The Personality of the Devil

the_devilThe literal existence of an evil spiritual being named Satan, arch-enemy of God and man, is increasingly called in question these days, it being considered more rational and up-to-date to view the relevant Biblical references as alluding to the abstract principle of evil. To be tempted by the Devil, it is suggested, is simply the natural human propensity to sin; to overcome the Devil the suc­cessful suppression of that propensity and adop­tion of the right and proper course of conduct in respect to the particular matter concerned. Whilst all this undeniably suits the temper of a society which tends more and more to reject the super-natural in religion and explain all things from the viewpoint of human material reasoning. It does ignore the fact that the greater part of Biblical mention of Satan cannot possibly be read as other than deliberate reference to an intelligent and super-human creature, moreover one whose nature is completely subordinated to evil and who is in a state of continuing rebellion against God. Against the rejection of this understanding by the intellec­tualism of today has to be placed the fact; a somewhat strange fact in the light of modern irreligion; that the International Social Survey conducted in 1991 showed that less that nineteen percent of the world’s population still believe in a personal Devil. Since less than one in twenty go to church today, it would seem that many can hold the belief without feeling they need do much about it! It might well be that, church going or no church going, a greater number of people than might have been suspected can only account for the evil and misery that is in the world by concluding that some mighty super-human power is behind it all; and in this they are absolutely right.

The Bible writers are quite positive. From the Apostle John, writer of the last Gospel, and last of those who knew Jesus in the flesh, back to the unknown scribe on the banks of Euphrates who first set down the story of Genesis, two and a half millenniums before Christ, there is a fixed and manifest conviction that the introduction of evil and sin amongst mankind is due to such a being. Jesus spoke of Satan as a personal and powerful adversary, and the Apostles counseled their con­verts to be on their guard against his devices in a fashion which can be true only of such a one. In so doing they were all on sure ground, for quite apart from Scriptural passages referring to Satan’s activities in the world throughout human history, and the menace to the would-be doers of right which he represents. There are definite factors in the operation of the divine plan which only “make sense”, so to speak, if there is indeed this powerful adversary at work.

The first of these factors arises from the posi­tion with man at the beginning. Evil was not in­herent in man’s nature; it was not even indwelling. The old medieval dogma that the flesh is basically corrupt and unclean is not true. When God intro­duced the first intelligent creatures upon this earth, He looked upon what He had made and found it “very good.” Man at his creation was perfect and sinless, and capable of everlasting life while he so remained. The story of Eden makes plain that sin was introduced from outside, that an exterior agent in which sin already resided was the means of seducing the first humans from loyalty to God. That agent claimed to have knowledge of God and of the things of God not as yet possessed by the human creation. In consequence of this suc­cessful seduction God judged and condemned that agent.

Moral responsibility cannot be attributed to an abstract principle of evil, only to an intelligent creature capable of both moral and immoral conduct, “Because thou hast done this,” God said to the Tempter in the story “thou art cursed … and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Gen. 3.14-15) This is not the language that would be employed were the object merely to reprove the woman for her fault and exhort her to resist the temptation in future; this speaks of a lasting warfare which was to commence and subsist between the serpent with his progeny and the woman with hers; later Scripture shows that the “seed of the woman” is Christ and that in Him and by Him the overthrow of the Devil will be accomplished. The fact that in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, a time is shown to come when the Devil is “bound with a great chain”, restrained, “that he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20.1-3) while for a considerable time thereafter mankind are still in process of cleansing from sin and not yet recon­ciled to God is evidence again that it is not merely evil as such, but the personal and literal living instigator of evil, who has thus been active since the days of Eden and now at last will have been restrained from further interference with humanity by the power of God.

