March 29, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Corinthians 12-13.
Background: I Corinthians 11.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Spiritual gifts: The Corinthian church was a church that was literally full of the Holy Spirit. Many of the members in Corinth had been given the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and were workers of supernatural miracles such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. This seemed to have caused some problems with the church, as those with spiritual gifts were not using them for what they should have been using them for and were causing disorder in the assembly. Thus, it was necessary for Paul to address these gifts and how each should use them (more on this in chapter 14). Before he could get to the use of the spiritual gifts, Paul first felt the need to explain some things about them, and show them something that was even more important than spiritual gifts: love. The gifts of the Spirit were administered to people as the Spirit saw fit, some being apostles, workers of miracles, some speaking in tongues and still others with the gift of prophecy. Different gifts, different people, and yet all by the same Spirit (remember the context of unity, especially seen in chapters 1 and 3). This unity, though possessing different gifts, is what Paul would address next.
2. One body, many members: There is a lot of beauty in the way that God has made us complementary to one another in the kingdom. The Spirit has given us each different talents and abilities to use in tandem with the greater body as a whole so that the will of the Lord is accomplished. Though we are individual members of the body, each possessing different niches, we all work together to build up the body. Not everyone has to be a missionary. Not everyone should be a preacher. The song leader has no greater importance to the one who has a talent in teaching classes. No one position in the kingdom is more important than the other just because it is more public or is seen as more “faithful.” Just as even the body parts that we view as uncomely or inferior are in actuality more important, so also it is in the church. The roles that are played by those who go unnoticed are often what holds the body together. We cannot all do the same things. If everyone was a preacher, who would do all the benevolent work? If everyone was a missionary, who would be their support? If everyone taught classes, who would they teach? We see how though we are unified in one body, each of us as a specific role to play in that body, a role that could be instrumental to the overall work of the church even if we don’t recognize it as such. Never underestimate the power of God to use your ability to do things beyond your own imagination.
Love: After all the talk of spiritual gifts and disunity amongst the church in Corinth, Paul pens this very famous chapter in which he details a more excellent way of doing everything. The more excellent way is love. He makes it clear that without love, there is nothing. One can have the most correct doctrine in the world, with all the proof texts to back his or herself up, but if they do not teach it in love, they are nothing. We could have the faith to literally move mountains, but if we don’t couple it with love, we are nothing. Without love, we are but a loud, clanging (and annoying) cymbal. We will gain no profit. The way of the Lord is love. So, what is love? Paul does not leave us hanging here, as he will continue to define love. Love is: patient, kind and humble. Love is not: arrogant, rude, insistent on its own way, irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice in wrong, but rather in truth. Can you honesty say that these qualities are a part of your every day life? Do you teach your doctrine in these qualities? These are some of the questions we must ask ourselves if we want to honestly evaluate our love. Sometimes in our language and culture today, love can be a confusing word because it can mean so many different things. Perhaps the same was true when Paul was writing this letter, because he takes the time to define what love is in a clear manner, a manner in which we can judge our own actions by to see if we are walking in love. Love is the more excellent way because it never ends. Spiritual gifts would pass away. The apostolic age would pass away. Even the specific Corinthian church that Paul was writing to would pass away. Love never will. Faith, hope and love would remain, but the greatest of these three would be love. Let us honestly take this to heart, learning the definition of love that is laid out in these verses and applying the love of God to our lives to shine the light of His glory to all those around us.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 48-50.
Love one another.