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1 Corinthians Chapter 12, Part 2

by Karl Kemp  
6/07/2012 / Bible Studies

We continue the verse-by-verse study of 1 Corinthians chapter 12 here in Part 2.

(13) For by one Spirit [I would translate "For in one Spirit," with the margin of the NASB. The Greek preposition "en," which Paul used here, is most often translated "in." There are six other verses in the New Testament that speak of baptism in the Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; and 11:16). All these verses use "en," and I would translate "in" for each of these verses.] we were all [all true Christians] baptized [or, immersed] into [or, better yet, "baptized (or, immersed) resulting in"] one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free [[Compare Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:13-18. I believe baptism (immersion) in the Spirit here, as with the other six uses of this terminology in the New Testament, includes the new birth, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and the charismatic gifts. The more typical viewpoint among Pentecostals and charismatics is that baptism in the Spirit is a second experience that is separate from, and does not include, the new birth. It is true that in our day many Christians do enter the charismatic dimension as a second experience, but one of the main reasons this happens is that so many Christians (including many evangelicals) have omitted the charismatic dimension from Christianity. When we finally learn that this dimension is still part of the new covenant (often we learn this many years after we were born again), we enter this dimension through a second experience, an experience that could, and should, have been part of our becoming Christians in the first place (according to the New Testament pattern). ((I had an important, lengthy footnote here: See footnote 30 on pages 135-138 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," starting with the last paragraph on page 137. There I also discuss the fact that many Christians learn long after their conversion that the Bible teaches that Christians are called and enabled to walk in righteousness and holiness with the victory over sin. Such persons may then enter (by faith) this dimension of the work of the Holy Spirit through a definite second experience that could be called a baptism in the Spirit. It is also true that some Christians, although they have known what the Bible teaches about righteousness and holiness, do not submit (in faith) in any full sense to this dimension of the Spirit's work until later. Holiness is a big part of what baptism in the Spirit is all about. (Holiness is a big part of what Christianity is all about!) What we need is the end result of Christians walking in holiness on a continuous basis, whether there is a definite second (crisis) experience, or not.

Many holiness churches teach holiness as a second work of grace (of the Spirit) that is separate from, and typically later than, becoming a born-again Christian. From my point of view, they are making a mistake similar to that of most Pentecostals and charismatics. Holiness is a big part of what Christianity and baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. We should not think of Christianity apart from holiness (or apart from the charismatic dimension). Anyway, I am thankful that holiness churches help us see that Christians are called and enabled to walk in holiness (an abiding state of holiness) by the grace/Spirit of God, even as I am thankful that Pentecostals and charismatics help us see that the charismatic dimension of the work of the Spirit is still for us today.)) What we need is an abiding walk in the charismatic dimension, not just an experience we had in the past that we can talk about. We don't need to worry that we might receive and walk in too much of the righteousness and holiness of God or too much of charismatic dimension of the work of the Spirit of God.

Entering the charismatic dimension is part of what baptism in the Spirit means in the New Testament, an important part, but the new birth and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are more important parts of what baptism in the Spirit means in the New Testament. It causes confusion to speak of a second experience where Christians enter the charismatic dimension the baptism in the Spirit. It seems to me that it should not be very difficult for Pentecostals and charismatics to modify their viewpoint regarding baptism in the Spirit. They would not really be giving up anything. It is true, of course, that they must first be convinced that this modified viewpoint more accurately reflects what the Scriptures teach. As a young Christian and charismatic, I spent a lot of hours over a ten-year period considering this topic, seeking God for the balanced truth.

We will further discuss baptism in the Holy Spirit as we continue with this discussion of 1 Cor. 12:13. ((I had a footnote: I have already commented on this topic in previous writings; most of what I said there is not repeated here. Start with the section titled "Meaning of the Words Baptism [or, Immersion] in the Holy Spirit" in my "A Paper on Faith," which starts on page 96; read on through to the end of the paper. As noted in the first sentence there, that discussion builds on the preceding study of Acts 15:1-11; you should first read what was said under Acts 15:8, 9, starting on page 94 (these page numbers are for the internet version on my website). It will be necessary to read the pages in my book. "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" that are cited in "A Paper on Faith" to adequately cover this topic.)) Also, at the end of this study of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we will further discuss this important (but also controversial) topic.

