1 Corinthians Chapter Twelve
1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER TWELVE
Excerpts from Stuart Allen’s Book:
“Early and Pastoral Epistles of Paul”.
Edited by Jan Lilleby
Stuart Allen was a very competent Bible expositor, having been a successor to Charles Welch. I find it particularly timely in these days to publish his Bible knowledge regarding the Spiritual Miracle Gifts told in 1 Cor. 12. Thus we learn of how these sign gifts had its place only during the Acts period. Such miracle gifts/sign gifts, have never been with this present dispensation, the one with the Church, the One New Man as taught by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians. The Church has never had any baptism in the Holy Spirit, tongues, interpretation of tongues; nor prophecy, - or any healing gifts or power workings to raise dead or drive out demons…and so on and so forth.
In transferring this writing from Stuart Allen’s
book, the reader will note that there are quite a few
unwanted tab-spaces in the lines. This has to do with
the format of my website, for which I apologize!
This paper will give you 12 pages out of your printer.
Paul now commences an important section dealing with spiritual
gifts. It is clear that the Corinthian church had an abundance of
these gifts, and this in spite of their carnal state. To teach that the
possession of these gifts today is a mark of spirituality, or of some
special filling of the Spirit, is quite contrary to Scriptural facts, as
we shall see. It is possible that the believers at Corinth had raised
the matter concerning gifts in their communication with him. As
this matter was directly connected with their public worship, the
Apostle now deals with it.
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you
ignorant. Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto
those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led. Wherefore I give you to
understand, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God sayeth, Jesus is
anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit"
The word "gifts" is not in the original; it could be rendered
"spiritual matters", but as the context makes clear that it is special
gifts of the Holy Spirit which are being discussed, it is better to
supply the word "gifts". There was evidently a large Gentile
section in the Corinthian assembly, for the Apostle refers to their
pre-conversion days as idolaters under the domination of the evil
Satanic spirits that were behind the dumb idols they worshipped.
While redemption had delivered them from this bondage, it was
a mistake to suppose that there was no danger now from satanic
activity. In one sense these gifts constituted a danger, for Paul
makes it clear in this epistle and the one that was to follow, that
Satan, as an angel of light, can travesty these gifts and so deceive
the unwary. It is quite wrong to imagine that the great enemy of
God and His children, gave believers a holiday, as it were, till the
second century with its developed Gnosticism. The battle
between light and darkness never ceases, and the error that the
Apostle combated at Colossae, the warnings contained in the
Pastoral epistles and the command of the Apostle John to "test the
spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are
gone out into the world" (l John 4: 1) and that the spirit of antichrist
was already present (2: 18), show quite clearly that this was so, and
therefore the danger existed of being led astray.
We wish that those today who are anxious to bring back some of
these gifts, in particular tongue speaking, would bear in mind the
danger of what they are seeking to do.
In New Testament times ecstatic heathen worship was a fact, as
it is still today in dark centers of heathendom. Paul either knew
that this had already entered the Corinthian church, or there was
the possibility of it doing so.
Thus he states categorically that no one under the influence of
God's Spirit can say that Jesus is accursed, nor would anyone
under satanic domination own His lordship, for this is the very
thing that Satan covets for himself, and he certainly would not
allow any of his dupes to advertise the supremacy of Christ!
It seems clear that the Apostle had the worship of the assembly
in mind in this long section dealing with spiritual gifts, which
occupies this chapter and also chapters thirteen and fourteen. In
consequence, he is not referring to every day speech (although
what he said would cover this) but speech in the assembly, which
would be either under the guidance of God, or under satanic
influence. Anyone of course at any time could pronounce the
words "Lord Jesus", whether saved or unsaved, but no one in the
assembly's worship could use this phrase in teaching or witness
and be under the control of the evil one.
