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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Priceless: Finding Your Value in God

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This Sunday’s session continues the study on spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians that began last week. It focuses on the fact that much like the human body, all spiritual gifts have a vital part to play with respect to the whole Body of Christ.


Dec. 6

Adopted Into God’s Family


Dec. 13

Freed By God’s Forgiveness


Dec. 20

Saved By God’s Son


Dec. 27

Strengthened By God’s Power


Jan. 3

Equipped With God’s Gifts


Jan. 10

Used In God’s Service


Jan. 17

Cherished In God’s Eyes



God expects us to use the gifts He has given us.


1 Corinthians 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Peter 4:9-11





Your Spiritual Gift is Essential to the Body (1 Cor. 12:12-18)

No One’s Spiritual Gift(s) Is Unimportant (1 Cor. 12:21-22)

Our Spiritual Gifts Serves Others & Glorifies God (1 Pet. 4:9-11)


In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul emphasized the unity of the body of Christ. Diversity among the members’ spiritual gifts was not an occasion for self-pride, but rather the diversity demonstrated that all members served necessary roles for the proper working of the whole body. In his first letter Peter emphasized that all believers should, through the grace and power that God provides, use their gifts to fulfill His purposes for His glory through Jesus Christ.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee


We approach our work and daily tasks with different motivations. Some people choose work that interests them; others choose a career based on the money or prestige they will gain. And there are some things we do simply because they have to get done. The work we do as followers of Christ is grounded in a different motivation. The Bible calls us to work and serve out of love for others and a desire to glorify God.


Your Spiritual Gift is Essential to the Body (1 Cor. 12:12-18)

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 So the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.








1.   What was the setting for the focal passage for this study?

2.   Why did Paul compare the church to the human body (v. 12)?

3.   How would you explain this comparison to a new believer?

4.   How is being baptized related to the body (v. 13)?

5.   How do Christians drink of one Spirit (v. 13)?

6.   What does verse 14 add to the picture Paul was trying to paint for the Corinthian believers?

7.   Why should Christians not feel inferior about their spiritual gifts?

8.   Based on this passage, how would you explain to a new believer that there are no inferior spiritual gifts?

9.   If these gifts are so important to the building up of God’s church, what are some things that might a believer from using them?

10.   Do you believe that when it comes to using spiritual gifts the 20/80 rule is usually at play in most churches?

11.   If so, why do you think that may be the case?

12.   If the 20/80 rule is at play within a church body, do you think it might be that most church members do not understand the role that spiritual gifts play in the building up of God’s church?

13.   Why do you think traditional distinctions among people, such as ethnic or economic differences, are not important to the spiritual life of the church?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Cor. 12:12-18:

1.  Individual Christians are like the parts of one body.

2.  The church is the body of Christ.

3.  Traditional distinctions between people, such as ethnic and economic differences, are not important to the spiritual life of the church.

4.  All Christians are important to the church; no one should feel his or her spiritual gift is inferior.



No One’s Spiritual Gift(s) Is Unimportant (1 Cor. 12:21-22)

21 So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.

1.   What warning did Paul give to Christians who felt superior about their spiritual gifts?

2.   How would you summarize the truth Paul stated in the illustration of the eye and the head (v. 21)?

3.   Why are all parts of the body necessary?

4.   How would you explain the necessity of all spiritual gifts within a church body to a new believer who may feel inferior because he/she is a new believer and doesn’t yet know about spiritual gifts?

5.   What are some things you could do that might help him/her discover their spiritual gift(s)?

6.   Do you think our modern churches do a very good job of teaching their congregations regarding the discover and use of spiritual gifts?  Why, or why not?

7.   Do you think we are often tempted to compare ourselves (our gifts) with others?  Why, or why not?

8.   Do you think this could cause a feeling that one’s gift(s) are inferior to those gifts of other believers? 

9.   What are some reasons you think might cause this situation to happen to a believer?

10.   How might you help a fellow believer who has become discontented with his/her role in the church, or his/her gift(s)?

11.   What are the consequences of being discontented with your role in the church, or with your gift(s)?

12.   Why do feelings of inferiority have no place in the body of Christ?

13.   Do you believe this statement to be true?  “No one is less useful or more useful in the body of Christ.”  Why, or why not?

14.   What are some things believers can do that could help build up believers who may feel inferior or left out?

15.   Do you think there are consequences of overestimating one’s role in the church?  Why, or why not?

16.   If so, what might be some of those consequences?

17.   If such consequences sow discord within the body, what can be done to guard against them? 

18.   Why, then, must love be the driving force behind our spiritual gifts?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Cor.  12:21-22:

1.  All Christians and their spiritual gifts are necessary to the church.

2.  No Christian should consider his/her gift to be superior or inferior to others.

3.  We should share in the rejoicing and grieving of our fellow Christians.



Our Spiritual Gifts Serves Others & Glorifies God (1 Pet. 4:9-11)


9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

1.   Why was offering hospitality a critical need among believers in the early church (v. 9)?

2.   What does verse 9 tell you regarding offering hospitability among  fellow believers?

3.   Why do you think Peter urged believers to refrain from complaining when offering hospitality (v. 9)?

4.   What did Peter tell believers in verse 10?

5.   What do you think Peter meant when he said believers were “to serve others as good managers of the varied grace of God” (v. 10)?

6.   What two specific gift categories did Peter identify (v. 11a,b)?

7.   What should motivate believers to use the gifts they have been given (v. 11c)?

8.   What does Peter’s use of the word speaks imply in this context (v. 11)?

9.   What is the message those who speak were to proclaim (v. 11)?

10.   According to verse 11, Peter said believers were to use their gifts

11.   How can we recognize and appreciate the spiritual gifts of others?

12.   What are some ways God blesses a believer who faithfully uses his/her gift(s) to build up the body of Christ—His church?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

1.  Christians should practice hospitality by welcoming those who need our help.

2.  We should exercise our spiritual gifts to serve others and to glorify God.

3.  We should speak words that are based on biblical truths.

4.  We should acknowledge that God strengthens us to serve others.



Peter concluded his encouragement on how believers should use their spiritual gifts with a reminder of our overall goal:  that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. Jesus told His disciples that our good works were to lead others to give God the glory He deserves (Matt. 5:16).  Paul urged the Corinthian believers to focus on giving God the glory in everything they did, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem (1 Cor. 10:31).  Over and over the New Testament writers encouraged their readers to remember that to Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.

  So, where do you stand when it comes to glorifying God through your use of your spiritual gift(s)?  Does your use of your spiritual gift(s) reflect a close walk with Christ?  Are you using your spiritual gift(s) in such a way that glorifies God?  Rate, on a scale of 1 (not much glory because I don’t use my spiritual gift(s) very much) to 10 (much glory because I use my spiritual gift(s) constantly), how you use of your spiritual gift(s) to bring glory to the Lord by building up His body—the church?