The apostle's emphasis here in 1 Cor. 12:13 is clearly on unity in the one body of Christ. Even those who are far from being united in the natural - Jews and Gentiles; slaves and free; etc. - are united in Christ. It is true, of course, that this unity will not be manifested to the extent that Christians do not know and submit in faith to this gospel truth; we must walk after the Spirit through faith for this reality to be manifested. The apostle emphasized this aspect of gospel truth to the church at Corinth because they were lacking in unity; there was much strife and disunity, as this epistle to the Corinthians demonstrates.]], and were all made to drink of the one Spirit. [[Compare John 7:37-39. We all receive/drink of the one life-giving, sanctifying Spirit, and we all receive/drink of the charismatic gifts that are made available to us in the one Spirit. On the word "one," see under 1 Cor. 12:4; with this word Paul is again emphasizing the unity we are to have in the one body of Christ.

I'll quote part of what Gordon D. Fee (who is a Pentecostal; his father was an Assembly of God minister) said under this verse ("First Epistle to the Corinthians" [Eerdmans, 1987], pages 605, 606). In his discussion of this verse, Fee has already stated that he believes that baptism in the one Spirit, which was spoken of earlier in this verse, means essentially the same thing as being made to drink of the one Spirit here at the end of this verse. (We at least begin to drink of the one Spirit at the time we are immersed in the Spirit.) Fee then says, "...the emphasis in this context, which is not on a special experience in the Spirit beyond conversion, but on their common reception of the Spirit.

Most likely [with the expressions baptism in the one Spirit and being made to drink of the one Spirit]...Paul is referring to their common experience of conversion, and he does so in terms of its most crucial ingredient, the receiving of the Spirit. Such expressive metaphors (immersion in the Spirit and drinking to the fill of the Spirit)...imply a much greater experiential and visibly manifest reception of the Spirit than many have tended to experience in subsequent church history....

