1 Corinthians 11–12: God & The Gifts

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 14: Sunday

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 LSB

Sunday’s Bible reading is 1 Corinthians 11–12. I want to stop for a minute and think about 1 Corinthians 11:1 because this is key to many of the problems the Corinthians were having, and it’s also key to also key to many of our problems. The Corinthians had lost sight of who they were and whose they were.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, Paul told them you are not your own…you were bought with a price. And again in 1 Corinthians 7:23, you were bought with a price. The Corinthians belonged to Christ, as do all Christians, but they were acting as if they were still their own. Paul is teaching, correcting, rebuking, and encouraging them to remember and reorient their lives and to follow Jesus Christ in obedience.

In 1 Corinthians 4, when he was reminding them of his labor and love in bringing the gospel to them he had already exhorted them to imitate him:

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.
1 Corinthians 4:14–16 LSB

Now he tells them again, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Our English word, mimic, is from the root of the Greek word used here, μιμητής, (mimētēs).1

Let’s look at other places in the New Testament where the writers talk about imitating or following a godly person as an example: 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9; Hebrews 6:12, 13:17; 3 John 1:11.

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 LSB
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we did not act in an unruly manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the authority, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would imitate us.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 LSB
so that you may not become dull, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6:12 LSB
Obey your leaders and submit to them⁠—for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account⁠—so that they will do this with joy and not with groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:17 LSB
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
3 John 1:11 LSB

Notice how the characteristic of giving that is evident here. Those whom we are to imitate are people who give of their labors and care for the benefit of others. They are not takers. They are givers who put the interests of others first. This goes back to last week’s reading, 1 Corinthians 9–10: Rights & Others:

Let no one seek his own good, but that of the other person.
1 Corinthians 10:24 LSB

Paul wants the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. There are many passages that could be quoted on following Jesus, however, I want to look at something Paul said about Christ’s example when he wrote to the Philippians about acting out of humility of mind and looking out for the interests of others.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, fulfill my joy, that you think the same way, by maintaining the same love, being united in spirit, thinking on one purpose, doing nothing from selfish ambition or vain glory, but with humility of mind regarding one another as more important than yourselves, not merely looking out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have this way of thinking in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although existing in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a slave, by being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:1-8 LSB

Christ is the supreme example of giving, of looking out for the interests of others. He humbled Himself. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The Corinthians needed to remember they belonged to God; they had been bought with a price. They needed to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ.

1 Corinthians is about learning to imitate Christ: to imitate Him by learning to give as He gave in looking out for others; to imitate Him in obedience to God.

There is much in the next few chapters of 1 Corinthians that is contro­versial today. We need to remember what the Corinthians needed to remember. We are not our own. We were bought and redeemed with the blood of Christ. Now we are to follow after Him.

We cannot place our thinking, opinions, and experiences over God’s Word. We live under God’s Word. By that I mean we understand that “when Scripture speaks, God speaks,” and we seek to obey God, not argue with Him. In 1 Corinthians 11, when Paul writes about the nature and identity of men and women, there are truths from Genesis 2 about who God created us to be. Paul grounds his teaching on men and women keeping their head uncovered or covered on unchanging truths. How we dress reflects our thinking about who we are. Anthony Thiselton has this observation:

“As Roland Barthes has convincingly demonstrated, clothes have usually operated in human cultures as a powerful semiotic system, i.e., they generate ready signs or signals of class, style, modesty, self-promotion, attitude, or whatever. Similarly, Umberto Eco observes, ‘I am speaking through my clothes.’2

Different pastors and churches have various applications of this passage today, but the bottom line is that our appearance and conduct in church should reflect who God created us to be.

Paul goes on to give commands on the Lord’s Supper before moving into discussing spiritual gifts.

As a new Christian, 1 Corinthians 12 is the first chapter of the Bible that I heard taught. Here Paul begins a discussion of spiritual gifts that will continue through several chapters. In chapter 12, he lays a foundational understanding about abilities given by God to every Christian according to His will; they are not earned and they are not awards, and they are to be used for the good of others.

Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe how the gifts should help each other as the different parts of the body do, and for this reason you will frequently hear people refer to the church as the body of Christ.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4–7 LSB

When the church works in harmony together with the gifts being used as God commands, it is a wonderful thing to see and experience.

One very important thing he discusses in chapter 12 is our attitude towards our gifts and towards the gifts of others:

But now God has appointed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
1 Corinthians 12:18–21 LSB

Again, Paul’s words are pertinent because they teach humility of mind and looking out for the interests of others.

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 LSB

These words have application into how we view our gifts and the gifts of others. When someone comes to your church, what is your attitude towards them? Do you welcome who they are and include them in some ministry you may be working in? When you want to start doing some new kind of ministry at your church or perhaps expand or change something, do you actively seek to include people in the planning and creation? Do you consider what others can do that you cannot and what they can bring? If someone has a similar gift or the same gift do you consider how you can work together, or is your attitude one of me first territorialism? We must actively put aside sin and pride and remember that God gives the gifts, and God places each member as He desires.

But you earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I will yet show you a more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31 LSB

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul will show the Corinthians a more excellent way.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Someone offering a gift: asenat29. (CC BY 2.0).
1The Discovery Bible. Retrieved 02 April 2023. I’m also indebted to The Discovery Bible for many of the verses used and its reflections on mentors.
2Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapid MI: 2000) 802.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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