Notes on 1 Corinthians 12:7-13

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WE come next to individual distinctions, the special forms of the Spirit's working in Christians.
“But to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for profit. For to one, through the Spirit, is given [the] word of wisdom, and to another [the] word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;1 to a different one faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the same2 Spirit, and to another operations of powers, and to another prophecy, and to another discerning of spirits;3 to a different one kinds of tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues. But all these things operateth the one and the same Spirit, dividing in particular to each as he pleaseth.” (Vers. 7-11.)
It is well to remark that the apostle is speaking only of the assembly, of each one there and not in the world. This might seem needless to notice, did we not know that a whole community in Christendom is based on the opposed assumption that a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man on earth without restriction. Here the apostle is treating strictly of the church: to each within it is the manifestation of the Spirit given, and that with a view to the common good, not for personal influence or display. Chrysostom is quite in error in supposing that the term “manifestation” is here used because unbelievers do not own God, save by visible wonders. For it is not a question of miracles only, as the very first samples (the word of wisdom and that of knowledge) prove; nor is it a sign to unbelievers, but for the profit of believers.
The way of the Spirit too is not concentration of all His powers in a single person, but distribution to a variety of individuals; and this because the assembly is contemplated, not a chief man but the church, by the different constituents of which God is pleased to work for the good of all. “For to one, through the Spirit, is given [the] word of wisdom, and to another [the] word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit.” The apostle takes care to begin with what would be called non-miraculous gifts, the better to counteract the fleshly mind, whether of the Corinthians or of any others, which sets an inordinate value on what strikes the eye, the mind, or the imagination by undeniable effects of power. Though not miraculous however, the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are as expressly of the Holy Spirit as the most striking sign-gifts. It is not through a commanding, or a merely “sanctified,” intellect that the word of wisdom comes; it “is given through the Spirit,” “According to the same Spirit” is given the word of knowledge. They are thus no less supernatural, though not in the ordinary sense miraculous. They are the fruit neither of innate powers nor of acquirement, but of the Spirit, just as is the new birth of every believer; and far more important than any miracle, grave as it may be and glorifying to God in its own place and for its own purpose.
What then is “wisdom” as distinguished from “knowledge?” Wisdom seems to me that moral discernment given by God of things as they are before Him, and consequently as they truly are in themselves, and in relation to one another, which is of prime value for practical judgment and conduct here below. Good and evil, right and wrong, are thus seen intuitively, because of familiarity with the presence of God, not only in their results but in their principles and springs. Knowledge is rather that understanding of revealed truth, which of course therefore is given through a diligent use of the scriptures, and is of great value for appreciating the ways as well as word of God, though the abuse of it issues in systems of divinity, of prophecy, and the like. The “word” in the two instances means or implies the faculty of communicating to others the wisdom or knowledge, as the case may be. It does not seem correct to infer that the prophets were characterized by the latter as apostles undoubtedly were by the former. It would be more according to scripture if one said that “the word of knowledge” pertained to the teacher, always remembering that an apostle or a prophet might also be a teacher and a preacher, as Paul himself was beyond all controversy. But his was a rare combination of gifts, and all of them rich, deep, and ample in order to accomplish the special work for which he was called of the Lord.
But; next follow very different manifestations of the Spirit. “To a different one faith by (ἐν) the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, and to another operations of powers, and to another prophecy, and to another discerning of spirits,” &c. Clearly “faith” here, as sometimes elsewhere, does not mean a soul's believing in Christ or the gospel for salvation, being a manifestation of the Spirit, and this to one here or there among the Christians. It is that distinctive gift from God which enables its possessor to face foes and dangers, and rise above hindrances or difficulties, and be assured of the issue, where others, even saints, are perplexed and disquieted. It is thus distinct from healings, powers, prophecy, &c.
There seems no need of dwelling on “gifts of healings in virtue of (ὲν) the same Spirit,” further than to say that it is not more comprehensive, but less, than “faith.” There was faith in him who exercised spiritual powers in healing the sick, but gifts of healings were restricted of course to their own peculiar domain. “Faith,” as such, might be exercised in a great variety of ways besides that which strengthened some to be martyrs or confessors. Again, another might have “operations of powers” (erroneously rendered in the Rhemish and the Authorized Versions, “the working of miracles"), which were not “healings,” but such superiority to things material, or beings spiritual, as we see promised in Mark 16:17, 1817And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17‑18), and illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles. “Prophecy” another might have given him, which was an energy of the Holy Ghost in the purely spiritual domain, enabling him to give out the mind of God as to the present or future. This definition embraces the twofold application of the term in scripture, whether to the narrow field of prediction, or to the larger one of declaring God's mind and will, so as to act on conscience with unfailing, divine conviction. (See for the latter 1 Cor. 14; for the former Acts 11) “Discerning of spirits” is another gift, which means the faculty of deciding, not between true and spurious professors of the Lord Jesus, but between the Spirit's teaching and that which simulated it by evil spirits. The general responsibility to try or prove the spirits if they are of God we see in 1 John 4, because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Here it is a special gift. The danger, or rather the fact, of misleading some is also fore shown in 1 Tim. 4. The designed distribution of these gifts is strikingly shown in the last two, where “kinds of tongues,” or a variety of languages naturally unknown to the speaker we find distinguished from “interpretation of tongues” given to another, though 1 Cor. 14:1313Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. (1 Corinthians 14:13) intimates the desirableness of their combination.
