First Corinthians 12.29



1.   Please stand for the reading of God’s Word.  We begin reading First Corinthians 12.27:

27    Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

28    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.

29    Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

30    Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?


2.   The New Testament portion of God’s Word can be divided into two types of inspired literature.  The four Gospels and the book of Acts are obviously historical accounts of what transpired during the life and earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and shortly after, with the Gospels being a unique genre of literature unlike anything else that has ever been written.

3.   The rest of the New Testament are epistles, letters, written to significant individuals, groups, or congregations.  Of particular interest to us this morning are those epistles written to congregations.

4.   I am convinced that Romans was a circular letter written by Paul to the several congregations of Rome, the largest city in the world at that time, much like Galatians was written to be circulated to the congregations in the Galatian region.  No single congregation could be expected to meet the spiritual needs of a city of one million, and since Christians congregate, it is not a reach to posit Romans being a letter to congregations in the city of Rome.

5.   First and Second Corinthians was written to the Corinthian congregation, Ephesians and Philippians and Colossians are letters to congregations in those respective cities, with First and Second Thessalonians written to the congregation in Thessalonika, and Revelation being written to seven congregations in Asia.[1]

6.   A common mistake made by Bible students throughout Church history has been to overlook the importance of who the various epistles of the New Testament were originally written to.

7.   Hebrews, James and First and Second Peter were addressed to Jewish Christians, and important truths are missed when that fact is ignored.  Important truths are also overlooked when who the Roman, Corinthian, Galatian, Ephesian, Philippian, Colossian, Thessalonian and Revelation letters were written to is overlooked.

8.   Christians today tacitly believe that the entire Bible was written to them, without realizing that this matter is not that simple.  For example:  The Old Testament was not written to us, but to the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob.  Thus, Paul writes in Romans 3.19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.”  Thus, we profit from the Old Testament by application, though it was not directly written to us.[2]

9.   As well, epistles like First and Second Timothy were not written to all Christians.  First and Second Timothy were obviously written to Timothy, and the letters profit others as they properly apply what Paul wrote to Timothy, first, to men in the ministry, and, then, to other Christians.

10. Therefore, understand that First Corinthians was written to the Corinthian congregation, but also for the benefit of all other Christians.[3]  But how should application of the First Corinthian letter be made to benefit from what Paul wrote to them?  First, to congregations like the Corinthian congregation, and secondarily to Christendom as a whole.

11. These things established, look to the four verses we have just read.  What can we draw from this well of truth?



Paul wrote, in verse 27, “Now ye are the body of Christ.”

1B.    Who was Paul writing to?  His remarks were primarily addressed to the Corinthian congregation.  Therefore, though truths contained in First Corinthians will have application throughout Christendom, the primary beneficiaries in this age in which we live, long after the Corinthian congregation has ceased to exist, are congregations that are like the Corinthian congregation.

2B.    What congregations are like the Corinthian congregation?  Congregations that are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, First Corinthians 3.11, congregations that are independent and accountable only to Jesus Christ, congregations that preach the Gospel, First Corinthians 15.1, congregations that baptize by immersion only those who give reasonable evidence of being genuinely converted, and such things as that.

3B.    It is my conviction that Calvary Road Baptist Church is such a congregation.  We are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.  We are independent and accountable only to Jesus Christ.  We preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And in many other ways we are similar to the Corinthian congregation, though I hope we have not fallen into the ditch of tolerating the kinds of sins they tolerated until they were strongly rebuked by Paul.

4B.    These observations made, notice what Paul declared to them:  “Now ye are the body of Christ.”  He did not say that all Christians are the body of Christ, because that is not the case.  He told that congregation that they were the body of Christ.  Of course, the same truth applied to the Ephesian congregation and to the Philippian congregation, and to all other such congregations.  We, too, are the body of Christ, in a way that all professing Christians are not the body of Christ.

5B.    There is much error afoot these days, in which it is claimed that the body of Christ is comprised of all born again Christians.  This is a mistake.  Notice that Paul did not include himself in this statement to the Corinthians.  How is this to be explained?  The notion that all Christians are in the body of Christ is an error that has crept in from Protestantism, and is derived from a notion clung to by Romanism.  It is a notion that has been grasped and strongly held to by many who do not have a teachable spirit, but who stubbornly cling to doctrine which is not supported by Scripture.

