About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

Home Page    

Chapters 12 and 13

ch. 12:1-11  ch.12:12-39    ch. 13:1-13

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Next Section - Chapters 14 amd 15

Spiritual Gifts  (ch. 12:1 – 11)


Paul has just spoken about the Lord’s Supper that the Corinthians partake of when they gather together for what was called a love feast.  Now Paul continues to speak to these people about their gatherings.  This time he speaks concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  As a matter of fact 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 is all about the spiritual gifts.   Chapter 12 speaks to the Christ centeredness of the gifts.  Chapter 13 states that the gifts must be demonstrated from a motivation of love while chapter 14 tells us that the gifts must be used to edify the church. 


All the way through this letter we see the problems that the Corinthian believers were having.  In the next three chapters Paul answers questions about the abuses of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church. 


In verse 1 Paul begins by saying, "now about spiritual gifts brothers."  What we should realize is that even though we read the word "gifts" in our English Bibles, there is no corresponding word in the Greek text.  The Greek word "pneumatikos" is translated as "spiritual gifts."  This word finds its roots in the word "pheuma" that means spirit.  Pneumatikos means something like "the spirituals."  This is a post pentecost word in the New Testament.  You can't find it prior to Acts 2.        


Paul than says that he does not want his readers to be ignorant, as in without understanding.  Part of Paul’s apostolic ministry was teaching, which is clearly seen in here and throughout his writings.   Teaching is fundamental to the church, but something I feel is lacking in many local churches these days.


It's my thinking that the western world Evangelical church prefers to be inspired instead of being educated.  I call this "inspired ignorance," something that will sooner or later cause a Christian and the church to fail badly if not changed.  Christians must be educated in the Word of the Lord in order to not only survive but to properly represent Jesus to the world in which they live.


In verse 2 Paul says that "when you were pagans … you were influenced and led astray by mute idols."  These idols were mute because they were made of wood or stone.  They had no life in themselves, yet at the same time we should note that Paul mentioned in chapter 10 verse 20 that there were demon spirits behind these idols.  In fact, when pagans worshipped mute idols they were worshipping demons.  


In verse 2 the words "you were led" is an imperfect passive indicative verb.  This Greek verb was often used when prisoners were led to prison.  It suggests an action outside of one that is continually influencing the person. 


With this in mind, that is, these people being influenced by idols and demons in the past, in verse 3 Paul says that no one can say "Jesus is cursed" while being influence by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would never cause anyone to say such a thing.  A demon, or even our own human nature, could say these words apart from the Spirit of God.  Paul was obviously mentioning this because of abuses that were taking place within the gathering of these saints.    


The reverse would also be true as well, according to Paul.  No one can say that "Jesus Christ is Lord" except through the influence of the Holy Spirit.  A demon would not admit to such a truth and cause someone to proclaim that Jesus is Lord; yet, our own human nature could repeat these words without really meaning it.  One time I asked a non-Christian who was quite proud of not being a Christian if he could say the words "Jesus Christ is Lord."  He repeated these four words without any hesitation.  So, I believe what Paul is saying here is that someone cannot say these words and really mean it without being influenced by the Holy Spirit. 


There is one way in which the Christian can say Jesus is cursed here, but it's not in the way Paul is talking about.  Jesus was, in fact, cursed when He hung on the cross.  He took the curse for us, so we would not have to be cursed.  So, if we say that Jesus is, or was, cursed in this sense of the word, we do no harm to Jesus.     


We should realize that the phrase "Jesus is Lord" was the number one confession that the early church verbalize.  In opposition to the Christian confession that Jesus is Lord, the Roman Caesars demanded their subjects to say "Caesar is Lord."  This was a major problem in the first few generations of the church.  Many believers were executed for their faith, for not saying the Caesar is Lord.         


In verse 4 Paul says that "there are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit."  The English word "gift" that is used here is derived from the Greek word "charisma."  This is where we get our modern English word "charismatic," as in the Charismatic Movement.  Charisma means "a gift of grace."  Charisma is from the Greek word "charis," meaning grace.  Paul says that there are many gifts, but just one Spirit, and that is the Holy Spirit.  These gifts are not demonically or humanly inspired.  These are supernatural gifts from God the Spirit.    


