If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
Read: 1 Corinthians 13
Consider: After discussing gifting in the church in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul moves on to set out what he describes as the ‘most excellent way’ (11:31). Some in the church have seen this as an either/or choice, meaning that they are mutually exclusive. In other words, some contend that when love is evident in the church then the manifestations of the Spirit are no longer required. However, the wording Paul uses indicates that he believes that the manifestations of the Spirit only become meaningful when they are expressed and used in the context of love. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul says:
If I speak … without love … I am a resounding gong or clanging cymbal
If I have the gift of prophecy … without love – I am nothing
If I have faith … without love … I am nothing
If I give all … without love … I gain nothing
Paul is saying that within the context of love, the manifestations of the Spirit find their meaning. Without love they are all noise and no substance.
So what should this love look like? Is it the warm and fuzzy feeling the world imagines love to be? No! The love described by Paul is something very tangible. Firstly, it describes the love God has for us. Secondly, it describes the love Christ has for his church (all believers). Lastly, it describes the love believers should have for each other. Here is what he says: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is important to acknowledge that when we measure ourselves against this standard we all fail.
Having set out the ‘most excellent way’, Paul moves on to tell the Corinthians that the manifestations of the Spirit are only temporary and will finally cease (13:8-10). When Christ (completeness) returns there will be no need for the manifestations of the Spirit, as we will be in the presence of Christ and will see him ‘face to face’. Listen to these words of Paul: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). Not only will we see Christ ‘face to face’, but he will see us ‘face to face’. Notice also that what we understand at the moment as only reflections, we will fully understand in the future. While our understanding is only partial at the moment, God’s understanding of us is complete. We are already ‘fully known’; there can be no surprises for God, as he already knows us inside-out! Exciting or daunting?
Pray: Father, we acknowledge that our understanding is only partial at the moment. We thank you that although you know us inside-out, you still love us. May we seek to become more Christlike day-by-day. Amen