6B.    I speak to those of you who are members of Calvary Road Baptist Church, who are joined to this congregation.  We are the body of Christ.  Paul wrote, “Now ye are the body of Christ” because he was not a part of that body.  Only those in the Corinthian congregation were a part of that body of Christ.  To what body would Paul have been joined?  Almost certainly the Church of Antioch, the congregation that sent him out on his apostolic mission in Acts chapter 13.



The last phrase of verse 27 reads, “and members in particular.”

1B.    This phrase, on the surface, may seem to be very plain and straightforward.  And, indeed, it is.  But there are times when profound truths are wrapped in plain statements.  I believe that to be true here.

2B.    The word “members” translates the Greek word melos, which simply refers to various parts of the human body.[4]  So, the mental picture Paul wants you to imagine is of a person’s body.  Your arm is one member.  Your leg is another member.  Your ear is a member, as is an eye.  So, the word “member” does not so much refer to a limb, like an arm or a leg, but to any part of your physical body.

3B.    The phrase “in particular” translates the Greek phrase ek merous.  It is an idiomatic expression that means “individually.”[5]  This suggests that Paul is pointing out that individuality is maintained within the congregation.

4B.    Thus, Paul draws a parallel between different body parts that are each joined with other body parts to comprise the human body, and the Christian who is a member of a congregation.  In both cases there is union; physical union with the human body, spiritual union with the congregation.

5B.    What does this mean?  It means that you who are members of this congregation are just as surely a part of Calvary Road Baptist Church as your right foot is a part of your physical body; the difference being that one kind of interdependent union is a spiritual union, while the other kind of interdependent union is a physical union.


3A.   Finally, We Draw From This Well The Truth That MEMBERS HAVE DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS

28    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.

29    Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

30    Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?


1B.    In verse 28 we see that “God hath set some in the Church.”  Thus, it is God Who rightly decides who is and who is not to be in each congregation.  It is appropriate to surmise that this process of God’s will being made known involves the right use of various means, such as Gospel preaching, such as baptizing, such as discipling, and so forth.  God’s will is not discerned when proper means are ignored.

2B.    We also see in verse 28, “first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”  But if God set apostles first in the Church, then the Church would have to have existed when the apostles were called and authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This, of course, occurred before His crucifixion on Calvary’s cross.  Thus, the Church was in existence before the day of Pentecost, meaning the entire Protestant concept of the Church is unscriptural.

3B.    Verse 28 concludes with a partial listing of the various spiritual gifts of those who have been set in the Church by God, illustrating what is explained more fully elsewhere; that those who are members of the congregation do not all have the same spiritual equipment.[6]

4B.    Verses 29 and 30 asks a series of rhetorical questions:  “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?”  These questions are obviously designed to underline the reality Paul seeks to emphasize, that the membership of a Church is comprised of believers who have different gifts.



1.   What are we to conclude from these 4 verses?  First, that God sets people with different spiritual gifts in the Church.  And He began doing this with apostles, which we know from the Gospels were called and authorized while Jesus yet walked on the earth, thus showing us when the Church of Jesus Christ came into existence.

2.   As well, and key to this morning’s message, different members have different spiritual equipment.  Lee Moyer and I have different spiritual gifts.  Ron Farrar and C. R. Rigali have different spiritual gifts.  Shirley French and Archie French have different spiritual gifts.  Arjelia and Lavona have different gifts.

3.   These truths may seem simple and easy to understand, but they are important to the health and vitality of every congregation.  We dismiss the importance of these truths at the risk of our spiritual welfare and the sacrifice of our ability to serve Christ effectively.

4.   Now, Brian Spicer comes to lead us before this morning’s sermon.



1.   Though we have read verses 27-30 of First Corinthians chapter 12, my sermon text this morning is a simple phrase in verse 29, a question:  “are all teachers?”

2.   One of the most troublesome and recurring problems the apostle Paul had to face throughout his apostolic ministry was the tendency of believers in the congregations to indiscriminately subject themselves to anyone who wanted to teach them the Word of God.

