1 Corinthians


8. Speaking in tongues, 12:1-14:40

ii] You are the body of Christ


The central feature of a Christian congregation is its unity in Christ, although it is a unity which expresses itself in a diversity of personal abilities and ministries. Paul, in this passage, argues that the church is identified by its unity in Christ and its diversity of gifted members. Although one in Christ, the Christian fellowship exhibits a diversity of personal abilities (gifts) and ministries (functions)


i] Context: See 12:1-11.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9.


iii] Structure: You are the body of Christ:

The proper use of tongue-speaking in Christian worship #2:

Proposition, v12-14:

The body of Christ (the church) consists of diversity in unity.

Illustration, v15-26

The church is like a human body.

The body illustration, v15-24a;

The church as a body, v24b-26.

Application, v27-31:

The diversity of spiritual gifts in the church;

Speaking in tongues in relation to the other Word gifts.


iv] Interpretation:

In the opening proposition, Paul establishes that the church, the body of Christ, is a single body made up of individual members - unity in diversity, v12-14. Paul illustrates this truth by looking at the human body with its many parts, all playing their part for the benefit of the whole body; he then relates the illustration to the church, v15-26. Paul concludes his argument by applying his proposition to the church, as regard gifted ministry within the congregation - each minister playing a part for the benefit of the whole. The point of Paul's argument is that the church is not just an assembly of gifted tongue-speakers, but rather an assembly of gifted members exercising a variety of gifts for the benefit of the whole.

Paul's list of ministries (obviously not complete, cf., Rom.12:6-8, Eph.4:11-13) seems to be in order of importance. In comparing the miraculous ministries with the word ministries, Paul uses his body illustration to draw out the importance of the word ministries over the miraculous ones; "the members of the body that seem weaker are indispensable", v22, "the greater honour (is) to the inferior member", v24. So, by listing the ministries as he does, Paul emphasises the word ministries of Apostle, prophet, pastor / teacher, while subtly demoting the more spectacular ministries, particularly the ministry of tongues.

As the argument develops in chapter 14, Paul will use his favourite form of argumentation. In arguing against a particular matter which is held dear by many of those he writes to, he gently probes the subject, affirming its good points, but then assembles a weight of argument against it. So for example.... I think it's good for a person to remain unmarried, BUT....... I think it's good for a person to speak in tongues, BUT ......


Gifts of Ministry: The gifts of the Spirit refer to heightened ordinary abilities, sometimes extraordinary abilities, given by the Holy Spirit to Christians to enable them to serve Jesus. This was foretold in Joel 2:28, confirmed by Jesus to his disciples, and fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, Act.2:1-21, 33. From this time on, Christians have been able to draw on these abilities to equip themselves for their Christian walk and practical service to the church, and through the church to the world.

When it comes to the gifts of the spirit, it is possible to distinguish between spiritual abilities that enable us to function as "gifted" believers for both our own edification and the edification of others (God's gift to the individual), and the ministries themselves (God's gift to the church).

It is likely that each member of a congregation is in some way or other gifted for the common good, 1Cor.12:7. Paul lists some of these spiritual abilities in 1Cor.12:8-10. Obviously, if God gives us the gift to discern spiritual things then we can exercise a ministry of prophecy in the church. If God givers us the gift of the utterance of knowledge, then this could mean we are equipped to perform the ministry of teaching - and so on. So, a person who is gifted with say leadership abilities, is a person we would say is gifted with abilities to perform a ministry of administration. The highest personal spiritual gift is that of love, 1Cor.13. We don't usually call love a "gift", but it is indeed a spiritual quality given to every believer. It is the gift above all gifts. Jesus' command for his disciples is that we love one another, Jn.13:34. It is a spiritual gift that endures forever, unlike the others that only last for a time, 1Cor.13:8-10. It is a gift sufficient in itself, ie., if we possess the gift of love we need possess no other.

The Spirit gifts gifted members to each church to exercise a ministry for the upbuilding of that church. These gifts of the Spirit serve to build up the body of Christ. The greatest is apostles, second prophets, third teachers etc. 1Cor.12:27-28.


