1 Corinthians 12

One Body, Many Parts

Corinth and Apollo

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant (1 Corinthians 12:1).

People with the cultural background of the Corinthians could easily be confused about spiritual gifts. Corinth featured a major temple to Apollo; not too far away by ship was another major temple to Apollo at Delphi. This temple was also associated with a famous oracle where people would inquire of a priestess in order to receive guidance and prophecies.

Manifestations for the Common Good

A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to benefit all (1 Corinthians 12:7).

In this context, a “manifestation” refers to a gift given by the Spirit, and it is intended “to benefit all.” Perhaps a good analogy from Corinth is the civil servant Erastus. Paul identified Erastus as the “city treasurer” (Rom 16:23), and he seems to have been a resident of Corinth (2 Tim 4:20). A person with such a position was not merely given a job for their own profit but was expected to contribute to the good of the city. The inscription shown in the foreground of this photo indicates that Erastus fulfilled this civic responsibility to the broader public by having pavement laid near the marketplace at his own expense.

Early Baptismals

In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13).

When churches began to be constructed after Christianity was legalized in the 4th century, baptisms began to take place in special pools that were built indoors. This photograph shows an ancient Christian baptistery in a Byzantine church at Philippi. This church building dates to around AD 550.

Clothed with Honor

The parts we consider least dignified we clothe with greater honor (1 Corinthians 12:23).

Paul illustrates his point by observing that we tend to cover the less attractive parts of our bodies with beautiful clothing. By analogy, the “less attractive” members of the church body should be the ones that are clothed in such a way as to bring greater honor to the whole body. The metaphor is illustrated here by a statue of a woman pulling clothing over herself, preparing to attach the final clasp. This statue dates to the 1st century AD but is thought to be a copy of an original of the 3rd century BC.

Caring for Each Part of the Body

If one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).

This statue depicts a young boy working to remove a thorn from his foot. As is evident from his posture, his entire body is bent over as he focuses on that single, tiny source of pain. This illustrates the organic way in which Paul argues the church should care for its various parts.

Purchase the Collection:

1 Corinthians (Photo Companion to the Bible)

FREE Shipping plus Immediate Download