Having made this clear, Paul now goes on to discuss the spiritual
“There are distributions of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are
distributions of services, and the same Lord; and there are distribu-
tions of operations, but the same God who operates all things in all
men. To each one is given his own manifestation of the Spirit, with a
view to mutual profit. For to one there is given, through the Spirit, a
word of wisdom; to another, in accordance with the same Spirit, a
word of knowledge; to another faith, in the same Spirit; to another
gifts of healing, in the one Spirit; to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy, to another the power to distinguish between
spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpreta-
tion of tongues. All these things the same one Spirit puts into opera-
tion, distributing individually to each one as He wills"
There is no difficulty with the main theme of this section. Note
that Spirit, Lord and God are used interchangeably. However
varied the gifts may be, they have one source, the Holy Spirit of
God. They were not distributed to give any feeling of superiority,
but for the mutual profit of the whole church (verse 7). Just as there
was no uniformity of experience, neither was there of gifts. Nor
were these gifts the privilege of the few who had had some special
spiritual experience. To each one of the assemblies is given his own
manifestation of the Spirit (verse 7) and the Spirit divided these
gifts exactly "as He willed". No believer was responsible for the
kind of gift he received, but he was certainly responsible for the
way he used it, which primarily was meant for the Lord's glory and
the common good. In view of the attempts to revive tongue speak-
ing today apart from the gifts as a whole, it is significant that Paul
puts speaking in tongues at the bottom of the list. Furthermore, he
nowhere teaches that tongue speaking was a gift which the Holy
Spirit gave to every believer, or that it was an evidence of spiritual
maturity. It was probably coveted by some because of its outward
showiness, but the Apostle commences with one that is infinitely
more important, but without any external attraction, that of wis-
dom. Why? Because wisdom is fundamental in the practical out-
working of any gift or service for the Lord. Who is going to give
away anything of real value to foolish people who will only misuse
It is noteworthy that, in his prayer for the Ephesian believer
Paul again puts wisdom first (Eph. 1:17). "If any man lack wisdom
(and we all do to some extent) let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally ... " (James 1:5), so there is no excuse for any
believer to remain foolish, or to think or act foolishly. This only
hinders the Truth, and lets the Lord down before an unbelieving
The next evidential gift of the Spirit in chapter 12 is knowledge.
That this was given without human mediation is clear by the
context, where all the gifts come directly from the Spirit of God. 1
John 2:20 refers to this by saying, "But ye have an unction (anoint-
ing) from the Holy One (i.e. The Holy Spirit) and ye. know all
things". And again in 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have
received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man
One of the gifts of the ascended Christ for His Body is
"teachers" (Eph, 4:11), but there is no mention in this epistle of
any supernatural gift of knowledge without human effort, such as
existed in the church at Corinth. We may wish there was such
today, but now we find we have to search the Scriptures patiently,
comparing spiritual things with spiritual; we need to pray for
enlightenment too before such Divine knowledge becomes our
personal possession. While there were teachers in the churches
during the period covered by the Acts, it is evident that some who
had the special gift of knowledge were independent of them,
though not in a schismatic sense, for the will of God was for all to
work together as members of a body, in united witness.
Faith is the next special gift, and it is obvious this cannot be the
initiatory faith of the sinner believing in Christ as Savior, for such
a faith would be possessed by all true believers. It would be rather
the faith of the pioneer, willing to undertake new and possibly
difficult work for Christ, not only in the assembly, but outside. We
have a modern example of this in George Muller and his work for
Now follows gifts of healing, and the Acts is full of concrete
examples of this. (Acts 3:7,8; 4:16,30; 5:15,16; 8:6,7; 9:33,34;
14:8-10; 19:11,12; 28:8,9). Note that the healing was instantaneous
and complete, and we may be sure that there was no relapse! When
modern healing campaigns are compared to this, their pitiful
inadequacy is only too obvious. And yet they claim to be fulfilling
the same ministry as obtained in the Acts! How folk can be so
duped as to believe this only goes to show the utter ignorance of the
New Testament that abounds today.
The healing ministry we are dealing with has its roots in the Old
Testament in God's promises to Israel:
" ... If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy
God ... I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have
brought upon the Egyptians..." (Exod.15:26).
"And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy
bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of
"Thou shalt be blessed above all people: ... and the Lord will
take away from thee all sickness..." (Deut. 7:14,15).
There is no doubt that definite Divine healing was promised to
this earthly people of God. This was repeated in the Lord's com-
mission of the Twelve to Israel:
" And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out
demons..." (Matt. 10:7,8).