Then Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that there are "different services, but one Lord."  The Greek word "diakonos" is the word translated as services in our English Bibles.  Diakonos simply means servant, or to serve in the verb form.  The KJV uses the word "administration."  Some other translations use the word "minister."  This is where we get our modern word "minister," as in minister of a church.  Our English word “minister” then means one who serves.  I suggest that not all modern day ministers act like servants.  Some act as if they are the CEO of a Fortune 500 Corporation.    


Paul has just mentioned that there is one Spirit and one Lord, and now in verse 6 he completes the Trinity by saying that "there are different kinds of workings, but the same God."  The English word "working" (operation in KJV) comes from the Greek word "energema."  We get our English word "energy" from the Greek word "energeia."  Energeia is the outworking of some kind of energetic power, and in this case, the power is God Himself. 


Note in verses 4, 5, and 6 we see the Trinity, the Spirit, the Son Jesus, and God the Father.  Each one has something to give to the believer.  The Spirit gives gifts as we will see in the next few verses.  Jesus gives ministries as we will see in the last half of this chapter.  See also Ephesians 4:11.  Then, the Father gives gifts as well.  I believe these gifts are talents that each and every person receives at birth, talents that God the Father would like us to use in His service.         


In verse 7 Paul says that "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  The gifts spoke of here and in the next few verses are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They are not the gifts or ministries of Christ or the talents received at birth by God the Father.


Paul is saying here that as Christians we have the Holy Spirit within us, and therefore, the Holy Spirit will manifest, or show Himself through each one of us.  One way that this happens is that the gifts that are attributed to the Spirit will be seen in operation in the life of the person in whom the Spirit lives.  Thus, it should be clear that these gifts are real in the church in every generation.  The reason is that the gifts are a manifestation of the presence of God’s Spirit in the lives of both the individual and the church.  If God’s Spirit is not resident in a person or the church, you will not see these gifts being manifested.  Where the Holy Spirit truly is, you will see His effects in and through the people involved.  It makes no sense that these gifts have been laid aside after the end of the first generation church, as some say.


The gifts of the Spirit are meant "for the common good" of the community of believers.  These gifts are not given to make someone a spiritual superstar.  The gifts are to make a church and all of its individuals healthy in all respects.  These gifts are service gifts.  They are meant to be used in the service of the Lord as His will dictates.  It's not our will but His will.


There are 9 gifts given by the Holy Spirit that Paul lists here.  Whether 9 is a set number, or 9 is just a sample of gifts, is somewhat debatable.  Paul does list 9 of them.  You might want to note that there are also 9 corresponding fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22 and following.  So the number 9 might well be important.


The 9 gifts of the Spirit are; the message of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of faith, the gift of healings, the gift of miracles, the gift of prophecy, the gift of distinguishing between spirits, the speaking in different kinds of tongues, and, the gift of interpretation of tongues.


There are some things to note with these gifts of the Spirit.  One thing is that these are supernatural gifts.  They cannot be performed through human abilities.  In this way they differ from the talents God gives us from birth that can be performed by human effort. 


We see the first gift of the Spirit in verse 8.  It is the message of wisdom.  This is supernatural wisdom.  It is wisdom for a specific situation given to someone to help someone else out.  This wisdom speaks to an issue that the one giving the wisdom could not humanly know about.  This is not mere wisdom that people gather over a life time. 


In verse 8 we also see the second gift, the gift of the message of knowledge.  Again, this is supernatural knowledge.  The one receiving this knowledge that is beyond humanly knowing receives it for the benefit of someone else.  Personally speaking, I have received this gift to pass on to others many times in my life as a Christian.


We see the next gift in verse 9.  It's the gift of faith.  I do not believe this is faith that leads us to salvation.  I believe is a faith beyond any kind of human ability to demonstrate.  It is supernatural faith that is required to do something that is beyond someone's human ability to do.  Romans 12:5 tells us that faith is something that God gives us, but if you study the Scripture, you will see that there are different aspects to faith.  There is faith, meaning trust, by which we are saved, and, there is faith or trust given for a specific ministry or situation, as we see here.


The next gift is the gift of healing.  This is the supernatural ability given to one to give a healing to another.  Some may suggest that this gift is actually the healing of someone's sick body.  The context suggests otherwise.  Verse 7 specifically says that each one of these 9 gifts are given to each one for the common good of the believers.  This gift of healing is given to one person so he or she can pray for the healing of another person.