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

1 Cor. 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 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. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

1 Peter 4:9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.  (KJV)


English Standard Version: 1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

1 Cor. 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all 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, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

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,

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (ESV)


New Living Translation:  1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

1 Cor. 12:12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

1 Peter 4:9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.  (NLT)


 (NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

Lesson Outline — “Used In God’s Service” — 1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11




Your Spiritual Gift is Essential to the Body (1 Cor. 12:12-18)

No One’s Spiritual Gift(s) Is Unimportant (1 Cor. 12:21-22)

Our Spiritual Gifts Serves Others & Glorifies God (1 Pet. 4:9-11)


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:  1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

Unity in the diversity of gifts in the body of Christ (12:12-26)

12, 13.  Paul now illustrates the diversity and unity of the spiritual gifts by the example of the human body. It is made up of many parts, all of them of importance, and yet the whole body functions as a unit. By the words “So it is with Christ,” he means so it is with Christ’s body, the church. That the church, the invisible church, is an organic whole is seen in that every believer, regardless of racial and religious connection (Jew or Greek) or social standing (slave or freeman), has been united by the one Spirit into one spiritual body in baptism. The figure is now reversed—all the believers have drunk one Spirit; that is, each one has received the same Holy Spirit (cf. 1Cor 6:19; Eph 5:18-20). Some have taken these thoughts as references to the Christian sacraments—water baptism and Holy Communion. But since there is no imagery of the cup, as in 1 Corinthians 11:25, it is doubtful that this is Paul’s primary intent. Rather, he is emphasizing spiritual baptism, and the communion of spiritual food and drink (cf. Rom 6:4; 1Cor 10:3, 4). It is not the local church alone Paul is speaking of here, but the church universal. This drinking of the Spirit is seen in Jesus’ invitation in John 7:37-39.

12:14-20.  Paul now emphasizes the necessity of having diversity in a body for it to operate as one. Each part (such as the eye or the ear) must be willing to perform its own function and not seek to function in a role for which it was not made. The whole body cannot be a single part, or it would not be a functioning body. So it is with the church. Members with one gift should not repudiate that gift and complain that they do not have some other gift. The apostles were to function as apostles, the elders as elders (1Pet 5:5), the deacons as deacons (Acts 6:1-6), etc.

The logic of v. 17 is compelling: no body can function as all eye, all hearing, or all smelling. So for the church to function properly, it must have different gifts and offices. In vv. 18-20 Paul brings the believers back to the sovereign purposes of God. It is God who has organized the body in the way he wants it. The implication is that it is the same with the church; according to God’s will, it is composed of many parts, so that it may function as one body—the body of Christ.

12:21-26.  Here the emphasis is on the mutual dependence and concern of the various members of the body. As the organs of the human body—such as the eye, hand, head, and feet—need each other, so the members of the church with their various functions need each other. Moreover, the least attractive and inconspicuous parts of the body are important and should be treated with respect (vv. 22, 23). So also the inconspicuous members of the church are essential—those who pray, those who work with their hands and bring their meager tithes into the church, etc. As the humbler parts of the body are given special attention by covering them with appropriate clothing and, as in the case of the digestive organs, providing them with food, so the inconspicuous members of the church—the poor, the despised, the less prominent—are to be cherished and nurtured.


1 Pet 4:9-11:

4:9.  Hospitality between Christians was an important, concrete expression of love in a world without our modern inns and hotels. This virtue was required of the bishops and widows (1Tim 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8) and is commanded for us all (Matt 25:35 ff.; Rom 12:13; 3 John 5-8). Hospitality is to be “without grumbling”—a phase that connotes the difficulty of carrying out this command. In certain cultures that are strongly family-orientated, the bringing of strangers into a house may be somewhat shocking. Yet Christians overcome these conventions because God’s love has made them into a single great family.

4:10-11.  Hospitality is not a one-way virtue; every Christian is in some way capable of ministering to others. Every Christian has a gift (Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:12-31) that he has received from God—whether at birth, rebirth, or sometime after is not stated. Since every Christian has a gift, his being equipped with it apparently takes place with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at regeneration. That the Holy Spirit can take “natural” talents and abilities and redirect them for Christ was most dramatically shown in Paul’s ministry. The believer is not only to view himself as gifted but also as a steward (oikonomos, “a responsible slave”) and a minister (diakonountes). One of the longstanding misconceptions in church practice is the idea that only one person is to “minister” in the local church. The biblical principle is that all can and should minister in one way or another.

The grace of God is “variegated” (poikiles), or “manifests itself in various ways.”

Peter puts these manifestations of grace in two broad categories: “speaking” and “serving” (v. 11). Speaking (lalein) covers all forms of oral service—teaching, preaching, prophecy, perhaps even tongues. “The very words of God” translates logia or “oracles,” which are utterances from God’s mouth. So what one says is to be as God says it (cf. 2Cor 5:20; 1 Thess 2:13). As for service it is to be empowered “with the strength God provides,” which means by dependence on God’s help by the Spirit (cf. Eph 3:16). The verb translated “provides” (choregei) originally meant to “supply a chorus” and later was used of lavish provision.

The purpose of mutual Christian service is that through Jesus Christ God will be glorified. Serving fellow Christians does glorify God because people will praise him for his grace that comes to them through Jesus and through his followers.

Peter adds a doxology—something that is not uncommon in Christian letters at various places besides the end (cf. Rom 11:33-36; Eph 3:20-21). In “To him be the glory and the power,” “be” is supplied; the sentence is elliptical (i.e., without a verb). Perhaps “is” would be better, since God possesses the glory (cf. Isa 6:1 ff.) and the power (cf. Isa 46:9-10). The “Amen” signifies assent—“So it is!”

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: 1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

12:12 . The human body is an illustration of unity and diversity. The body is one, yet has many members. Although all the believers are different and perform different functions, yet they all combine to make one functioning unit—the body.

So also is Christ is more precisely translated: "So also is the Christ." "The Christ" here refers not only to the glorified Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, but to the Head in heaven and to His members here on earth. All believers are members of the Body of Christ. Just as the human body is a vehicle by which a person expresses himself to others, so the Body of Christ is the vehicle on earth by which He chooses to make Himself known to the world. It is an evidence of wonderful grace that the Lord would ever allow the expression "the Christ" to be used to include those of us who are members of His body.

12:13.  Paul goes on to explain how we became members of the Body of Christ. By (or in) one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. The more literal translation here is "in one Spirit." This may mean that the Spirit is the element in which we were baptized, just as water is the element in which we are immersed in believer's baptism. Or it may mean that the Spirit is the Agent who does the baptizing, thus by one Spirit. This is the more probable and understandable meaning.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit took place on the Day of Pentecost. The church was born at that time. We partake of the benefits of that baptism when we are born again. We become members of the Body of Christ.