This very healing ministry was also performed by the Lord day
by day, as the Gospel records clearly show, and the same ministry
continues without a break till Israel is laid aside at the end of the
Acts. After this, Paul's healing ministry, so effective before (see
Acts 19:11,12), now no longer obtains (Phil. 2:25-27; 1Tim. 5:23; 2
This divine healing was one of the foretastes of the coming
earthly kingdom, where there will not only be abundant spiritual
blessing but physical health and blessing as well. If we are aiming
for truth and not wishful thinking, we shall keep this ministry
where the Bible places it - with Israel and God's earthly kingdom
purposes. To wrench it from this setting as so many have done is to
get difficulty, and disillusionment, as well as confusion in our
understanding of the Divine plan of the ages.
The next of the Spirit's evidential gifts is the working of
miracles, and again there is no need to argue as to what today can
be regarded as miraculous. The Acts of the Apostles is full of what
the Holy Spirit means by the working of miracles and the following
Scriptures should be carefully verified as they are too long to quote
in full here (Acts 2:22,43; 4:29,30; 5: 12; 6:8; 8:5-7,39; 9:37-41; 12:7;
13:10,11; 14:3; 16:16-18,25,26; 20:9-11; 28:3-9).
There can be no doubt that we do not live in such an age today.
The power to work such miracles was another earthly kingdom
evidence, and to some at Corinth this divine gift was given by the
Holy Spirit. There is another reference to this gift in Paul's early
letter to the Galatians:
"He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh
miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the
hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:5).
It is important to note that these miracles were not just displays
of great power which overwhelmed or stupefied those who saw
them. They were signs, that is they signified and gave a special
message; hence their evidential value to Israel who had the coun-
tersign, the Old Testament Scriptures.
The reader who has carefully perused the above list of refer-
ences, cannot fail to note the number of times the word "sign" is
connected with the word "miracle".
The Apostle follows this gift with that of prophecy, and it is
important to remember that a Bible prophet was a forth-teller as
well as being a foreteller. Prophets in the New Testament were
linked with apostles as a foundation ministry by the risen Christ
(Eph, 4: 11), and this was essential for the delivery of truth to God's
people until the great foundation of inspired Scripture was com-
plete, through which God could speak to men and meet every need
by the Holy Spirit's enlightenment. No further additions to God's
completed Word are necessary or can be allowed. Our task is the
proclamation of this completed revelation, and we no longer need
the ministry either of the apostle or prophet, the sure foundation
now being the Word of God and the Christ of the Word.
The ministry of the prophet during the Acts ranked high in the
Apostle Paul's estimation (1 Cor. 14:3-5) in importance above the gift of tongues.
In view of the satanic spirit of deception concerning which
Christ so clearly warned (Matt. 24:4,5,11,24 and see 2 Thess.
2:7-10), a divine gift of discrimination was needed at this time to
distinguish the true from the false; thus discerning of spirits was an
important gift and we have already seen the Apostle John's com-
mand to test the spirits in view of false prophets (1 John 4:1-3).
Thus those who claimed to give a word of wisdom, or knowledge,
or prophecy could be infallibly sorted out as to whether their
utterances were actuated by the Spirit of God or by some satanic
and demonic power.
The last on Paul's list is tongues and their interpretation. We
shall have more to say about this gift when we reach chapter
fourteen where the Apostle deals with tongue speaking and its
proper place in the assembly, so that everything could be done
"decently and in order".
The Apostle now stresses the source of all gifts - the Holy Spirit
Himself who is sovereign in his distribution of them:
"But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each
one severally even as He will" (12:11).
He alone chooses what gift each believer should have, so that none
should have ground either for boasting or for being inferior. Nor
were they given just to the "spiritual". All were necessary at this
time for the great earthly kingdom testimony. This naturally leads
to the thought of the Pentecostal church as a whole and what the
working of every part could achieve for the Lord. What better
illustration could be given than a human body, with its various
members working together harmoniously for the body and the
person as a whole?
This illustration was by no means unique. It was frequently
employed in the ancient world and we find allusions to it in Soc-
rates, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Marcus Antoninus. The
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the
members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is the
Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).
