Exhortations 12:1-15:13

i] The marks of a Christian community, 12:3-13:14

a) The exercise mutual ministry


Having presented his guiding theme / proposition / paradigm for his ethical exhortations, namely, present your lives as a living sacrifice to God, 12:1-2, Paul now deals with the first of a number of practical applications. On the basis of Paul's authority as an apostle ("grace given to me" = the gift of apostleship), he encourages his readers to first discover their spiritual abilities, their God-given gifts, in line with the discerned will of God, and then to exercise them for the building up of the Christian community.


i] Context: See 12:1-2.


ii] Background: See 1:8-15.


iii] Structure: This exhortation toward the exercise of spiritual gifts presents as follows:

Mutual ministry requires:

A sober assessment of ones gifts, v3;

A recognition that we are members of one body, v4-5;

A willing exercise of our gifts, v6-8:

Prophesying in accord with our faith;

Serving (in some Word ministry???);



Giving with generosity;

Leading with diligence;

Caring for the sick, poor, aged and disabled (so Cranfield).


iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.


v] Interpretation:

Paul makes much of the unity / oneness that believers possess in Christ, of being together in a mutual association. This bodily oneness is described in different ways, here of a body with many members, each member with a different function, but each belonging to the one body - oneness and difference going hand-in-hand. It is therefore essential that each member wisely assesses their spiritual abilities, and do so without exaggerating their own importance. Each member is to exercise their carismata, their "grace-gift", bestowed on them by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Paul goes on to list some of these gifts, and it seems likely that we should not to assume that the list is complete; this is a sample list of seven spiritual gifts:

Prophecy - If we adopt Paul's line in first Corinthians then obviously he doesn't have in mind primary revelation, but the proclamation of divine truth, in line with the revealed Word of God, both its exposition and application.

Serving - It is unclear what Paul means by diakonian, "serving", here. Given its placement between prophecy and teaching it is unlikely that Paul has in mind social service. Some Word ministry is surely in mind. He is possibly reflecting the appointment of "men of good standing, full of the Spirit and wisdom" for service in the Jerusalem church, Acts 6:1-6. Even so, we have little idea what they were appointed to do, but it seems more than just waiting on tables.

Teaching - The exposition of scripture;

Encouragement - Encouraging the weak hearted. The New English Bible describes this quality as "the gift of stirring speech";

Generosity - Financial support, possibly financial guidance;

Leadership - Administration;

Kindness - Cranfield argues that Paul has in mind the care of the sick, the poor, the aged and disabled.

Whatever the ministry gift a believer possesses it is to be applied wholeheartedly.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:3

ii] The first exhortation: properly assess your spiritual gifts and use them to build up the body of Christ, v3-8. Without employing a leap of faith into the dark void of ones imagination, members of a Christian community are directed to wisely assess their spiritual abilities "in accordance with the measure of faith that God has assigned." This phrase is rather vague, but it most likely describes the type of assessment undertaken. It's a spiritual exercise, a godward exercise, rather than a mere assessment of natural abilities.

gar "for" - A causal sense is unlikely, rather the conjunction serves here as a connective, ie., for us it serves to introduce a new paragraph.

dia + gen. "by" - [I say] through. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", as NIV. "I say" is more emphatic, so "I exhort", NET.

thV doqeishV (didwmi) gen. aor. pas. part. "[the grace] given" - [the grace] having been given. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "grace", the aorist being constative and the passive usually classified as divine / theological; "the grace which was given to me."

moi dat. pro. "me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

panti dat. adj. "[I say] to every" - to all. Emphatic, so Dunn. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.

tw/ o[nti dat. pres. part. "one" - the ones. Forming a participial phrase either substantival, standing in apposition to panti , "all", "to everyone, to those among you", or adjectival, attributive, limiting panti; "everyone who is among you."

en + dat. "of [you]" - in [you]. Spacial; "among you."

mh uJperfronein (uJperfronew) pres. inf. "do not think of yourself" - not to think more highly of oneself, haughty, self centered. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul says. Possibly, "go beyond the bounds of wisdom", Calvin, but probably better, we "are not to estimate oneself too highly", Cranfield. The presence of mh indicates a prohibition; "do not ...".

par (para) + acc. "more highly than" - beyond. Here with the sense "beyond", so comparative, "more than."

fronein (fronew) pres. inf. "[you aught]" - [what is necessary] to think. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "it is necessary." The second usage, "but rather think of yourself", serves to again form a dependent statement expressing what Paul says; "I say ..... that you think with sober judgment ...."

alla "but rather" - but. Strong adversative, as NIV.

eiV to swfronein (swfronew) inf. "with sober judgment" - [to think] to be reasonable, sensible thinking, measured, sober-minded. This construction, an articular infinitive preceded by the preposition eiV, "to/into", would normally express purpose, but sometimes result; "to be thinking with a view to a sensible appraisal of himself", Wuest. We should "entertain a sober opinion" of ourselves, Cranfield; "take a sane view of", Moffatt; "with sobriety", Fitzmyer.