Several important points should be noted here: First, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that divine operation which places believers in the Body of Christ. It is not the same as water baptism. This is clear from Matthew 3:11; John 1:33; Acts 1:5. It is not a work of grace subsequent to salvation whereby believers become more spiritual. All the Corinthians had been baptized in the Spirit, yet Paul rebukes them for being carnal—not spiritual (3:1). It is not true that speaking in tongues is the invariable sign of being baptized by the Spirit. All the Corinthians had been baptized, but not all spoke in tongues (12:30). There are crisis experiences of the Holy Spirit when a believer surrenders to the Spirit's control and is then empowered from on high. But such an experience is not the same as the baptism of the Spirit, and should not be confused with it.

The verse goes on to say that believers have all been made to drink into one Spirit. This means that they partake of the Spirit of God in the sense that they receive Him as an indwelling Person and receive the benefits of His ministry in their lives.

12:14.  Without a variety of members you could not have a human body. There must be many members, each one different from the others, working in obedience to the head and in cooperation with the others.

12:15.  When we see that diversity is essential to a normal, healthy body, it will save us from two dangers—from belittling ourselves (vv. 15-20) and from belittling others (vv. 21-25). It would be absurd for the foot to feel unimportant because it can't do the work of a hand. After all, the foot can stand, walk, run, climb, dance—and kick, as well as a host of other things.

12:16.  The ear shouldn't try to become a dropout because it is not an eye. We take our ears for granted till deafness overtakes us. Then we realize what a tremendously useful function they perform.

12:17.  If the whole body were an eye, you would have a deaf oddity fit only for a circus sideshow. Or if the body had only ears, it wouldn't have a nose to detect when the gas was escaping and soon wouldn't even be able to hear because it would be unconscious or dead.

The point that Paul is driving at is that if the body were all tongue, it would be a freak, and a monstrosity. And yet the Corinthians were so overemphasizing the gift of tongues that they were, in effect, creating a local fellowship that would be all tongue. It could talk, but that was all it could do!

12:18.  God has not been guilty of such folly. In His matchless wisdom, He has arranged the different members... in the body just as He pleased. We should give Him credit for knowing what He is doing! We should be profoundly grateful for whatever gift He has given us and joyfully use it for His glory and for building up others. To be envious of someone else's gift is sin. It is rebellion against God's perfect plan for our lives.

12:19.  It is impossible to think of a body with only one member. So the Corinthians should remember that if they all had the gift of tongues, then they would not have a functioning body. Other gifts, though less spectacular and less sensational, are nonetheless necessary.

12:20.  As God has ordained, there are many members, yet one body. These facts are obvious to us in connection with the human body, and they should be equally obvious to us in connection with our service in the church.

12:21.  Just as it is folly for one person to envy another's gift, so it is equally foolish for anyone to depreciate another's gift or feel that he doesn't need the others. 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." The eye can see things to be done, but it can't do them. It depends on the hand for that. Again, the head might know that it is necessary to go to a certain place, but it depends on the feet to take it there.

12:22.  Some members of the body... seem to be weaker than others. The kidneys, for instance, don't seem to be as strong as the arms. But the kidneys are indispensable whereas the arms are not. We can live without arms and legs, or even without a tongue, but we cannot live without heart, lungs, liver, or brain. Yet these vital organs never put themselves on public display. They just carry on their functions unostentatiously.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: 1 Cor. 12:12-18,21-22; 1 Pet. 4:9-11:

1 Cor. 12:12.  As Paul considers the operation of these manifestations of the Spirit within the Church, he is moved to think of the operation of the Church itself. The analogy used is that of the body; one body with many functions. He is moved to consider the Church as the body of Christ.

He notes in comparison that the body is single, but has many parts. These various parts cannot be separated from the one body. The same is true of Christ's body. "Christ" here means the body of Christ, for the person of Christ is not divided.

12:13. Believers are initiated into Christ's body (meaning the Church) "by one Spirit" or "in one Spirit" (ASV). This cannot be water baptism, because clearly the baptizer is the Holy Spirit, and the element is the body of Christ. Therefore it is regeneration as in Galatians 3:27.

Some say that the Spirit is not the agent. But He cannot be the element of baptism here because the body of Christ is. Thus it has to mean "in virtue of His operation." This would make the phrase "by one Spirit" a dative of instrumentality rather than a dative of location.

This work is accomplished regardless of station or place in life. "Jews or Gentiles" (Greeks) probably refers to nationality and birth. Such hereditary matters do not influence or affect the work of God in our lives. He is available to "whosoever" will come.

"Bond or free" refers to rank or position. God is no respecter of persons. He does not look on the social attainment, the economic status, or the hereditary influence. He looks on the heart.

Representatives of all these were made to "drink into (or of) one Spirit." While some see a reference to Communion here, it is more than possible that this is a reference to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Certainly, God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh, according to His promise (Acts chapters 2 and 10).

It is the one Spirit who does all this, working, organizing, administrating, bringing about the effective work of Christ in believers' lives.

The work of the one Spirit brings a common bond to each life. There is a sense of unity with Him and each other, a sense of close contact and fellowship, deep, lasting, eternal. When it is the Spirit doing the work, it produces certain specific results and fruit all the time.

12:14.  This one Body (of Christ), which has been so established, has many members, from many backgrounds, and each one is necessary and important.

12:15.  This diversity in unity is illustrated in several ways. Paul used the illustration of the foot and the hand. The foot might feel inadequate in comparison with the dexterity of the hand. But the foot has a function that is vital.

12:16.  Paul added comparison of the ear and the eye. Again, the sense of inadequacy and inferiority might arise. The eye carries a great deal of responsibility and is an obvious part of the body. Should that make the ear feel uninvolved or unimportant because its function is less obvious? Or can it say that because it is not another member of the body that it is not a part of the body? The obvious answer is "No," it cannot say that.

12:17.  In carrying the analogy to its proper conclusion, Paul offered some insights on unity. First, he noted that in the human body each member is important because if some part is missing, some important function of the body is missing, and the body is incapable of performing as a healthy body should and would.

Any time a member of the body of Christ ceases to function, the cause of Christ is hurt because something vital is absent. The Church was formed very carefully to do the whole work of God in this world.

12:18.  Secondly, Paul noted that the individual members of the human body do not choose their function or place. They do not reach into some grab bag and pull out a function to please themselves.

The human body was designed very carefully by God. He had a specific plan in mind when He did the work. Nothing was left to chance or accident. The plan was followed very carefully.

The plan was the one God desired. It was according to His delight and was grounded in wisdom, practicality, and love. It therefore pleases His heart to see the body working well and in unity.

That plan and design was intended to profit the rest of the body. He placed each member in order that together they would make the body function properly. And what is true of the physical body is true also of the Church, the body of Christ,

12:19.  Thirdly, Paul argued that if the whole body were one member such as an eye or an ear, then the body would not really be a body. Without certain members and functions, there is no complete body. It has lost its purpose and identity. Again, Paul's question anticipated a set response.

12:20.  By repetition, Paul drove his point home. Division has no part in a united body of members.

12:21.  The individual members must respect one another, because each has a necessary function in a healthy body.