The Authorized Version and Revised Version omit the expres-
sed definite article before "Christ". Many expositors can see that
"the Christ" cannot refer just to Christ personally, for how can He
be likened to a human body which has uncomely as well as comely
parts? (verse 23). "Christ" (Christos) means anointed, and "the
Christ" can be used as the title of a church which has been
specially anointed. The believers to whom the Apostle John wrote
were told "Ye have an anointing" (chrisma) (1 John 20,27), and
this gave them the supernatural gift of knowledge which we have
already seen is contained in the list detailed in verses 8-10 of the
chapter with which we are dealing. In his second letter to the
Corinthian church the Apostle wrote:
"Now He that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed
us (chrio), is God" (2 Cor.1:21).
This "anointing" is very much to the point in 1 Corinthians
12:12. Moreover, the above reference acquaints us with the fact
that these supernatural gifts were confirmatory in character as well
as being signs. The teaching then in 1 Corinthians 12:12 is clear.
Just as a human body has many members, and each member has a
particular part to play, not independently, but for the well-being of
the body as a whole, so should the Corinthian assembly have
functioned. The cliques which had come into being at Corinth and
the misusing of some of the spiritual gifts were rendering this unity
null and void in practice, and it is this unity which was so important
and which Paul has stressed from various angles.
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we
be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all
made to drink into one Spirit" (12:13).
To be baptized into a special company was no new truth. We
have already had the baptism of all Israel unto Moses in 1 Corin-
thians ten, and this baptism was a spiritual baptism without water,
which united them with Moses and all for which He stood, and had
its origin in God's action, not in anything that Israel did. So it is
here. The words "baptized" and "made to drink" are in the aorist
tense denoting that the action is past (not something future to be
sought) and was true of all believers at that time irrespective of
their condition. It was an action never to be repeated, being the
work of the Holy Spirit.
It cannot refer to water baptism, for Paul had already told the
Corinthians that water baptism did not form part of His Christ-
directed ministry (1 Cor. 1:17), and no kind of water baptism would
ever effect this spiritual unity of the believer with God. Nothing
less than the Holy Spirit's work could do this. Such a unity cer-
tainly did not depend upon the work of man in carrying out any
In proceeding with the illustration of a human body, Paul
stresses the inter-dependence of the various members. We have
seen that this usage of the word "body" was not confined to the
Scriptures. In spite of a superficial likeness, the Apostle is not
describing the Body of Christ, yet to be revealed in all its fullness
after the Acts in Ephesians and Colossians. At this time it was still
a secret, hid in God from all past ages and generations of people
(Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26) and there is not a hint in these
Corinthian epistles, or for that matter in any epistle written during
the Acts, that such a secret of God is being unfolded. In fact the
word mystery (secret) is not used once to designate the church
individually or as a whole, such as it is used later on after Acts 28 in
Ephesians and Colossians. If we carefully note the language of 1
Corinthians twelve and Romans twelve, we shall note differences
from Ephesians. One which should be obvious is that the one Body
of Ephesians is distinguished from Christ as the Head. The
likeness of the Corinthian church to a human body and its
members, speaks of eyes, ears and nose, all members of the human
head and illustrative of those in the Corinthian church (verses
17-24). Every member of the Body of Christ in Ephesians is
"accepted in the Beloved", but the body of 1 Corinthians twelve
has "uncomely" parts which certainly is not true of the former. If
Paul is teaching here Ephesian truth, then he is using the figure of a
human body in a very careless way and we cannot accept this for a
oreover, he asserts in Ephesians that the Church related to the
Mystery is a ''joint-Body'' (sussoma), a unique word (3:6). No
such body, where every member is equal in size and importance
had ever existed before, either naturally or spiritually. It never
occurs in any Acts epistle, and in fact could not be used while the
position at this time symbolized by the olive tree (Israel) and the
wild grafts (Gentiles), was true (Rom. 11:16-24, and note verses 18
and 22). We should also realize that the gifts set by God in the
Corinthian assembly are different from those of Ephesians 4: 11,
insomuch that gifts of healing, helps, governments and diversities
of tongues are omitted in the Ephesian list, healings and tongues
being specially linked, as we have seen again and again, with the
earthly kingdom ministry of which Israel is the centre and form no
part of the heavenly calling of Ephesians. Apostles, prophets, and
teachers are repeated after Acts twenty-eight which shows clearly
that there is a definite selection by the Holy Spirit, repeating what
was continuous, and leaving out that which was transitory, for so
many of these Acts gifts were such, and never intended to be
permanent (1 Cor. 3:8).