In verse 10 we see the gift of miraculous power.  We often think of a miracle in terms of healing a sick body, but there are all kinds of miracles that have noting to do with a sick body.  This is what is being talked about here.  Paul actually separates the gift of healing from the gift of miracles, so he did not have healing sick bodies in mind here.


The next gift is the gift of prophecy.  Prophecy can take on different forms.  Prophecy is simply speaking on behalf of God.  It can be predicting the future, speaking a word of encouragement, admonition, or even judgment.  Whatever the case, this gift is supernatural.  It is a gift that is given for the strengthening of those who hear it.  Personally speaking, I have been given this gift to use on many occasions.


The next gift is the discerning of spirits.  We should all realize that there are demon spirits and human spirits.  Not all that is done in the name of the Lord is a product of the Holy Spirit.  This gift is a supernatural gift given to people so they can help the church know what spirit is being seen in the midst of the church


The next gift is tongues.  This is language given that the person could never have learned on his own.  It can be tongues of angels or of men as we will see later.  Then, along with tongues is the last gift.  That is the interpretation of tongues.  If someone speaks in tongue in a meeting Paul says in chapter 14 that it must be interpreted.  This interpretation is a supernatural gift given for the benefit of all.


Verse 11 is important.  Paul says that it is the Holy Spirit that gives these gifts, and, they are given to each one.  This tells me that everyone in the church should be available to receive one or more of these gifts.  I really don't think that every Christian believes he can have one or more of theses gifts from the Spirit. They are not for the supper elite.  They are for everyone, every member of a local congregation of the saints. 


The last phrase in verse 11 is equally important.  To whom these gifts are given and when, is up to the will of the Holy Spirit.  Here is where the term "God's will" comes into play.  It's not our will.  It is His will that determines who receives a gift and when the gift should be given and used. 


One question has always been raised when thinking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Are these gifts given to people to keep, as to say, they are always resident within the person, or, are these gifts given spontaneously when needed?  That is to say, the gifts are not continually resident within the person.  I can only speak from my experience.  I believe that I have received, or example, the gift of prophecy, that I use often.  I thus believe that gift resides in me.  I also have received the gift of tongues, which, I have used every day since receiving this gift in September 1971.  I'll talk more about tongues when we come to chapter 14


One Body Many Parts (ch. 12:12 - 39)


Paul is about to explain how the church is like a body.  In reality, since Jesus is not physically on earth, we are indeed His physical body in one real sense of the word.  Paul states that in a body there are many parts that go together to make up that one body.  Even though there are many parts, there is only one body.  The same is true with the church.  We are many, with varying gifts, talents, ministries, personalities and so on, yet we are still just one body. 


Paul uses the word “baptize” in relationship to individuals in the church.  When we become a Christian, we become part of the church, part of Jesus’ body on earth. There is no way around this.  It is like a baptism Paul says.  In the same way that we get all wet when we go under the water of water baptism, we are totally emersed into God’s people when we become Christians. As I said, there is no way around this.  When we get saved, God becomes our Father, Jesus becomes a special brother, and then beyond that we have many brothers and sisters in the Lord, whether we like them or not.   Paul says that it doesn’t matter whether we are Jews, Greeks, slave, or free.  We all drank of the same Spirit and therefore are all connected in one body.


Paul goes on to say that a foot cannot claim independence from the body because it is not a hand.  Neither can an eye claim independence because it is not an ear.  Therefore we as individuals in the body, the church, cannot be independent from each other. 


Furthermore in verse 17, “if the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing”.  It is obvious that the body consists of a variety of parts.  One part cannot claim to be a whole body.  One part cannot function properly on its own.  As a matter of fact, “God has arranged the parts of the body …  just as He wanted…”  It is God’s choice to place where He wants those in the body. 


In verse 21 Paul says that the “ eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you”. We cannot live as isolated Christians, even though the tendency at times is to do just that.  The more independent  and  isolated we are from each other, the less effective the church is.


Paul actually says in verses 22 – 24 that the “weaker parts, the less honourable parts, the unpresentable parts” of the body are just as important as the rest of the body. There is no part of the church, no member that should be thought of as second class.  Each member has his or her role to play. 


In verse 25 Paul says that the reason for everyone being first class Christians in the church is so that “there will be no division”, and that there should be ‘equal concern for each other”.  There should be true equality in the church.