Once more the illustration of eye and hand appears in Paul's discussion. The eye is a powerful, long-range, controlling member. It is valuable to the total body. Being blind is a deficiency, no matter how the other members may try to compensate.

Sometimes members in such positions in the body of Christ think they can do everything themselves. But the eye, despite its visionary work cannot get along without the menial working of the hand. Someone must bring the eye's vision into reality. "Hand" is singular and generally refers to the right or main hand. The body needs both the long-range and the close-at-work member to accomplish its purposes.

1 Pet. 4:9.  Peter said believers should extend this same love to travelers and other believers who need food and shelter. They should show "hospitality" (philoxenoi, kindness to visitors) and do it without "grudging" (gongusmōn, grumbling, murmuring).

4:10. "Every man" (hekastos, every one, male or female) has received a "gift" (charisma, favor, spiritual endowment). Paul wrote in Romans 12:8 of gifts of giving, of ruling, and of showing mercy which should be exercised cheerfully (without grudging, as Peter said in verse 9). Showing hospitality may be construed as the gift of doing deeds of mercy and kindness. But all believers have not the same gift. As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 7:7, "Every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." Whatever gift one has, he should "minister" it (diakonountes, serve) to fellow believers, not neglecting it through carelessness or selfishness, but sharing it for the benefit of others. As good "stewards" (oikonomoi, overseer, manager) believers should faithfully dispense God's "grace" (charitos, favor, liberality) which is "manifold" (poikilēs, diverse) and therefore fits all situations. Whatever we have received we are responsible to use for God's glory.

4:11.  The two kinds of gifts mentioned by Peter correspond to the twofold division of service in Acts 6:2-4. One is the speaking kind, the other a less public kind. If a person's gift is to "speak" (lalei, talk, preach, give utterance), he should speak as the "oracles" (logia, divine utterance, revelation) of God. That is, if he has a speaking gift such as tongues, interpretation, prophecy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, teaching, exhorting, or preaching, he should speak in harmony with God's Word and depend on the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide. If a person's gift is to "minister" (diakonei, serve, as in Acts 6:2, "serve tables"), he should do it according to the "ability" (ischuos, strength, power) which God gives him. The purpose in all things is that God may be "glorified" (doxazētai, honor, magnify, render glorious). "Praise" (doxa, honor, worship) and "dominion" (kratos, vigor, power, strength) are ascribed to Christ (as in 2 Peter 3:18) for ever and ever. "Amen" (verily, so be it).

4:12. Returning to the subject of suffering for righteousness' sake, Peter said believers should not be surprised or think it "strange" (xenizesthe, alien, foreign) that they are undergoing a "fiery trial" (purōsei, ordeal; literally, a burning, but the word is used here to refer to a smelting furnace by which gold and silver are purified). He said the purpose of the "fiery trial" (persecution) is to "try" them (peirasmon, prove, tempt; as in 2 Peter 2:9, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation"). What is happening to them is nothing "strange" (xenou, alien, foreign). Christ did not promise His servants a life of ease or immunity from suffering. If the world persecuted Him, it will persecute His followers (John 15:20). But there may be comfort in the salutation "Beloved." It is agapētoi, the Greek word which speaks of God's self-giving and infinite love. It may be translated "divinely loved ones," a title that would remind the persecuted believers that they are dear to the heart of God.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library - The New Testament Study Bible – Ralph W. Harris, M.A., Executive Editor; Stanley M. Horton, Th.D., Editor; Gayle Garrity Seaver, J.D., Managing Editor; ©1986 by Thoralf Gilbrant. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.




Made to drink of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13)Paul was probably alluding to the words of Jesus found in John 7:3739. When an individual trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus satisfies his or her deepest thirst by sending the Holy Spirit into that person’s life. All believers are able to drink from these “streams of living water” (John 7:38).

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

UNITY:  State of being undivided; oneness.

Old Testament:  Central to the faith of Israel is the confession of the unity of God: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord Your God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). Because God is one, one set of laws was to apply to both Israelites and foreigners (Num. 15:16). Human history is a story of sin’s disruption of God’s ordained unity. God’s ideal for marriage is for husband and wife to experience unity of life, “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Sin in the garden bred mistrust and accusation (3:12). Stubbornness of will (“hardness” of heart, Mark 10:5) continues to disrupt God’s desired unity in marriage. God’s ideal for the larger human family is again unity. The primeval unity of humanity (“one language” Gen. 11:1) was likewise disrupted as a result of sinful pride (11:4-8). The prophetic vision of God’s future anticipates the day when God will reunite the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, bringing back all the scattered exiles (Ezek. 37:15-23). Indeed, the prophetic hope includes the reuniting of all the peoples of the world under the sovereignty of the one Lord (Zech. 14:9).

New Testament:  Jesus prayed that His disciples would experience unity modeled on the unity Jesus experienced with the Father (John 17:11,lb21-23). Such unity verifies Jesus’ God-sent mission and the Father’s love for the world. Jesus’ prayer for unity was realized in the life of the earliest church. The first believers were together in one place; they shared their possessions and were of one heart and soul (Acts 2:1,43; 4:32). As in the Old Testament, sin threatened the God-ordained unity. The selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the prejudice of those who neglected the Greek-speaking widows (6:1), the rigidness of those who demanded that Gentiles become Jews before becoming disciples (15:1)—all threatened the unity of the church. In every circumstance, however, the Holy Spirit led the church in working out creative solutions that challenged the church to go beyond dissension to ministry (Acts 6:2-7; 15:6-35). Paul spoke repeatedly of believers as “one body in Christ” which transcends varieties of giftedness (Rom. 12:5-8; 1 Cor. 12:13,27-30) and human labels (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14-15; 3:6). For Paul, the unity of the church reflects the unity of the Godhead: one God (1 Cor. 12:6); one Lord (Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:5; Eph. 4:5); and one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4,11; also Acts 11:17). Christian unity has various aspects: the shared experience of Christ as Lord and confession of Christ in baptism (Eph. 4:5,13); the shared sense of mission (“one mind,” Phil. 2:2); the shared concern for one another (1 Cor. 12:25; “same love,” Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8); and the shared experience of suffering for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 1:6; Phil. 1:29-30; 1 Thess. 2:14; 1 Pet. 5:9).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




Paul’s Plea For Unity

By Michael W. Olewski

Michael W. Olewski is the director of missions for the Washington Baptist Association in Chatom, Alabama.


 WISH WE COULD HAVE CHURCH LIKE THEY DID IN THE FIRST CENTURY.”  Some might make this statement because of problems in their own church, thinking no problems existed in the first-century church.  Problems, though, did exist.  A recurring issue was disunity.