The ministry of Apostle: Initially this referred to the twelve whom Jesus chose to be with Him, and who were sent out to proclaim the gospel in power. Later the title was applied to Paul, Rom.1:1, Barnabas, Act.14:4, Andronicus and Junias, Rom.16:7, etc. When a replacement was made for Judas, the office was filled by a person who had been a disciple from the time of John the Baptist to the resurrection of Jesus; he was a witness to Jesus' resurrection, Act.1:15-26. It is difficult to know whether all those called "apostles" in the New Testament were witnesses to the resurrection. Paul's Damascus road vision, and personal commissioning by Jesus, authenticated his claim, even though he was not a witness to Jesus' resurrection. Yet, what of the others who were not members of the twelve? It is usually accepted that the ministry of an apostle was limited to the 1st Century. Their witness to the resurrection and its proclamation to the world is now enshrined in the New Testament for all to see.


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

Text - 12:12

Unity in diversity, v12-31: i] The Christian fellowship, founded on Christ, is unified in Christ, one body in Christ, but unity does not demand uniformity, since unity naturally expresses itself in diversity, v12-14. Both the NIV and TNIV express the sense of this verse, but to properly address the Gk. text we are best to follow the ESV: "for just as the (human) body is one and has many members (parts), and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (the Christian fellowship)."

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, further explaining the proposition that the diversity of gifts exist within the unity of one Lord, v4-11.

kaqaper ...... ou{twV "just as ...... so it is with" - just as [the body is one and has many body parts, all the body parts of the body being many are one body,] in like manner, in this way [christ]. Both the opening conjunction and concluding adverb establish a comparison (ou{twV is not inferential here), "as the human body is ......... so also is Christ / the Christian fellowship." "As the human body, which has many parts, is a unity, and those parts, despite their multiplicity, constitute one single body, so it is with Christ", Phillips.

kai "and [has many members]" - and. Coordinative.

tou swmatoV (a atoV) gen. "[the members] of the body" - [the body parts] of the human body. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "all the different body parts that belong to the human body", or partitive, "that are part of ..."

o[nta (eimi) pres. part. "though [many]" - being [many. The participle is adverbial, probably concessive, "though / although". Note variant: "all the parts of the one body are many."

oJ CristoV "Christ" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Probably an example of metonymy where one word or phrase serves to express a more complex idea; "Christ" = "and so also the body of Christ = the Christian fellowship."


The basis of this unity in diversity is the gift of the one, or better, the "same" Spirit.

kai gar "for" - and for = yes even / for indeed. Explanatory, supporting v12 by summarizing v4-11; "in the same way, all of us, ....", TEV.

hJmeiV "we" - we [all]. Paul is now identifying himself with the common life of the Corinthian believers.

ebaptisqhmen (baptizw) aor. pas. "baptized" - were immersed. We should note that v13 gets used to support a number of distinctives in Christianity. In particular, it is often argued that we have here two steps in the Christian life. First, water baptism to receive the Spirit for regeneration, and Spirit Baptism to "drink" the Spirit in fullness for empowerment. When the word "baptized" is used in the New Testament it does not necessarily refer to water baptism. The word simply means "washed" or "immersed". It is more than likely that Paul is using a couplet expression to make the same point. Our washing in the Spirit, or drinking of the Spirit (ie. our reception of the Spirit of Christ through faith in Christ) unites us, makes us one.

en "by" - in = by. Instrumental, expressing means / agency as NIV, here of the Holy Spirit. None-the-less, local is possible, "in the Spirit."

eJni .... e}n .... e}n "one ... one ..... one " - one = the same [spirit]. Often emphatically with the sense "one and the same", "we were all baptized by the same Spirit"; "God's Spirit baptized each one of us", CEV.

eiV "into / so as to form" - to, into. Possibly expressing "the result of the process", Barrett, or more particularly the purpose or goal of the action, as TNIV; "so as to become one body", Fee. Also possibly the more common local sense "into which", or as en, "in"; "has united us into one body", Barclay.

to swma (a atoV) "body" - [one = the same] body. Although the word is used of the physical body, Paul frequently uses it figuratively to refer to believers in Christ who are joined together as a united fellowship. This figurative use of the word suits Paul's argument for diversity in the Christian fellowship when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts, ie., we are not all eyes, or hands, etc.

eite ...... eite .... "whether .... or ......" - whether [jews] or [greeks] whether [slaves] or free. A correlative conditional construction. The NIV separates this parenthetical statement from the central statements of the verse by the use of dashes. Note how the TEV / CEV removes it from between the two central statements and places it at the beginning; "Some of us are Gentiles, and others are Jews. Some of us are salves, and others are free. But God's Spirit baptized each one of us and made us part of the body of Christ", CEV.

epotisqhmen (potizw) aor. pas. "we were [all] given [the one spirit] to drink" - [and] we [all] were given to drink [one = same spirit]. See above, "baptized by one Spirit."