Paul goes on to say that “if one part suffers than all parts suffer”.  The reverse is true as well.  For this reason in many parts of the church worldwide we see a suffering church.  The church suffers because of division, because of partiality, because of independence. We misrepresent Jesus in our divisions.  It is a real disservice to our Lord.


In verse 27 Paul says clearly that “you are the body of Christ”. In this body “God has appointed first apostles”.  I would think that apostles come first because it was these men that spread the news of Christ’s salvation and built the church in the first place.  He goes on by saying the second group of people God placed in His body are prophets.  Once the apostle established the church the prophet would speak God’s words to the church.  Then thirdly comes teachers, teaching the established church the ways of God. 


After specifically mentioning the top 3 ministries Paul list others that include, those having the gift of healing, those able to help others, administrators, and those who speak in tongues.  I don’t believe that this list is exhaustive. It is only an example of different ministries within the church. 


Paul ends this chapter by asking a few questions.  The answer to these questions are obviously no.  He asks, “are all apostles”? The answer is “no”. “Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?”  No, we all do not have all gifts, or at least all at once in one gathering.


There are different thoughts on whether these gifts are given permanently to people or given when needed.  One might have a gift of healing in one meeting and the gift of tongues in another, or so some might say.  Others believe that one always has the gift of healing, and can use it as the Spirit leads whenever it is needed.


Concerning the use of tongues when Paul asks, “do all speak in tongues”. Many use this verse to say that all Christians do not or should not speak in tongues.  There is some controversy over this point.  Some believe that all can speak in tongues, some believe that only some can speak in tongues, and use this verse to back up their point.  Yet as we see in chapter 14 Paul seems to distinguish between "speaking forth in tongues in a meeting” where an interpretation is needed and tongues as a personal prayer language.  I do not believe that Paul is speaking about a personal prayer language in this verse.  I believe he is speaking about a message in tongues given to the whole gathering to hear.  Therefore this verse cannot be used to back up the point that all should not speak in tongues.  If this is your position, you should find other Scriptures to base your thinking on.


Paul closes this chapter by saying, “eagerly desire the greater gifts’.  Personally, I wished Paul had not said these words because of the debate that has arisen over what gifts are more important than others.   People who believe that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer for today use this verse in their defense, and sometimes state that love is the greatest gift.  I don’t believe that love is a gift.  It is a fruit of the Spirit, something that is produced and worked into a Christian over time. 


If you note, the NIV has an alternate translation for this verse that would be based on certain manuscripts.  It would read, ”you are eagerly desiring the greater gifts”.  This might suggest that the Corinthians are on the right tract by desiring greater gifts than what they already have.  This translation differs in that Paul would be pointing out the fact that they are desiring greater gifts instead of encouraging them to desire greater gifts. 


Another thing to note is that Paul has just talked about equality of the members in the body of Christ, though everyone is different, we are all important.  Why then would he think differently concerning the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit?  Why would he think that some gifts are more important, or greater than others? I think we should factor this point into our thinking when we interpret this verse. 


The important thing about this section of Paul's letter concerns what I call "functional relationships" in the Body of Christ.   Paul states that the church is in fact the present physical body of Christ on earth.  I don't believe he is using the term "body" as an analogy.  He is using the term as a real thing. 


Within the body are members who are joined to one another, and as a body is, one member is not joined to all the body, but only to a few parts that it is connected to.  There are two reasons why members are joined in the body.  The first is for friendship.  The second is for ministry.  We often understand being joined in a friendly relationship, for mutual fellowship and encouragement.  We don't often see our relationships as being functional, that is, to do something in the service of the Lord.  We leave this up to the organized church structure.


This is how we should view the church, view our friendships with other Christians.  We should note who are Christian friends are, strengthen those relationships because Jesus has put these relationships together.  Then we should ask our friends and the Lord, "what can we do together to serve Jesus"?   This is the functioning part of relationships.  This is what church is all about.  Church is not about organizational structure.  It is about friends functioning together in the work of the Lord, and you don't need a massive organizational structure to do this.   Some people over the years have been forced to live this way due to persecution.  This might well be our fate in the western church at some point, not so far off in the future.  We might as well start living it now.    


At this pont I'd like to insert an article I wrote on 1 Corinthians 12:13. 