Jesus had emphasized the need for unity.  He prayed that all believers would experience the oneness with one another that He experienced with the Father—and they with Him (John 17).  His hope was the world would see that He had come from the Father and that His followers were in Him.1

Unity was a priority for the early church.  The new Christians were unified; they would fellowship and worship together and share their possessions (Acts 4:32).  Before long, though, a problem arose.  Ananias and Saphira sold a piece of property and pledged the full amount to the common fund.  Unfortunately, they withheld some of the income and lied about it.  This was the first break in the church’s unity (5:1-11).2

Paul’s Instructions

Years later, Paul in many of his letters had to deal with church unity because internal and external forces were poised to undermine it.3  He, therefore, devoted much effort to maintaining unity within the fellowship.  His letters were meant in part to heal potential rifts that threatened the young church.4

Some scholars viewed Paul as regularly encountering the problem caused by proponents of the Law.  Jewish legalists could not accept Paul’s teaching that Gentile believers could be saved without following the Law.5

 Galatians is a perfect example of Paul having to deal with the division the Judaizers created.  They taught that to be a Christian, one had to follow Jewish Law.  This led Paul to propose a Spirit-centered solution.  He reminded them that Christ had freed them from the Law (Gal. 5:1); he then made four related statements about the believer’s Spirit-controlled life.  He called them to “walk by the Spirit,” be “led by the Spirit,” “live by the Spirit,” and “follow the Spirit” (vv. 16,18,25).6  Paul emphasized that if believers continued to walk by the Spirit, the Judaizers would not sway them.7

1 Corinthians and Areas of Potential Division

The preachers (1:12—4:21)

Tolerating immorality in the church (5:1-13)

Going to secular court against fellow believers (6:1-11)

Marriage (7:1-40)

Meat offered to idols (chs. 8—10)

Conduct of women in the church (11:1-16)

The Lord’s Supper (11:17-34)

Spiritual gifts (chs. 12—14)

Jesus’ resurrection (ch. 15)

SOURCE: A. T. Robertson, The Epistles of Paul, vol. 4 in Word Pictures in The New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 72

In First Corinthians, Paul addressed several situations that threatened church unity.  The apostle established the need for unity as a primary purpose for writing, and he made a plea for oneness (see 1 Cor. 1:10).  Paul was not trying to impose uniformity; he was concerned, though, that differences might lead to a division that would weaken the church and its mission.

Paul also dealt with developing factions related to those following either Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), or even Christ Himself.  Paul did not want these factions to create divisions, so he presented rhetorical questions to show the Corinthians that their quarreling was foolish.  Paul posed the question, “Is Christ divided?” (v. 13).  The answer was obvious and restated the need for church unity. 

The apostle later compared the human body’s unity with that of the church (12:12-30).  Paul was responding to a dispute over spiritual gifts, a dispute that threatened to divide.  Some Corinthian believers felt superior to their brethren who had gifts the former group considered inferior.  Paul explained that all spiritual gifts were necessary for a church to function properly.  He challenged his readers: “And I will show you an even better way” (v. 31).  This led into chapter 13, where Paul established love as the means of maintaining church unity.8

In Ephesians, Paul again had to deal with unity.  Some see the problems between Jewish and Gentile Christians as the letter’s central theme.  In chapter two, the apostle stated that Christ “made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14b).  He further explained that Christ had overcome any spiritual division between the Jew and the Gentile and described the two as “fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household” (v. 19).

In chapter four, the apostle compared the church to the human body, with Christ as the head (4:15).  According to Paul, when Christians practice the virtues of humility, gentleness, patience, and have love for one another, they show and maintain the unity of the Spirit (vv. 2-3).9


Paul gave the churches clear directions concerning unity.  He reminded the Galatians they were to be Spirit led.  He admonished the Corinthians to love one another.  He emphasized to the Ephesians that Christian love was essential for maintaining unity.  Similarly, Paul encouraged Christians at Philippi to be like-minded, to love one another, to put other’s interests ahead of their own, and to have the same attitude or same way of thinking as Christ (Phil. 2:1-5).

Although Paul gave these instructions about unity to address a problem that plagued the early church, his teachings still apply.  If believers today follow the clear teachings of the Scriptures, the church will experience the unity the Lord both desires and expects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Bi

1.  Church, “Unity” in Holman Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Butler (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 1382-83.

2.  Pohill, Acts, vol. 26 in the New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 151, 155-57.

3.  Space doesn’t allow a complete treatment of Paul’s writings on unity and only a few selected passages will be considered.

4.  Capes, Reeves, and Richards, Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 141-42.

5.  Melick, Jr., Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 41.

6.  All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

7.  George, Galatians, vol. 30 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 60, 385-86.

8.  Soards, 1 Corinthians, vol. 7 in New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 263-64.

9.  Wiersbe, Be Rich (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1976), 93-99.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 41, No. 3; Spring 2015.


THE BODY as New Testament Imagery

By Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones is assistant professor of leadership and church ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.


N A GROVE OF TREES SOUTH of the city of Corinth stood the Asclepion, and ancient temple dedicated to the god of healing.  Every year, thousands of men and women made pilgrimages to this temple to seek relief for their bodies.  Worshipers who believed they had received healing in this place left behind an odd sort of testimony to their experience.  They made terra-cotta images of whatever body part had been healed and placed these images in the temple.  And so, within the Asclepion, disjointed images of legs, arms, eyes, ears, and other body parts encouraged pilgrims that they too could find healing in this shrine.  Still today, in a nearby museum, visitors to Corinth can see the body parts that archaeologists have unearthed from the ancient temple site.1

The apostle Paul may have been thinking about these isolated, disjointed body parts when he reminded the Corinthians that “there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Cor. 12:20).2  Regardless of whether Paul had the Asclepion in mind when he wrote, this much is certain: in rankings and schisms that were tearing apart their church, the Corinthian Christians were behaving like a pile of disjointed body parts, refusing to function in harmony with one another.  Part of Paul’s point in this first letter was to remind the Corinthian believers that , because God had made them one body in Jesus Christ, they were able to work together in unity.

What Was Happening in Corinth?

Paul had first proclaimed the gospel in Corinth around the year AD 50, two decades or so after Jesus arose from the dead.  Despite resistance from some local religious leaders, a decision from the Roman proconsul Lucius Junius Gallio enabled Paul to preach freely for 18 months (see Acts 18:11-18).  By the time Paul left the city, he had planted a promising church in the key coastal city of Corinth.3

In AD 54 or 55, a few members from the Corinthian church—“Chloe’s people,” in the words of Paul (1 Cor. 1:11)—tracked down the apostle in the city of Ephesus.  Chloe’s people brought some positive news.  God had “enriched” the Corinthians with knowledge and revealed His grace among them through manifold spiritual gifts (v. 7).  Not all the news from Corinth was so good, however.  The very outpouring of knowledge and spiritual gifts that should have drawn the Corinthian Christians closer together had resulted instead in rankings and schisms.  Some members of the Corinthian church had turned their focus toward those whose spiritual gifts seemed the most dramatic and toward the groups in the church which could boast the best apostolic pedigrees (vv. 11-13).

