Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – October 10, 2023 – 1st Corinthians 12.1-11 Session 30 – Homily 29
Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.1-2
- In the ancient Church people received visible gifts from God – SJC Whoever was baptized he straightway spoke with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied, and some also performed many other wonderful works. For since on their coming over from idols, without any clear knowledge or training in the ancient Scriptures, they at once on their baptism received the Spirit, yet the Spirit they saw not, for It is invisible; therefore God’s grace bestowed some sensible proof of that energy.
- Tongues = Languages – SJC And one straightway spoke in the Persian, another in the Roman, another in the Indian, another in some other such tongue: and this made manifest to them that were without that it is the Spirit in the very person speaking.
- Different gifts became a source of division rather than glory – SJC This became to them a cause of division; not from its own nature but from the perverseness of them that had received it.
- There is a difference between soothsaying and prophecy – SJC And this was not the only thing to disturb them, but there were also in the place many soothsayers, inasmuch as the city was more than usually addicted to Grecian customs, and this with the rest was tending to offense and disturbance among them. This is the reason why he begins by first stating the difference between soothsaying and prophecy.
- The future reveals the true prophet of God – SJC it was not easy to distinguish the true prophesier from the pretender; (for the devil himself, accursed as he is, had entered into them that prophesied, [See 1 Kings 22:23.] bringing in false prophets, as if forsooth they also could foretell things to come) and further, men were easily deceived, because the things spoken could not for the present be brought to trial, ere yet the events had come to pass concerning which the prophecy was; (for it was the end that proved the false prophet and the true:)
- Our spiritual gifts having nothing to do with human effort – SJC Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant; calling the signs spiritual, because they are the works of the Spirit alone, human effort contributing nothing to the working such wonders.
- A prophet speaks with a clear mind from God. A soothsayer doesn’t – SJC For this is peculiar to the soothsayer, to be beside himself, to be under compulsion, to be pushed, to be dragged, to be haled as a madman. But the prophet not so, but with sober mind and composed temper and knowing what he is saying, he utters all things. Therefore even before the event do thou from this distinguish the soothsayer and the prophet.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.3
- A prophet speaks in the Name of God. A soothsayer mocks God – SJC When you see, says he, any one not uttering His name, or anathematizing Him, he is a soothsayer. Again, when you see another speaking all things with His Name, understand that he is spiritual.
- A soothsayer only names God when rebuked, and then only with contempt – SJC Did not the demoniacs say, We know You who You are, the Holy One of God? Mark 1:24 Did they not say to Paul, these men are the servants of the Most High God? Acts 16:17 They did, but upon scourging, upon compulsion; never of their own will and without being scourged.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.4-7
- Our gifts might be different, but the giver is the same – SJC So that even if there be a difference in the gift, yet is there no difference in the Giver. For from the same Fountain you are drawing, both thou and he.
- Gifts, ministries,and workings are all the same thing, but given by the Father, Son or Holy Spirit – SJC And what, says one, is a working? and what a gift? and what a ministration? They are mere differences of names, since the things are the same. For what a gift is, that is a ministration, that he calls an operation also. Thus fulfil your ministry;
- Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all the same essence – SJC Do you see that he implies that there is no difference in the gifts of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Not confounding the Persons, God forbid! But declaring the equal honor of the Essence.
- It doesn’t matter how small, our gifts are profitable to us – SJC For having said, that it is the same Spirit, and the same Lord, and the same God, and having thereby recovered him, he brings in again another consolation, thus saying, but to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For lest one should say, what if there be the same Lord, the same Spirit, the same God? Yet I have received less: he says, that thus it was profitable.
- Miracles are not for believers but to show the power of God to others – SJC For to me who am a believer, he that has the Spirit is manifest from his having been baptized: but to the unbeliever this will in no way be manifest, except from the miracles: so that hence also again there is no small consolation.
- Our unity should be glorified in our diversity of gifts from the same God – SJC The universal medicine in which his consolation consists is that out of the same root, out of the same treasures, out of the same streams, they all receive. And accordingly, from time to time dwelling on this expression, he levels the apparent inequality, and consoles them. And above indeed he points out both the Spirit, and the Son, and the Father, as supplying the gifts, but here he was content to make the Spirit, that even hence again you may understand their dignity to be the same.
- What comes from the Holy Spirit IS from God – SJC That if the Spirit were inferior and of another substance, there would have been no avail in his consolation, nor in our hearing the words, of the same Spirit. For he who has received from the king, I grant, may find it a very soothing circumstance, that he himself gave to him; but if it be from the slave, he is then rather vexed, when one reproaches him with it. So that even hence is it evident, that the Holy Spirit is not of the substance of the servant, but of the King.
LIFE APPLICATION: Spiritual Gifts Should Bring us closer to God and each other
- Be content knowing that God knows what gift we need and how much – SJC For if you know that he vouchsafed it from providential care, consider that from the same care he has given also the measure of it, and be content and rejoice in what you have received: but murmur not at what you have not received; yea, rather confess God’s favor that you have not received things beyond your power.
- Don’t be preoccupied with the gifts others have received – SJC And if in spiritual things one ought not to be over-curious, much more in temporal things; but to be quiet and not nicely enquire why one is rich and another poor. For, first of all, not every single rich man is rich from God, but many even of unrighteousness, and rapine, and avarice.
- If the great men of the Old Testament didn’t receive equally, why should we? – SJC For if those great and wonderful men were not alike exercised by God, but one by poverty, and another by riches; one by ease, and another by trouble; much more ought we now to bear these things in mind.
- God allows wicked people to be rich to teach us not to chase money – SJC But God permits it, at the same to signify the free choice of the will, and also to teach all others not to be mad nor rave after money.
- Accepting our illness allows us to be healed by God – SJC For he that knows he is sick will of course both seek the physician and submit to remedies; but he that is ignorant of it will have no chance at all of deliverance.
- Even though we know better, we chase worldly things – SJC For these and such-like things though we hear every day, we are yet nailed to earth. And as ignorant children, who learn their letters continuously, if they be examined concerning their order when they are disarranged, naming one instead of another, make much laughter: so also ye, when here we recount them in order, follow us in a manner; but when we ask you out of doors and in no set order, what we ought to place first and what next among things, and which after which; not knowing how to answer, you become ridiculous.
- If we are unable to discern holy from worldly we are not worthy of heaven – SJC For if you have need yet to learn these things that riches are no great thing, that things present are a shadow and a dream, that like smoke they are dissolved and fly away: stand for the present without the sanctuary: abide in the vestibule: since you are not yet worthy of the entrance to the palace-courts on high. For if you know not to discern their nature which is unstable and continually passing away, when will you be able to despise them?
- What really matters is how we use the gifts God has given us – SJC But the whole depends upon the way in which we use them. Whether you are poor, you may live cheerfully denying yourself; or rich, you are most miserable of all men if you fly from virtue. For these are what really concern us, the things of virtue.
SEND OFF! Unless you give heed to holy things, you will ignore heaven
For when men have fallen from heavenly glory and the love of heaven, they desire present glory and become slaves and captives. And how is it that we desire this, say you? From the not greatly desiring that. And this very thing, whence happens it? From negligence. And whence the negligence? From contempt. And whence the contempt? From folly and cleaving to things present and unwillingness to investigate accurately the nature of things. And whence again does this latter arise? From the neither giving heed to the reading of the Scripture nor conversing with holy men, and from following the assemblies of the wicked.