul's question of do all speak in tongues and his comment that he'd like every one of them to speak in tongues. Yet nowhere in these three chapters do we see this differentiation taught. It is neither found here, nor any other place in Scripture. In fact, there is no teaching whatsoever concerning an "initial evidence", but we do have teaching concerning speaking in tongues.

Another point which some make is that because they have never had their tongues interpreted that they do not have this gift of tongues. Paul does not teach this difference, but rather explains that for tongues to be edifying to all, they must have an interpretation. He specifically tells the person who speaks in tongues to pray that they may interpret. I hope you will find these studies to be beneficial. It's an area I enjoy discussing and there's much to be learned. I'm still learning!

Copyright 2004

Posted November 4, 2004

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