Some of the most eloquent words about love were written to correct the thinking of a small church in first-century Corinth.
Each line in this chapter addresses faulty attitudes and actions of the church.
At the same time, the nature of love is explored in great depth.
— 1 Corinthians 13.1-3 – If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
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 do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Tongues of Angels
An Egyptian Jewish text of the first century B.C. described a woman who spoke in an angelic dialect, sending up a hymn to God.
Paul wrote, “For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God” (1 Corinthians 14.2).
Speaking in tongues was valued in Corinth because it was a way of speaking in a heavenly language to God.
Please take a few minutes to listen to the YouTube video that Rudy Ross and I produce. Rudy has the gift of tongues and explains how it adds meaning to his relationship with God.
I see two uses for speaking in tongues.
(1) Tongues are a prayer language that the Holy Spirit gives to enhance a person’s prayer life.
(2) When an interpretation of tongues is given, this gift is used to give a message to the church.
Paul has instructions for the use of tongues, depending on which way the Spirit intends for the gift to be used.
Love is more important than tongues. In fact, speaking in tongues without love is nothing more than a bunch of irritating noise.
Paul introduced chapter 13 with these words: “I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12.31).
The “more excellent way” is the path of love.
Spiritual gifts are “tools” that God uses in this age, but they must always be accompanied by love. Otherwise, they are misused.
Prophetic Powers and Revelation Knowledge
If Paul were to place the gifts of the Spirit in order of importance, prophecy would be most important and tongues would be the least.
The Corinthians valued tongues as most important because they raised the esteem of status-seeking individuals.
Status-seeking is diametrically opposed to the attitudes and actions of Jesus and Paul was intent on putting their use of this gift in its place.
Paul did not discourage the gift of tongues, but he knew that prophesy and revelation knowledge strengthened the church.
Jeremiah highlights the value of knowledge that comes from an intimate relationship with God.
For who has stood in the council of the Lord
so as to see and to hear his word?
Who has given heed to his word so as to proclaim it? (Jeremiah 23.18)
Once the knowledge is received and proclaimed, the people of God will be strengthened to do God’s will.
No doubt, the spiritual gifts of revelation knowledge, and prophecy are important. However, without love, these ministry “tools” are worth nothing.
Charles Spurgeon lectured young preachers about the need to preach about God’s judgment. He counseled them to only preach about judgment with tears in their eyes.
Spurgeon knew that if we speak God’s message without love it is worthless.
Faith and Giving
Jesus said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17.20).
There are all sorts of mountains that need to be moved in our world today. Jesus has commissioned his followers to be mountain-moving people.
Jesus lived and taught a message of self-giving love.
He said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6.38).
We know that giving and deeds of faith can be accompanied by wrong motives.
We also know that there are times when we are giving and other times when we are stingy. Sometimes we have faith, and other times unbelief rules the day.
From tongues to sacrificial giving, all of the gifts of the Spirit are to be used.
The most excellent way is to bathe gifts of the Spirit with loving attitudes and actions.
Love is not Soft or Mushy
The kind of love that Jesus modeled is not a soft, mushy, feel-good emotion.
A Jesus-kind-of-love is courageous and strong. It actively sacrifices for the beloved.
Love that is combined with spiritual gifts is the best of all. This is the desire that God has for his children.
Rudy Ross and I share our experiences with spiritual gifts in today’s YouTube video. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.
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