1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 12
1. But, brothers, I do not want you to go on being ignorant about the things of the Spirit.
Things of the Spirit, Greek pneumatika. not "spiritual gifts," as in some translations; although the gifts (Greek charismata, vv. 4,9, 28,30,31) of the Holy Spirit are the subject of these three chapters. Sha'ul first deals with the diversity of gifts in the one body of the Messiah (12:1—12:31a), apparently addressing the problem of people's taking pride in having this or that gift from the Spirit, or feeling inferior because they don't have it. In the "love chapter" (12:3lb-I4:la) he describes the "best way" to live a Messianic life, even better than possessing spiritual gifts. Finally, in 14:lb-40 he addresses the problem the Corinthians had with disorderly use of the gifts of the Spirit in public worship (see 11:2N). 

2. You know that when you were pagans, no matter how you felt you were being led, you were being led astray to idols, which can’t speak at all.
3. Therefore, I want to make it clear to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, “Yeshua is cursed!” and no one can say, “Yeshua is Lord,” except by the Ruach HaKodesh.
Idols, which can't speak at all (Psalm 115:4-9), in contrast to speaking by the Spirit of God. by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), who speaks through human beings in various ways (vv. 7, 10).

No one... says, "Yeshua is cursed!" — literally, "Anathema Yeshua!" On curses, see Ro 9:3N. Since saying "Yeshua is Lord" is not merely making sounds with one's mouth, but truly believing, it requires the presence of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9); likewise to curse Yeshua is a sure sign of the absence of the Holy Spirit and the likely presence of some other spirit that opposes God (1 Yn 3:24—4:8). Compare 16:22 below. 

4. Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them.
5. Also there are different ways of serving, but it is the same Lord being served.
6. And there are different modes of working, but it is the same God working them all in everyone.
The word "Trinity" is never used in the New Testament, but the elements which led theologians to develop such a concept are seen in passages like this one, where Spirit, Lord, and God refer respectively to the Holy Spirit, Yeshua the Messiah, and the Father. There seems to be less significance in the attribution of the three activities — giving to the Spirit, being served to the Lord, and working to God (the Father) — than in the oversight of all the activities by the same one God.

I agree with the following paragraphs, written by a Roman Catholic:

"The Corinthians, it seems, had been disputing about the relative value of the different charismatic graces, and valued some of them, such as speaking in tongues, more highly than others. In his teaching in response to these disputes, Paul deliberately lumps all the charismatic graces together, and to describe them uses four different words as though these four words were synonyms. Each of the words is used to describe all the graces given by the Spirit for building up the community. Each of the words brings out a different characteristic of one same reality:

'Now concerning spiritual gifts (pneumata).... There are varieties of gifts (charismata), but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service (diakonia). but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working (energemata), but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.' "In this passage, 'gifts,' 'services,' 'workings' are but different words for 'pneumata,' the 'inspirations' or spiritual "gifts' which build up the body of Christ. And 'Spirit,' 'Lord,' 'God' are... the one source of all the gifts." (Paul Hinnebusch, Community In The Lord. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1975, p. 169) 

7. Moreover, to each person is given the particular manifestation of the Spirit that will be for the common good.
v 7,11 The particular manifestation of the Spirit that each person receives is due not to his own merit but to the Spirit,... distributing to each person as he chooses, not to provide ground for pride but for the common good. See 4:7 above. 

8. To one, through the Spirit, is given a word of wisdom; to another, a word of knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit;
9. to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of healing, by the one Spirit;
10. to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the ability to judge between spirits; to another, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and to yet another, the ability to interpret tongues.
Nine charismata (supernatural gifts; see v. IN) from the Holy Spirit are mentioned:
(1) Word of wisdom, supernatural wisdom about how to solve a practical or spiritual problem. A homey example: my wife has what I playfully call the "gift of finding"; although she has plenty of sekhel (common sense) in knowing how to look for a lost item, not infrequently, in response to prayer, God reveals to her supernaturally where the missing item is located. (I provide her many opportunities to exercise her gift, since I seem to have the "gift" of losing.)