The Old Testament has little to say about Satan and refers to him by that name only twice. The first occasion is in the book of Job where he appears as one of the characters in the prologue to the book, the preliminary sketch explaining how Job’s troubles came about. The other is in the book of Zechariah, where Satan appears, again in a prophetic vision, to obstruct the work of God in the rehabilitation of the nation of Israel after its restoration from Babylon, and, spiritually, the church in its earthly career. In both cases the word Satan is prefixed by the definite article, indicating, as is verified by Gesenius, that it should be taken as a proper name. In many other instances where the word is found in the Hebrew text, but without the article, it bears its basic meaning of an adver­sary or opponent.

The connection in which Satan appears most vividly and in the course, not of prophetic vision or poetic drama, but of strict historical narrative, is in the story of Eden. The Book of Genesis as we have it stems from a Sumerian original and the serpent of Eden is derived from the legendary creature known as the “saraph”, a mystic heavenly visitant dazzlingly glorious in appear­ance but in this case bearing occult and unlawful knowledge to men. This one, says Genesis, was craftier than any terrestrial living creature; every aspect of the story of Eden therefore demands that Eve did hold converse with an intelligent male­volent celestial being who set out to seduce her into disobedience and disloyalty to God.

Jesus knew the reality of His opponent. He called him “a murderer from the beginning” and the father of lies (John 8:44), acknowledged him to be the “prince of this world” (John 14:30) and asserted that in time past He himself had wit­nessed his expulsion from heaven, which must have been at the time of his defection from righte­ousness (Luke 10:18). He warned Peter that he was particularly a target for Satan’s devices (Luke 22:31). The Apostles were equally certain. Peter, much later, warned his flock in turn that the Devil as a raging lion walked about seeking whom he might devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Paul said that in certain circumstances “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and again, that “Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 1:18); again, in a very trenchant sentence he declares that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). On the reverse side of the picture he assures us that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20), an evident allusion to the condemnation of the serpent in Gen. 3:15, and this is confirmed and amplified by the writer of the book of Hebrews in the declara­tion that Christ, through His death, will “destroy hm that hath the power of death, that is, the Devil” (Heb. 3:14). With all this, and more, in the pages of the New Testament it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the founders of the Church possessed a vivid consciousness of a mighty spiritual and unseen but nevertheless very real enemy against whom they must struggle with all their powers.

Another factor meriting consideration lies in the region of the occult. For a long time scoffed at in modern materialistic thought it is now becom­ing increasingly accepted by investigators and observers that there is a reality in certain occult phenomena, some kinds of witchcraft and necrom­ancy and so on, which so far has defied what is glibly called rational explanation. Such pheno­mena have been in evidence all down the ages, and back in the first century the Apostle Paul at least was quite certain about their reality and their source. “Our fight is not against human foes” he says “but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12. NEB). That there has been, in some remote past time, a rebellion against Divine authority on the part of certain ones in the angelic world, and that these “rebellious angels” have been and are in a continuing state of evil doing, which threatens not only Christ’s followers but all of mankind, is plainly shown in Scripture. It follows as a matter of logic that Satan is the leader and inciter of this “host of wickedness”. If indeed it could be shown on other grounds that there is no evidence for the existence of a personal Devil it would necessarily follow that, given the existence of the rebellious angels, whoever is leader among them would himself automatically fill the role. That this is the position is indicated by Jesus in the parable of the Sheep and Goats when he refers to “the Devil and his angels”. (Matt. 25:41). All this does help to establish the solid fact that, behind the veil which shrouds things in the spiritual world from our senses, there is a force of beings animated by evil whose leader is the one we know as Satan.

