Study Sheet for I Corinthians 12:14-31 (click here for Study Notes)
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" and the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way. (NIV)
Paul expands the concept of the members of the church making up one whole body. The great differences of gifts among the members do not give individuals the right to see themselves as special or distinct from the whole or as less important and therefore not necessary.
1. If a person with sees himself as separate from or unnecessary to the rest of the church, what is actually the truth? (v. 12-17)
2. What would be the practical effects of a person believing himself to be distinct or separate from the body while really being part of it?
3. Why are the gifts interdependent even though they have completely distinct functions?
Part of Paul's message in this passage is that people should not feel arrogant or inferior because of the gifts they have.
1. What determines a person's spiritual gifts? (v. 11; 28; Romans 12:6; Hebrews 2:4;)
2. Using the body and its parts as a metaphor for the church, how do you see diversity of gifts relating to unity of the members?
3. How is the popular concept of "unity in diversity" different from the reality of the unity of the church through the Holy Spirit?
4. What gifts might be considered "less honorable", and how might we treat those "with special honor"? (see v. 7-10; 28-30; Romans 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11; 2:1-4)
In verse 27 Paul elaborates his oft-repeated theme of Christ-followers being the body of Christ.
1. What does it mean for us to be the body of Christ? (I Cor. 6:15; 10:17; Eph. 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 25; 5:30; Col. 1:18, 24; 3:15; Romans 12:5)
2. In verse 28 Paul begins his list of gifts with a "first apostles," "second prophets," and "third teachers," followed by "then" and "also". Why do you think he lists apostles, prophets, and teachers as first, second, and third? (see Eph. 2:20; 4:11,12; Acts 1:21,22)
3. What is the difference between an apostle, a prophet, and a teacher? (Mark 3:14; 6:30; Matt. 10:2; Acts 1:2, 26; Eph. 3:4, 5; 2 Pet. 3:20; Jude 17; Acts 11:27, 28; I Cor. 13:2 8; 14:1; Romans 2:18, 21; James 3:1)
In verses 28, 29 Paul lists some of the gifts of the spirit, renaming some from verses 8-10 and listing others for the first time.
1. Gifts of miracles, healing, and tongues are listed as equal with helping others, administration, wisdom (v. 8), knowledge (v. 8), faith (v.9), distinguishing between spirits (v. 10), and interpretation of tongues (v. 10). Which of these gifts do you see at work today?
2. What do you think is significant about God ordaining spiritual gifts that range from the miraculous to the "mundane"? (Eph. 4:11-16; Romans 14:19; I Cor. 12:7; 14:12; 2 Cor. 9:8, 9; Col. 1:28; Hebrews 2:2-4)
3. Why do you think miracles, healings, and tongues seem to be scarce among many groups of Christ-followers in our society?
Paul concludes this passage by asking rhetorically whether everyone has the same gifts. He ends by saying to "desire the greater gifts," and then he says, "Now I will show you the most excellent way" and proceeds into the "love chapter".
1. The passage translated "eagerly desire the greater gifts" can also be read, "But you are eagerly desiring the greater gifts." This translation would suggest the Corinthians were trying to gain status by exercising the gifts they thought were most important. Are some gifts more important than the others? (v. 4; 11; 21-26; 28; 14:1-5; 39)
2. What roles do God's sovereignty and our seeking play in our receiving spiritual gifts? (v. 11; 31; I Cor. 14:1; 39; Hebrews 2:4; Eph. 4:7, 8, 11; John 15:7)
3. Why do you think Paul says prophecy is one of the greatest gifts-greater even than miracles- and perhaps the one most to be sought?
1. What spiritual gifts in the community have benefited you personally?
2. Have you encountered spiritual gifts which you found to be divisive or confusing?
3. How can you know if spiritual gifts are authentic? (I John 4:1-3, 6)
4. What gifts has God given you?
1. Do you have fears or uncertainties that keep you from embracing the idea of being entrusted with spiritual gifts? What are they?
2. Do you recoil from the idea that God might make you do something you're uncomfortable doing?
3. Are there gifts or people whose gifts annoy you or cause you to feel resentment?
4. What fear or pride or arrogance do you need to submit to God, asking him to give you a heart open to his love and receptive to his gifts to you?
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised July 14, 2000.