on 1-corinthians 12 :28
God hath set some in the Church - As God has made evident distinctions among the members of the human body, so that some occupy a more eminent place than others, so has he in the Church. And to prove this, the apostle numerates the principal offices, and in the order in which they should stand.
First, apostles - Αποστολους, from απο from, and στελλο, I send; to send from one person to another, and from one place to another. Persons immediately designated by Christ, and sent by him to preach the Gospel to all mankind.
Secondarily, prophets - Προφητας, from προ, before, and φημι, I speak; a person who, under Divine inspiration, predicts future events; but the word is often applied to these who preach the Gospel. See on 1 Corinthians 12:8 (note).
Thirdly, teachers - Διδασκαλους, from διδασκω, I teach; persons whose chief business it was to instruct the people in the elements of the Christian religion, and their duty to each other. See on Romans 8:8 (note).
Miracles - Δυναμεις· Persons endued with miraculous gifts, such as those mentioned Mark 16:17, Mark 16:18; casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, etc. See on 1 Corinthians 12:8 (note), and at the end of the chapter, (1 Corinthians 12:31 (note))
Gifts of healings - Χαρισματα ιαματων· Such as laying hands upon the sick, and healing them, Mark 16:18; which, as being one of the most beneficent miraculous powers, was most frequently conceded. See on 1 Corinthians 12:8 (note).
Helps - Αντιληψεις. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that these were the apostles' helpers; persons who accompanied them, baptized those who were converted by them, and were sent by them to such places as they could not attend to, being otherwise employed.
The Levites are termed by the Talmudists helps of the priests. The word occurs Luke 1:54; Romans 8:26.
Governments - Κυβερνησεις. Dr. Lightfoot contends that this word does not refer to the power of ruling, but to the case of a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, who is profoundly wise and prudent; and he thinks that it implies the same as discernment of spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:8 (note). He has given several proofs of this use of the word in the Septuagint.
Diversities of tongues - Γενη γλωσσων· Kinds of tongues; that is, different kinds. The power to speak, on all necessary occasions, languages which they had not learned. See on 1 Corinthians 12:8 (note).
on 1-corinthians 12 :28
And God hath set - That is, has appointed, constituted, ordained. He has established these various orders or ranks in the church. The apostle, having illustrated the main idea that God had conferred various endowments on the members of the church, proceeds here to specify particularly what he meant, and to refer more directly to the various ranks which existed in the church.
Some in the church - The word "some," in this place ὅυς hous, seems to mean rather whom, "and whom God hath placed in the church," or, they whom God hath constituted in the church in the manner above mentioned are, first, apostles, etc.
First, apostles - In the first rank or order; or as superior in honor and in office. He has given them the highest authority in the church; he has more signally endowed them and qualified them than he has others.
Secondarily, prophets - As second in regard to endowments and importance. For the meaning of the word "prophets," see the note on Romans 12:6.
Thirdly, teachers - As occupying the third station in point of importance and valuable endowments. On the meaning of this word, and the nature of this office, see the note on Romans 12:7.
After that, miracles - Power. (δυνάμεις dunameis). Those who had the power of working miracles; referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:10.
Then gifts of healing - The power of healing those who were sick; see note on 1 Corinthians 12:9; compare James 5:14-15.
Helps - (ἀντιλήμψεις antilēmpseis). This word occurs no where else in the New Testament. It is derived from ἀντιλαμβάνω antilambanō, and denotes properly, "aid, assistance, help;" and then those who render aid, assistance, or help; helpers. Who they were is not known. They might have been those to whom was entrusted the care of the poor, and the sick, and strangers, widows, and orphans, etc.; that is, those who performed the office of deacons. Or they may have been those who attended on the apostles to aid them in their work, such as Paul refers to in Romans 16:3. "Greet Priscilla, and Aquilla, my "helpers" in Christ Jesus;" and in 1 Corinthians 12:9," Salute Urbane our helper in Christ;" see note on Romans 16:3. It is not possible, perhaps, to determine the precise meaning of the word, or the nature of the office which they discharged; but the word means, in general, those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church, to the care of the poor, the distribution of charity and alms, or to the instruction of the ignorant, or to aid rendered directly to the apostles. There is no evidence that it refers to a distinct and "permanent" office in the church; but may refer to aid rendered by any class in any way. Probably many persons were profitably and usefully employed in various ways as aids in promoting the temporal or spiritual welfare of the church.
