The First to the Corinthians 12:1-31

12  Now concerning the spiritual gifts,*+ brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were people of the nations, you were influenced and led astray to those voiceless idols,+ following wherever they might lead you.  Now I would have you know that nobody when speaking by God’s spirit says: “Jesus is accursed!” and nobody can say: “Jesus is Lord!” except by holy spirit.+  Now there are different gifts, but there is the same spirit;+  and there are different ministries,+ and yet there is the same Lord;  and there are different activities,* and yet it is the same God who performs them all in everyone.+  But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for a beneficial purpose.+  For to one is given speech of wisdom through the spirit,+ to another speech of knowledge according to the same spirit,  to another faith+ by the same spirit, to another gifts of healing+ by that one spirit, 10  to yet another operations of powerful works,+ to another prophesying,+ to another discernment of inspired expressions,+ to another different tongues,+ and to another interpretation of tongues.+ 11  But all these operations are performed by the very same spirit, distributing to each one respectively just as it wills. 12  For just as the body is one but has many members, and all the members of that body, although many, are one body,+ so too is the Christ. 13  For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit. 14  For, indeed, the body is made up not of one member but of many.+ 15  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,” that does not make it no part of the body. 16  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am no part of the body,” that does not make it no part of the body. 17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18  But now God has arranged each of the body members just as he pleased. 19  If they were all the same member, where would the body be? 20  But now they are many members, yet one body. 21  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” or again, the head cannot say to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary, 23  and the parts of the body that we think to be less honorable we surround with greater honor,+ so our unseemly parts are treated with greater modesty, 24  whereas our attractive parts do not need anything. Nevertheless, God has so composed* the body, giving greater honor to the part that had a lack, 25  so that there should be no division in the body, but its members should have mutual concern for one another.+ 26  If one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it;+ or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.+ 27  Now you are Christ’s body,+ and each of you individually is a member.+ 28  And God has assigned the respective ones in the congregation: first, apostles;+ second, prophets;+ third, teachers;+ then powerful works;+ then gifts of healings;+ helpful services; abilities to direct;+ different tongues.+ 29  Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform powerful works, do they? 30  Not all have gifts of healings, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they?+ Not all are interpreters, are they?+ 31  But keep striving for* the greater gifts.+ And yet I will show you a surpassing way.+

Footnotes

Lit., “the spiritual (things).”
Or “operations.”
Lit., “mixed together.”
Or “keep zealously seeking.”

Study Notes

brothers: In some contexts, a male Christian believer is called “a brother” and a female, “a sister.” (1Co 7:14, 15) In this and other contexts, however, the Bible uses the term “brothers” to refer to both males and females. The term “brothers” was an accepted way of greeting groups that included both genders. (Ac 1:15; 1Th 1:4) The term “brothers” is used in this sense in most of the inspired Christian letters. In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the term “brothers” several times when addressing fellow Christians in general.​—Ro 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 15:14, 30; 16:17.

brothers: See study note on Ro 1:13.

people of the nations: That is, unbelievers.

gift: Or “undeserved gift; gracious gift.” The Greek word khaʹri·sma basically means a free and undeserved gift, something given that is unearned and unmerited. It is related to the word khaʹris, often rendered “undeserved kindness.” (See Glossary, “Undeserved kindness.”) Jehovah’s kindness in providing his Son as a ransom sacrifice is a priceless gift, and those exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice can thereby gain the gift of everlasting life.​—Joh 3:16; see Ro 5:15, 16, where the Greek word khaʹri·sma is twice rendered “gift.”

gifts: Paul here discusses the spiritual gifts that God gave the first-century Christian congregation. (1Co 12:1) Each gift listed at 1Co 12:8-10 (see study notes on these verses) involved a miraculous ability. To impart these gifts, God used his holy spirit, or active force. God’s spirit can operate in different ways on different servants of God for a specific purpose. Thus, not everyone received the same gift, or miraculous ability. The Greek word used here, khaʹri·sma (lit., “gracious gift”), appears 17 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and is related to the term khaʹris, often rendered “undeserved kindness.”​—See study note on Ro 6:23.

speech of wisdom: Or “a message of wisdom.” This expression refers to something more than the wisdom that a Christian might normally acquire by studying God’s Word and living in harmony with its principles. Paul here refers to a supernatural ability to apply knowledge in a successful way. Such wisdom was surely useful in solving some difficult problems that arose in the young Christian congregation. Paul may have received this gift, which he could use, for example, when writing letters that became part of God’s inspired Word. (2Pe 3:15, 16) Jesus had promised that Christians would receive the gift of wisdom when making a defense of their faith.​—Lu 21:15; Ac 6:9, 10.