Is the "body" in mind the church, or the human body which is about to be used as a illustration of diversity in unity? The illustration may commence in this, or the following verse.

kai gar "now / even so" - and for = for also, indeed. Not causal but logical, reason / explanatory, here virtually a summary statement of the argument so far - the body is one: the body is made up of many parts = the Christian fellowship is a united whole in Christ: the Christian fellowship is made up of many different spiritually endowed members. "For indeed".

to swma (a atoV) "the body" - the body [is not one member]. Presumably the definite article serves to identify a particular "body", namely "the body of Christ", although an article with the subject may be generic, so "any body", Barrett, meaning that Paul is making a general observation here.

alla "but [of many]" - but [many]. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction.


ii] The church is like a human body, v15-26: a) "Paul now begins an unusual and elaborate illustration of the diversity of the many members that constitute the one body", Fitzmyer, v15-24a. The illustration differentiates the function of the different members of the human body and how each contributes to the functioning of the whole. As the illustration develops, Paul draws out the fact that the overt parts of the human body carry their own honor (eg. the tongue?) while the "less presentable" parts, the hidden parts, rightly receive greater honor. This feature of the human body illustrates how the Christian fellowship should work. Every gifted believer plays its part in upbuilding the Christian fellowship, with the more overt ministries (tongues, miracles, ...) not taking precedence over the less flamboyant ministries (prophecy, teaching, pastoring, ....).

ean + subj. "if" - if [the foot says]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd class, where the condition is expressed as an unfulfilled hypothetical possibility, "if, as may be the case, the food should say ..... then not for this reason is it not of the body"

oJti "because" - that. Possibly causal, as NIV, but also possibly introducing a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what the foot says; "If the foot were to say I am not a hand and therefore I do not belong to the body", Cassirer.

ou .... ouk .. "not .... cease / not ..." - [am] not [a hand, am i] not. The double negative is a little clumsy when expressed in English, and also in English the apodosis of an unfulfilled hypothetical possibility is often better expressed in the form of a question; "does this difference separate it from its identity as a genuine, honorable and functioning body part?" Junkins.

ek + gen. "belong to [the body]" - of [the body]. Standing in for a partitive genitive; "am I not a part of the body", B&L.

para touto "for that reason" - [not] alongside this = for this reason [it is not from the body]. Here a rather rare construction serving to express reason, as NIV; "because of this", cf. Moule IB 51.


As a human body is made up of a diversity of parts, which parts are essential for the proper functioning of the body, so also is the church. As the human body is not just one functioning part, so also the church. When the church assembles, it must not become one functioning gift. Paul is probably referring to the miraculous gifts, particularly tongue-speaking, which are overly represented in the Corinthian congregation. The true nature of a fellowship of believers is one body with many parts with each part necessary for the whole to operate properly. This verse repeats the grammatical structure of v15, this time for ou\V, "an ear."


ei + ? "if" - if, [as is not the case, the body was an eye, then where would be the hearing]. Although not clear, the conjunction is likely introducing a 2nd. class conditional clause, contrary to fact, where the condition is assumed to be untrue - the whole body is not an eye. Here the particle an is not present in the apodosis and an imperfect verb to-be must be assumed in the protasis.

pou "where" - Interrogative particle.

hJ akoh (hV) "would the sense of hearing be" - [where] the hearing, [if all hearing, where the smelling]? This is probably the meaning of the word, but possibly just "ear", particularly as hJ osfrhsiV is more likely "nose" than "sense of smell". "If the whole body is an eye, what about the ear? If the whole body is an ear, what about the nose?"


nuni de "but in fact" - and so, accordingly. Read as an emphatic construction by the NIV, but possibly just logical: de adversative, and nuni logical and not temporal = "but as it is", Zerwick, "but now as the situation is", BAGD.

eqeto (tiqhmi) aor. "has arranged / placed [the parts]" - [god] set, placed / ordered, appointed [the members, each one of them]. Fee opts for "set, arranged", rather than the classical meaning "appoint". "God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best", CEV.

