Saturday, March 20, 2010

Love Is More Profitable, Perfect, and Permanent Than Other Spiritual Gifts: 1 Corinthians 13

Theme: Christ is God's wisdom...

2. For answering questions (7-16)
     D. About spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40)

Chapter 13 shows why love is a more excellent work of the Spirit in a believer's life than spiritual gifts. 

First, love is more profitable than other gifts (1-3). All the gifts mentioned, here (speaking in tongues, prophecy, knowledge, and faith to move mountains) are not necessarily evidence of God's saving work on behalf of an individual (cf. Matthew 6:2; Luke 18:11-12; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14; Matt. 7:22-23; Luke 10:17; etc.), nor do they necessarily result in the growth and well-being of the church.  Love, however, is profitable, in that it is the supreme fruit and evidence of God's saving work on a believer's behalf (cf. Galatians 5:22-23), and results in the well-being and growth of the church (cf. Eph. 4:16-17). 

Next, love is more perfect than other gifts (4-7). As evidenced in the Corinthian church, an abundance of spiritual gifts did not necessarily result in the growth or well being of the church body. These other gifts can be used in a proud and selfish way which actually creates divisions (cf. chapter 12). 

By contrast, love is patient (lit. long in spirit; suffers wrong without quickly becoming vengeful), kind (tendency to do good to others), not jealous (not envious of others), does not brag and is not arrogant (is humble, does not boast of self, does not inflate self estimate), does not act unbecomingly (rude; cf. chapter 11, how the people ate the Lord's supper while others went hungry), does not seek its own (seeks the interests and well being of others rather than self), is not provoked (easily angered), does not take into account a wrong suffered (doesn't keep a record of offenses others have committed against them--cf. chapter 6:1-8), does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (cf. incident with immorality--chapter 5), bears all things (puts up with wrongs suffered), believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (probably with Christ as the object of saving faith--cf. Hebrews 12:1ff). These are the perfections, or completeness of love.

Finally, love is more permanent than the other gifts (8-13). It is a fruit of the Spirit, which not only withstands present opposition, but also which will abide in believers throughout eternity. All the other gifts will cease prior to the time when that which is "perfect" comes. There is some debate as to what this means. Some think it refers to the time when the Bible is complete. Others believe the more natural understanding is that it speaks of the future return of Christ, when we will see Him "face to face". In either case, all the other gifts will cease prior to the end of the church age, and none are as excellent as love. 

Even in later epistles, there is no mention of these other temporary gifts, and Paul said "now abides faith, hope, and love".  For example, Paul, who had previously been given the sign gift of ability to heal people who so much as touched a handkerchief from him, later had to tell Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake" (1 Timothy 5:23).  

Love is "a more excellent way", because it is more profitable than other spiritual gifts, is more perfect in its quality, and more permanent in its duration.

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