If this is the correct understanding of these two clauses, and the full context seems to demand such, then the prepositional phrase 'in the Spirit' is most likely locative [meaning the Greek preposition "en" is to be translated "in," as Fee goes on to show], expressing the 'element' in which they have all been immersed, just as the Spirit is that which they have all been given to drink. Such usage is also in keeping with the rest of the NT."]] (14) For the body is not one member, but many. [Compare 1 Cor. 12:20. The apostle is speaking here in 12:14 of the human body, but in this verse and the following verses, he also applies these truths to the body of Christ. The human body and the body of Christ both have many different members, and the members have different functions to perform - all the members and all the functions are important to the proper functioning of the body, by the design of God. Part of what makes us different in the body of Christ is the different callings and giftings of God.] (15) If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. [[The foot insults God and His plans for the body of Christ if it thinks of itself as being inferior because it is not a hand. God's plans are always right, and complaining is always wrong. Besides that, the feet really are quite important to the proper functioning of the body. If you listen to the devil, you will become discouraged no matter what your role is. He even convinced Eve that she was being deceived by God and being denied that which was good and necessary for her while she was in the Garden of Eden. We cannot afford to, and we have no right to, listen to the devil. Jesus said "he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Learning the truth, submitting to the truth, and clinging to the truth will solve most of our problems. How precious is the truth!]] (16) And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. [Again, if the ear should think this way, it would be totally wrong, and it would be insulting God and His plans.] (17) If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? [We need all the members with all their God-ordained functions in the human body and in the body of Christ.] (18) But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body [This is true for the human body and for the body of Christ. As Paul continues, the body of Christ becomes predominant in his discussion and the human body fades into the background. See under 1 Cor. 12:28.], just as He desired. [And He does all things well!] (19) If they were all one member, where would the body be? [The human body would be in big trouble if all its members were eyes or ears; there would not be a body. In a similar way, the body of Christ could not begin to function as a body if all the members had the same function.] (20) But now there are many members [having many different functions, all of them important], but one body. [Compare 1 Cor. 12:12, 14. The words "one body" again emphasize the need for unity and harmony in the one body of Christ, in accordance with God's design and by His grace.] (21) And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' [It is clear that the hands and the feet are quite important to the proper functioning of the human body. Similarly, in the body of Christ, there is no room for any member to have a superiority complex. By God's plan no Christian can completely fulfill his assignments apart from the other members; we are dependent on one another, whether we like it or not - but it is good.] (22) On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. [With the human body, we think of members like the internal organs. They may be weak in some ways, and they may not get much glory, but they are indispensable. With the body of Christ, we can think, for example, of the elderly, or the handicapped. God has ways to make such persons indispensable to the proper functioning of the church. For example, He can use such people in powerful ministries of intercession, healing, etc.]; (23) and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, (24) whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked [For the human body, we think of those parts of the body that are covered. When applied to the body of Christ, God can, for example, make a slave a prophet, or use him (or her) in gifts of healings, etc.], (25) so that there may be no division in the body [especially referring to the body of Christ], but that the members may have the same care for one another. [[As we have briefly discussed, God has ways to make things always work right. By His plan, every Christian really is important to the proper functioning of the church - we don't have to fake it. To the extent that we walk in the Spirit and do things God's way (knowing His will by His Word and being led by His Spirit), it will be obvious that all the members really are important. However, to the extent that we are not living in the will of God and doing things His way; we will not adequately fulfill our assignments in the church; we will not glorify God as we should; we will not be a blessing to the other members of the body of Christ that we should be; we will not be the good witnesses for Christ that we should be; we will not be satisfied in our hearts; and we will not be fully ready to stand before God. Let's make it top priority to do everything God's way; there is no reasonable alternative.]] (26) And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. [We will experience this reality in the body of Christ to the extent that we understand and submit to God's plan and walk by the Spirit, setting aside the things of the flesh, like pride, jealousy, competition with one another, and self pity.] (27) Now you are Christ's body [cf. 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 1:23; 4:12; and Col. 1:24], and individually members of it. [When we speak of the church as Christ's body, the picture is not (as I have heard it said) that we are a body without a head, with Christ being the head. When the Bible speaks of Christ's being the head of the body (as, for example, in Col. 1:18 and Eph. 5:23), it speaks of the fact that Christ is over the church (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:22-24; and Col. 2:10). Note that some of the members of the body Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 12:16, 17, and 21 (eyes, ears, and nose ["sense of smell"]) are parts of the head.] (28) And God has appointed [or, set/placed; the Greek verb used here was also used in 1 Cor. 12:18] in the church [cf. 1 Cor. 10:32], first apostles [[See Eph. 4:11. Some ministries are more important than others, but all are important. The apostle is the most important ministry, as Paul says here, "first apostles," and especially when speaking of the twelve foundational apostles and the apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7, 8). For one thing, they played a major role in laying the foundation for the new-covenant church, including giving us most of the New Testament. Others, however, besides the twelve and Paul, were called apostles in the New Testament: see Acts 14:14; 1 Cor. 9:5, 6 (Barnabus); 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19 (James, the Lord's brother); 1 Thess. 2:6 with 1:1 (Silvanus/Silas and possibly Timothy [cf., e.g., 2 Tim. 4:5]); and apparently Rom. 16:7 (Andronicus and Junias). The fact that Paul spoke of "false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" in 2 Cor. 11:13 helps demonstrate that quite a few others beyond the twelve and Paul must have been known as apostles.

Should we have apostles today? I assume we should, but they would not be foundation-laying apostles in a class with the twelve and Paul. Whether we use the label apostle, or not, they would have the call from God and the greatest authority and anointing to help get the church in order, and to keep it in order, very much including what we believe (based on the Bible). There will undoubtedly be major differences in the ministries of apostles depending on their particular call and giftings from God, and on their assigned field of ministry with its particular needs, etc. (This was also true for the first apostles.)