en + dat. "in" - in [the body]. Local, expressing space, distributive; "God placed them each in their proper place within the body", B&L.

autwn gen. pro. "of them" - [each one] of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.

kaqwV "just as [he wanted them to be]" - as [he willed]. Comparative; "just as he has decided that it should be", TH. "In accordance with his design."


de "-" - but/and. Here adversative; "on the contrary."

ei + ind. "if" - if, as is not the case, [all were one member, then where the body]? Introducing a 2nd. class conditional clause, as v17.

pou to swma "where would the body be?" - where the body? "If all the parts were of one kind, there would be no body at all, only a monstrosity", Fee. Such would no longer be a body as designed by God. Of course, the point of the illustration is that if the manifestation of the Spirit in the church is all tongues, then obviously such is not a God-designed Christian fellowship.


nun de "as it is" - but now. Circumstantial construction, as above. "But in point of fact, there are many parts, but (de, "and", seems more likely, cf. Barrett, ie. "a contingent fact rather than a logical axiom", Thiselton) there is one body", Barclay.

men ...... de ..... ".... but ...." - [many members] but [one body]. An adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand [there are many parts to a body], but on the other hand [the many parts together constitute a single body."


Paul goes on to extend the "body" illustration. Having established the necessity of diversity, he goes on to make the point that the prominent and beautiful parts of the body are not necessarily the ones that are essential to life. As with the human body, so with the church, "those parts of the body ..... which seem to us to be less deserving of notice, we have to allow the highest honor of function", Phillips. "Word" ministries may not seem as significant as tongues, miracles, or the healing ministry, but they should be given the highest honor. Each member should have "equal concern for each other." "Those who exercise spiritual gifts do so for the benefit of a body which God has designed with meticulous care. For this reason there should be neither elitism nor jealousy", Naylor.

We have here the commencement of a lengthy Greek sentence which continues through to v24a.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating the next step in the argument, as NIV.

eipein (eipon) aor. inf. "[cannot] say" - [the eye is not able] to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able".

th/ ceiri (ceir oV) dat. "to the hand" - to the hand. As with toiV posin, "the feet", dative of indirect object.

sou gen. pro. "[I don't need] you" - [i do not have need] of you [or the head to the feet, i do not have need of you]. As with uJmwn, "you", the genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but possibly ablative, source / origin. "Paul defines self-sufficiency here as having no need of another", Thiselton.


alla "on the contrary" - but. Adversative.

pollw/ dat. adj. "-" - by how much [rather]. Dative of comparison; "on the contrary, even more to the point", Thiselton. This seems to be the intended sense, although it is possible that this adverbial phrase modifies anagkaia estin, "is necessary", so "is much more necessary."

tou swmatoV (a atoV) gen. "[those parts] of the body" - [the members, parts] of the body. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

dokounta (dokew) pres. part. "that seem" - seeming, appearing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "body"; "those very members of the body which are considered rather delicate", Moffatt. Of course, the weaker members seem only to be weak, but are in fact worthy of greater honor. Those proud of the outward manifestations of the Spirit can easily miss the value of the greater / more important manifestation of the Spirit.

uJparcein (uJparcw) pres. inf. "to be" - Introducing an object clause / epexegetic / dependent statement of perception expressing what is considered, "those parts of the body which seem that they are weaker."

asqenestera (asqenhV) comp. adj. "weaker" - weaker, Predicate adjective. The issue of the "weak" and the "strong" in the Corinthian church is a matter of some debate, given that in Romans "the weak" references law-bound believers, while "the strong" references those living under grace. It is unlikely that the "weak" here are physically, socially, emotionally, even theologically weak, but rather are those members of the congregation who do not possess the outward manifestations of the Spirit prominent in the Corinthian church, namely tongues, miracle workers, healers, .... So, the parts of the human body that Paul refers to as "weak", are those "which seem to us to be of less importance than some other organs", Junkins.

anagkaia (oV) "[are] indispensable" - [are] necessary. Predicate adjective. When it comes to the physical body, the "weaker" parts are "indispensable". As noted above, it is most likely that Paul is thinking of the internal organs, or possibly the sexual organs, those parts that exist behind the scene, as it were. So it is with a Christian congregation. There are members who work for the life of the congregation, do so unrecognized, and whose contribution is indispensable , eg. pastoral care, teaching ...... love. "Are essential", Thiselton.


kai "and" - Coordinative, "and"; "Moreover", Cassirer.