(2) Word of knowledge, supernatural knowledge relevant to understanding a situation. Example: a pastor expelling demons from a woman was told by the Spirit that the demons were connected with "smell of mother"; it seems unlikely that hours of questioning the subject would have revealed that in times of stress she would smell the pillows her deceased mother once used.

(3) Faith (or: "faithfulness") beyond what believers "normally" have, even though all faith is a gift from God (Ep 2:8-9) — "the faith which produces not only miracles, but martyrs" (Robertson & Plummer's Commentary).

(4) Gifts of healing. Nearly everyone is acquainted with inexplicable healings (doctors more than most people). Some of these are from God, and of these some come in response to "ordinary" prayer (Ya 5:14-16), while others result from the ministry of those who have one or more of the "gifts" (plural) of healing. To complicate matters, there are healings and miracles that are not from God but from other spirits, even from Satan (Mt 24:24; Ac 16:16-19; 2C 11:14; 2 Th 2:9; Rv 13:1-4, 12-15), not to mention ordinary impostors who neither produce genuine healings nor draw on any spirit more supernatural than their own spirit of greed. Nevertheless, healing was one of the chief ministries of Yeshua the Messiah when he walked the earth (Mt 4:23-24), and he promised that we who believe in him would do "even greater works" (Yn 14:12). The New Testament does not teach that God will heal every illness, but it does teach that he will supernaturally heal some. This promise can stand up to objective research, of which there has been some but not much.

(5) The working of miracles. In a sense the events of everyday life are miracles, but the concept here seems to refer to "unusual" miracles, not "usual" ones. Spectacular miracles are reported more frequently in areas where the Gospel is relatively new. For example, in the 1960's reports came out of parts of Indonesia reached recently by the Gospel that water had been turned to wine and even that dead people had been raised to life. Verifying the truth of such reports is beyond the scope of a commentary, but the integrity of the Gospel demands avoiding credulity and applying evidential standards at least as high as for establishing other kinds of facts.

(6) Prophecy is speaking on behalf of God. The standard for judging a prophet is given in the Torah:
"But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods — that prophet shall die. And if you ask yourself, 'How are we to know if the word spoken is not from Adonai?' — when a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, if the thing predicted does not come to pass, then it has not been spoken by Adonai; rather, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, and you are not to be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Significantly, this passage follows on Moshe's prediction that "a prophet like me" would arise, that prophet being Yeshua (see Ac 3:22&N).

Prophecy, then, is speaking on God's behalf, like the prophets of the Tanakh. Some, but not all, of their writings are predictive; but all are intended to inspire fear and awe of God. Today's prophets speak on God's behalf, but their prophecies do not thereby become Holy Scripture (many prophecies mentioned in the Bible did not become Holy Scripture either), but they are to be paid serious attention; see, however, paragraph (7) following. (Also see Ac 11:27N.) (7) The ability to judge between spirits, popularly called "discernment of spirits." is the ability to tell whether a particular phenomenon is from the Spirit of God, from a person's own spirit, or from some demonic spirit; one might call it the supernatural ability to avoid being deceived. See paragraph (4) above for scriptural references. This particular gift is often needed in order to discern whether healings, miracles and prophecies are truly from God; it is also an indispensible part of the spiritual equipment of anyone who undertakes to expel demons.

(8) The ability to speak in different kinds of tongues. "Speaking in tongues" has become known more widely in the twentieth century than in centuries past, since there has been an entire movement within Christianity identified with it, namely, Pentecostalism, or, more recently, the Charismatic Movement among mainline denominations. The term means speaking in a language one has not learned.