3.   Because that tendency continues to this day, with some allowing radio Bible teachers to teach them the Bible, with others allowing television Bible teachers to teach them, with others allowing lunch time Bible study teachers at work to teach them, and with others allowing those who visit our Church from time to time to teach them, I am going to devote this morning’s sermon to addressing the subject.

4.   Here are some irrefutable truths for your consideration:



1B.    This point might seem so basic as to need no Scriptural verification, but there are some who will allow anyone with an open Bible to teach them.  So, to show you that you should not allow just anyone with an open Bible to teach you, I want to make sure you understand that not everyone is a teacher of God’s Word.

2B.    Paul’s question, “are all teachers?” is one of a number of questions that are specifically designed to establish that different people have different spiritual gifts, and that different people perform different functions in the life of a congregation.

3B.    Would anyone dispute that not all are apostles, or that not all are prophets?  Then you should also recognize that not all are teachers.  What naturally follows, then, is that you recognize that not everyone who may want to teach you God’s Word has been equipped by God to effectively or to correctly get the job done.  Of course, this would lead to you being taught error, so you must exercise judgment and caution whenever anyone opens up a Bible to teach you.



1B.    Let us allow that there will be those who can teach you the Word of God.  They are interesting.  They are informative.  They seem to make sense.  That does not mean that they meet the criteria established in God’s Word to qualify as teachers of the Bible.

2B.    Please turn to James 3.1:  “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”  This word “masters” means “teachers.”[7]  Renowned Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, observes that this is a prohibition.  Too many were attempting to teach what they did not clearly understand and James is prohibiting them from doing so.[8]  The same pattern can be observed today.

3B.    Consider that some who would teach the Bible are not gifted to do so.  Others who would teach the Bible, and who are capable of doing so, are prohibited from doing so.  I would suggest that as a starting point you refuse to allow anyone to teach you the Word of God who you do not see celebrating the communion of the Lord’s Supper with you.  Why so?  If the person does not take communion with us it is because he is not a member of this congregation.  And if he is not a member of this congregation he is beyond the reach of this congregation’s authority to discipline.

4B.    Turn to Matthew 18.15, please:

15    Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16    But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17    And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18    Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19    Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20    For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.


5B.    If someone who is not a member of our congregation teaches you error, what recourse do you have?  None whatsoever.  But if the person who teaches you error, who teaches you that which is simply not true according to God’s Word, is a member of this congregation, then you have recourse to deal with him about it.  First privately, and then with witnesses.  If the person who teaches error does not stop this sinning or does not ask forgiveness for this sinning, he can then be brought before the Church and disciplined.

6B.    There are many who would teach the Word of God without being subject to the authority of a congregation like ours, but I would assert that one of the distinctives of being a Baptist is submission to local congregational authority, where you can be called to account for what you teach.  The person who will not seek to become a member of this congregation has no business even thinking about teaching those of us who are members of this congregation.

7B.    But it does not end here.  There is more on this matter dealt with in the Bible.



1B.    In First Timothy 3.1-11, the apostle Paul reminds Timothy of the qualifications to be the pastor of a congregation such as this.  Please note that in verse 2 of those qualifications Paul writes “apt to teach.”  This means that the pastor must be “able to teach, skillful in teaching.”[9]

2B.    In Titus 1.9, along the same line as what he wrote to Timothy, Paul makes this statement to Titus, in his list of qualifications for a congregation’s pastor:  “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

3B.    Not only must a man be capable and properly prepared to teach God’s Word in order to become a pastor, the letter to the Hebrews shows that it is the pastor who is to be the congregation’s teacher.  Turn to Hebrews 13.7 and Hebrews 13.17:

7     Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.


17    Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.


4B.    The word “remember” means to be mindful of.[10]  The word “obey” means to give in to, to yield to, to submit to.[11]  So, who are members of a congregation directed to remember and obey?  Those “who have spoken unto you the word of God.”  Is that not your pastor?  And who will be held accountable for what they teach?  Those who are pastors.

5B.    Now turn to Ephesians 4.11:  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”  “Pastors and teachers” in this verse is correctly understood to refer to one man, the pastor-teacher.[12]

6B.    So, it is clear who is supposed to teach you the Word of God.  The pastor of your congregation.  If you are not the pastor of this congregation you have absolutely no business teaching God’s Word to anyone other than your own family.

