1 Corinthians 12:4-27

4 Now 1there are varieties of gifts, but 2the same Spirit;
5 and 3there are varieties of service, but 4the same Lord;
6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is 5the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
7 6To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of 7wisdom, and to another the utterance of 8knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9 to another 9faith by the same Spirit, to another 10gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another 11the working of miracles, to another 12prophecy, to another 13the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another 14various kinds of tongues, to another 15the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, 16who apportions to each one individually 17as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as 18the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, 19so it is with Christ.
13 For 20in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--21Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free--and 22all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
18 But as it is, 23God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, 24as he chose.
19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, 25all rejoice together.
27 Now 26you are the body of Christ and individually 27members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:4-27 Meaning and Commentary


In this chapter the apostle discourses concerning spiritual gifts, showing the author, nature, use, and excellency of them; compares the church to an human body, and in a beautiful manner sets forth the symmetry and subserviency of the members of it to one another, being set in different places, and having different gifts; and enumerates the several offices and gifts in the church, and yet suggests there is something more excellent than them. He intimates, that spiritual gifts are valuable things, and should be taken notice of; nor would he have the saints ignorant of them, and therefore gives the following account, 1Co 12:1 and yet he would not have those that have them be proud of them, and lifted up with them; for which reason he puts them in mind of their former state in Heathenism, to make and keep them humble, 1Co 12:2 and points out such who have the Spirit of God, the author of all gifts and grace; not such who call Jesus accursed, but they that call him Lord, 1Co 12:3 which Holy Ghost, who is called Spirit, Lord, and God, is the author of the different gifts bestowed upon men, 1Co 12:4-6 the end of bestowing which gifts is the profit of others, 1Co 12:7 of which gifts there is an enumeration in nine particulars, 1Co 12:8-10 of each of which the Spirit of God is the worker and giver, according to his sovereign will and pleasure, 1Co 12:11 and which are all for the good of the whole community; which is illustrated by the simile of an human body, which as it consists of many members, and is but one, so Christ mystical, or the church, though it consists of divers persons, yet they are all one in Christ, and all their gifts are for the service of each other, 1Co 12:12 which unity is proved and confirmed by the saints being baptized by one Spirit into one body, the church, and by drinking of him, or partaking of the same grace, 1Co 12:13 and in order to show the usefulness and profit of every spiritual gift, even the meanest, to the churches of Christ, and that none might be despised, he enlarges upon the metaphor of the human body he had compared the church to, and by it illustrates the unity of the church, and the members of it, 1Co 12:14 and shows that the inferior members should not envy the superior ones, or be dejected because they have not the same gifts: and conclude from hence, that they are not, or deserve not, to be of the same body, 1Co 12:15,16 seeing it is convenient and absolutely necessary that there should be many members, and these set in different places, and have different gifts and usefulness; and particularly what should make them easy is, that God has placed them according to his will and pleasure, 1Co 12:17-20. And, on the other hand, he shows, that the more noble, and excellent, and useful members, ought not to despise the lower, meaner, and more ignoble ones, partly because of the usefulness and necessity of them, they cannot do without them, 1Co 12:21,20 and partly because of the honour put upon them, 1Co 12:23,24, and all this is so ordered, that there be no schism, but that there should be a mutual care of one member for another, and that they should sympathize with each other, 1Co 12:25,26. This simile the apostle more plainly and particularly accommodates and applies to the church, the body of Christ, and the members of it, and of one another, 1Co 12:27 and gives an enumeration of the several officers and offices in the church, set there by God himself; and there are no less than eight of them, some greater than others, most of them proper and peculiar to the primitive church, though some perpetual, and which still continue, 1Co 12:28 but in the times in which they were all of them in being and use, every member of the church was not possessed of them, only some, though all had more or less the advantage of them, 1Co 12:29,30. Wherefore, he concludes with an exhortation to the saints to covet the best of those gifts; and yet observes that there was something more excellent than them, and preferable to them, which he was about to show them, 1Co 12:31 and hereby he makes an easy transition to the next chapter, in which he recommends charity, and prefers it to gifts.

Cross References 27

  • 1. [Hebrews 2:4]; See Romans 12:6
  • 2. Ephesians 4:4-6
  • 3. Romans 12:7; [Ephesians 4:11]
  • 4. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 5. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 6. Ephesians 4:7; [1 Corinthians 14:26; Romans 12:3]
  • 7. 1 Corinthians 2:6, 7
  • 8. See 1 Corinthians 1:5
  • 9. 1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Corinthians 4:13
  • 10. ver. 28, 30
  • 11. ver. 28, 29; [Galatians 3:5]
  • 12. 1 Corinthians 13:2, 8; 1 Corinthians 14:1
  • 13. [1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1]
  • 14. See Mark 16:17
  • 15. ver. 30; 1 Corinthians 14:26
  • 16. [2 Corinthians 10:13]
  • 17. Hebrews 2:4
  • 18. See 1 Corinthians 10:17
  • 19. ver. 27
  • 20. [Romans 6:5; Ephesians 2:18]
  • 21. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; [Ephesians 2:13-17]
  • 22. [John 7:37-39]
  • 23. ver. 28
  • 24. ver. 11; [1 Corinthians 3:5; Romans 12:3]
  • 25. Romans 12:15
  • 26. [Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 1:24]
  • 27. See Romans 12:5

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or servants; Greek bondservants
  • [b]. Or members; also verse 22
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.