In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul stated clearly that such schisms had no place among God’s people.  To rank believers according to fleeting “manifestations of the Spirit” was to magnify the status of individuals instead of building up the whole community of faith (14:4-12).  To identify oneself with specific teachers was to behave in ways that were “merely human” (3:4).  These patterns were deeply problematic because the Christians in Corinth did not belong to themselves or even to certain apostles or teachers; they had been “bought with a price” (6:20).  They were the property of Jesus Christ Himself, and their identity was rooted in the gospel of Christ (3:21-23;  9:16-18).

Further complicating the Corinthian situation, the same members who boasted about their knowledge and spiritual experiences may also have enjoyed a higher socioeconomic status.4  They saw themselves as “strong” and superior, not only to their “weaker brothers” but perhaps even to the apostles (4:9-10; 8:7—9:2).  This disdain for those with less impressive knowledge and gifts showed itself clearly in the church’s worship and in their celebrations of the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34; 14:1-12).

In his instructions about the Lord’s Supper, Paul urged the Corinthians to consider carefully the entire “body”—that is, not only oneself but also each fellow member of the church—whenever they participated in this symbolic meal (11:29).  A few sentences later, Paul began to build on this metaphor of the church as a body, pointing out how both the human body and the church were one with many members (12:12).

Some aspects of this metaphor of the body would have been quite familiar to Paul’s first readers.  What Paul did with the metaphor, however, was exceedingly different from anything they had ever heard.

Ancient Homonoia  Speeches and Paul’s Body Metaphor

“All the members of the body, though many, are one body,” Paul wrote (v. 12), and at least a few in Corinth would have immediately assumed they knew where Paul was headed.  This was, after all, an idea that the cultured Corinthians had heard before—though perhaps not from any Christian teacher.

The metaphor of one body with many members working together was a common feature in a form of Greek and Roman political rhetoric known as the “homonoia  speech.”  The Greek word homonoia  meant “like-mindedness” and referred to the agreement that unified a city-state or other political entity.  Homonoia  speeches typically called people to stop their conflict for the sake of the greater good of their society.  Such speeches frequently included an analogy between the harmonious function of different body parts and the ways that people should work together.5 

For example, five centuries before Jesus’ birth, tensions escalated between soldiers from the lower classes of Roman society and a group of leaders from the upper class.  To regain the soldiers’ support, a member of the Roman consul told a fable in which the hands, mouth, and teeth of a body refused to provide food to the stomach because the stomach was not doing enough for them.  The entire body was quickly reduced to the last stage of exhaustion; that is what the consul predicted for the city of Rome if the common soldiers did not support the “stomach” and perform their duties.6  The soldiers responded by renewing their support for Rome.  In about 43 BC, as the Roman Republic gave was to the rising Empire, the lawyer Cicero described how a society would become weak in any “bodily member” began to believe that it could remain healthy by borrowing strength from other parts of the body.7  Writing in the early decades of Christianity, the Greek historian Plutarch likened the twofold nature of nostrils, ears, eyes, hands, and feet to the way that brothers should relate to one another.  These analogies are only a few of many examples that are in ancient literature.8

Paul’s body metaphor stands within a long and familiar tradition in Greek and Roman rhetoric.  As in the story of what happened when hand, mouth, and teeth refused to feed to stomach, Paul personified different parts of the body.  As in Plutarch’s comparison of brothers, Paul used ears, eyes, hands, and feet to make his point.  Yet the similarities between Paul and previous writers must not overshadow the crucial twist that completely set apart Paul’s analogy.

What Paul Did Differently

Paul, inspired by the Spirit, did more than merely mimic an analogy that most people had heard before.  In usages of this metaphor outside the New Testament, a speaker’s purpose was typically to call less-honored members of society to submit to those with greater skills or social status.  The purpose of the body metaphor was to solidify a social hierarchy among people.

When the church members whose gifts and status seemed so great heard the opening lines of Paul’s metaphor, they probably assumed that he was preparing to take their side.  After all, if Paul had followed the familiar approach of other ancient writers, he would have urged weaker members of the church to submit to the members who exhibited more impressive knowledge and gifts.  But that was not the pattern that this Spirit-superintended apostle chose.

Instead, Paul called the entire congregation to recognize that no member of the church was more vital than another.  In fact, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker” were actually “indispensable” (1 Cor. 12:22).  In other words, even the weakest believers had a crucial role to play in God’s plans for the Corinthian church.

Who Composes the Body?

How, then, should members whose gifts and status seemed higher treat the ones who seemed weaker?  According to Paul, when people clothe sensitive or private body parts, they are not downgrading those “weaker” parts; to the contrary, they are honoring the unique role and function of those bodily members (vv.23-24).  Similarly, the church members whose contributions seemed less impressive should not be treated with dishonor or disdain; instead, they should be honored and treated with “the same care” as those whose gifts seemed impressive and obvious (v. 25).

When Paul illustrated his point at the end of chapter 12, he listed the categories that the Corinthians may have viewed as less impressive—eyewitness testimony to the resurrection, the capacity to speak God’s truth, and faithful exposition of the Scriptures (“apostles . . . prophets . . . teachers,” see 1 Cor. 4:8-10; 14:1-6)—prior to leadership skills and miraculous gifts (12:28).  Then, lest this listing simply provoke a new set of hierarchies in the church, Paul immediately pointed out that no church member can claim to possess all of these capacities (vv. 29-30).  In effect, Paul was leveling the playing field.

Paul borrowed a metaphor that writers had used over and over to establish social hierarchies that exalted those in powerful positions—but Paul turned this familiar metaphor upside down.  Honor in the body of Christ is not based on social status or ecstatic gifts or impressive knowledge.  The ordering of the body of Christ is rooted solely in the fact that God Himself has “composed the body” (v. 24) and that He has graciously designed this body so that no one possesses all gifts or all knowledge.  In the simplest possible terms, God has designed the body so that Christians need one another.  The hierarchy of the body of Christ is not one of weaker and stronger members; it is that each member submits to Jesus Christ and values God’s work in the life of every fellow believer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Bi

1.  Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 993-94;  Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 14-15.

2.  All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

3.  For discussion of dates, see Thiselton, 29-32;  F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 19-20.

4.  Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body  (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1995), 88-92; see also Thiselton, 26-29.

5.  Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation  (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), 68-80.  For specific application to 1 Corinthians 12, see Mitchell, 158-60.

6.  Livy, Ab Urbe Condita: Volume 1: Books 1-5  (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford Univ. Press, 1974), book 2, chapters 31-32.

7.  Cicero, De Officiis,  vol. 21 in Cicero in Twenty-Eight Volumes,  Loeb Classical Library, trans. Walter Miller (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1913), 3.5 (p. 298).

8.  Plutarch, ”On Brotherly Love” in Moralia: Volume VI,  trans. W. C. Helmbold, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1939), 2 (pp. 249-51).  See also Xenophon, “Memorabilia” in Memorabilia, Oeconomicus, Symposium, Apologia,  Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1923), 2.3 (p. 121).