a} "the parts" - those parts. "The parts of the body"

tou swmatoV (a atoV) gen. "-" - of the body. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "are" - [which we think] to be. As in v22 the infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, "those things we consider that are less honorable."

atimotera (atimoV) comp. adj. "less honorable" - dishonourable. Predicate adjective. The "less honorable" parts, especially the aschmwn "unpresentable / shameful" parts, we treat with "special modesty." Here, the sexual organs are possibly being referred to, the private parts, those "protected from public exposure", Fitzmyer. These are the parts we carefully cover, cf., ref. Adam and Eve, so Bruce. Paul's point is that all parts of the body play their part, irrespective of perceptions. "Those parts of the body which seem to us to be less deserving of notice we have to allow the highest honor of function", Phillips.

toutoiV dat. pro. "-" - [we clothe] on these [more abundant honor]. Dative of direct object after the peri prefix verb "to put on"; "the parts of the body we think less honorable, we bestow on these parts of the body greater honor."

hJmwn gen. pro. "-" - [and the shameful parts] of us [have greater prominence]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive or partitive. Again Paul's intended sense in his choice of the words "shameful parts / unpresentable" and "greater prominence / special modesty" is somewhat illusive, although Phillips' stab at v23b-24a is worthy of note; "the parts which do not look beautiful have a deeper beauty in the work they do, while the parts which look beautiful may not be at all essential to life."


de "while" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrast; "we are modest about our personal parts, whereas we don't have to be modest about other parts", CEV.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [the comely parts] of us. The genitive is possessive.

ta euschmona adj. "presentable parts" - the comely, respected, presentable, decent, graceful parts. The adjective functions as a substantive. "Members of the body that need neither covering nor adornment", Fitzmyer.

creian (a) "[need no] special treatment" - [have no] need. Accusative object of the verb "to have." "Do not have a need = an important role to play."


b) Paul now applies his illustration to the church, v24b-26. These verses form a single sentence in the Gk. Not all commentators agree that Paul is now using the word "body" metaphorically to represent the church. Such an interpretation is allegorizing, so Fee. At one level the metaphor continues, but at another level "there can be no real physical analogy", Barrett, ie., members having equal concern for each other, and the individual members rejoicing with the whole, is not something the parts of a human body can do. So, Paul does seem to be extending his metaphor beyond the human body; he "is thinking more of the church at Corinth than the physical body", TH. The debate continues, but at least we can say that Paul is now concluding his illustration, and begins to explain "the purpose of this ordering of the body", Garland. God has designed the human body to promote mutual involvement. This principle can be applied to the church: "those who exercise spiritual gifts do so for the benefit of a body which God has designed with meticulous care. For this reason there should be neither elitism nor jealousy", Naylor.

alla "but" - Adversative. "But as it is", Fee.

sunekerasen (sugkerannumi) aor. "has combined / has put together" - [god] mixed together, united, combined, blended [the parts of the body]. "God has harmonized the whole body", Phillips.

douV (didwmi) aor. part. "and has given / giving" - giving. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "combined", as NIV, but also possibly forming an adverbial clause of manner, expressing how the members are "combined", or instrumental, expressing means. "God has tempered the body together, with a special dignity for the inferior parts", Moffatt.

perissoteran comp. adj. "greater honor" - more abundant [honor]. The noun "honor" serving as the direct object of the verb "to give."

tw/ uJsteroumenw/ (uJsterew) dat. pres. pas. part. "to the parts that lacked it" - to the lacking, without parts. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.


iJna mh + subj. "so that [there be] no [division]" - that not / lest. Introducing a negated purpose / result clause which turns positive in the second clause. God has ordered the body / church such that there be no internal divisions, but rather mutual concern.

en + dat. "in [the body]" - [there be division] in [the body]. Expressing space, as NIV, although short-talk, in that the division is in-between members of the body

alla "but" - Strong adversative.

merimnwsin (merimnaw) pres. subj. "should have equal concern" - [the parts] should care, have concern. In the sense of have one and the same interest in; "that there is no discord in the body, but, instead, the members have mutual interests", Berkeley.

uJper + gen. "for" - [the same] for [one another]. Expressing advantage, "for the sake of". "They should have the same concern for one another", TH.


