1 Corinthians 12
Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.
Week fifteen, beginning Sunday 28 October: 1 Corinthians 12
Main theme: Spiritual gifts and the relatedness of the body
Questions to prompt discussion
1.What does St Paul mean when he says that no-one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit?
2.Are there parts of the Body that you are aware of which have a tendency to say 'I don't need you'?
3.What is your role in the Body? What do you understand an apostle, or a prophet, or ... to be?
Remember that Paul is struggling with a community that has become stratified in various ways, with some members looking down on others (and ponder the meaning of the word 'members' in this sense!) Here Paul is explicit about a central Christian teaching that is only implicit in other places (eg Gal 3 26-29). All the baptised stand at the same level before God; Christianity is therefore profoundly egalitarian, and this spiritual root underlies much of what is taken to be "Modern" ethics and human rights language. Paul is insistent that, not only does every member of the body have a role, but the ones who are most culturally scorned have a greater honour. One of the most important elements in Paul's argument is the insistence that we cannot live without each other. For a contemporary example, consider what would happen if we no longer had waste disposal services provided by the council!!
One of the ongoing struggles between different Christian groups centres on the role of ministers, whereby the "priest" is seen as either occupying or claiming a 'higher' role. There seems little Scriptural justification for elevation upwards, but plenty - as here - for a discrimination sideways, so that the different parts of the body can function together and accomplish God's purposes. With respect to spiritual gifts Paul is arguing here (as elsewhere) that Spirits have to be discerned and put to the test. We will return to this them when we look at chapter 14.
Notes on verses
v 1 - 'spiritual gifts' could also be translated 'spiritual people'
v 3 - bear in mind that saying 'Jesus is Lord' was an extremely political claim, with the potential of execution for the one saying it
vv 4-6 - one of the principal sources for the development of Trinitarian doctrine
v12 - note the strong linking of the church with Christ
v28 - compare with Romans 12.6-8, Ephesians 4.11