This, then, is the champion of evil. Created by God, for all life comes from God, he must of necessity have come from his Creator’s hand per­fect, innocent, sinless. Thoughts of rebellion and sin must have shaped themselves in his mind as in the exercise of that free will which is the gift of God to all his intelligent creatures he began to sense the possibilities which disloyalty could offer. The Bible says as much. There are two meta­phorical passages in the Old Testament in both of which, under the guise of great earthly potentates, the Prince of Darkness is obviously pictured. In the one he is depicted as saying to himself “I will ascend to heaven above the stars of God; I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly, I will make myself like the Most High”. (Isa. 14:13-14 RSV), Here is overwelming ambition, the created, aspiring to be equal to the Creator. So came the word of God to him “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you … so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God” (Ezek. 25:5-16). This is the fall of Satan, perhaps at a time far anterior to the creation of man upon earth, perhaps, as some have surmised, at the very time of that creation. Perceiving the potentialities inherent in this new expression of the creative power of God, Satan, think some, might have determined to win this new incipient empire for himself. Whatever may have been the motive and whenever the time, the end was inevit­able. In the fine language of the Authorized Version “therefore will I bring, forth a fire from the midst of thee; it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee” (Ezek 28:18). Here is the doom of Satan; the fire of his own sin, pro­ceeding from within himself, destroys the life which once held such great promise but because of it having been given over completely and wholly to sin has become incapable of reformation. Be it noted that this passage does not picture a kind of judicial execution sanctioned by the Most High: the extinction of being which is described in these tremendous words is the logical and the inevitable result of sin, accepted into the heart and allowed to reign unchecked until every impulse and feeling of right and truth has been eliminated and the whole personality is given over irrevoc­ably to the pursuit and practice of evil.

It goes without saying that the medieval con­ception of Satan as a hideous monster having horns and tail, armed with a trident and breath­ing fire, is nothing more than artist’s license of the times. As a member of God’s celestial creation Satan must have been what man in his own world was when God looked upon that which He had made and found it “very good.” In his own sphere and among his own companions Satan would have been transcendently glorious. He must have appeared to Eve in Eden as a radiant and assur­ing presence. Isaiah gives his primal appellation as the Morning Star, the planet Venus. (“Lucifer” in Isa. 14 is derived from an ancient term for Venus meaning “the splendid star” and has only become a proper name by custom). These allusions substantiate the intention to portray a particular and intelligent celestial being who was originally made, like man, “In the image and likeness of God”, and by transgression fell from that high estate. According to Ezekiel he was “a cherub with outspread wings, set upon the holy mountain of God”. Of his rank and position and activities in those first days before thoughts of sin entered his heart we know nothing; of the terrible results of his apostasy and commitment to total evil, so far as this earth is concerned, we have full and sad experience. Of the future, with no indication of remorse, of sorrow, of repentance. We have only the inexorable words of God, as recorded by Ezekiel “you have come to a dreadful end, and shall be no more for ever.”

The Kingdom of Heaven

golden-city-of-heavenIn reading the Gospel account of Matthew, there is no doubt as to its running theme and message. The phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned 32 times in the Authorized Version. No where else in the scriptures, is this particular term used. No other apostle or Bible writer uses the term; the other Gospel writers use “The Kingdom of God”.

Most Bible expositors believe the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably, and we have no reason to disagree. In fact, in parallel accounts of the Gospels, the terms are use interchangeably by the writers themselves. (See Matt. 4:17 and Mark 1:15; Matt. 8:11 and Luke 13:28, 29). In fact, Matthew himself uses the term Kingdom of God five times, (cf. 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43). 

The Kingdom of Heaven IS at Hand!

John the Baptist, began his preaching work admonishing those around him; “Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (3:2) interestingly, our Lord himself began his ministry with those same words (4:17); and he taught his apostles to do the same, when he sent them out to preach (10:7). Not only was this kingdom the main thrust of our Lord’s ministry, it was his only thrust!

This is evident in our Lord’s mountaintop sermon, addressing the multitudes; “… he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” … “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:2, 3, 20)

We can see that this “kingdom of heaven” permeates the record of the Lord’s earthly ministry, as well as in the ministry of the 12 apostles, who were both instructed and commissioned by our Lord.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

Some scholars believe that the message of the Kingdom of Heaven is a reference to heaven itself, and that the message preached about by the Lord and his apostles was the issue of heaven and how to get there.