Baptized Into Christian Community


You might think this is heretical, but I believe that if we substitute the term "community of Christ" for the word "church" in the New Testament, we'll understand church better.  I say this because I believe our present western world concept of church does not reflect the Bible's concept of church.  I hope you know that the Apostle Paul, Peter, and even Jesus, never spoke our English word "church".  Church is not a sacred word.


In 1974 I listened to a four cassette tape teaching series on Christian community entitled "Gathered For Power" by Graham Pulkingham, an Anglican minister from Texas .  His teaching introduced me to the word "community" as it relates to church.  Pulkingham taught that Christian community, as seen in the New Testament, is associated with the Greek word "koinonia".  Some of you may remember that word.  It was a popular word in some circles in the 1970's.  Koinonia means "to hold in common".  Christians hold many things in common, not the least of which is Jesus and His Spirit that unites us into the Body of Christ that we call church. 


If I understood Pulkingham correctly, he said that church has traditionally fallen into two categories.  Some churches are task orientated; others are community orientated.  Most western world churches are task orientated.  Their focus is on church activities.  Few western world churches are community orientated.  Their focus is on personal relationships. 


I view church as being relational.  When we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, He not only joins us to Jesus, He joins us to others in the community of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 12:13 the Apostle Paul says the process by which we are joined in Christian community is via a baptism.  He says that we have been baptized into the Body of Christ.  Paul isn't talking about water baptism.  Neither is he talking about joining a church, going to church, or church being a casual concern.  Being baptized into the community of Christ means to be submerged, immersed, saturated in fellowship with those to whom we are joined.  That's what the word "baptize" means.  From the relationships in which we are baptized, ministries, or tasks, are born. 


I agree with Pulkingham.  In our western world task orientated church, ministry stems from ecclesiastical structure and not from personal relationships.  It's the church that provides the tasks or the ministries.  Whether it's a volunteer Sunday school teacher or a paid pastor, we apply for the job and the organization of church accepts or denies our application.


Our present day westernized church doesn't link baptism with church.  To our detriment, many think of water baptism, not church baptism, when they read 1 Corinthians 12:13.  In water baptism we're totally immersed into water.  In church baptism we're totally immersed into the lives of those to whom Jesus has joined us in the community of Christ.


Christian community is more than warm feelings we get from fellowshipping with others in a Sunday service.  Christian community is being immersed into the lives of those to whom Jesus has joined us, not just for the fun of fellowship, but for the work of the Lord.  In New Testament terms ministry stems from personal relationships in Christian community.  This is why Pulkingham's teaching series was entitled "Gathered For Power".  The power of God is best demonstrated in community, as seen in the book of Acts.  For this reason, if we replace the word "church" in the New Testament with the words "the community of Christ", we'll understand church from a Biblical perspective.


The teaching of koinonia, or community, isn't new.  Over the centuries believers have attempted to live in community, but as it always seems to be, community eventually evolves into an ecclesiastical maze of doctrinal, cultural, and economic, distinctives.  From my understanding of church history, what pushes Christians away from the maze and into community are the pressures experienced from an anti-Christ culture.  Persecution drives us into finding support and ministry in personal relationships.  This is certainly the case in countries like Iran today.  Iranian Christians have no other choice.  State sponsored persecution drives them into Christian community.  For them, finding support in personal relationships is a matter of spiritual survival.  Within the context of Christian community God's power is demonstrated in the Iranian believers as it was in the book of Acts.   


Our western world is plunging head long into an anti-Christian cultural abyss.  Christians are now being pressured to cave into the demands of an anti-Christ culture.  As in Iran, we'll be forced to choose between Christ or culture.  If we choose Christ, the ecclesiastical maze will be of little use to us.  We'll understand what it means to be baptized into Christian community where we'll find support for our spiritual survival and ministry that demonstrates the power of God.    


Christian singer/songwriter, Larry Norman, put it this way 
in his song entitled "Right Here In America" (Street Level album 1971).  "There are Christians in Russia; they meet under ground, in  China they're killed when they're found, in Cuba the Christians live up in the hills because it's not safe in the towns.  To think it might happen right here in America, maybe you think it's not true, if you think it's not happening right here in America, wait till it happens to you."  His lyrics are more relevant today than they were in 1971.  You can listen to his song by clicking this link.






