1 Corinthians 13–14: Love & The Gifts

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 15: Sunday

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

Sunday’s Bible reading of 1 Corinthians 13–14. continues  Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts. Now in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 he concentrates solely on spiritual gifts and their practice in the church, but right in the middle is chapter 13—a chapter that puts the gifts into perspective. The introduction to chapter 13 is in the last half of 12:31: “And I show you a still more excellent way.” And what is the more excellent way of chapter 13?

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts
of prophecy, they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13

In the first paragraph Paul lists some of the spiritual gifts he has mentioned in chapter 12, and he makes the same point over and over again about all of them; Don Carson titles verses 1–3, The Indispensability of Love, and writes:

“In the context of these three chapters [12–14] , the point of Paul’s argument in these verses is clear. He says, in effect: You who think that because you speak in tongues you are so spiritual, you who prove your large endowment from the Holy Spirit by exercising the gift of prophecy, you must understand that you have overlooked what is most important. By themselves, your spiritual gifts attest nothing spiritual about you. And you who prefer to attest your rich privilege in the Holy Spirit by works of philanthropy, you must learn that philanthropy apart from Christian love says nothing about your experience with God. You remain spiritually bankrupt, a spiritual nothing, if love does not characterize your exercise of whatever grace-gift God has assigned you.

“In none of these instances does Paul depreciate spiritual gifts, but he refuses to recognize any positive assessment of any of them unless the gift is discharged in love….”1

As Paul goes on to describe love in the next paragraph, he gives us characteristics we all can see and recognize, but that obviously flow from within—from a changed mind and heart. They are things that can’t be faked—they are so evidently true that they are self-authenticating.

Paul makes a further comparison between love and spiritual gifts by affirming that love never fails, but all of the spiritual gifts will—they will all cease. He concludes with his famous triad: faith, hope, love…but the greatest of these is love. Your gifts are not evidence of your spiritual maturity—is there evidence of love?

Love: “The Mark of a Christian”.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12–14, pp. 60–61.
Heart-[foto & Concept by paul b. toman], Plismo: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

4 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 13–14: Love & The Gifts

  1. I wanted to add something else that Carson says because I think it’s a pertinent and sorely needed application:

    “If Paul were addressing the modern church, perhaps he would extrapolate further: You Christians who prove your spirituality by the amount of theological information you can cram into your heads, I tell you that such knowledge by itself proves nothing. And you who affirm the Spirit’s presence in your meetings because there is a certain style of worship (whether formal and stately or exuberant and spontaneous), if your worship patterns are not expressions of love, you are spiritually bankrupt.”

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