The New Testament seems to mention or imply at least four different kinds of tongues:

(a) Speaking in ordinary human languages other than those one knows (Ac 2:4-11, 10:44-46, 19:6, and, some believe, by implication, 8:15-17, 9:17-20), as a sign that the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in God's people (Ac 1:8, 2:12-21, 10:47-48, 11:15-17). "Non-charismatics," those today who do not speak in tongues, and "anti-charismatics," those today who oppose speaking in tongues, understand this "sign" to be limited to the representative groups who received the Gospel — the Jews in Acts 2, the Samaritan "quasi-Jews" in Acts 8, the Gentiles in Acts 10-11, and the special group who believed in Yochanan the Immerser but knew nothing of Yeshua in Acts 19. These groups represent the spreading of the umbrella of God's people from the Jewish center, Jerusalem, to wider and wider circles of humanity, in keeping with the program of Ac 1:8. On the other hand, Charismatics and Pentecostals sometimes apply this same "sign" to individual believers and consider them to have been immersed (baptized) in the Holy Spirit only if they have spoken in tongues; for them Sha'ul's experience reported in Acts 9 is important because it is taken as the normative example of a single individual's receiving the Holy Spirit.

(b) Speaking in ordinary human languages other than those one has learned, not as a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit, but rather as a miracle from God. For example, one Pentecostal group reported in its denominational publication that one of their missionaries in Africa was saved from the soup pot of a cannibalistic tribe when he began to speak in the language of that tribe, a language he had never learned.

(c) Speaking publicly in a worship service in a language one has not learned, a language which may not be a human language at all but possibly a "tongue of angels" (13:1). This seems to be the "gift of tongues" concerning which Sha'ul gives rules in Chapter 14.

(d) Also in Chapter 14 Sha'ul distinguishes the public "gift of tongues" from speaking privately to God in a language one has not learned; the implication may be that some who speak in tongues privately to God do not have the "gift of tongues" suitable for public worship meetings.

(9) The ability to interpret tongues, to give the meaning in ordinary language of what is spoken by the "gift of tongues" (see 8(c) above) in a public worship service. From 14:5, 13 one can infer the following charismatic equation:
Tongues + Interpretation = Prophecy.

The best commentary on the charismata is I Ke 4:10: "As each one has received some spiritual gift {charisma), he should use it to serve others"; also see Ro 12:6-8&N. The whole subject of the charismata is very controversial within the Body of the Messiah these days, and Jewish believers often seem to find themselves in the thick of the argument. Because of this, it seems wise to devote some space to giving its broad outlines. There are four fairly distinct positions:

(1) Narrow Charismatics: These hold that there is an experience known as immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit which is available to all believers and sometimes is a distinct experience subsequent to salvation; the necessary and sufficient sign or evidence that a believer has had this experience is that he has spoken in tongues. In extreme cases these regard Non-Charismatics and Anti-Charismatics as second-class Christians or even as nonbelievers. (2) Broad Charismatics: Same as (1), but having spoken in tongues is neither necessary nor sufficient as a sign of being immersed in the Spirit. The emphasis is more on the fact that the charismata are for the present day, in contrast with position (4) below. These are generally tolerant of Non-Charismatics and receive them in love.

(3) Non-Charismatics: These range from those whose viewpoint is the same as (2) but who have not personally received any of the charismata to those who think position (2) is mistaken but receive Charismatics in a spirit of tolerance and love as brothers who may in fact be right.

(4) Anti-Charismatics: These believe the Charismatics are wrong, that the charismata ceased in the first century, for "the perfect" (understood to be the canon of the New Testament) has replaced "the partial" (13:8-14: la&N below). In extreme cases these regard Charismatics as second-class Christians or even as nonbelievers.

Those who oppose Charismatics often believe they rely too much on subjective experience. The objection is understandable, since Charismatics. who believe they have had a genuine experience with the Holy Spirit, would certainly be expected to take that experience seriously. On the other hand, it is possible for Anti-Charismatics to be influenced unduly by their own negative experiences with overzealous Charismatics, so that they end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As might be expected, each group stresses the verses of Scripture which support its case and offers harmonious explanations of verses that raise difficulties. All four positions have able spokesmen, who will generally agree that sometimes the emotions stimulated by the debate are not gifts of the Holy Spirit!

