1 Cor 12:1-14:40

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [1] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [2]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [3] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [4] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [5]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [6] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [7].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [8]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?


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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [9]


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