Cll to Worship November 15 2020

Expository Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13

Previously, Paul named and listed particular gifts in Chapter 12. He also taught that every believer in the church was not gifted in exactly the same way and that we all needed one another. He called us to honor and respect one another even though our gifts may not be equal or the same. In Chapter 13 Paul continued to consider the issue of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian Church. He directed them to consider even greater gifts than tongues, prophecy, faith, and even giving to the poor. He portrayed the negative side of even these gifts if believers do not exemplify the love of Christ to each other and the world around them.

Paul told them there were greater gifts at the end of the previous chapter (1 Cor. 12:31). He then explained how the greater gifts, especially love, were foundational in the life of the church more than the gifts they were desiring and clamoring for in church life. Spiritual gifts have a negative side when love is not the central focus of the Christian. Speaking in tongues, knowing, and prophesying are merely self-centered abilities apart from the love of Christ. They could even give all their possessions away and feed the poor, but without love that would simply be self-gratification and self- glorification.

Therefore Paul examined the importance of and defined the Christ-like characteristics of love for the good of the Corinthian church.

(1 Cor. 13:4-7 NAU) 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Recognize the positives and the negative of the definition and the negatives and positives of love’s characteristics. The definition and the characteristics speak to enduring qualities of patience, long-suffering, thinking the best of others, and rejoicing with our fellow believers instead of being jealous of them or their gifts. Also, love is not left to mere sentimentality or sappiness, but it rejoices in the truth and not unrighteousness. Therefore love has its own foundation in truth that enables love to be shown in accordance with God’s word. We may have love for a fellow human, or believer, and simultaneously not love their unrighteous attitudes or behavior. Yet love is the greatest abiding gift in the body of Christ. 

Notice Paul did not spend time defining and appropriating particular gifts to individuals. He used the bulk of his comments to call them to love one another in Christ. Why? Because he stated that the gifts were passing away and coming to a close in light of the gospel (vs. 8). The Spirit was completing His work with tongues, prophecy, and healings due to His work in further illumination. Prophecy could only give a certain portion of the picture (vs.9). Christ had come, lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended. His witnesses were preaching the fullness of the truth. The word was being heard and the Spirit was regenerating many souls. Therefore the apostles would soon cease and so would many of these gifts as they were only a partial part of the picture (vs 9-10).

The Spirit brought the preaching of the word to the Gentile world. The days of Jewish centrality were ending as the Gospel was going to the Gentiles. The Spirit would no longer need the sign gifts. Signs and wonders were childish and dim in comparison to the fullness of the gospel preached to the world (vs.11-12). They were first and foremost for Jewish hearers to see that scripture had been fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. Now what the church needed was “faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love” (13:13). Love would serve the greater purpose in the body of Christ, even over signs and wonders. The human mind may diminish signs and wonders, but love endures all things, especially when we remember the grace of God through the sacrifice of His one and only Son the Lord Jesus. God took on human flesh and dwelt among us on the earth, lived perfectly, died a sinner’s death, and was raised on the third day and ascended to be with the Heavenly Father. What sign or wonder is better than hearing that good news? Soli Deo Gloria!