7B.    “But I want to teach God’s Word.  I feel God would have me to teach His Word.”  Great!  Go start a Church somewhere.  Or go and apply to become the pastor of a Church currently without a pastor.  You are not to teach God’s Word in this Church unless you are me, and unless you are me you are not to teach me God’s Word.  Ignoring this Biblical pattern is both inappropriate and disruptive.



1B.    Please turn now to Titus 1.13:  “This witness is true.  Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”  Read this entire chapter very carefully and you will be surprised to discover who Paul directs Titus to sharply rebuke.  Not those who are false teachers, but those who have allowed false teachers to teach them!

2B.    “What is the matter with you, pastor?  We have judgment and discernment in these matters.”  You do?  Please turn to Galatians 1.6:  “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.”  Paul was astonished at how quickly a number of congregations that he had planted, and whose members he had personally trained, were led astray by false teachers who had come in.

3B.    So, it is not a matter of what my personal opinion is of you, or of how highly I esteem you.  It is a simple matter of the historical record.  People can be led astray very quickly, even people who had been trained by the anointed apostle Paul.  So, how dare I presume confidence that you will fare any better than did the Galatians?

4B.    In Acts 20.29-30, Paul warned the Ephesian pastors of the dangers involved when those who are unauthorized seek to teach the flock:  “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”  Paul even warned against pastors luring and enticing members.

5B.    If I am to be a responsible pastor, and if I am to ensure that you are not ensnared by false teachers, then I must insist and I must persistently remind you to avoid allowing anyone but me to teach you God’s Word.  And who am I to insist on such a thing?  First, I am your pastor, given to this congregation by the Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4.11.  Second, I have begotten you through the Gospel, and have a special and enduring relationship with anyone who has been genuinely converted through my efforts.  Those two things should count for something when I am seeking to protect you from spiritual harm.  Amen?



1B.    Here I will address those who might ask, “But pastor, you invite men to come in here to preach to us.  And from time to time you allow someone here in the congregation to teach us the Bible.”  This is true, and this follows the Scriptural example.  We know that Apollos preached in different Churches.  The pastor has the liberty to invite someone to speak to the congregation, and I exercise that right from time to time.

2B.    But it is not your right to exercise.  It is mine alone.  Students do not direct who will function as a substitute teacher in the absence of their teacher.  Sheep do not direct who will function as a substitute shepherd in the absence of their shepherd.  Thus, while I might, from time to time, invite a preacher to speak to you, it is entirely inappropriate for you to so decide on your own.  If you were to do that you would usurp my position, my role, my responsibility, my office, and my prerogative by allowing someone to teach you God’s Word who I have not selected.



1.   To recap:  Not everyone is a teacher of God’s Word.  Not everyone is supposed to be a teacher of God’s Word.  Your pastor is supposed to teach you God’s Word.  You should not allow nonmembers to teach you God’s Word, as a general rule.  Finally, you should allow only those who meet with my approval to teach you God’s Word.

2.   What about television preachers?  I approve of none of them as examples of either a godly lifestyle or doctrinal purity.  The best on television is, in my opinion, John Hagee.  But John Hagee is a divorced and remarried man and believes that Jewish people gain entrance into heaven by obedience to the Law.

3.   On the radio, I approve of J. Vernon McGee and Oliver B. Greene, though you must realize that they are both decisionists.  I urge you to listen to no one but them.

4.   And what about the person at work, the neighbor across the fence, the visitor here at Church who opens his Bible to teach you the Word of God?  It is presumption on that person’s part to attempt to teach you the Bible.  If you cannot courteously prevent them from trying to teach the Bible to you, then I would advise you to simply turn and walk away without explanation.

5.   As Paul explained to the Corinthians in Second Corinthians 11.2, I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy.  It is for that reason that I guard my ministry to you so carefully and urge you to heed my counsel in this matter.

[1] Revelation 1.4

[2] Second Timothy 3.16

[3] First Corinthians 1.2

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 628.

[5] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 430.

[6] First Corinthians 12.4

[7] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 731.

[8] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 39.

[9] Reinecker, page 622.

[10] Obid., page 718.

[11] Obid., page 720.

[12] Obid., page 531.

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