Others would teach that the Kingdom of Heaven is but a reference to a spiritual condition, in the hearts of men, resulting in the transforming of lives and eventually the society we live in. What the Lord and his 12 apostles were therefore preaching about, was the need for repentance and letting God  reign in the hearts of men. Doing so, God’s will would be done on earth. (6:10)

These are but a few of the commonly accepted ideas as to the meaning behind the “kingdom of heaven.” However, these thoughts are at odds with what the Scriptures themselves declare. A careful search of the Scriptures reveal that the “kingdom of heaven” is not a reference to heaven itself, or to some spiritual reigning of God in the hearts of men, but rather to the Messianic kingdom of peace foretold by the prophets and promised by God himself to the nation of Israel. (Daniel 2:44;45; Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5)

A Promised Kingdom

We read of a covenant relationship in Genesis, between Jehovah God and Abraham.  Accordingly, the nation of Israel was to be a “great nation” and “kingdom” in which “all the families of the earth shall be blessed“. (Ex. 12:1, 3) The arrangement was to give land to Abraham, where he and his descendants after him, would forever dwell as this “great nation” and provide for the blessing of the world and administer God’s dominion over it. (Ex. 19:5, 6)

In prophesying about this event, Isaiah proclaimed:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people:” (Isaiah 2:2-4)

We see here how this nation under God, would provide the way for the world of mankind to walk in the path of God. The will of heaven will reign and rule on the earth by way of the kingdom of Israel.

A Rebellious Nation and Her Failures

God raised up prominent ones to lead his people. History shows that despite God’s plans, Israel rebelled.  In view of her rebellious ways and failures, God raised up King David and made a covenant with him and his descendants.  “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Chr. 17:11-14)

Isaiah rejoiced in this future day and proclaimed to Israel…

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this“. (Isaiah 9:6 7)

Daniel in a vision saw the end of Gentile dominion over Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation;

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)

We see that Israel’s covenanted kingdom was to be established through her Messiah, the promise seed of David in accordance with the Davidic covenant.  He would redeem His people and set up his kingdom dominion in Zion. This is what God’s covenant with Israel called for. This is what the expression “the kingdom of heaven” refers to.

The Kingdom of Heaven AT Hand

When our Lord Jesus was born, he was born for a purpose, a God given mission.  To fulfill the Davidic promise as was announced to Mary;

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:31 33)

Jesus, the only-begotten son of God, left his heavenly home, to be born of women, and become the promised seed of David, to sit on the throne of David and establish His kingdom on earth. The “kingdom of heaven“, therefore, was “at hand“.

Not only was the promised Messiah here, but he was right on schedule as the prophets had long foretold (see Dan. 9:24-27). The establishing of the kingdom of heaven was near completion. Which prompted our Lord to tell the masses as he preached; “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17)

This was the Divine Plan of ages ago. The long awaited Messiah, the promise seed of David, the King of Israel had arrived. To announce that the covenanted “kingdom of heaven” was “at hand“. And as such, the work began to prepare the way.  Jesus taught the masses the beatitudes in view of it (5:1-12). He taught how to gain entrance into it (5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23; 24).  He expounded on those who would be the “least” and the “greatest” in it (5:19; 11:11; 13:32). He even informed his closes disciples of their special positions in it (19:28) and finally, he warned about the destructive judgments He would execute upon the nations prior to fully establishing the kingdom (chapters 24, 25).

As God’s plan unveils, the Apostles eagerly looked for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6) They, therefore, proclaimed to Israel the arrival of her “last days“, (Acts 2:1 36), as spoken of in the prophets, and exhorted the people to respond positively to the offer of the kingdom. (Acts 3:12 26)

Where is this promise Kingdom?

