1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (Greek Text)
Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.
4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (English Text – NASB)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.2 You know that when you were pagans,you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Today’s post features the Greek and English texts of 1 Corinthians 12:1-7. The theme of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is that of God’s supernatural gifts, with 1 Corinthians 12:1-7 introducing the subject. How is it that God, by the Person of the Holy Spirit, acts as the Agent of the gifts? What are the gifts themselves? What exactly is Paul trying to convey when he states that he does not want his readers to be ignorant of them (see 1 Corinthians 12:1). Such questions are answered in these verses.
As we saw in our last post, Paul is using the spiritual gifts as an apologetic to contrast the gross paganism of his readers’ past with what ought to be their present walk with the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 12:2 the Greek text describes the idols once worshiped by the Corinthians as
“πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα” or “to the mute idols”. Anytime we are looking to translate from the Greek to English, it is helpful to compare other English translations. In this particular instance, the prepositional phrase that we have laid out in red letters contains an the attributive adjective “τὰ ἄφωνα”, which is describing a particular feature or trait of these various deities once worshipped by the Corinthians. The New Living Translation renders this adjective as “speechless”. The Holman Christian Standard Bible takes this adjective to be describing the essence of the idol. In other words, the meaning per the HCSB would be that it doesn’t merely describe a trait of the idols, but more so gets to the essence of what these idols are with its rendering: “that could not speak”. It is interesting to note that the NASB seems to had somewhat softened
“τὰ ἄφωνα” from its rendering of “dumb” in the original 1977 edition to the now different rendering of “mute” in the present 1995 Update. Point being, the idols could offer nothing for their devotees, due to the fact they had no life and thus were non-existent. No gifts. No grace. All performance. These elements characterize what Paul is bringing out about the Corinthians’ lifestyle before salvation.
When we come to 1 Corinthians 12:3, we find the contrast in Biblical Christianity of having the God-given ability to “speak” certain things. We read in that verse: “and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
The Greek text has for the associated red letters of its text (the words behind “can say” of the NASB), “δύναται εἰπεῖν”. The phrase itself is what we call in the Greek a “complementary infinitive phrase”, entailing a present active middle third person singular verb δύναται, which speaks of possessing inherent ability or power within oneself. The verb is the kind of verb that requires an infinitive (i.e a verbal noun) to “complement” or complete its verbal idea. In other words, no one is able to do what? In this instance, the aorist active infinitive εἰπεῖν completes the thought begun by δύναται and gives us the resultant meaning of “is able to say” or, as the NASB renders it, “can say”. This phrase is included to again show the living character of Christianity, which includes the notion of the true and living God verbalizing by the Person of the Holy Spirit (who is Himself truly and fully God) through the Christian their confession of faith that Jesus is Lord.
These observations move us on to 1 Corinthians 12:4, where Paul speaks of “gifts” , or as the Greek text renders: “χαρισμάτων” (i.e charismata). Some readers may recognize this word to be very closely related to the term we use to describe particular groups of modern-day Christians we call “charismatics”. Such believers are called such due to their emphasis on the centrality of the spiritual gifts. In reality, every Christian is “charismatic” in the more strict sense of the word, since the Holy Spirit has gifted every believer with some sort of spiritual gift.
The Lexham Theological Wordbook defines this word
χαρισμάτων as follows:
“χάρισμα (charisma). n. neut. something graciously given; a gift. Something that is freely given on account of favor and kindness. This noun is related to χάρις (charis, “grace, favor”) and refers specifically to the result of gracious giving or action. In the NT, God is usually the one who gives such gifts, and his gifts include spiritual gifts for equipping the church (e.g., 1 Cor 12:4), a person’s special calling (e.g., 2 Tim 1:6), and God’s gift of salvation through Christ (e.g., Rom 5:15–16; 6:23; 11:29).”
The standard Greek dictionary (i.e lexicon) edited by Henry George Liddell is a valuable resource for tracing the meanings of Greek words not only in the New Testament literature, but also in other Greek writings outside of the New Testament. In its various articles that traces this word’s etymology (i.e its history and lineage of use back to its root meaning), Liddell offers this definition of our word in question:
“χάρισμα, ατος, τό, (χαρίζομαι) a grace, favour: a free gift, gift of Gods grace, N.T.”
These word studies suggest that the spiritual gifts by their very nature are the manifestations of God’s gracious, supernatural empowering of His people by the Person and work of the Third Person of the Trinity – The Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:7 validates our observations by the phrase
“ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος” = “the manifestation of the Spirit”. Other English translations give the following renderings of this illuminating phrase:
1. New Living Translation – “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”
2. God’s Word Translation – “The evidence of the Spirit’s presence is given to each person for the common good of everyone.”
3. The NASB, ESV, KJV, NET Bible, Berean Bible, and several other English translations render this phrase as “the manifestation of the Spirit”.
Today we considered 1 Corinthians 12:1-7 in Greek and English. We discovered through our brief study of several English translation and the underlying Greek text that Paul’s chief concern is to make known the truth of God’s supernatural gifting of His people. What applications can we draw from this study? Let me suggest three:
a. Understanding one’s spiritual gifts as a Christian can increase one’s awareness of God working personally in their life, as well as how He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, desires to use them to bless others.
b. God not only calls Christians to do His will, but also gives them the grace to carry out His will by way of the gifts.
c. It is good to be reminded of the fact that the gifts exceed the Christian in terms of what they could ever hope to achieve by themselves, while realizing that God is always greater than the gifts. The gifts point us to the Giver.