Love (ch. 13:1-13)


1 Corinthians 13 is often called the “Love Chapter”.  Many times over the years you might have heard all or parts of this chapter read at weddings.  Yet do we really understand what is said in these verses?  Love, more than any other word has been misused over the centuries.  It seems to me in our day that this word is one of the most over used words in our culture.  It is sung in songs, demonstrated in movies and portrayed in the arts.  Yet the world’s definition of love as seen in songs, movies and art is far from the Biblical definition. 


Love is not fuzzy feelings and sentimental emotions.  Love is not something that is demonstrated in words alone.  You don’t really make love, you show love in your actions.  Love is serving others.  Love is putting others before yourself.  Love without sacrifice is not love.  All this and more Paul will explain in this chapter.


Our society tells us that we need to love ourselves before we can love others.  No one has ever convinced me of the validity of this statement.  As a Christian I would say, the more we love our Lord, the more we will show our love to others.  The idea of loving ourselves in order to love others in reality means, “I will love myself, and if I have any time left, maybe I will attempt to love others. And if I don’t have the time to show you love, I will tell you I love you.  That should be good enough”.  I am glad that Jesus didn’t show us His love in this fashion. 


The simple fact is that if love is not seen in action, then there is no love.  John, in his first letter, ( 1 John 3:18) tells his readers “not to love in word, but in action”.  Look at some other things that John says about love. “…if anyone obeys His words, God’s love is truly made complete in him”.  (1 John 2:5)  Note here that God’s love that is made perfect in us comes as a result  of an action of obedience to God.


Again John says, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”.  (1 John 2:15)  Also, “we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers”. (1 John 3:14) 


Also 1 John 3:16 says, “this is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”.  This is the Biblical definition of love.   I could go on with many other Scriptures from John, but we are studying Paul and we will now see what he has to say about the subject.


The NIV actually opens this section with the last half of the last verse of chapter 12.  It says, “now I show you a more excellent way”.  Paul has just encouraged these people to desire the best gifts, or he commended them on desiring the best gifts, whatever way you interpret his statement.  Desiring the gifts of the spirit is a good thing, but now he wants to show his readers the way in which these gifts should be used.  Remember, these gifts are for the common good of all, not for our own good. So Paul is about to show them an excellent way to live their lives and use their gifts. 


Verse 1 says, “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong …”  Note hear that speaking in tongues can be a language of men or angels.  There are more than 7000 different languages and dialects in the world, so God has many different tongues that He can give you.  And if He chooses not to give you a language common to man, He could give you a language spoken by angels. 


Whatever language He gives you means very little if you do not love.  The tongues “become a resounding gong”.  Therefore if you do not love, you are turning God’s precious gift into a meaningless jester.  You are not only making a show of yourself as you speak in tongues, but  you disgrace the precious gift that God Himself has given you. 


Paul says the same thing about some of the other gifts such as, prophecy, the word of knowledge and wisdom, and miraculous faith.  He says that if I can do all of these things and do not love, then “I am nothing”. (ch. 13:2)  All of these powerful gifts used in the wrong way, used out of selfishness and not love are meaningless.  Once again, you disgrace and nullify the good gifts that God has given you. 


Paul goes on in verse 3 to say that even if I give everything I have to the poor, and not do it in love, I am nothing.  He takes his argument one step farther by saying “if I give my body to the flames”, meaning, giving his body in death for the sake of Christ. If I die for Jesus, but don’t die in love, I am nothing.


Paul is not saying that you will not make Heaven if you become a martyr for Jesus without love.  He is saying that it won’t benefit you, and that you are nothing.  You are no big hero.  Your death will not reap a Heavenly reward, and Christians will be rewarded for the works they do that are done from faith and love.  Their reward is not heaven, is not the next life, but specific rewards.  Heaven is not a reward. It's a result of our trust in Jesus.     


In verse 4 Paul proceeds to explain what love is.  He says, “love is patient, love is kind”.  By patient, he means that you don’t fly off the handle quickly at someone because they may not see what you see, or do what you do. You give grace.  You give space to others.  Love is definitely kind to others.  You treat them well.


Paul says that love doesn’t envy.  If someone has something that you would like, you don’t lust after it.  You may like to have what others have, but you are at least happy that the other person has whatever it may be, even though you can’t have it.


“Love does not boast, it is not proud”, Paul says.  A loving person is a humble person.  He does not have to boast about what he can do.  He simply does what he needs to do and makes no big deal about it, even though he may be the best in his field.