Since the Charismatic issue is not specifically Jewish, I will not develop further the cases for and against the above positions, except to observe that if "Jews ask for signs" (1:22&N) the question of the charismata may be significant in Jewish evangelism. 

11. One and the same Spirit is at work in all these things, distributing to each person as he chooses.
12. For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah.
13. For it was by one Spirit that we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free; and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Whether Jews or Gentiles (literally, "Greeks"). See Ga 3:28&N for references to Sha'ul's numerous other statements of the principle of Jewish-Gentile equality under the New Covenant, and a discussion of what this principle implies (and doesn't imply) for Messianic Judaism. Here the basis of the equality is stated to be that both were immersed by the same Spirit into the same body. 

14. For indeed the body is not one part but many.
15. If the foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body.
16. And if the ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body.
17. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If it were all hearing, how could it smell?
18. But as it is, God arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as he wanted them.
19. Now if they were all just one part, where would the body be?
20. But as it is, there are indeed many parts, yet just one body.
21. So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”; or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22. On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary;
23. and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity; and the parts that aren’t attractive are the ones we make as attractive as we can,
24. while our attractive parts have no need for such treatment. Indeed, God has put the body together in such a way that he gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it,
25. So that there will be no disagreements within the body, but rather all the parts will be equally concerned for all the others.
26. Thus if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness.
27. Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah, and individually you are parts of it.
28. And God has placed in the Messianic Community first, emissaries; second, prophets; third, teachers; then those who work miracles; then those with gifts of healing; those with ability to help; those skilled in administration; and those who speak in various tongues.
God has determined several distinct ministries. First, the most important group, are the emissaries ("apostles") — those sent by God to proclaim the Gospel and form new congregations of believers. Second are prophets, who speak for God (see vv. 8-10N, paragraph 6). Third are teachers to deepen believers' knowledge of God's truth. Then, after these in importance, are those who work miracles (same, paragraph 5) and those with gifts of healing (same, paragraph 4). Listed next are those with two gifts not mentioned specifically in vv. 8-10, the ability to help those in need and skill in administration; these seem to cover much the same ground as four gifts named in Ro 12:8 — counseling, giving, doing acts of mercy and leading. But exercise of those gifts would be manifestly improved if one also had the charismata listed above that are not mentioned here — wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment of spirits (vv. 8-10N, paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 7). Finally, at the bottom of both this list (v. 30) and the one above, are the two showy charismata that are most easily abused — speaking in different kinds of tongues (see the four varieties listed in vv. 8-10N, paragraph 8) and interpretation (see vv. 8-10, paragraph 9).

Sha'ul minimizes the importance of these two gifts as compared with the others, but at the same time that he deals with abuses involved in manifesting the gift of tongues, he instructs the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues (14:39) and wishes that all would speak in tongues (14:5). Thus he strikes a balance worthy of imitation (11:1). 

29. Not all are emissaries, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? or teachers? or miracle-workers?
30. Not all have gifts of healing, not all speak in tongues, not all interpret, do they?
31. Eagerly seek the better gifts. But now I will show you the best way of all.
Eagerly seek the better gifts, especially prophecy (14:1); and yel the best way of all, literally, "a way according to excellence," is love.

Believers have an organismic unity like that of a body; indeed, they are parts of such a body, the body ofthe Messiah (v. 27; compare 6:15; Ro 12:5; Ep 1:23,2:16,4:4-16; Co 1:18, 2:19). Therefore, all members ofthe Messiah's body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free (v. 13), have their places determined by God and have appropriate functions (ministries) which they should find and develop, trusting God for empowerment by the Holy Spirit. They should appreciate, not envy, others' ministries and gifts. The purpose of the gifts is not self-aggrandizement but building up the whole body in love. 

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