In our last lesson, we found we are all individual members in the body of Christ. Each one of us has something unique to offer, our own special place, and all are equally important. Paul continues this thought in verse twenty-seven: “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
But then Paul seems to say some things that take us a different direction, but in reality are directly connected to everything that came before. Let’s look at and analyze what he said.
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28–30).
The obvious answer is, “No. Not everyone is an apostle or prophet, etc.” Now, if we put this in context, we know that Paul is speaking of ministry gifts. People in the ministry that are endowed with specific gifts. We see this list written differently in Ephesians: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). And if we look at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we will see these same gifts, and more.
How do we know that Paul is writing of ministry gifts? Well, for instance, in verse thirty of our text he writes, “Do all speak with tongues?” In this context it would be, “No.” Yet, later Paul says, “I wish you all spoke with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:5) indicating that we all can speak with tongues. Paul wouldn’t wish we would speak in tongues if it was out of God’s will. In fact, most of chapter fourteen was written because people were misusing tongues in church meetings. Jesus Himself said that believers would, “Speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). Indicating all believers. It is God’s will that we all speak with tongues, but not everyone has a ministry along that line. We, as the body of Christ, don’t know much about these gifts because they’re not in use in many churches. They’re not in use because most of us don’t know anything about them.
So what is Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, trying to get across in verses twenty-eight though thirty? What he is saying is God has ministry gifts in the church to build up, encourage, and bring in new believers.
Do All Speak With Tongues? Do All Interpret?
You see, there’s a private side and a public side to tongues and interpretation of tongues, and in this instance Paul is writing of the public side. We all can, and should, be speaking in tongues in our prayer life, but there are actually those that have a ministry along that line. This is why Paul wrote:
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
When we speak in our prayer language (tongues), we are edifying ourselves. If we are prophesying, we are edifying the church. But if there’s tongues with the interpretation, it equals prophecy — it edifies believers. This is ministering to the church.
Do All Have Gifts of Healings?
We know that all the gifts are available to every believer because the scripture says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). He can distribute any gift to any believer when He wants to, but again, some ministries have gifts that manifest more often through them because the gift goes with the ministry.
We see the gifts of healings active particularly in the apostle’s and evangelist’s ministries. At the gate Beautiful, we see this gift manifested through the apostle (Acts 3:1–11). We see this gift in Phillip the evangelist’s ministry (Acts 8:5–7).
Are All Workers of Miracles?
What ministry is represented by the working of miracles? We can also see this in the evangelist’s ministry ( Acts 8:13) — the “miracles and signs” — as well as in the apostle’s ministry (Acts 5:12–16).
Yet we see this gift in Stephen’s life (Acts 6:8), and Stephen was a deacon. Someone who waited on tables and helped out in the church. Why? Because Stephen was open to the gifts and God used him. That’s the reason we’re spending time on this subject — so we’ll be open to the gifts that God may use us.
Paul adds the ministry of helps in our scripture. What is that? Hmm. I’m not sure I know definitively, but I’ve alway thought along this line. We all have something to offer the body of Christ. It’s obvious some are blessed in business, others in war, firefighting, medicine, basically every job there is. It seems to me that everyone’s gift is ultimately for the glory of God. A gift to help out the body of Christ.
I’m sure there are people that are designated to help at the church or in a ministry. And that is certainly the ministry of helps. We see this in Acts chapter six with the selecting of the deacons. They were selected because of their spirituality, integrity, and devotion to the cause of Christ. They were placed in the ministry to relieve the apostles of having to do everything the ministry required.
What are administrations? Well certainly it would be the pastors ministry. They are responsible for taking care of the local flock. Most that a pastor does isn’t seen. Most of what he does is behind the scenes.
Why did Paul say the apostle was placed first in the Church? Because they were first ministry in the church — not because they’re better or more special.
The church was founded upon the ministries of the apostles and prophets, Jesus being the chief apostle and prophet.
What is an apostle? Apostle means one who is sent. The apostles were sent by God to start the church through Jesus. The apostles ministry seems to have an element of all the ministry gifts: prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Why? Because they are sent into areas that often haven’t heard the preaching of Christ, and they start churches. So, until God raises up a pastor, for instance, the apostle is that start-up pastor. He also evangelizes where others may have never been and brings people to Christ to start a church. When we read of Philip the evangelist, he never started a church. He got people saved. Paul, and the other apostles, would evangelize and start a church.
But the Paul didn’t stay in the area once the church was established. That’s not to say that those that God sends out can’t stay with the churches they started. Some of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem and worked out from there. We see this all the time with missionaries. God sends someone somewhere, they evangelize, start a church, and spend most of their lives there. God can do what He sees fit.
The prophet speaks on the behalf of God. Of course, false prophets don’t but deceive the unlearned and foolish. How can we know the difference? God will not violate His word. He won’t say anything that will violate His written word with a “prophetic” utterance. Knowing the written Word is essential. Always verify what a prophet may say with the written Word. Also, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When in doubt, let it be. See if it comes to pass if it’s a word of wisdom. We’re not obligated to believe someone because they claim to be a prophet. We’re led be the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14) and the Word of God. And they both agree!
The priest was to intercede for the people, and the prophet spoke on behalf of God. We see this clearly in the ministry of Moses. He spoke to God for the people and to the people for God.
The prophet, of course, would have the simple gift of prophecy in his ministry — inspired speaking by the Holy Spirit for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3). A prophet would also have at least one of the revelation gifts (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits) in operation in His ministry. These gifts go with this ministry. In the Old Testament, a prophet was sometimes called a “seer”, because they would see and know things by the Spirit of God — a manifestation of the revelation gifts.
Teachers explain and preachers proclaim, and the rest of us share.
Everyone can share what they’ve learned from the Bible, but that doesn’t mean the are anointed as a teacher. There is a teaching ministry where one is anointed by the Spirit to explain the Bible. Of course, God blesses us when someone shares but that doesn’t mean they’re called to be a teacher.
Someone with a teaching gift will be able to explain a Bible subject in a clear, easy to understand, and logical way. Something that may have been obscure, will become clear. One may think, “I’ve never saw it that way before.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:28–30, Paul is writing about ministry gifts or the spiritual gifts that go with them. I want to emphasize that He’s not saying tongues isn’t for everyone. But not everyone has a ministry along that line, anymore than everyone is an apostle or prophet.
Everybody has their place in the body of Christ. Every place is important to Jesus. No one is more important than anyone else. Every member’s place is important.
But there are ministry gifts that God has placed in the Body so the Body can grow properly. When they’re doing their job, and we are doing ours, we all are strong and healthy.
Stay strong and prepared!