speech of knowledge: Paul was not here referring to the knowledge of God that all Christians were required to gain in order to be disciples. (Joh 17:3; Ro 10:14) Rather, this knowledge was miraculous, beyond the scope of the learning that was available to all Christians. For example, the apostle Peter may have used “speech of knowledge” when handling the case of Ananias. The holy spirit revealed to Peter what he could not otherwise have known​—that Ananias had secretly lied to the congregation about a financial matter.​—Ac 5:1-5.

faith: While faith is a basic requirement for all Christians (Ro 10:10; Heb 11:6), Paul here writes of a special faith. This faith apparently enabled certain Christians miraculously to overcome mountainlike obstacles that might have hindered them in their loyal service to God.​—1Co 13:2.

gifts of healing: The miraculous ability to cure physical afflictions of any kind. Those suffering from ailments did not have to make an emotional declaration of their faith before receiving a cure. (Joh 5:5-9, 13) Rather, the faith of the one seeking to perform such works was a more important factor. (Mt 17:14-16, 18-20) The use of this gift gave powerful proof that God’s spirit was blessing the newly formed Christian congregation.​—Ac 5:15, 16; 9:33, 34; 28:8, 9.

prophesy: The Greek term pro·phe·teuʹo literally means “to speak out.” In the Scriptures, it is used of making known messages from a divine source. While it often includes the thought of foretelling the future, the basic meaning of the word is not that of prediction. The Greek word can also refer to identifying a matter by divine revelation. (See study notes on Mt 26:68; Mr 14:65; Lu 22:64.) In this context, holy spirit impelled some to prophesy. By declaring “the magnificent things” that Jehovah had done and would still do, they would serve as spokesmen for the Most High. (Ac 2:11) The Hebrew word for “to prophesy” carries a similar idea. For example, at Ex 7:1, Aaron is referred to as Moses’ “prophet” in the sense that he became Moses’ spokesman, or mouthpiece, rather than in the sense of foretelling future events.

prophesied: The prophet Joel foretold that both men and women would prophesy. (Joe 2:28, 29) The original-language words rendered “to prophesy” have the basic meaning of making known messages from a divine source; they do not necessarily include the thought of foretelling the future. (See study note on Ac 2:17.) While all in the Christian congregation may speak about the fulfillment of the prophecies recorded in God’s Word, the “prophesying” mentioned at 1Co 12:4, 10 was among the miraculous gifts of the spirit granted to some of those in the newly formed Christian congregation. Some who had the miraculous gift of prophesying were able to foretell future events, as did Agabus. (Ac 11:27, 28) The women who were chosen by Jehovah to receive this gift no doubt demonstrated their deep respect for him by remaining subject to the headship of the male members of the congregation.​—1Co 11:3-5.

languages: Or “tongues.” In the Bible, the Greek word glosʹsa can refer to the “tongue” as an organ of speech. (Mr 7:33; Lu 1:64; 16:24) But it can also be used figuratively to refer to a language or to a people speaking a certain language. (Re 5:9; 7:9; 13:7; ftns.) This Greek word is found at Ac 2:3, describing “tongues as if of fire” that became visible. So the outpouring of holy spirit was made evident by these “tongues” resting on each one of the disciples and by their speaking in different tongues, or languages.

operations of powerful works: Or “operations of miracles.” Lit., “workings of powers.” Paul seems to be referring to a broad category of supernatural works that perhaps included resurrecting people, expelling demons, and even striking opposers with blindness. Such works had a strong impact on observers, leading many to attach themselves to the Christian congregation.​—Ac 9:40, 42; 13:8-12; 19:11, 12, 20.

prophesying: In a sense, all Christians prophesied when they spoke about the fulfillment of prophecies recorded in God’s Word. (Ac 2:17, 18; see study notes on Ac 2:17; 21:9 and Glossary, “Prophecy”; “Prophet.”) However, those who possessed the miraculous gift that Paul mentions here were also able to foretell future events. For example, Agabus was inspired to prophesy about a great famine and to foretell that Paul was to be imprisoned as a result of persecution from the Jews. (Ac 11:27, 28; 21:10, 11) Such prophesying did much to strengthen the congregations.​—1Co 14:3-5, 24, 25.

