Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 12:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee - The apostle goes on, with his principal object in view, to show that the gifts and graces with which their different teachers were endowed were all necessary for their salvation, and should be collectively used; for not one of them was unnecessary, nor could they dispense with the least of them; the body of Christ needed the whole for its nourishment and support. The famous apologue of Menenius Agrippa, related by Livy, will serve to illustrate the apostle's reasoning: the Roman people, getting into a state of insurrection and rebellion against the nobility, under pretext that the great men not only had all the honors but all the emoluments of the nation, while they were obliged to bear all the burdens, and suffer all the privations; they then in riotous assemblage left their homes and went to Mount Aventine. Matters were at last brought to such an issue, that the senators and great men were obliged to fly from the city, and the public peace was on the point of being utterly ruined: it was then thought expedient to send Menenius Agrippa to them, who was high in their esteem, having vanquished the Sabines and Samnites, and had the first triumph at Rome. This great general, who was as eloquent as he was valiant, went to the Mons Sacer, to which the insurgents had retired, and thus addressed them:

Tempore, quo in homine non, ut nunc emnia in unum consentiebant, sed singulis membris suum cuique consilium, suus sermo fuerat, indignatas reliquas partes, sua cura, suo labore ac ministerio ventri omnia quaeri; ventrem, in medio quietum, nihil aliud, quam datis voluptatibus frui. Conspirasse inde, ne manus ad os cibum ferrent, nec os acciperet datum, nec dentes conficerent. Hac ira, dum ventrem fame domare vellent, ipsa una membra totumque corpus ad extremam tabem venisse. lnde apparuisse, ventris quoque haud segne ministerium esse: nec magis ali, quam alere eum, reddentem in omnes corporis partes hunc, quo vivimus vigemusque, divisum pariter in venas maturum, confecto cibo, sanquinem. T. Livii, Histor. lib. ii. cap. 32.

"In that time in which the different parts of the human body were not in a state of unity as they now are, but each member had its separate office and distinct language, they all became discontented, because whatever was procured by their care, labor, and industry, was spent on the belly; while this, lying at ease in the midst of the body, did nothing but enjoy whatever was provided for it. They therefore conspired among themselves, and agreed that the hands should not convey food to the mouth, that the mouth should not receive what was offered to it, and that the teeth should not masticate whatever was brought to the mouth. Acting on this principle of revenge, and hoping to reduce the belly by famine, all the members, and the whole body itself, were at length brought into the last stage of a consumption. It then plainly appeared that the belly itself did no small service; that it contributed not less to their nourishment than they did to its support, distributing to every part that from which they derived life and vigor; for by properly concocting the food, the pure blood derived from it was conveyed by the arteries to every member."

This sensible comparison produced the desired effect; the people were persuaded that the senators were as necessary to their existence as they were to that of the senators, and that it required the strictest union and mutual support of high and low to preserve the body politic. This transaction took place about 500 years before the Christian era, and was handed down by unbroken tradition to the time of Titus Livius, from whom I have taken it, who died in the year of our Lord 17, about forty years before St. Paul wrote this epistle. As his works were well known and universally read among the Romans in the time of the apostle, it is very probable that St. Paul had this famous apologue in view when he wrote from the 14th verse to the end of the chapter.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And the eye cannot say unto the hand … - The hand in its place is as needful as the eye; and the feet as the head. Nay, the eye and the head could not perform their appropriate functions, or would be in a great measure useless but for the aid of the hands and feet. Each is useful in its proper place. So in the church. Those that are most talented and most richly endowed with gifts, cannot say to those less so, that there is no need of their aid. All are useful in their place. Nay, those who are most richly endowed could very imperfectly perform their duties without the aid and cooperation of those of more humble attainments.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Christ and his church form one body, as Head and members. Christians become members of this body by baptism. The outward rite is of Divine institution; it is a sign of the new birth, and is called therefore the washing of regeneration, Tit 3:5. But it is by the Spirit, only by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we are made members of Christ's body. And by communion with Christ at the Lord's supper, we are strengthened, not by drinking the wine, but by drinking into one Spirit. Each member has its form, place, and use. The meanest makes a part of the body. There must be a distinction of members in the body. So Christ's members have different powers and different places. We should do the duties of our own place, and not murmur, or quarrel with others. All the members of the body are useful and necessary to each other. Nor is there a member of the body of Christ, but may and ought to be useful to fellow-members. As in the natural body of man, the members should be closely united by the strongest bonds of love; the good of the whole should be the object of all. All Christians are dependent one upon another; each is to expect and receive help from the rest. Let us then have more of the spirit of union in our religion.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 128

We cannot all have the same minds nor cherish the same ideas; but one is to be a benefit and blessing to the other, that where one lacks, another may supply what is requisite. You have certain deficiencies of character and natural biases that render it profitable for you to be brought in contact with a mind differently organized, in order to properly balance your own. Instead of superintending so exclusively, you should consult with your wife and arrive at joint decisions. You do not encourage independent effort on the part of your family; but if your specific directions are not scrupulously carried out, you too frequently find fault with the delinquents. 4T 128.1

Were your wife and other members of your family without tact or skill, you would be more excusable in taking the reins so entirely into your own hands; but this not being the case, your course is altogether unwarrantable. After you have kindly informed them concerning your views of cooking and the management of household matters, and intimated what your desires are in this respect, go no further, but let them use your suggestions as they choose. They will be much more likely to be pleasantly influenced to please you than if you resorted to peremptory measures. And even if they do not adapt themselves to your opinions, do not persist in ruling, in having everything done in your own way. You must remember that the natural independence of others should be respected. If your wife does her work in a way convenient to herself, you have no right to interfere with her affairs and fret and burden her with your many suggestions and reflections upon her management. 4T 128.2

You have many good and generous traits of character. You are a courteous, affable man, in general, to those outside your own family. Perhaps this is attributable, in some measure, to the fact that you dare not exhibit your natural disposition to any except those whom you consider greatly your inferiors. If your superiority is not sufficiently recognized in society, you are determined that it shall be at home, where you think that none will presume to dispute its claims. 4T 129.1

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 147.3

If one member of Christ's household falls into temptation, the other members are to look after him with kindly interest, seeking to arrest the feet that are straying into false paths, and win him to a pure, holy life. This service God requires from every member of His church (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). TDG 147.3

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Ellen G. White
Welfare Ministry, 122-3

This is a work that the churches in every locality, north and south and east and west, should do. The churches have been given the opportunity of answering this work. Why have they not done it? Someone must fulfill the commission. WM 122.1

A work which should have been done has been left undone. Those who have been engaged in the medical missionary work have been doing the very class of work the Lord would have done.... WM 122.2

Oh, how much, how very much remains to be done, and yet how many that might use their God-given talents aright are doing almost nothing besides caring for and pleasing themselves. But the hand of the Lord is stretched out still, and if they will work today in His vineyard, He will accept their service.—Manuscript 18, 1897. WM 122.3

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