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 38, No. 1; Fall 2011


Early Christian Hospitality

By R. D. Fowler

R. D. Fowler is pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.


OR THE PAST FEW YEARS our family has traveled from Lincoln, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming during the last week of July for the rodeo.  Cheyenne is about a seven-hour drive west across Nebraska plains on Interstate 80.  Invariably the first thing we do when we arrive is check into our motel.  We relax briefly, refresh ourselves, then go to a restaurant for a good meal.  Traveling Christians in the first century did not find things as easy or comfortable, and public accommodations were few and generally objectionable.

Early nomadic tribes established trade routes throughout the Eastern world, and primitive roadways developed along these major routes of commerce.  As Israel became an established nation, the road system continued to expand and develop with the fortunes of the Israelite monarchy.  Greek and Roman conquest and colonialism led to further expansion and improvement of the network of roads throughout the Near East.1  The Romans paved military highways, provided milestones along these routes, and made travel relatively safe.  With these improvements travel became more practical, and society became more mobile than ever before.

A mobile society required that provision be made for travelers.  Inns, or khans, were built along these roads to accommodate the steady increase in travelers.  These inns were different from what we understand an inn to be by modern standards.  They were barely adequate to meet basic needs.  Rooms were generally unfurnished; and while no payment was required, there was someone at the inn who for a price would provide anything that might be needful (see Luke 10:35).2  These innkeepers were frequently associated with pagan religions and magical practices, and the inns were often centers for prostitution.

Greek and Roman culture placed a high importance on hospitality.  Motives included belief by some that it was a divine requirement of the gods.  Hospitality expressed sympathetic concern for travelers, helping them overcome the practical problems connected with travel.  Oriental custom also placed great value on hospitality, and the Jewish community in particular was distinguished for its hospitality practices.  Jews, for the reasons mentioned previously, avoided these inns.  They chose instead to provide for the needs of their kinsmen themselves.

Extending hospitality, however, was not simply a matter of Oriental custom.  For Jews and Christian alike, providing hospitality was much more than a means of overcoming a practical problem.  Rabbinic teachings proscribe this behavior in the strongest terms: “So far as the duty of hospitality is concerned, or the loving care for poor and sick, it were impossible to take a higher tone than that of Rabbinism.  Thus it was declared, that ‘the entertainment of travelers was a great a matter as the reception of the Shechinah.’” 3,4

Christianity shared the mobility of its society.  Christians were being dispersed throughout the world by persecution (Acts 8:1; 18:2).  Additionally the missionary effort of the early church produced numerous traveling bands of itinerant evangelists.  Christians followed their Jewish brethren’s example in providing for travelers.5

Christian ethics raised the practice of hospitality to a new level.  “Theological statements by different authors in the New Testament show that it was frequently viewed as the concrete expression of Christian love.”6  (See Heb. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:8-10).  In 1 Peter 4:9 the apostle Peter charged his readers, whom he referred to as “strangers in the world” (1 Pet. 1:1, NIV), to actively practice hospitality.  The Greek word translated “hospitality” means love for strangers.  He charged them not only to practice hospitality, but to do so without complaint.  Peter’s instruction was rooted in rabbinic teachings, which went as far as prescribing the manner in which a host was to conduct himself in relation to his guests.  “He is to look pleased when entertaining his guests, to wait upon them himself, to promise little and to give much.”7

Hospitality was also firmly established in Jesus’ teachings and born out of the love of God and love for God.  As a response to the agape  love demonstrated by God toward His people, Christians could be hospitable toward others without complaint.  Peter saw this as a demonstration of good stewardship of God’s grace (1 Pet. 4:10).

Peter’s introduction to this epistle (1 Pet. 1:1) served to remind believers in Asia Minor that this world was not their true home.  The Christian and the Christian way of life are foreign to the world.  Christian living involves leaving out some forms and types of behavior while including other practices that honor God.  Hospitality is one of those behaviors that honored God.  Just as believers in Asia Minor have been strangers, they were to provide for others who were also strangers.

Hospitality involved more than simply graciously entertaining guests.  Believers were literally to open their homes to others.  Strangers or weary travelers found rest, food, shelter, and even asylum through the practice of hospitality.

Love for strangers was no less a part of the Christian faith.  Christ’s instructions to His disciples to “take nothing for the journey” (Mark 6:8) assumes that they would find hospitality.  It is even assumed that they might make their choice of hosts (Matt. 10:11) and might stay as long as they chose (Luke 10:7).

Jesus availed Himself of hospitality in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany (Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8); and from many others.

One of the most extensive examples of hospitality in the New Testament was seen in Jerusalem.  With the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the establishment of the church in Jerusalem, all believers shared whatever they had with others so none lacked anything (Acts 2:44-47).

As the church grew and spread, traveling Christians assumed they would receive such hospitality wherever they went (Acts 21:4,7-8,17).  Peter received food and lodging in Joppa at the home of Simon the Tanner (Acts 9:43) and even extended the hospitality of his host to the messengers sent from Cornelius as though it were his own house (Acts 10:23).  Paul and his companions received hospitality from a variety of private homes during their missionary journeys.  Their hosts included Lydia; the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:14-15,25-34); Aquila and Priscilla; Titius Justus (Acts 18:1-3,7); Philip (Acts 21:8); and Mnason, and early disciple (Acts 21:16).

With the expansion of the church, hospitality took on a new aspect, especially after Christianity because a separate religion apart from Judaism.  The Christian traveler naturally turned to other Christians for hospitality.  The churches also depended on Christian travelers to help foster a sense of unity among Christian churches throughout the known world.  Eventually hospitality became recognized as an official obligation of the ministry (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).

For modern believers to imagine the extent of hospitality shown to strangers by early Christians is difficult.  The hospitality of today hardly comes within the use of the biblical term.  Even in our changing world, however, Peter’s words still hold true, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet. 4:9, NASB).  We may do it in different ways, but we must still practice love for strangers.  “Jesus said, ‘To the extent you have shown hospitality to the least of My brothers you have shown it to Me’” (Matt. 25:45, my paraphrase).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Bi 

1.  Victor H. Matthews, Manners and Customs in the Bible  (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), 241-242.

2.  Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life,  updated ed. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 49.

3.  Ibid., 47.

4.  Shechi´nah Another spelling of Shekinah. Sheki´nah (Aram. and late Heb. shekı̄nāh, “residence,” i.e., of God). A word not in Scripture but used by later Jews and by Christians to express the visible divine Presence, especially when resting between the cherubim over the Mercy Seat. Bibliography: W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (1948), pp. 211, 213-15;  R. A. Stewart, Rabbinic Theology (1961), pp. 40-42.

5.  Abraham J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity  (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), 66.

6.  Ibid., 67.

7.  Edersheim, 48.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1998.


GIFTS: A Word Study

By Timothy Trammell

Timothy Trammell is Dean, College of Humanitics and Social Sciences and Professor of Religion, Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas.


HAT WORD WOULD YOU SUMMON to epitomize the heart of the New Testament, to capture the core of the New Testament message? Remember that God the Father is pictured as constantly giving to His children. Remember that God the Son is seen as willing to abandon the insignia of majesty to give Himself “a ransom for many” and bestow the gift of eternal life on believers. Remember that God the Spirit is closely linked with giving endowment for service so that the body of Christ may be built up.