If the apostles function as they should, in the will of God, they will be a great blessing to the body of Christ, and they will not be a threat to the other ministers - they will be a blessing. However, to the extent ministers are functioning in the flesh (and there is a lot of flesh around in our day), other ministers tend to be viewed as a threat. One last thing, just because someone calls himself an apostle (or some other ministry) does not necessarily mean that it is so (cf. Rev. 2:2). And just because a minister does not call himself an apostle does not necessarily mean that he is not an apostle. God is the one who determines such things.]], second prophets [[In this listing, Paul is apparently referring to five-fold ministry prophets, which is a ministry that includes more than the use of the charismatic gift of prophecy listed in 12:10. For one thing, in 1 Cor. 14:29-32 Paul speaks of prophets receiving revelations, which are to be shared with the church, and judged. Not all such prophets (as the word is used in 14:29-32) would be considered five-fold ministry prophets. I assume that some of them, at least at their present level of ministry, were not fully in this category, and that some of them (in the plan of God) never would become five-fold ministry prophets. Words like prophet can be somewhat flexible in their usage, and God can be quite flexible in the way He uses people. What matters is that His will be accomplished in the church, and in each individual Christian. Some other verses that refer to New Testament prophets are Acts 11:27; 13:7; 15:32; 21:10; Eph. 2:20; 3:5; and Rev. 11:10.]], third teachers [[On teachers, cf. Acts 13:1; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:17; and James 3:1. I assume that Paul was speaking of five-fold ministry teachers here. Not all who teach in the body of Christ are five-fold ministry teachers. For one thing, all five-fold ministers and most elders (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2) will do some teaching.

What about the five-fold ministry pastors? Why didn't the apostle list pastors here? (The same question could be asked regarding evangelists.) For one thing, it must be understood that Paul is not giving an exhaustive analysis of charismatic gifts and of ministries in this chapter, nor does he give an exhaustive analysis in any other passage. Even when we look at all that the New Testament says on these topics, we don't get the answer to every question; we must remain somewhat flexible before God, flexible when it comes to some of the details regarding ministers, charismatic gifts, and the overall structure of the body of Christ. I'm sure the Bible tells us all we need to know, as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into the balanced truth on these topics and into the details regarding what God would have us do in our day.

When the apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (about AD 55), some things were still very much in a state of flux, and not fully established. This really was quite early in the history of the Christian church. (At the end of Paul's life, some ten years later in the mid-sixties, the church was still far from being fully established. And, as I mentioned, even in our day, we still need some flexibility.) The apostle Paul did not go on his (so-called) first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-28) until about AD 47. And he did not arrive at Corinth, on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22), until about AD 50.

Very often Paul did not have people (who had been called and prepared) to install as five-fold ministry pastors in the many churches he was associated with. He and his ministry team often appointed elders over those churches (see Acts 14:23; 20:17; and Titus 1:5.) Some of those elders would eventually become five-fold ministers, including five-fold ministry pastors, but not all of them would. Some of those elders may have been considered five-fold ministry pastors from the time they were appointed as elders. The word "elder" is used with some diversity in the New Testament, as a concordance will demonstrate.

Paul did not list the pastor here in 12:28, but he did list "administrations." The pastor typically heads up the administration of the local church, and the elders are involved with this function too. Also, the "helps" listed in this verse would often be closely associated with, and under the authority of, the pastor/elders of the local church.

All five-fold ministry pastors will do some teaching, and some five-fold ministry pastors are also five-fold ministry teachers. As I understand it, the five-fold ministry apostles and, typically, the five-fold ministry prophets and (at least some of) the five-fold ministry teachers were not limited to the local churches, as the pastors/elders were. In the local church the pastor has the highest authority, but, as I understand it, in the greater church (the body of Christ), the pastor is, in some ways, under the other five-fold ministers. However, the pastor of the local church certainly has the authority and responsibility to protect his people from some so-called apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers.

Every minister (every Christian) has the authority and responsibility to humbly fulfill their assignments before God. This is not about defending our turf and maintaining our rights, but about humbly fulfilling our responsibilities (by the grace/Spirit of God) for the glory of God and for the common good. All Christians (including ministers) are required to "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Eph. 5:21). By the plan of God, we all (including ministers) need one another. Every minister is going to have to answer to God for what they have done (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 3:10-17). To the extent that ministers walk in the flesh (and that is not all that hard to do, even for ministers; all they have to do to be fleshly is to do what comes naturally to man), they will compete with one another, and there will not be much harmony - but there's no excuse for this; it is a serious problem.