The whole point of Paul's argument concerning these gifts is that
no one is responsible for the kind of gift he has, and even if some
are more important, all are necessary for the proper functioning of
the assembly in Christian witness. None should feel any sense of
superiority or inferiority whatever gift he possesses, and all should
lead, above all, to unity. After showing the diversity in unity of the
human body, he says:
"Now you are Christ's body, and, individually members"
(12:27 C.K. Barrett).
Both the Authorized Version and Revised Version translate
"Now ye are the body of Christ", but there is no definite article in
the Greek. We cannot translate it baldly "you are a body of
Christ", for this does not give the sense. The only way is, as Dr.
C.K. Barrett renders it, "you are Christ's body".
At first sight this seems to upset the distinction between the
Pentecostal church and the Body of Christ after the Acts period,
but we should ask ourselves, how could one of the many assemb-
lies existing at this time be The Body of Christ? What of the rest?
Paul uses the phrase "one body" again in Romans and this helps
us to understand the usage of the word "body" in the Acts as
applied to believers. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ,
and everyone members one of another" (Rom. 12:5). Note he did
not say "we are the one Body OF Christ", but "one body (of
believers) in Christ", which is a very different thing and shows the
standing by grace of the Roman church in Christ. So with the
Corinthian assembly. They were a company (body) of believers
belonging to Christ (Christ's body); like all the other churches;
they were not part of the sussoma, the joint-Body of which Christ
is the Head. Nothing is said about the Headship of Christ in these
Acts epistles. If we are absolutely accurate in our reading and note
just what the Apostle wrote under inspiration, not adding in our
minds what was to be revealed later, we shall have no difficulty
with this context, or try to identify what God has made to differ.
Nor need we be concerned with the old jibe that this teaches there
are two Bodies of Christ, for this would only be true if they existed
at the same time. Of course this is not so, for the sussoma, the
Joint-Body of Christ was not revealed till after Israel failed at Acts
28, thus superseding the Acts period position.
The God-given human gifts of ministry commence with the
foundation work of apostles and prophets. As we have seen, these
were necessary to lay the foundation of truth until the written
Word of God was complete and then the completed inspired Word
took over. The gifts that follow are secondary and fall in line with
the supernatural gifts already detailed. "Helps" antilepseis is a
common word in the papyri, but only used here in the New
Testament. It probably referred to the work of the deacons,
assisting the poor and the sick. "Governments" (kuberneseis),
speak of ruling or leading, and Paul doubtless has in mind the
overseers (bishops), the outstanding leaders of the local assembly.
The questions asked by the Apostle (l Cor. 12:29,30) refer back
to verse fourteen and its argument that the human body is not one
member, but many and all essential. In each question me in the
Greek demands the answer "no". It is significant that "tongues"
comes at the bottom of the list and the answer "no" deals a death
blow to the modern Pentecostal argument that tongue speaking is a
sign of the in-filling or special baptism of the Holy Spirit for those
who are seeking it. "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" said the
Apostle (verse 31) and there is no doubt that Paul unhesitatingly
ranks some spiritual gifts above others, but tongue speaking is
certainly not one, as this context and chapter fourteen clearly
reveal. The Apostle goes on to say there is something better, "I
show you a supremely excellent way", a way par excellence which
exceeds all that has been given before. It is the way of divine love,
and those who have the mind of the Spirit will always put the
emphasis on this first and foremost. What this involves is made
clear in the poetic hymn to love which follows in chapter thirteen.
Editor’s note: Stuart Allen’s book can be found on internet, freely to be read in its entirety – and is quite an extensive work of writing, over more than 300 pages). It was re-printed in 1977, - from which this excerpt has been taken.