discernment of inspired expressions: This phrase, which literally means “discernings of spirits,” refers to a miraculous understanding of inspired expressions. This gift likely included the ability to discern whether an expression was inspired of God or it originated from some other source. This ability was surely useful in protecting the congregation against false prophets. (2Co 11:3, 4; 1Jo 4:1) It would also have helped the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to determine which parts of the Law were still to be viewed as “necessary things” applicable to Christians. (Ac 15:19, 20, 28, 29) Christians also needed guidance to discern which letters and writings should be circulated among the congregations and to discern which would become part of the Bible canon. For example, indicating that some of Paul’s writings constituted part of the inspired Scriptures, the apostle Peter wrote that “the ignorant and unstable are twisting [Paul’s letters], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2Pe 3:16) We can be sure that the process of selecting which books to include in the Bible canon was guided by God’s spirit, doubtless using brothers who had this gift.​—2Ti 3:16; see Glossary, “Canon”; “Spirit.”

different tongues: The gift of tongues, or languages, gave a Christian the ability to convey the good news of God’s Kingdom to people who spoke languages the Christian did not know. Thanks to this divine gift, Christians in 33 C.E. were able to share “the magnificent things of God” with many foreign sojourners who had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. (Ac 2:1-12) Paul later reminded the Corinthians to use this gift in an orderly way by making sure that the speech was interpreted and that those speaking in tongues took turns.​—1Co 14:4, 5, 9, 27.

tongues: Or “languages.” See study note on Ac 2:4.

interpretation of tongues: A Christian who was blessed with this miraculous gift was able to interpret a message uttered in a language he or she did not speak. This gift was particularly useful, as the one speaking in tongues could encourage only those who understood his message. Paul thus directed those who spoke in tongues to remain silent unless someone was present to interpret. In that way, the entire congregation would hear the message and be encouraged.​—1Co 14:27, 28.

is anxious: The expression “is anxious” renders the Greek verb me·ri·mnaʹo, the meaning of which depends on the context. In this verse, it is used in a positive sense, conveying the idea of being eager, rightly concerned, about attending to spiritual matters in order to please the Lord. In the following verses, it refers to husbands and wives who are concerned with the emotional, physical, and material needs of their mate. (1Co 7:33, 34) According to 1Co 12:25, this anxiety or concern is expressed by members of the congregation for one another. In other contexts, the Greek verb can refer to worry that divides a person’s mind and distracts him, robbing him of joy.​—Mt 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34; Lu 12:11, 22, 25, 26; see study notes on Mt 6:25; Lu 12:22.

its members should have mutual concern for one another: Lit., “the members should be anxious over one another.” The Greek verb used here (me·ri·mnaʹo) is also used at 1Co 7:32, where Paul speaks about a Christian who is single as being “anxious for the things of the Lord.” (See study note on 1Co 7:32.) The same verb is used at 1Co 7:33, describing the concern a husband has for his wife. Paul also spoke of his own “anxiety [Greek, meʹri·mna, related to the verb me·ri·mnaʹo] for all the congregations.” (2Co 11:28) He was deeply concerned that all remain faithful disciples of the Son of God to the end. In addition, Paul uses this term regarding Timothy’s willingness to care for the brothers in Philippi. (Php 2:20) The use of this verb at 1Co 12:25 highlights the intensity with which the members of the Christian congregation should care about the spiritual, physical, and material welfare of fellow believers.​—1Co 12:26, 27; Php 2:4.

operations of powerful works: Or “operations of miracles.” Lit., “workings of powers.” Paul seems to be referring to a broad category of supernatural works that perhaps included resurrecting people, expelling demons, and even striking opposers with blindness. Such works had a strong impact on observers, leading many to attach themselves to the Christian congregation.​—Ac 9:40, 42; 13:8-12; 19:11, 12, 20.

powerful works: Or “miracles.”​—See study note on 1Co 12:10.

abilities to direct: The Greek word ky·berʹne·sis used here conveys the idea of “directing; guiding; administering; governing.” Such skillful direction was needed to fulfill Jesus’ commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Mt 28:19, 20) This includes giving some members of the congregation authority to establish new congregations and to guide the activities of all the congregations. (Ac 15:1, 2, 27-29; 16:4) This Greek term is related to a verb (ky·ber·naʹo), literally meaning “to steer a ship.” A related noun (ky·ber·neʹtes) is used twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures and is rendered “pilot” and “captain.”​—Ac 27:11; Re 18:17.

interprets: Or “translates.” The Greek word is here used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30; ftn.; 14:13, 27) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.”​—See study notes on Lu 24:27; 1Co 12:10.

interpreters: Or “translators.”​—See study note on 1Co 14:5.

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