In verses 4-11, Paul shows that each person God places in the body receives gifts for the benefit of the entire body. In verses 14-20, he explains that diversity in the body is necessary because, if the entire body was just one part, it could not function. The diversity in this context is in terms of gifts, not doctrine, nationality, sex, or race. Diversity enables the body to be much more effective, efficient, and versatile in performing its intended purpose. Each person has a specific function necessary to the whole.
In verses 21-25, Paul makes a veiled warning that we need to guard against both pride in our abilities and its opposite—equally vain—that we have nothing to give. We become useful members when we choose to set aside these vanities and begin doing what we should.
Verse 18, combined with verses 22-26, teaches us that God Himself has organized the body. We need to understand that the greatest Authority in all of creation has specifically placed us within it and given us gifts. If the body is to function as He has purposed, each part must recognize his individual dependence upon and concern for the whole. In addition, each must understand what the body is designed to accomplish. It is the responsibility of each part to subordinate himself to God to produce the unity that will enable the whole body to do its work.
God expresses these concerns for the body because He wants it to function efficiently and effectively in unity. Therefore, what happens to one part, or what one part does, affects the whole. What we do does indeed make a difference because we are individual parts of a living, spiritual organism. Our actions will produce an increase of good or evil, efficiency or inefficiency in the use of spiritual resources, effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our witness, and growth or backsliding in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!
How does the manifestation of God's Spirit work? God gives His Spirit to a person, and out of his mouth flow words of wisdom. The Spirit itself is not part of these words of wisdom, but the Spirit is working with the speaker's mind, and the person himself speaks the words. Nevertheless, who gets the credit? God—by working through His Spirit!
We do not see the Spirit itself flowing into the churches, guiding and directing individuals. What we seeare the works that the Spirit produces when it flows into individuals who are receptive to it through faith. We see things such as sermons given and articles written. We see healings. We see people acting in faith: for instance, allowing themselves to be fired for keeping the Sabbath, but knowing in faith that God will provide. We see people able to use their gift of languages to help others to understand the truth in translating God's message into another language. We see whatever the Spirit inspires people to do for the good of the church, to further people's understanding, and to prepare them for the Kingdom of God.
All of these are manifestations of God's Spirit. Even though the Spirit works in so many different ways, all these works come from one God. It is He who wills them to be manifested in each individual.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Four)
Reading through this list, we may think, “I don't have any of these!” Quite frankly, we may have seen few of these actually exercised over our years attending the church. We may have never even seen a miracle or a healing with our own eyes or heard anyone get prophecy right, at least not yet. How about the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge? We may have witnessed a little more of those than we realize, not being “tuned in” enough to recognize it!
What about the gift of discernment, or as it reads in the passage, “discerning of spirits”? The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips paraphrases Paul's expression as “the ability to discriminate in spiritual matters.” This latter phrasing seems to be a more precise expression of what Paul means—not just the ability to detect evil spirits but to distinguish between the spiritually positive and negative.
Dictionaries like Wikipedia define discernment as
the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well. In the case of judgment, discernment can be psychological, moral, or aesthetic in nature. . . . Christian spiritual discernment can be separated from other types of discernment because every decision is to be made in accordance with God's will. The fundamental definition for Christian discernment is a decision making process in which an individual makes a discovery that can lead to future action.
This description of discernment emphasizes making correct decisions that proceed to wise actions.
Of the verb form (diakrino, Strong's #1252) of the word Paul uses in I Corinthians 12:10, Strong's Concordance comments, “to separate thoroughly, i.e. (literally and reflexively) to withdraw from, or (by implication) oppose; figuratively, to discriminate (by implication, decide), . . . contend, . . ., discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.” Discerning is a matter of separating, discriminating, evaluating, and judging, and once done, a person either approves or opposes the subject of his discernment.
In our society, words like “discriminate” and “judge” are considered almost taboo, but the truth is that we must make judgments all the time. What would be the point of discernment if it does not lead to a judgment? In Solomon's prayer before God in I Kings 3:9, he asks for discernment between good and evil so he could judge God's people. God, pleased with both the humility and good sense of his prayer, rewarded Solomon immensely.
Ronny H. Graham
The Gift of Discernment and Godly Love
The Holy Spirit is the power of God—not a personage, entity, consciousness, or part of the Godhead or a trinity. The Bible speaks of the Spirit as the power or mind of God, the power of love and of a sound mind. It emanates from Him and thus can be said to be "poured out" (Titus 3:5-6), "breathed" (John 20:22), and used to "fill" (Acts 2:4) and "anoint" (Acts 10:38).
Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit
In I Corinthians 13, the Bible reveals love's supreme importance to life. Paul directly compares love's value to faith, hope, prophecy, sacrifice, knowledge, and the gift of tongues and indirectly with all other gifts of God mentioned in chapter 12. He in no way denigrates the others' usefulness to life and God's purpose, but none can compare in importance to love.
The Corinthians took great pleasure in their gifts, just as we would, but a gift's relative importance is shown in its temporal quality. That is, there are times when a gift is of no use. But love will never end; it will always be of use.
Indeed, the receiving of gifts from God - unless accompanied by and used with love - have the potential to corrupt the one receiving them. God's gifts are powers given to enhance a person's ability to serve God in the church. However, we have all heard the cliché, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If gifts are not received and used with love, they will play a part in corrupting the recipient, just as they were corrupting the Corinthians. Love is the attribute of God that enables us to receive and use His gifts without corruption.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 12:9:
1 Corinthians 15:10