MONDAY, MARCH 19
SCRIPTURE: 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.