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1 Corinthians 13





This chapter contains some of the most famous words in the Bible.  Even those who are not very familiar with the Bible and even those who are not Christ followers recognize parts of this chapter.  One of the reasons is these verses, particularly beginning with verse 4, are often used in weddings.  I have used these words that tell us what love is and what love doesn’t do in multiple weddings over the years.  And the truths of those verses can apply to weddings and marriages and other important relationships.  But to be quite honest with you that is not the context of these verses.

The context of these famous verses and, in fact, the entire chapter has to do with spiritual gifts and the church.  Last time we looked at chapter 12 where the subject of spiritual gifts is introduced and taught.  Tomorrow we will look at chapter 14 which deals with a couple of spiritual gifts and church order.  So, for us not to look at chapter 13 in light of that would be bad hermeneutics. 

As you look at the beginning of the chapter you see spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues and prophesy and knowledge and faith and giving mentioned.  Obviously they are all mentioned in relationship to love but nevertheless these verses are about our spiritual gifts.  The basic rule at the beginning of the chapter is that spiritual gifts that are attempted to be practiced without love are empty shells of what God intended.  The use of any or all of our spiritual gifts must come from our love for God and our love of others in the church.  As we talked about yesterday this is a divine empowered, other directed process.  No where should the use of our gifts attract attention to ourselves.  No where should the use of our gifts create confusion or chaos or problems within the church because the gifts are given to build up the church and encourage believers.

Then we get to the famous passage that begins in verse 4.  Paul gives us a most excellent description of love.  And without trying to be repetitive, notice that love is proven by our treatment of others.  It is not about us.  It is about them.  The love that drives the expression of our spiritual gifts should always be pointed at others.  There is no room here for self-love or taking first place or attracting attention to yourself.

The reason love is supreme, in verse 8, is it never ends.  The spiritual gifts will cease.  There will be a time that no one will exercise any of the spiritual gifts because they will not be needed. 

Verse 10 speaks of a time when “the perfect comes”.  There are some that believe this speaks of the return of Jesus.  It could very well be a reference to that.  But when you look at this in this original language it points more to completion or maturation.  In other words, when the church grows into adulthood, there will be less of a need for the spiritual gifts to be utilized.  Obviously this will be fulfilled after the rapture when the church is taken to heaven.  But every church, including this one, should be on an intentional journey toward maturation. 

As verse 11 says, we should be able to give up childish ways and childish things.  For now we only have a glimpse of what eternity holds.  There will be a day when we will have a full view of that.  In the meantime, the church needs to be growing toward that day every day.

In the meantime, we will need lots of faith and hope (verse 13).  And, yes, we need a huge dose of love.  When all of this culminates we won’t need faith and hope any longer.  We will live by sight.  But even as we live by sight, the supremacy of love still holds over all that we do.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

1 Corinthians 12






Those of us who are familiar with the Bible, particularly the New Testament, probably connect 1 Corinthians 12 with the topic that we have before us today.  The book obviously has a lot to say about a lot of things, but we often make a strong connection between 1 Corinthians and spiritual gifts.

When the chapter opens, Paul says “Now concerning spiritual gifts”.  There are a couple of things here that might be of importance.  One, it appears this is another subject that the Corinthians addressed in their letter to Paul.  Two, in the original language is it not specifically spiritual gifts but literally “spirituals”.  The Greek word used here is Pneumatikon.  This word is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual gifts are the result of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We will see this stated even more clearly in the following verses.

It then seems as if Paul changes subjects in verse 2 as he talks about the Corinthians lives before they were believers.  He talks about how they were led by mute idols.  In Corinth, the pagans did indeed worship a collection of idols.  This worship included immorality and “ecstatic utterances”.  Paul’s comment on this is anyone speaking against Jesus or claiming allegiance to Him is not the result of someone not being able to control what they said or how they said it.  On the other hand, the Holy Spirit does direct our thoughts and then we choose what we say.

In the next few verses, Paul speaks of gifts, services, and activities.  These could be seen as synonyms.  But Paul also speaks of the Trinity in these same verses when he speaks of the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God.  In other words, as Christ followers, we are influenced by the Holy Spirit, by Jesus, and by Father God.  All three are at work in the lives of those who have been born again.

In verse 7 we discover where these spiritual gifts or spiritual abilities are the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in us.  In other words, regardless of what gift you may have, that gift is proof of the Holy Spirit in you working to do what you could not do before you were saved. 

This verse also says that spiritual gifts are for the common good.  This means that we aren’t given spiritual gifts or abilities for our own sake or for our own good.  These gifts/abilities are given to us to benefit others.  Every time.  Among other things that means when we are engaged using our gifts, the attention must be directed to the Lord and the benefit directed at others.  If we use our gifts to get attention or benefit ourselves we have sinned against the divine plan of the Lord.  Another important aspect of the use of gifts is they should always be used to build up the church and never cause confusion or chaos.  God does not create confusion or chaos.

From there Paul gives us a partial list of the spiritual gifts.  There are at least a couple of other places that we find similar but somewhat different lists.  One is in Romans 12 and the other is in Ephesians 4.

In verse 12 Paul begins a masterful piece of analogy.  He compares the church body to the human body.  His point is that in the same way we are all have different physical body parts, we all also have different spiritual giftedness that puts us in the different places in the church body.  And then his main point is that all of those different parts are not only designed by God but they are also very important.  All of them.

Spiritual gifts are a remarkable work of God.  Healthy churches practice the gifts as needed in healthy and holy ways that point to God and build up others.  When that happens, the church flourishes.  When that doesn’t happen in any aspect of what is directed by Scriptures, the church is injured.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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