From 1 Corinthians 12-14
The passage is fairly self explanatory. Every believer has various gifts. God could have wisked us away into heaven when we believed. But he didn’t. We are here to serve as Jesus did. We serve with the gifts God has given us. In fact, don’t get an ego about it, you are God’s gift to the church.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Paul occasionally moves from a one particular issue to what seems like a different one then back again to the original issue. Some denote this pattern as A-B-A. Paul does it in chapters 12-14.
A. 1 Cor 12.1-31
Paul has been dealing with many issues in the Corinthian church. Here is yet another one. People are speaking in what Paul calls ‘tongues’.
Presumably, there are people babbling in strange languages with many not understanding what they are saying. Those who speak in tongues think everyone should do the same. Paul thinks otherwise. Tongues are one gift among many.
The primary gift of the Spirit is to enable people to believe and confess Jesus is Lord. Paul then explains there are many types of members in the church, and the Spirit has given the body of Christ a variety of different gifts.
In 1 Cor 12.21 Paul addresses some who are saying they have no need of people with other gifts. He then says he will show them the most excellent way… The gift of love.
B. 1 Cor 13.1-13
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:1–3)
This entire chapter is meant to encourage the believers to pursue the greater gifts and to explain to them the way to use their gifts. Interestingly Paul says if he has faith without love he is nothing. The expression in Augustine’s mind is equivalent to James’ faith without works is dead (Jas 2.21-25). Faith without love is nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4–7)
These descriptions of love are meant to encourage believers to pursue love in all its forms.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:8–12)
Children grow up into men. Paul is suggesting the Corinthians are acting like children and they need to grow up into men. A person who loves is mature.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)
Paul commends love as the greatest. Even above faith.
A. 1 Cor 14.1-25
Then Paul returns to addressing the problem of tongues in the church. He uses his statements about love to encourage the Corinthians to use their gifts, whatever they are, in an edifying manner.
Words for believers
The passage is fairly self explanatory. Every believer has various gifts. God could have wisked us away into heaven when we believed. But he didn’t.
We are here to serve as Jesus did. We serve with the gifts God has given us.
In fact, don’t get an ego about it, you are God’s gift to the church. 1 Cor 12.1 says,
12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Cor 12.1)
What the ESV renders ‘spiritual gifts’ could also be rendered ‘spiritual persons’. The gift is the person, the person is the gift.
God’s gifts should act and use their abilities in love.
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