Paul begins chapter 12 with a reminder to the Corinthians of the previous religious persuasion to which they held. They had been led astray to what was not true (dumb idols) by various means (“however you were led”). The means of the leading included the use of wine, sex, and spirit-possession, emotionalism seen in visions, ecstatic utterances, and dreams. To be swept away by an apparent supernatural pull does not necessarily indicate a Christian source. This is a common phenomenon in pagan religions, today. However, Paul does affirm that the gifts spoken of in chapters 12-14 are from God!! Paul then suggests that the legitimate gift from God is based upon knowledge, not sensationalism. The knowledge is seen in the confession that the Jesus of prophecy is truly the Lord, 12:3. This confession cannot be made knowledgeably without having heard the message of salvation. Responsible faith comes because of the preaching of the sweet, sweet song of salvation, Romans 10:17, Acts 10:37-43. Paul even wrote the good confession in the language of his readers: “that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” Where did they get this information? One could not have been tested on his or her knowledge of Christ IF they were taught in unknown tongues, they would not have known what they believed!! Christianity cannot be based on subjective experiences which can carry one away to the land of imagination, 12:2, he must be taught the intelligent message of Jesus Christ.
Paul then develops the truth that God’s gifts (the christimata) vary. (4-11) God gave to each Christian at least one charisma for the good of others (verse 7). Their charismata was given for a ministry to others (service and workings, verses 5 and 6), not for ego-alteration. Each Christian should have accepted with thanksgiving what God had given to him, because his personal charisma was a result of the will of the Spirit, 11
In verses 12 and 13, Paul begins to develop the analogy of the church being like a physical body-united amid diversity. Although she had many members, the body was still ONE. The many are one because each has been baptized into the one body (Gal 3:26-28, Eph 2:11-22, 4:1-16). In verses 14-31, Paul develops the unified way the various members functioned for the mutual good. Every member was significant, conformity was not logical, 17-20, no member is functionally superior, 21, special attention was given to the less sensational, 22-25, and God had arranged the organs (members) so they will not COMPETE against each other, but complement one another, 25-26, and NO ONE IS TO COVET another’s gift, God gave it, none had all the gifts, and all should seek the best gifts, love.
In chapter 13, Paul develops the manner in which gifts were to be used, and develop the truth of chapter 12. Spiritual gifts were to be used with agape love Agape love is that love which sees a need in another and moves to meet it, doesn’t count the cost, and doesn’t evaluate the worth of the one needing to be loved, and finally, always lives for the good of the other!! By the way, love was and is a result of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22, Romans 5:5.
Paul then develops some characteristics of love (4-7) and the temporary nature of gifts compared with the permanent nature of love (8-13). Seeing the truth of chapter 13, chapter 14 as the practice of those unselfish gifts is practical use. In chapter 14, Paul develops the value of prophecy over tongues (in helping others). To seek spiritual gifts was good, he says, but the aim in the seeking MUST be love for the other saint, verse 12, something that took maturity.