Love “is not rude”.  Rudeness seems to be gaining in popularity as time goes on.  People don’t mind being rude.  Some even like being rude and think it is cool.  Yet Paul says that being rude is not loving.


Love “is not self seeking”.  Our world today is very self seeking.  We tend to seek out our own interests ahead of others. We tend to love ourselves instead of loving others. 


Love “is not easily angered”.  If seems as if Paul is saying that at times we do get anger, yet the more we love, the longer are fuse gets.  Our reaction time is stretched out a lot farther and so we are not easily upset and angered.


Love “keeps no record of wrongs”.   Although it is really almost impossible to forget a wrong, depending on how bad it was, we can still live in love and act as if it did not happen.  The memory may still be there, but we live as though the wrong was never committed.  What I am saying here is not forgiveness.  It is love.  The two are different.  I won't get involved in the subject here, but unless one repents and asks for forgiveness, you can't forgive him.  God does not forgive those who do not repent, and neither should you.   That being said, we still love the one needing forgiveness.    


“Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth”.  One who loves, flees from evil.  Paul says that this person who loves “rejoices in the truth”.  You might expect him to say that the person “rejoices in good”, since good is the opposite of evil, yet he says that the person “rejoices in the truth”.  Maybe it is because truth and goodness are closely related.  God’s truth is good.


“Love always protects (looks after the other), always trusts (trust first in Jesus and then in others, without being naive), always hopes, (always believes that there can still be better times ahead) always perseveres (does not give up).


You might wonder what hope and perseverance has to do with loving others. Well, you can always hope the best for others.  You can always persevere in building a better loving relationship and not give up as so often happens. Really, a loving relationship can only continue with a strong sense of perseverance.


In verse 8 Paul says that prophecy, knowledge at some point in history will cease to be, but “love never fails”.  True love, because it is from God will continue on into eternity.  Once this age has passed away, we will not need the gifts of the Spirit any longer, but until that day comes, we still need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 


Paul says that we now know and prophesy in part. We do not know or understand the full extent of God and how He works.  We do not have complete understanding of anything in God’s creation.  We see and know bits and pieces of all there is to know.  The puzzle has many parts still to be put into place.


“But when perfection comes, the imperfect will disappear”. (ch. 13:10)  In my understanding this verse has been misinterpreted in some circles.  That which “is imperfect” is clear.  We and our understanding are imperfect, but what does Paul mean by “that which is perfect”.  Some have said that it is the Canonized Bible itself.  When thinking this way these people say that we therefore don’t need the gifts of the Spirit because that which is perfect has already come, meaning the Bible. 


I attribute the word “perfect” to Jesus Himself.  Until Jesus returns we will know in part.  Only after He enters directly into human history again will we understand perfectly.  Only then will the gifts of the Spirit cease to be.


In verse 11 Paul explains all of this by comparing this life to when he “was a child”.  He thought and understood like a child, but when he became a man, as he says, “I  put childish things behind me”.  We are all like children in the present age.  We live our existence in life with partial understanding of all things.  When Jesus returns to this earth, we will then grow up into manhood, or you might say we will mature.  Our lack of understanding and imperfections will be left behind. 


“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face”.(ch. 13:12)  Here Paul uses another analogy to explain his thinking.  It is like looking into a dirty mirror and not really being able to see our face as we would like.  But someday that mirror will be clean and we will see face to face.  We will see things like never before.  All aspects of our life will become clear and in focus. 


Paul says that in this life he “knows in part”.  Even Paul with all of his great revelations only knew in part.  Yet when Jesus comes he says, “then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.  At this future time we will know things just as we ourselves are fully known by God.  God knows all there is about us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Yet when Jesus comes back for us we will know as God knows.


Paul closes this section by saying that three things remain, and these are “faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love”. Paul seems to be saying that there are 3 important items that make up our lives as Christians.  They are faith hope and love.  Whether this is an exhaustive list or not, (it seems to be) he tells his readers that love is the most important. 


We should remember the context of chapter 13 is between chapters 12 and 14.  The context is how to express your gifts in the church.  As Paul says in the next section, we need to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts but exercise them in a loving way, something that the Corinthians were having a hard time doing.    

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Next Section - Chapters 14 amd 15

Home Page