The verb “give” or “giving” is found approximately one thousand times in the New American Standard Bible, 232 times in the New Testament alone. The noun “gift” or “gifts” is found over 54 times in the Old Testament and 49 times in the New Testament. “Giving” and “gifts” are certainly the center of the Christian message.

The purpose of this article is to focus on one of the major New Testament terms for “gift,” the Greek word charisma [KAH-ris-mah]. Minor attention will be given to other words that are similarly translated. This study will not attempt to examine individually and define in detail the “gifts” of the Spirit.”

In writing about a “gift,” the word the apostle Paul most often used was charisma. The term in its various forms is found 16 times in the Pauline Letters and is used only one time elsewhere in the New Testament (1 Pet. 4:10). A charisma is the “consequence of a gracious disposition – preeminently of the charitable favor of God Himself.”1 Often it refers to spiritual gifts, but it includes other and additional gracious bestowals as well. Vincent defined charisma as a favor received without merit, a gift of grace.2

Charisma is not used extensively outside the New Testament. Hatch and Redpath cited two occasions were the term was found in the Apocrypha (Ecclesiasticus 7:33 and 38:30) but also noted that both references are disputed.3 Morrish did not note any use of charisma in the Septuagint. However, he did indicate that charizomai is found in Ester 8:7.5 In that passage the verb could be translated “freely granted."

In the writings of Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, charisma is used twice in one brief reference. Colson and Whitaker translated the first use “gift of grace” and the second simply “grace.”6 Philp seems to have made little distinction between charisma and charis.

Paul’s use of charisma may be divided into several categories:

The Gift of Salvation – In Romans Paul used the term charisma three times as the equivalent of the total scope of Christ’s redemptive work, the gift that is freely provided for humankind in the gospel (5:15, 16; 6:23). The apostle contrasted the transgression of Adam and its consequences with the charisma of Christ that results from God’s mercy.

Romans 6:23 continued the idea of contrast, specifically the wages of sin over against the “free gift” of God. Paul’s term translated “wages” may refer to a soldier’s rations. Thus, the pay of the soldier who enlists in the service of sin is death; in Christ’s service the reward is a bounteous gift.

The Gifts of the Spirit – When Paul employed charisma, he was usually focusing on certain varied supernatural endowment currently referred to by Bible students as “spiritual gifts,” or “gifts of the Spirit.” Of the 16 times the term is used, 10 seem to fall into this category.

In the introduction of the Letter to the Romans, the apostle told of his desire to come to Rome; one of his dominant reasons was “that I may impart some spiritual charisma to you” (Rom. 1:11). Incidentally, this is the only verse in the New Testament were Pnewmatikon [new-ma-ti-KOHN] (“spiritual”) and charisma appear together. Paul, to a degree, accomplished this goal with the Roman Letter itself, but his longing was clearly to accomplish something by face-to-face contact. Paul may have had in mind both natural gifts and that which transcended the ordinary gifts of nature – described in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 and Romans 12. Morris suggested that charismas is here used in a general sense.7 Paul’s use of the indefinite particle, “some spiritual gift,” favors the concept of anything that builds up the spiritual life.

In the introductory verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul affirmed the regeneration and growth of the Corinthian Christians, observing that “you are not lacking in any charisma”  (1 Cor. 1:7). Perhaps Paul was alluding here to the general gifts, such as love, mercy, and forgiveness, but as well to the variety of endowments he would discuss in chapters 12 – 14. The problem in Corinth was not a lack of the gifts but rather a misunderstanding and misuse of them.

Paul used charisma to denote “gifts of the Spirit” in two definitive and significant passages (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12). In both passages the apostle’s focus was on the splendid diversity of the gifts, yet all from one source (the Spirit), all for one purpose (the building up of the church), and all to be exercised with one attitude (love with diligence). In Romans 12 Paul listed six specific gifts: prophecy, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and showing mercy. In 1 Corinthians there are nine gifts listed: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

Paul’s use of two complementary words (synonyms?) linked to charisma in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 illuminate for us his understanding of the term. That which is a charisma in quality and source is a service (diakonia) in view of its usefulness, and it is a working (energema) by virture of the powers operating within it8 That which comes from God is a gracious gift, has as its purpose to benefit the Christian fellowship, and is recognized as being full of spiritual energy.

Three times in 1 Corinthians 12 (vv.9, 28, 30) Paul wrote of “charismata of healing.” In each verse he used the plural. Some Bible students think that Paul employed the plural because different persons each had a disease or group of diseases that they could cure.9

In each of Paul’s letters to Timothy he used charisma once (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). Both instances referred to the gift Timothy received by the laying on of hands. In 1 Timothy Paul wrote of the “presbytery,” in 2 Timothy of his own hands. The usual assertion is that New Testament ordination – if that term may be used – does not confer either authority or gifts. Rather it acknowledges three things; what God has already done, acceptance of responsibility, and prayer for God’s continuing grace gifts.10 Perhaps the strong language indicates that Paul had more in mind. At least, the terse wording signified the transfer of a gift from the Spirit to Timothy so that he might be equipped for ministry.

Miscellaneous Uses – Paul used charisma in a general sense twice. In his analysis of Jewish refection of the Messiah, Paul asserted that God’s love for His disobedient people continued. He wrote, “The charisma and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). That Paul would use charisma to characterize God’s favor on the Jews is a “remarkable instance of St. Paul’s sense of the unity of revelation: that the privileges of the Jews were the free gift of God’s love.”11 When God determines, He follows through.

In 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul reflected on God’s past goodness and the deliverance he had experienced. Paul was confident that the Corinthian Christians’ prayers would continue to produce gratitude “for the favor (charisma) bestowed upon us.”

Non-Pauline Use – The only use of charisma by an author other than Paul is in 1 Peter 4:10. Peter named only two of the gifts of the Spirit – speaking and serving. The verse is one of a series of imperatives detailing Christian conduct in the light of the brevity of the temporal order.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bi

1.  Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 603.

2.  Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1946), 7.

3.  Edwin Hatch and Henry Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1897), 1455.

4.  Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 403.

5.  George Morrish, A Concordance of the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 257.

6.  F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker, trans., Philo, Vol. 1: Legum Allegoria, III, 78 in The Loeb Classical Library  (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929), 353.

7.  Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 60.

8.  G. G. Findlay, “St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians” in The Epositors Greek Testament, vol.2 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1951), 887.

9.  Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 171.

10. Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1962), 257.

11. R. St. John Parry, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (London: Cambridge University Press, 1912), 150.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1994




(7.131)  What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (01/10/16)  What kind of stone was, according to the Law, was not supposed to be used in making an altar?   Answer Next Week:

The answer to last week’s question:  (01/03/16) What Canaanite city was burned down by the men of Dan?   Answer: Laish; Judges 18:26-27.