In chapter 12 “Sha’ul first deals with the diversity of gifts in the one body of Messiah, [and then addresses] the problem of the people’s taking pride in having this or that gift from the Spirit, or feeling inferior because they don’t have it.” In chapter 13, “he describes the ‘best way’ to live a Messianic life, even better than possessing spiritual gifts. Finally, in Chapter 14 he addresses the problem the Corinthians had with disorderly use of the gifts of the Spirit in public worship.”[i] Last week we discussed the diversity of the gifts of the Ruach, and this week we will cover how we are all one body in Messiah and that each of our gifts is important.[Read 1 Cor. 12:12-31] [ii]
Immersed into the Spirit
(Vs. 12) After mentioning that the Ruach is the one who activates and distributes the gifts as He wills, Sha’ul then begins to discuss how we all work together as a body. He is not referring to the entirety of the Body of Messiah where Yeshua is the head, as he does in (Eph. 4:11-16), but rather to the individual congregation[iii]. As believers in Yeshua, we are supposed to function together the same way a human body works together.
In (vs. 13) we see several interesting points, that are important for us to understand. Sha’ul says to the congregation in Corinth, that they were all immersed into one Ruach, and they all drank from the same living waters. These are the “living water” that Yeshua promised to the Samaritan woman. Waters that would become a fountain within us springing up to eternal life. (Jn. 4:1-26) It is also interesting that all the occurrences in the Bible that refers to immersion (baptism) in the Ruach is with regards to the Day of Shavuot (Pentecost) when the Ruach initially filled the 120 in The House (the Temple). Every other time the Scriptures refer to being filled with the Ruach. Peter preached on that same day, “Repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the removal of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away—as many as Adonai our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39) Repent, be immersed and receive the gift that God has given; that is supposed to be how we preach and teach it. But it is not always done that way, and nor was it always done this way in the first century. [Read Acts 8:12-17] From this passage we see that many of the Samaritans were repenting and being immersed, but they had not yet received the Ruach ha-Kodesh. We also see that the Ruach was imparted by the laying on of hands. If we were to read a little further in (Acts 8), we would also see that the Ruach is God’s gift and can not be bought or sold.
One more important note: it would appear that we need a continual filling of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. One example of this would be (Acts 4:23-37) where Peter, John and a house full of people were once again filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh. This is confirmed by Sha’ul in (Eph. 5:18) where Sha’ul says, “be filled with the Ruach.” In that passage he uses the continuous, progressive tense of the word “filled” meaning “be continuously filled in an ongoing way with the Ruach.”
(Verses 14-20) are for all the people who feel that they got a raw deal. Many people feel, that because they did not receive prophecy, or another of the more obvious gifts, that they do not have an important role in the congregation. This is absolutely not the case. God is the one who gave the different gifts, He is the one who positioned each of us in the body, the congregation. Each of us has a role to fill. Later we will see that it is perfectly fine to ask Adonai for the Ruach to move through us in a different gifting, but that is still His decision.
Then in (Verses 21-26) we see Sha’ul addressing the opposite problem, the pride of those who seem more gifted. This behaviour is completely inappropriate. Sha’ul states that the parts of our body that are the most valuable are the parts that we protect or hide. We can live without a hand, or an eye, or even a foot. But try living without a stomach, or a liver, or any part of the body that we cover. God has given more honour to the parts of our physical body that are not as presentable. In the same way, He also gives more honour to those in the congregation who are lacking. We are all to have the same care for one another regardless of how gifted or ungifted we seem. We need to work together and care for one another as a body. Yeshua told his talmidim on the night he was betrayed, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Appointed to Serve
(Vs. 27-28) Sha’ul now lists different appointments of emissaries (often translated apostles but is where we get the word missionary), prophets, teachers, then those who work in the miraculous, those who help, those who lead, and those who speak in tongues. At first this seems to be a similar list to what we discussed last week in (verses 8-10), however, the word “put” in (verse 28) is usually translated “appointed” and refers to individuals who are “set in place” by Adonai for the building up of the congregation. Sha’ul’s letter to the Ephesians brings a little more clarity. [Read Eph. 4:11-13] In this list we see emissaries, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds/teachers. These four roles align with what we read in (1 Cor. 12:27) and are called to equip the body of Messiah for the work of service and to build up the kedoshim (the saints).
So why, after stressing the equality of the giftings, did Sha’ul seem to rank these appointments? I believe that it is not a matter of value or rank, but rather who’s role is required first. Firstly, we need missionaries to set up or plant congregations. Secondly, we need prophets who will declare to the people how they have broken the directions of God, to convict the people of sin, and to help people realise their need for a saviour. Next, we need evangelists who work in the miraculous and healings to demonstrate the power of Adonai, and carryout mass evangelism. Then, we need the role of pastors/teachers who will carry on the work of the missionaries, and disciple all the people that the evangelist brings into the Kingdom of God. Finally, we need people who will help others in the congregation, and people who will help run the different ministries of the congregation. Even after 2000 years, this is exactly what we see throughout the Body of Messiah.
(Vs. 29-31) To close this section, Sha’ul asks 7 questions that have the assumed answer of “no.” Not everyone is called to be a missionary, a prophet, an evangelist, or a pastor/teacher, and not everyone has the gifts of healing, miracles, tongues and interpretation. However, Sha’ul now refers to greater gifts than those he has mentioned. These greater gifts, which we can all exhibit are holiness and love.
[i] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 476.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[iii] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, pg. 367.