Governments - (κυβερνήσεις kubernēseis). This word is derived from κυβεριάω kuberiaō, "to govern;" and is usually applied to the government or "steering" of a ship. The word occurs no where else in the New Testament, though the word κυβερνήτης kubernētēs ("governor") occurs in Acts 27:11, rendered "master," and in Revelation 18:17, rendered "shipmaster." It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is here intended. Doddridge, in accordance with Amyraut, supposes that distinct offices may not be here referred to, but that the same persons may be denoted in these expressions as being distinguished in various ways; that is, that the same persons were called helpers in reference to their skill in aiding those who were in distress, and governments in regard to their talent for doing business, and their ability in presiding in councils for deliberation, and in directing the affairs of the church.
There is no reason to think that the terms here used referred to permanent and established ranks and orders in the ministry and in the church; or in permanent offices which were to continue to all times as an essential part of its organization. It is certain that the "order" of "apostles" has ceased, and also the "order" of "miracles," and the order of "healings," and of "diversity of tongues." And it is certain that in the use of these terms of office, the apostle does not affirm that they would be permanent, and essential to the very existence of the church; and from the passage before us, therefore, it cannot be argued that there was to be an order of men in the church who were to be called "helps," or "governments." The truth probably was, that the circumstances of the primitive churches required the aid of many persons in various capacities which might not be needful or proper in other times and circumstances.
Whether, therefore, this is to be regarded as a permanent arrangement that there should be "governments" in the church, or an order of men entrusted with the sole office of governing, is to be learned not from this passage, but from other parts of the New Testament. Lightfoot contends that the word which is used here and translated "governments" does not refer to the power of ruling, but to a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, one who is wise and prudent; and in this view Mesheim, Macknight, and Horsley coincide. Calvin refers it to the elders to whom the exercise of discipline was entrusted. Grotius understands it of the pastors Ephesians 4:1, or of the elders who presided over particular churches; Romans 12:8. Locke supposes that they were the same as those who had the power of discerning spirits. The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government; but whether this refers to a permanent office, or to the fact that some were specially qualified by their wisdom and prudence, and in virtue of this usually regulated or directed the affairs of the church by giving counsel, etc., or whether they were "selected" and appointed for this purpose for a time; or whether it refers to the same persons who might also have exercised other functions, and this in addition, cannot be determined from the passage before us. All that is clear is, that there were those who administered government in the church. But the passage does not determine the form, or manner; nor does it prove - whatever may be true - that such an office was to be permanent in the church.
(There can be little doubt that the κυβερνησεις kubernēseis, or governments, refer to offices of rule and authority in the church. Two things, therefore, are plain from this text:
1. That in the primitive church there were rulers distinct from the people or church members, to whom these were bound to yield obedience.
2. That these rulers were appointed of God. "God set them in the church." As to the question of "permanence," on which our author thinks this passage affirms nothing: a distinction must be made between these offices which were obviously of an extraordinary kind, and which therefore must cease; and those of an ordinary kind, which are essential to the edification of the church in all ages. "The universal commission which the apostles received from their Master to make disciples of all nations, could not be permanent as to the extent of it, because it was their practice to ordain elders in every city, and because the course of human affairs required, that after Christianity was established, the teachers of it should officiate in particular places. The infallible guidance of the Spirit was not promised in the same measure to succeeding teachers. But being, in their case, vouched by the power of working miracles, it directed the Christians of their day, to submit implicitly to their injunctions and directions; and it warrants the Christian world, in all ages, to receive with entire confidence, that system of faith and morality which they were authorised to deliver in the name of Christ. But as all protestants hold that this system was completed when the canon of scripture was closed - it is admitted by them, that a great part of the apostolical powers ceased with those to whom Jesus first committed them.
on 1-corinthians 12 :28
12:28 First apostles - Who plant the gospel in the heathen nations. Secondly prophets - Who either foretel things to come, or speak by extra - ordinary inspiration, for the edification of the church. Thirdly teachers - Who precede even those that work miracles. Under prophets and teachers are comprised evangelists and pastors, Eph 4:11. Helps, governments - It does not appear that these mean distinct offices: rather, any persons might be called helps, from a peculiar dexterity in helping the distressed; and governments, from a peculiar talent for governing or presiding in assemblies.