kai "-" - and. Possibly consecutive here, expressing result, BDF 442[2]. God has designed the body to promote the mutual interests of the members with the result that .....; "so, if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer in sympathy with it; and, if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy", Barclay.

eite ...... eite "if" - [and] either [one part suffers, all the parts suffer] or [one part is honored, all the parts rejoice]. A correlative disjunctive construction; "and if ..... or ....."

doxaztai (doxazw) pres. pas. "is honored" - is honored, receives praise. Honored by whom?


iii] Paul now encourages the Corinthian believers to enhance their God-given oneness by accepting the diversity of their spiritual gifts, v27-31. He directs his attention specifically to the church at Corinth - "you". Here Paul argues for diversity, not uniformity, in the gifts of ministry. His point is simple enough, and he makes it in the form of rhetorical questions. Do all members of a congregation have the same gifts to enable them to exercise the same ministry? Of course not. The list of ministries is obviously not complete and Paul is not necessarily trying to list all the ministries in order of their importance. Yet, he is giving prominence to "word" ministries, and he does place tongue-speaking at the bottom of the list. He is certainly countering the view that tongues are all important.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional connective identifying a new literary unit / paragraph.

uJmeiV "you" - The position is emphatic; "you yourselves".

swma (a atoV) "the body" - [are christ's] body. Predicate nominative. The lack of the article does not give the sense "a body of Christ", it stresses the quality of "body".

cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - The genitive is usually understood as adjectival, possessive; "you are Christ's body."

kai "and" - and. Coordinative, but possibly epexegetic; "and for that matter ...", B&L.

melh (oV ouV) "each one of you" - members, parts. Predicate nominative.

ek merouV " is a part of" - of / from a part. The prepositional phrase ek merouV is adverbial and comes with the idiomatic sense "individually", Barrett, expressing the manner of participation in the body of Christ; "individually members of the one body."


In v7-11 Paul's first list of "gifts" is a mixture of both personal spiritual abilities (gifts of the Spirit, or "manifestations of the Spirit" as Paul calls them) and gifts of ministry. A ministry gift is the Spirit's gift to the church, while a personal spiritual ability is the Spirit's gift to the individual person which allows them to exercise a particular ministry. In v28 we seem to have a list of various ministries. The first three seem like "offices", but are most probably not. "Miracles" and "helps" have been translated in the NIV as ministries, and this is probably what Paul intends.

kai "and" - and. Coordinate, so best left untranslated, as Barclay.

men "-" - Indicating the commencement of a comparative series. ou}V men .... ou}V de = "some of one kind ....... some of another." Did Paul intend "on the one hand apostles prophets and teachers, then (on the other hand) workers of miracles ....."? Barrett thinks Paul has simply dropped the contrast and gone for a list.

eqeto (tiqhmi) aor. "has placed" - [god] placed. "God has assigned to us different positions in the Church", Cassirer.

ou}V pro. "-" - some persons. The pronoun serves as a substantive, direct object of the verb "to put".

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing sphere.

th/ ekklhsia/ (a) "the church" - the church. The church universal is possible, but the local church is more likely, so eg., Garland. The basic sense of the word is "assembly", the gathering together / meeting of a group of people.

prwton adv. "first of all" - first. The sense is open to some debate. Often "first" is understood in terms of rank, but importance seems more likely.

apostolouV (oV) "apostles" - Accusative complement of the direct object ou}V, "some persons", standing in a double accusative construction; so also "prophets", "teachers", etc. The term was initially used to refer to a member of the twelve. Later it included others who had been with Jesus from the beginning. Paul got in as one "unnaturally born." Apostles were the source of the eye witness accounts of Jesus' deeds and sayings and were viewed as the founding fathers of the church (particularly individual churches, eg., Paul as the founder of the Corinthian fellowship). See above.

profhtaV (hV) "prophets" - [second] prophets. Again, this is probably a functional role, a Word ministry. In the New Testament period such a ministry probably involved primary revelation, at times specific to a particular situation. In Corinthians 14 Paul seems to use the word in relation to secondary revelation, ie., the exposition of primary sources. Such a prophet would function to build up the people of God, take the Word of God and apply it to the heart and mind of church members, enabling them to grow their Christian life. It is generally held that the revelatory form of prophecy has ceased. See above.

