First Corinthians 12


Paul has been dealing with church worship issues or issues that arise at church gathering since Chapter 8:

  1. Food sacrificed to idols (a pagan worship practice carried over)
  2. Head coverings regulations for men and women when praying and prophesying
  3. The Lord’s Supper
  4. Now, Paul addresses spiritual gifts and manifestations of those spiritual gifts in a church setting.


Spiritual gifts must have been one of the issues the Corinthians wrote Paul about.
But, Paul expanse on their question and deals with the issue in the Corinthian church of the abuse of tongues.


At the heart of this letter is the issue of what is really “spiritual”.

The Corinthians have had to be corrected on their definition of “spiritual” in these areas:

  1. Wisdom (ch. 1 and 2) –
    1. Corinth accepted worldly wisdom and mere rhetoric
    2. Paul said it was understanding the revelation of God
  2. Power (ch. 1) –
    1. Corinth saw power as worldly leadership and stage presentation
    2. Paul said it was the cross and the gospel which proclaims the power of the cross.
  3. Leadership (ch. 3) –
    1. Corinth sought large crowds with followers
    2. Paul said spiritual leadership was servants empowering believers.
  4. Wealth (ch. 4) –
    1. Corinthians were living as kings with dominion in this age which included their right to have all they wanted
    2. Paul said spiritual wealth was using this life to serve people and advance the still coming kingdom of God
  5. Morality (ch. 5, 6, 8 immoral brother, prostitutes in temple, cultic meals) –
    1. Corinthians were so spiritual that physical behavior had no effect on their spiritual condition
    2. Paul taught that lifestyle is a direct reflection of your spiritual condition.
  6. Lawsuits (ch. 6) –
    1. The Corinthians showed they were so spiritually powerless that they could not even resolve simple issues of this age by going to the Pagan world for legal settlements between each other.
    2. Yet Paul says, they are the spiritual people who will judge spiritually superior angels in the future
  7. Sexuality in Marriage (ch. 7) –
    1. The Corinthians were so spiritual their spiritual women did not want to be defiled by mundane earthly matters such as sexual relations in marriage
    2. Paul said this is part of God’s plan for his spiritual people.
  8. Rights and Privileges (ch. 8 and 9)
    1. The Corinthians had spiritual rights to do anything they wanted including sinful, carnal and immoral behavior.
    2. Paul said the spiritual person does not use some rights and privileges because of a higher spiritual responsibility.
  9. Bread and the Cup (ch. 10)
    1. The Corinthians were the people of God and thus spiritually immune to God’s judgment because they had eaten the “magic” bread and drank the “spiritual” wine at the Lord’s Supper.
    2. Paul said Israel was baptized and enter God’s plan at the Red Sea, ate the spiritual food called manna and drank water from the spiritual rock that was Christ yet they were scattered like debris from a hurricane in the wilderness by the judgment of God.
  10. Spiritual Gifts
    1. The Corinthians misunderstand the source and purpose of spiritual gifts because they misunderstand everything that is spiritual
    2. Paul is going to instruct them and relieve them of the ignorance concerning spiritual gifts.
  11. Physical resurrection
    1. The Corinthians reject the concept that the physical body will rise from the grave.
    2. Paul explains that is what happened to Jesus and it is the eventual end of every believer.  The physical body will be resurrected as a spiritual body.


Paul did not see life in the spirit as a life lived removed from the present. 

  • Instead Paul life in the spirit as a life lived in the weakness of the flesh while simultaneously living in the power of the spirit. 
  • Our live here is directly connected and empowered by our life in the future. 
  • Our life in the future has already begun even before our life here has ended.


Corinth is a young church that has come out of pagan worship and not Judiasm.


Rivalries are a problem in this church:

  1. Rivalries between followers of Peter, Paul, Apollos and Christ.
  2. Rivalries between members involving law suits.
  3. Rivalries between married and not married.
  4. Rivalries between husbands and their overly spiritual wives.
  5. Rivalries between men and women concerning who has to cover their head
  6. Rivalries between the wealthy and the lower class at the Lord’s Supper.
  7. Now, in chapter 12, rivalries among those with certain spiritual gifts.


These passages of scripture are difficult because:

  1. Our ignorance of these events and the extent of their manifestations.
  2. Our lack of similar verses addressed to other churches.


Chrysostom (born in 347 in Antioch, Syria) said even in his day there was so much ignorance concerning these verse that he himself was perplexed.


It seems clear that there were supernatural manifestations occurring among the Corinthians.

Many of the members of the church found themselves in possession of exceptional spiritual gifts.

The problem for them was:

  1. These gifts did not make the possessor more mature or moral.
  2. To the young, immature believers in Corinth the gifts became a source of competition, showmanship and rivalries that harmed the church.
  3. The Corinthians were familiar with pagan spiritual manifestations that included incantations, spiritual speaking and demonic manifestations.
  4. Certain gifts were sought after because they brought attention to the person using the gift and individuals then became proud and arrogant.



Περὶ      δὲ      τῶν       πνευματικῶν,       ἀδελφοί,       οὐ       θέλω      ὑμᾶς       ἀγνοεῖν.

Now      about    the         spiritual matters         brothers       I do not    wish         you       to be ignorant


“Now about” as in 7:1 and 8:1 probably refers to topics from their letter.


“I do not wish you to be ignorant” is a formula for information that must not be understood if one is to properly understand Paul.  Also:

  • Romans 1:13 – a harvest
  • 11:25 - Israel
  • 2 Cor. 1:8 – hardships
  • 1 Thes. 4:13 – the dead in Christ and end times



οἴδατε      ὅτι    ὅτε     ἔθνη         ἦτε       πρὸς     τὰ      εἴδωλα      τὰ        ἄφωνα      ὡς      

You know   that   when   nations     you were     to        the      idols                        voiceless     however


ἂν         ἤγεσθε              ἀπαγόμενοι.

             You were led       being led away


Paul begins his teaching with something they are familiar with, Pagan worship.

  1. Paul may be reminding them of their complete lack of experience with actual spiritual speech since idols could not even talk or communicate.  This comes from his Jewish background that complete scorned idols.
  2. Paul may be making a contrast to previous demonic manifestations which included ecstatic experiences and inspired utterances.  This comes from the fact that Paul knows that idols are backed by demon powers.




διὸ              γνωρίζω             ὑμῖν             ὅτι           οὐδεὶς             ἐν               πνεύματι          

therefore   I make known         to you           that            no one              by                the spirit


θεοῦ      λαλῶν            λέγει,              ἀνάθεμα                 Ἰησοῦς,              καὶ             οὐδεὶς  

of God     speaking            says                  a curse             (is)     Jesus                   and           no one


δύναται              εἰπεῖν,             κύριος              Ἰησοῦς,         εἰ              μὴ       ἐν   

   can                       to say               Lord                    Jesus              except                    by


πνεύματι                 ἁγίῳ.

the spirit                      holy


“Therefore” - Paul brings his opening argument to a close


“I make known to you” is Paul way of solving their ignorance.


Pagan worship will renounce Jesus and all his Lordship stands for.

Spiritual worship will support Jesus Lordship and the character of that kingdom.