PAUL’S LISTING OF THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Verse 28 says, "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." This verse does not say, "God hath set some in the church, first tongues, secondarily interpretation of tongues, thirdly healings, and after this miracles and lastly prophets." In Paul’s arrangement tongues is the last item on the list. This means that it is the tail. The Bible is economical, and Paul’s words are very meaningful. Nevertheless, when necessary, the Bible is repetitious. Thus, after listing various items in verse 28, Paul continued in verses 29 and 30 by giving another list: "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?" In these verses the last items are tongues and the interpretation of tongues. As we have pointed out, in verses 8 through 10 tongues and interpretation are also ranked last. In this chapter there are three lists, and in each list tongues and interpretation are the last items. However, those who advocate tongues speaking today have turned the situation upside down. They have made the tail the head, and the head the tail. In fact, today speaking in tongues has been made not only the head, but even the whole body. According to some, nothing is more important than speaking in tongues. This is certainly an extreme.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is tempering the Body. As we have seen, to temper the Body is firstly to uplift the inferior ones and then to lower the superior ones. Furthermore, it is to encourage the weaker ones and to adorn the uncomely ones with more honor. Finally, to temper the Body is to practice mutual care. These five matters are basic; they are not insignificant items. In all the churches we need to uplift the inferior ones and to somewhat limit the superior ones. We need to strengthen and encourage the weaker ones and to adorn the uncomely ones. We need to make more shoes for the feet, not crowns for the head. Certain saints have had the habit of crowning others, especially those regarded as heroes. From now on, we should not have any heroes, and we should not crown anyone. In all the churches we must make more shoes to adorn the uncomely members. If, along with all this, we practice the mutual care, we shall have the Body in a practical way.
Because the Apostle Paul knew the trouble, the disease, in the church at Corinth, he dealt with the matter of the miraculous things. We all are curious concerning miracles, and we like to see miraculous things. Suppose a sister could float in the air. We all would be attracted by this and would have no heart to listen to a heavy message on the Spirit of holiness or the Spirit of life. Although we appreciate miracles very much, the Apostle Paul took the lead to tear down this fascination with miracles. I would follow him to do the same thing.
In verse 27 Paul said, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in part" (Gk.). The Body is not made up of giants. Rather, it is a composition of many members: strong ones and weak ones, big ones and small ones, comely ones and uncomely ones. Every member of the Body is needed. This is the Body.
(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)