wJV "in accordance with" - [to each / each] as [to what God apportioned]. Not as a comparative, "like", but expressing a characteristic quality / manner; "as". For "to each / each", see below.

metron (on) "the measure / -" - a measure, proportion. "Amount", TEV, runs with the idea of a measured amount given to each believer as God wills, which measure is appropriated by faith, so Schreiner, Dunn, Black, Murray.... The word is usually taken to express a measuring standard, eg. a ruler. "A standard (by which to measure himself) namely (his) Christian faith", Cranfield. In this sense the "measure" is "the standard by which we judge ourselves, namely, our shared faith; thus we look at ourselves on the basis of that common faith God's grace has allotted to each of us", Osborne, so Morris, Fitzmyer, Moo, Dumbrell, ...

pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "of faith [God has given] / the faith [God has distributed]" - of faith. The genitive is adjectival, possibly partitive, but better of definition / epexegetic, "a measure which consists of faith", that which God apportioned. As Lenski points out, you can't have a portion of justifying faith, although justifying faith is unlikely to be the sense here. The use of the word "faith" here is somewhat unclear, but Fitzmyer suggests it is "the object believed in, which in the concrete is Christ Jesus." Cranfield and Moo think it is "the common gift of faith given to all believers", while Dunn, Jewett and Schreiner think it is "the unique gifts of faith God gives to each believer", Harvey.

ekastw/ dat. adj. "to each of you" - to each. The NIV reads this adjective as a dative of indirect object, but its position suggests it is attracted to the dative panti tw/ onti, "to every one being [among you]." Cranfield suggests ekastoV wJV autw/ oJ qeoV, "each as to what God apportioned [a portion of faith]."


Although each member of a congregation has different gifts shaping various functions (ministries), each function is essential for the benefit of the whole, v4-5.

gar "-" - More explanatory than causal, so best left untranslated.

kaqaper ....... ou{twV "just as ....... so" - as [in one body we have many members] so ..... Comparative construction covering v4 and 5; "just as in a single body there are ...... so also / in the same way ....." "Each of us lives in a body composed of many parts. Now all of those parts do not have the same function. In the same way we are the many parts of the risen Messiah, and each of us plays his proper role in coordination with all the rest of us", Junkins.

en "[each of us has one body]" - in. Adverbial, manner, expressing a state or condition; "we are like the various parts of a human body", Peterson.

de "and" - but, and. Here probably adversative; "but these members do not have the same function."

praxin (iV ewV) "function" - action. "Each part of the body has a different use." Paul likes the body illustration with the different parts having their own particular function.


ouJtwV "so" - in the same way. See above.

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - [the many are one body] in [Christ]. Local, expressing sphere; due to our incorporation in / union with Christ believers form a unified whole in much the same way as the individual parts of the body form a whole. Note Schreiner who suggests that en here expresses cause, "because we are united with Christ", or Harris who opts for an instrumental sense, "by our union with Christ."

oiJ polloi adj. "we, though many" - the many. The adjective serves as a substantive.

e}n swma (a atoV) "[form] one body" - [are] one body. Predicate nominative.

to ... kaq ei|V "[and] each [member belongs to all the others]" - [and] each one [members of one another]. The prepositional phrase kaq ei|V is adverbial; "signally, individually." The presence of the article to is somewhat strange. Moule suggests it is bad grammar, but it is probably just idiomatic Koine Gk. "Relatively to (adverbial phrase) and that (pronoun), as members of one another", Godet. "Individually (to ... kaq ei|V, idiomatic adverbial phrase), with relation to each individual (allhlwn melh)", BDF #305. The genitive substantive pronoun allhlown, "one another" is adjectival, possessive, "members of one another" = "members belonging to one another." The point being made is that believers are mutually dependent on each other.


As a coordinate unity, believers are to use their individual gifts to build up the body of Christ. Paul lists seven spiritual gifts. The list is not to be taken as complete, but rather exemplary. The gifts are obviously endowments of the Spirit which often entails the heightening of natural abilities. When we are to take this verse as the beginning of a new sentence, an imperative verb is often supplied, "having gifts .... let us use them", ESV, RSV, ...

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "we have" - having. Given the free flowing nature of the Gk. text through to v21, it is not possible to identify the exact function of this participle, as with some of those that follow. As is often the case in Koine Gk. the sense of a participle remains flexible, rather than fixed. English will often demand a fixed sense, so here we could classify this participle as adverbial, causal; "because we have gifts given us by the grace of God, let us use them." We then have an implied imperative as ESV, "let us use the." Robertson opts for an imperatival participle, but such is a dubious classification, given that most such participles are attendant on an imperative. We are best to follow the NIV and treat it as equivalent to an indicative, technically a periphrastic present with the present tense of the verb to-be assumed.

carismata (a atoV) "gifts" - kindly gifts. Probably here with the more specialized meaning of the word, namely "gifts of the Spirit", spiritual abilities given to, or enhanced in, individuals to enable them to minister in the church for the building up of the congregation.

