Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – November 14, 2023 – 1st Corinthians 12.12-20 Session 31 – Homily 30
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 12.12
- Different Gifts does mean lesser gifts – SJC For nothing so consoles the person of small spirit and inferior gifts, or so persuades him not to grieve, as the being convinced that he is not left with less than his share.
- Different is not the same as many – SJC If therefore the one is many, and the many are one, where is the difference? Where the superiority? Where the disadvantage?
- Different is what brings the many together as one – SJC For none of them by itself can make a body, but each is alike deficient in the making a body, and there is need of a coming together since when the many become one, then and not till then is there one body.
- Christ and the Church are one – SJC But his meaning is this: So also is the body of Christ, which is the Church. For as the body and the head are one man, so he said that the Church and Christ are one.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.13-14
- We were baptized to become one, not many – SJC For we were baptized not that so many several bodies might be formed, but that we might all preserve one with another the perfect nature of one body: i.e., that we might all be one body, into the same were we baptized.
- It is our different gifts that make our unity special – SJC Because there are many members and diverse, know that this very thing is the wonder and the peculiar excellency of the body, when the things which are many and diverse make one. But if they were not many, it were not so wonderful and incredible that they should be one body; nay, rather they would not be a body at all.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.15-17
- We are not all excluded based upon our different gifts – SJC For if the one being made inferior and the other superior, does not allow their being of the body, the whole is done away. Do not say therefore, I am not the body, because I am inferior.
- We tend to compare ourselves to other who appear ‘closer’ to us – SJC For because we are wont to envy not those who are very far above us, but those who are a little higher, therefore he also conducts his comparison thus. “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
Section  1 Corinthians 12.18
- We should not dare question God’s reasons and purpose – SJC For though we have ten thousand reasons to give, we shall not be so able to show them that it is well done, as when we say, that as the best Artificer pleased, so it came to pass. For as it is expedient, so He wills it.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.19-20
- We are all equal in honor, despite our differences- SJC Now what he means is, If there were not among you great diversity, you could not be a body; and not being a body, you could not be one; and not being one, you could not be equal in honor.
LIFE APPLICATION: Caring for others is caring for ourselves
- Do not grudge those whose gifts are greater or lesser – SJC These things then let us also consider and cast out all envy, and neither grudge against them that have greater gifts nor despise them that possess the lesser. For thus had God willed: let us then not oppose ourselves.
- Our different gifts compliment each other – SJC So that even if you are inferior, yet in this you have the advantage: and though he be greater, he is worse off in this respect; and so equality takes place.
- Our different gifts work for the greater purpose – SJC The reason is that every one of our members has both a working of its own and one which is common; and likewise there is in us a beauty which is peculiar and another which is common. And these kinds of beauty appear indeed to be divided, but they are perfectly bound together, and when one is destroyed, the other perishes also along with it.
- We all suffer loss when we battle each other – SJC So that he who wars with his brother wars with himself: for the injury done reaches not only unto that one, but himself also shall undergo no small loss.
- We need to care for each member of the Church – SJC That this then may not be, let us care for our neighbors as for ourselves, and let us transfer this image of the body now also to the Church, and be careful for all as for our own members. For in the Church there are members many and diverse: and some are more honorable and some more deficient.
- The Church used to serve people from the Narthex – SJC What is meaner than those who beg? And yet even these fulfill a most important office in the Church, clinging to the doors of the sanctuary and supplying one of its greatest ornaments: and without these there could be no perfecting the fullness of the Church.
- What we have today can come and go – SJC For if from mean and humble persons many have oftentimes become kings, what marvel is it if from being great and glorious, some have been made humble and mean? Since the former is much the more extraordinary: but the latter, of perpetual occurrence. So that one ought not to be incredulous that any of them ever flourished in arts, and arms, and abundance of wealth, but rather to pity them with great compassion and to fear for ourselves, lest we too should sometime suffer the same things. For we too are men and are subject to this speedy change.
- Being afraid of poverty IS poverty – SJC Poverty seems to you to be a fearful thing and to be dreaded, even to the mere name of it. Yea, and therefore are we poor, because we are afraid of poverty; though we have ten thousand talents. For not he who has nothing is poor, but he who shudders at poverty.
- Real honor is in how we bear calamities – SJC Since in men’s calamities also it is not those who suffer great evils whom we lament and account wretched, but those who know not how to bear them, even though they be small. Whereas he that knows how to bear them is, as all know, worthy of praises and crowns.
- The devil wins without a battle when we are afraid – SJC For how can it be that the devil should not hence-forth make sport of you, seeing you even before the stroke afraid and trembling at the menace? Or rather, when thou dost but esteem this a threat, he will have no need so much as to strike you any more, but leaving you to keep your wealth, by the expectation of its being taken away he will render you softer than any wax.
SEND OFF! Remove the devil’s advantage
Lest we then for our part suffer these things, let us laugh to scorn the device of the devil, let us burst his cords asunder, let us sever the point of his terrible spear and fortify every approach. For if you laugh at money, he has not where to strike, he has not where he may lay hold. Then have you rooted up the root of evils; and when the root is no more, neither will any evil fruit grow.