It is obvious that “the kingdom of heaven” has not yet been established on the earth. None of the prophetic pronouncements concerning its establishment have been fulfilled, however, when our Lord was on earth “the time” was “fulfilled” for it, and so it was preached to be “at hand“. So we ask ourselves, what has happened? Why hasn’t “the God of heaven” set up that kingdom of promise?

Though many have endeavored to explain, we find that God’s own explanation concerning what he has done and what he will yet do is the one that needs to be understood and appreciated.

A New Dispensation

The Apostle Paul tells us the reason behind the delay in the establishing of Israel’s kingdom. We’re told that God has temporarily set aside his plans for Israel, and has ushered in a new dispensation. We read in Romans 11, that when Israel “stumbled” at the testimony of Christ, God did something unexpected. He “blinded” the nation and turned to the Gentiles.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (vs. 25 – cf John 12:37-40; 2 Cor. 3:14)

Yes, God has “blinded” Israel and has put his plans and His special dealings with her on hold. In doing so, God has turned his attention to the Gentiles and has administered a dispensation of grace. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians;

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (3:1-6)

This dispensation of grace is what God is now working out, and has been working out. We must remember God has “not cast away His people“. He is not through with them. Rather, her “fullness” is yet to come. Since her “blindness” is “in part“, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in“, Paul goes on to say;

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:1, 26, 27)

Israel’s “fullness” is yet to come, and when it does, as Zechariah 14:9 says, “…the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Also, as Isaiah declares to the redeemed and the delivered of Israel in that day;

“…ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God:…For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (vs 6,11)

One Kingdom Two Phasgolden-city-of-heavenes

The literal Kingdom of God is not to be seen by hands, Jesus will not sit on a literal throne on earth, but this kingdom will be in the literal heavens, thus the Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual Kingdom, unseen to the human eye, but its influence will be worldwide.  When asked about his Kingdom, Jesus replied:  “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” [or “in your midst” – Rotherham] (Luke 17:20-21)

Israel will be the earthly representatives of that heavenly kingdom, with the ancient patriarchs of old being its rulers.  Jesus and His Church will be the heavenly representatives of that kingdom.

Israel’s promised kingdom is yet to be established, God’s word is sure, for He cannot change or alter his promises (Psalm 89:34). However, God’s plan for Israel is set aside and in abeyance. God is working out “the mystery of Christ” in this “dispensation of His grace” and is preparing the “new creation“, the church, the body of Christ, made up of both Jew and Gentile, for a purpose He has in the heavenly places. When that number is complete, “all Israel shall be saved” and their promised Kingdom realized. They shall be the blesser nation, and through them “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

Body is One, Has Many Members

A Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 corinthians

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

The Apostle Paul here reminds the Corinthian brethren that they were converted from among the heathens; having been carried away and led to worship idols. Paul then states that only the consecrated; those begotten of the Holy Spirit can rightfully call Jesus, Lord. By the same token, those who would refer to Jesus as accursed would no doubt have the spirit of the adversary.  The Apostle here is introducing the gifts of the Holy Spirit by pointing out that the experiences of the consecrated begin with the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive such gifts about which Paul begins to write about in verse 4.

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (Vs 4-7)

Here Paul is connecting the gifts to the “Lord” and to “God” as it seems that the Corinthians had forgotten the source of the gifts they had as well as the purpose, which was to produce an effective ministry. Their forgetfulness had led to competition in the use of their gifts.  These gifts enabled the possessor to minister to the needs of others. They were not for private individual enrichment nor for rivalry and jealousy but for the benefit of all.  The word administration is diakonia, which comes from our word Deacon, which is Strong’s number 1248, giving the idea of a servant attending to others.

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (Vs 8-11)

In these verses Paul mentions some of the many gifts which the consecrated may possess; these gifts come through or by the Spirit. They are as follows:

(1)    Wisdom (sophias) or total thinking.

(2)    Knowledge (gnoseos) or understanding.

(3)    Faith (pistis) that infinite trust or high degree of belief in God, often appearing in times of great crisis or opportunity.