“But all these operateth the one and the same Spirit, dividing in particular to each according as he pleaseth.” (Ver. 11.) The unity of the Spirit, who not only distributes each to each but works all the gifts, thus keeping up dependence on His power, is thus set forth, no less than His sovereign activity as a divine person, however truly come down to work in subservience to the glory of the Lord Jesus. Evil and error may have as many springs as there are men and demons with their varied and often conflicting wills, lusts, and passions. But the selfsame Spirit works all that glorifies Christ in these different gifts, distributed respectively at His pleasure to each servant of the Lord. How this diversity with unity characterizes the church will appear from the reason given in the subjoined comparison, as little understood in its force as it is familiar in its forms or phrases, yet of all moment for His glory and our blessing.
“For even as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the4 body, being many, are one body, so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and were all made to drink of5 one Spirit.” (Vers. 12, 13.) Thus the assembly, being an organic unity, while it consists of many parts or members, harmonizes with the various gifts which the Spirit distributes according to His will. Just such is, as the apostle pointedly says, “the Christ;” we would have said the church. The apostle looks at Christ and. the assembly as one mystic man, which, while one, has many members, and yet all the members, many as they are, forming but one body. “So also is the Christ.” The assembly is identified with Him, and this because “by (ἐν, in virtue of) one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and were all made to drink of one Spirit."
It is important to observe that it was not by faith, precious and mighty as it is, that this unity was formed, but by the Holy Spirit personally sent down from heaven. Faith is individual, it does not unite, though fitting for union morally. One believes the gospel for one's own soul; and the believer receives life for himself in the Son of God, who is life and quickens the dead. But the baptism of the Spirit is over and above life, and is given therefore not to the dead unbeliever but to those already quickened, and the issue is the one body. So the Lord, who had already quickened the disciples, and this even with life more abundantly in resurrection (John 10; 20), promised them just before His ascension that they should be baptized with the Holy Spirit, which accordingly was fulfilled not many clays after at Pentecost. (Compare Acts 1:6; 26When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6); also viii. 15, 16; x. 44, 45; xi. 15-17; xix. 2-6.) The one body had never existed; from Pentecost it begins, as a present fact, on earth, because the Spirit is thus sent to baptize as He never did before; and this continuously, for He when given was to abide in and with us forever. (John 14:16, 1716And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16‑17).) No difference in religion, or in social standing, hinders. There is one body and one Spirit. The figures employed in the verse before us seem to allude to baptism and the Lord's supper, the latter being the standing sign of the church's unity.
But it must be borne in mind that scripture nowhere identifies water-baptism with the baptism of the Spirit. Thus, on the grandest occasion of all, the disciples in Jerusalem, waiting for power from on high, were not baptized with water that day; and the convicted souls from among the Jews were told to repent and be baptized each of them, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and they should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disconnection of the two is still more manifest in the case of the Samaritan converts a little after, and of the Ephesian disciples long after. If possible more evidently false is the hypothesis which binds them together in Cornelius' case, with his household and friends, who received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they were baptized with water.
It is not only Catholics then but Protestants also, who are utterly wrong in adducing this text for the effect of baptism. We are not, though Calvin puts it into the lips of the apostle, “engrafted by baptism into Christ's body."6 Baptism is not an engrafting into the body; it associates the believer with His death. It means that we were buried with Christ unto death, a strictly individual truth, and` wholly distinct from making us members of His body, which is always attributed to the Holy Spirit, whether we were or were not. baptized with water at that time. Nor is it possible to attribute to the cup the keeping up of the unity, or the conducting us by degrees to the same unity, for the phrase implies a single finished act (17roTicrOlipEv, like gpaw-riothiliev, both aorists). It is at most therefore a glance at the two institutions of our Lord, and in no way a doctrinal connection. They are separable, and in fact separated, even when true believers are concerned; and, blessed as is the aim and the effect of the Lord's supper, it has nothing whatever to do with our reception of the Spirit, though doubtless the Spirit, when received, gives an immense accession to the enjoyment of the grace of Christ in the supper, and this in communion with one another. They are not sacramentally bound together, even baptism being to death with Christ, not to life, still less to union or the one body which is by the baptism of the Spirit.
Further, it will have been gathered by the thoughtful reader that the baptism of the Spirit is wholly distinct from the new birth, as in John 3. Hence it is incorrect to think that any communication of the Holy Spirit is called His baptism. Neither the new birth nor sanctification of the Spirit is so designated, any more than His inspiration, but only the gift, Himself personally received by the believer, not His quickening operation which makes a believer or gives one faith.