It is a serious responsibility to be a minister in the body of Christ; it is not something to boast about. Whatever our calling is in the body of Christ (and all of them are important by the plan of God), we can do it well by the grace of God in Christ if we make it a top priority and humbly walk by the Spirit in the righteousness and holiness of God. It is, of course, a privilege to be called into the ministry; compare, for example, what Paul said regarding the deacon in 1 Tim. 3:13.

One of the most important things each minister (each Christian) must do is to stay within his measure assigned by God. Based on my observations, however, many ministers do not understand this concept. (See the discussion of Rom. 12:1-8 in my "A Paper on Faith.")]], then miracles [cf. 1 Cor. 12:10, 29], then gifts of healings [Compare 1 Cor. 12:9, 30. After mentioning three (five-fold) ministries (apostles, prophets, and teachers), the apostle now mentions two of the nine charismatic gifts that were listed in 12:8-10; however, as 1 Cor. 12:29, 30 help demonstrate, he is thinking of those who minister (apparently not limited to the five-fold ministry).], helps [[The NIV translates, "those able to help others." The Greek word translated "helps" here is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. There is widespread agreement that the idea is of helping those in need and that the ministry of deacon (cf. Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13) fits here. Surely it is to be understood that those who minister in the areas of "helps" and "administrations" do so by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. Such enablements could apparently be considered charismatic gifts, but these gifts are in a somewhat different category than the nine charismatic gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-10.

Compare Rom. 12:6-8. (Romans 12:6 mentions "[charismatic] gifts [plural of charisma]." With "administrations" of 1 Cor. 12:28, compare "he who leads" of Rom. 12:8.) Also note that helps and administrations are the only two items listed in 1 Cor. 12:28 that are not mentioned in 12:29, 30. "Helps" is especially applicable for the local church and is typically under the authority of the "administrations" (pastors/elders).]], administrations [As I mentioned, the administration of the local church is typically headed up by the pastor, if there is one (as there typically is in our day), and it includes the elders.], various kinds of tongues. [By listing this gift here, the apostle confirms that he is speaking of a ministry-gift. On this gift, see under 1 Cor. 12:10.] (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? [All are not apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, those who have gifts of healings, those who are used in a ministry of kinds of tongues, or other ministries that could be listed.] (31) But earnestly desire the greater gifts [plural of charisma]. [[The verb translated "earnestly desire" is plural in the Greek; Paul was speaking to the members of the church at Corinth. (The Greek verb used here is also used in 1 Cor. 14:1, 39.) The apostle is speaking to all the members of the church, but he is not saying, I do not believe, that each Christian has a right to expect to be used in the greater gifts. We should all earnestly desire all the gifts that God makes available to us, and especially those gifts that are the most important. One reason Paul mentioned "the greater gifts" was that some at Corinth were out of balance, overusing and misusing the gift of tongues while not sufficiently desiring, and making sufficient room for, the other gifts. Note that Paul listed tongues last in 1 Cor. 12:8-10 and 12:28-30.

We will discuss the overuse and misuse of tongues at Corinth as we continue with 1 Corinthians chapters 13 and 14. If we do not earnestly desire the gifts (which very much includes the need to believe they are available for our generation), we will not see much of the gifts; God will not force them on us; we must cooperate with His Spirit/grace. It is also true, of course, that we must make it a top priority to understand and rightly use the gifts. Many have heard horror stories (and some of them are true) regarding the devastation that resulted from a misuse of charismatic gifts, or supposed charismatic gifts.]] And I show you a still more excellent way. [These words serve as an introduction to chapter 13 (the verses and chapter divisions were added at a much later date; they did not derive from the apostle). Paul does not go on to say that we are to choose love instead of the gifts, but he does go on to say that love is more basic and more important than the gifts, and that it is necessary for the gifts to be accompanied by love.]

In Part 3 we will go on to a lengthy section titled, "Further Discussion on the Meaning of the Words Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament."

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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