kata + acc. "according to [the grace]" - [differing] according to [the grace]. Expressing a standard; "in accord with." Each believer has different gifts which have come in accord with the gracious kindness of God, ie., "they are grace-gifts, or charismata, and that God is the true source of them", Osborne.

thn doqeisan (didwmi) aor. pas. part. "given" - having been given. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "grace"; "the grace which has been given."

hJmin dat. pro. "to each of us" - to us. Dative of indirect object.

eite .... eite "if your gift is" - whether. A disjunctive correlative construction; "either .... or / whether .... or / if .... or if." Covering the listed gifts, v6-8.

profhteian (a) "prophesying" - a declaration of the will of God. The prophetic function is primarily forth-telling rather than fore-telling, although the actual function of a New Testament prophet is open to debate. For example, some argue that prophets, as with apostles, only existed in the New Testament church and that with the formation of the New Testament scriptures, the function of prophet became redundant. It is certainly hard to argue for the existence of primary prophecy today, but in a secondary sense, prophecy as forth-telling is alive and well.

kata + acc. "let him use it / then prophesy in accordance with" - according to. Expressing a standard. As with all seven gifts there is no verb and so one must be supplied. Most modern translations take the prepositional phrases introduced initially by kata and then en, as indicating an imperative rather than serving to modify the gift. So "if it (the gift/s allotted to each of us) be prophecy, let us prophesy ....", Cassirer. Of course, our nomistic tendencies always lead us toward the imperative rather than the indicative.

thn analogian (a) "in proportion" - the relationship, proportion, right correspondence. The prophets are to proclaim truth in relationship with, in line with, the revealed word of God. They have no right to proclaim something which they believe is inspired, but does not align with the body of truth upon which they rely for their salvation. "let us prophesy such that the truth proclaimed corresponds with the revealed Word of God."

thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "to his faith / your faith" - of the faith. The genitive may be treated verbally, either objective, or subjective, but is more likely adjectival, of definition / epexegetic. The presence of the article probably implies that "the faith" intended is the body of Christian truth revealed by God, so if verbal, subjective is more likely; "the prophet is to prophesy in relation to the truths of the Christian faith as received." The NIV, as with many translations, take "faith" as personal faith and so the article is taken as a possessive pronoun "his faith" = "our faith."


eite "if it is" - or. See v6 above.

diakonian (a) "serving" - ministry. The word is used of service to the brotherhood (church), either generally, or specifically, eg. giving aid. It may also include a ministry of the word. "Practical service", Goodspeed, but then why put such a ministry in the midst of word ministries?

en + dat. "then [serve]" - in [the ministry]. See v6 above for the preposition as a marker of an imperative; "if we have the gift of serving, let us use it in serving", Cassirer. As noted, our inclination toward an imperatival sense should at least force a consideration of a local sense expressing sphere, "in the sphere of service", or an adverbial sense, modal, expressing the manner of serving; "if serving, in service." The preposition is repeated for all the listed gifts.

oJ didaskwn (didaskw) pres. part. "[if it is] teaching" - [or] the teaching [in the teaching]. As with the participles in v8, this participle serves as a substantive, but note the comment in v6 on the function of participles in the passage. The gift of teaching may be defined as catechetical instruction in the scriptures given to the members of the Christian community by a gifted member.


oJ parakalwn (parakalew) pres. part. "encouraging" - [or] the one exhorting [in the encouragement]. As with teaching, the purpose of "encouraging" is the edification of the congregation. Whereas "teaching" is theoretical instruction, "encouraging" is probably more practical, life-centered guidance; "the pastoral application of the gospel", Cranfield. "The gift of stirring speech", NEB.

oJ metadidouV (metadidwmi) pres. part. "contributing" - the one giving, or sharing with someone. Paul may be speaking of a gift of liberality, giving of our own resources for the building up of others. He may also be speaking of a ministry of the administration of finances, distributing the offerings of the church. This was Calvin's understanding.

en aJplothti "let him give generously" - in generosity, liberality. Possibly with the sense of "purity", even "simplicity"; the giver must give with pure intent. See Sandy and Headlam.

oJ proistamenoV (proisthmi) pres. part. "[if it is] leadership / [if it is] to lead" - the one taking the first place, presiding [in diligence]. "Paul is probably referring to those to whom the government of the church was committed. These are the elders who presided over and ruled the other members and exercised discipline", Calvin. Others suggest it is leadership in a general sense, which could be exercised by a number of church members in the building up of the congregation. Some commentators actually see it linked to the proceeding ministries, in which case it is a ministry of administration of the church's charitable works.

oJ elewn (eleew) pres. part. "showing mercy" - the one showing mercy. "The person whose special function is, on behalf of the congregation, to tend the sick, relieve the poor, or care for the aged and disabled", Cranfield.

en iJlarothti (hV htoV) "do it cheerfully" - This last example of the prepositional construction used throughout the list of ministries certainly leans toward an adverbial use, expressing manner; "the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness / cheerfully."


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