(4)   Gifts of healing (chismata iamaton), different kinds of cures or remedies,

(5)    Working of miracles (energemata dunameon) or superhuman powers,

(6)   Prophecy (propheteia) or divine inspiration and announcing the decrees of God,

(7)    Discerning of spirits (diakriseis pneumaton), to distinguish between the Spirit of God, the spirit of Satan and the spirit of the world.

(8)   Tongues (glosson), use of speech or dialects that the speaker has not learned and

(9)   Interpretation of tongues (ermeneia glosson), to render glossolalia understandable to the audience in their language.

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul makes mention of other gifts, such as exhorting, giving, ruling and showing mercy; in Ephesians 4 he mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. When the New Testament was completed some of these gifts were phased out and no longer needed. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit has given to each individual one or more gifts; no amount of boasting should be involved. The Holy Spirit has done as He desired. These gifts all work “that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” (Vs. 12-14) 

Here Paul presents the analogy of the human body to the Church at Corinth. A similar analogy is found in Romans 12:4-8. Just as the human body is a unit having many members, so also is Christ. All members of the human body (the hand, the eye, the ear, the nose, the various organs etc.,) all function because the head directs, so the church as a body with Christ as its Head functions as God desires.

As in the human body, the various members have duties to perform for the benefit of other members; so among the consecrated on earth. The various members have gifts and abilities that are to be used for the benefit of the other members. Some of these privileges may be of a humble kind, nevertheless they have their place and these humble inconspicuous duties are necessary to be performed by some members for the good of others and for the benefit of the whole body. 

“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.” (Vs 15-20) 

Paul now begins to encourage the brethren to occupy his or her own place and perform his or her own duties, and not feel discouraged or put out because he or she does not occupy some other position.  In the church there were Jews and Gentiles, male and female, educated and ignorant – all were products of a diverse set of environmental factors, but they were compacted together by a common experience. They were independent but also interdependent. The Holy Spirit had joined them together because they were in submission to His will. 

“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (Vs 21-26) 

The Apostle Paul here is challenging Corinthian brethren to see their need of each other. Just as the eye could not say to the body, I have no need of the feet, so the Corinthians must see that they need each other. No member of the body is sufficient in itself. It is impossible in the physical body; it is impossible in the spiritual body. In fact, in contrast to what is often thought, the weaker members are essential to the proper functioning of the body. These may only seem to be weaker; they may actually be weaker. But the point is that they are part of the body and they are for a specific purpose, without which the body simply cannot function properly. They are necessary. They are vital. They are a part of the body.

Jehovah God works in and through the human body which He has given to all His people, so He works in and through the church body as He sees fit in order to carry out His Divine Plan of the Ages.

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (Vs 27-31) 

Here we see the teaching that the apostles were the head members, they were first. Theirs was the office of seeing first the truths the Holy Spirit revealed, they being the Lord’s special mouthpieces. As they heard the voice of the Spirit they spoke out the message, and they wrote their epistles for our learning. The early church did not always appreciate the apostles as they should have done. And some came to think that speaking with tongues and healing were more important than prophesying and teaching.

Hence we see according to the Apostle, that whatever the gift possessed, all members constituted one interdependent body. There was to be no spirit of rivalry, no wish to discredit or demean the other members. But they did wish all to recognize that the teaching office was more important than the physical healing.

But there was one way in which all might participate and all might rejoice; the way of love. The gifts of the Spirit were not confined to the teaching, miracles, healing, etc., which gifts were distributed “to every man severally as he will,” (v. 11). There was and still is a “fruit” of the Spirit that is the unceasing privilege of all to exercise and to enjoy. That is love. Love is the combination of all those sentiments and virtues which is shed abroad in their hearts by the Spirit, and which enables them to rejoice even in tribulation; that enables them to love and cherish every member of the body, great or small, that appreciates the difficulties and trials of all and would smooth the way of each on the path of life.