didaskalouV (oV) "teachers" - [third] teachers. It is quite acceptable to speak of a person having a personal gift of teaching. In that sense the term is being used to describe personal abilities which enable someone to teach the Word of God. Here, Paul is identifying the function of teaching as a ministry in the church. It is most likely performed by taking the truths of scripture, the "deposit" of Jesus deeds and words, and explaining them to members of the church.

dunameiV (iV ewV) "workers of miracles" - [then] powers. This ministry involves exercising power over the circumstances of life. The Evil One usually handles this department. It is not clear to what degree the people of God / the body of Christ has the power to shape the outcome of the blind rush of cause and effect.

iamatwn (a atoV) gen. "[gifts] of healing" - [then gifts] of healing. The genitive "of healing" is adjectival, idiomatic / product or result, "which bring about a person's healing." We usually speak of "healing" in the terms of praying to Jesus for the physical welfare of ourselves and others. Yet, it is probably better to see the church as having the power itself to affect the physical welfare of members, particularly through the ministry of a gifted member. Such a gift would not exclude modern medical science. Again, the possible outcomes of a healing ministry are a matter of some dispute in the Christian church. Read in tandem, "The Problem of Pain", and "Grief Observed", C.S. Lewis - both works together serve to expose the dilemma we face.

antilhmyeiV (iV) "those able to help others" - help, defense, succor. This seems to be a ministry of practical help: serving others, giving to the needs of others, doing acts of mercy.

kubernhseiV (iV) "administration" - giving direction. Although this ministry may mean something like management, it is most likely something else. Giving wise council is one possibility. Councilor is probably a better ministry title.

glwsswn (oV) gen. "[speaking in different kinds] of tongues" - [kinds] of tongues. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. As already indicated, Paul is probably referring to a form of ecstatic prophecy which has language content, but is so garbled as to need someone to explain it's meaning. The point Paul wants to make is that it is one among many ministries, and possibly even the least important.


Paul's point in this and the next verse is that "because within the body of Christ there is planned diversity, the Corinthians must rediscover mutual appreciation", Naylor.

mh "-" - not [all apostles] not [all prophets], not [all teachers] not [all wonder workers]. Used in a question expecting the answer "no", although a statement may be intended; "Obviously everyone is not an apostle, ....", Barclay. The verb must be supplied


R&P suggest that the change in syntax between v29 and v30 is prompted by the fact that "miracles" and "healing" are intended as a single gift, the gift of healing explaining the miracles that Paul has in mind. So:

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?

Do all possess the miraculous power to heal? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"

mh "-" - not [all have gifts of healing] not [all speak in tongues]. As in v29, this negation used in a question prompts the answer "No".

mh panteV diermhneuousin "do all interpret?" - [not] all explain, interpret. Obviously with the sense "do all interpret tongues?" Paul will go on to ask that this gift be exercised when tongues are employed in a worship service.


The Corinthian believers are keen for great and powerful spiritual gifts, so Paul goes on to tell them about the greatest of spiritual gifts, the gift of love. The NIV opts for a division of this verse with the second half introducing the next chapter. It does though seem more likely that the whole verse is transitional; "it serves as an announcement of Paul's excursus on love", Garland.

de "but / now" - but/and. Transitional connective, so best left untranslated, as Barclay; "Set your hearts on possessing the greater gifts."

zhloute (zhlow) pres. imp./ind. "eagerly desire" - desire, earnestly desire. Usually treated as an imperative, nicely expressed in the CEV, "I want you to desire the best gifts", although the actual sense of Paul's words is anything but settled. For example, is Paul being facetious? An indicative, rather than an imperative, is possible here, although mitigated against by the use of the same word in 14:1, and particularly 14:39; "you eagerly desire the greater gifts, so (a consecutive kai) I will tell you about the greatest one [love])".

meizona (megaV) comp. adj. "greater" - [the] greater [gifts]. Are these gifts Paul's greater gifts or the Corinthian's greater gifts?

kai e[ti "and now / and yet" - and yet. It is possible that the adverb e[ti goes with kai, as NIV, but it seems more likely that it introduces the prepositional phrase kaq uJperbolhn, "yet according to excess", so forming an idiomatic adverbial phrase, "yet in excess / beyond comparison", modifying the verbal noun "way" = "a still more excellent way", ESV. As noted above the kai may be consecutive; "so let me show / I will show you a still more excellent way."

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [i show] to you. Dative of indirect object.

odon (oV) "way" - a way [beyond comparison]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to show"; "A way of conducting oneself", B&L.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]