About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

Home Page    

Chapters 12 and 13

ch. 12:1-11  ch. 12:12-31    ch. 13:1-13

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Next Section - Chapters 14 and 15

Spiritual Gifts  (ch. 12:1 Ė 11)


Paul has just spoken about the Lordís 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 gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit.  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 community of believers. 


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 Paulís 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 Ö 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. 


In verses 4 and 5 Paul says that there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, and different kinds of services, but the same Lord.  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 Charismatic Movement.  Charisma means a gift of grace.  Charisma finds its roots in the Greek word "charis," meaning "grace."  Paul says that there are many gifts, and they are gifts of God's grace to the church.  They are not gifts of works.  We cannot work or strive for these gifts.  Either God gives us these gifts or He doesn't.   


Note in verses 4 and 5 Paul speaks of both gifts and services.  I believe the gifts are the 9 gifts of the Spirit he will mention in the next few verses while the services are the services you will read about at the end of this chapter, services like teaching, administrating, and helps.


In verse 5 Paul also says that there is one Spirit, and that is the Holy Spirit.  These are gifts of the Holy Spirit, not gifts from demons.  Paul says then that there is one Lord.  Of course that one Lord is Jesus.  What we need to realize is that when the New Testament, and especially when Paul uses the word "Lord" in reference to Jesus it is in reference to Jesus being God, not merely a Lord as a king.  The word "Lord" speaks to the Deity of Christ and is actually a word used in the Old Testament to refer to the Almighty God.  Jesus is Almighty God in human flesh.         


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" here.  Diakonos simply means to serve.  The KJV uses the word "administration."  Some translate this Greek word as "minister."  This is where we get our modern word "minister," as in minister of a church.  By the very nature of the word "diakonos" where we get our word "minister" from, it tells you that a minister should be one who serves.  He should be a servant, just as Jesus was a servant.  In our day of being a minister is often a career choice for many, thus we have lost the idea of a servant who has been called of God to serve His people. 


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) is translated from the Greek word "energema."  It is rooted in the Greek word "energeia," meaning, "energy."  Our English word "energy" comes directly from this Greek word.  It is God who does the energizing.  He is the one who distributes and makes the gifts and ministries possible in all men.


You can note the Trinity in verses 4 to 6.  It is implied, not necessarily taught.  The gifts are from the Spirit.  The way the gifts are used, or the ministry of these gifts, comes from Jesus as seen in the gifts of Christ in Ephesians 4:11.  Then, we note that God the Father energizes all men, which I believe speaks to God given talents that people receive from birth.  There are three sources of service gifts that all come from our God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.    


In verse 7 Paul says that "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  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 the person that He lives in.  One way that this happens is that the gifts that are attributed to Him will be seen in operation in the life of the person in whom He lives.  Thus, it should be clear that these gifts are real, and they should be part of the church in every generation.  I do not believe these Holy Spirit gifts ended with the first generation church.  The reason is that the gifts are a manifestation of the presence of Godís Spirit in the life of the individual.  If Godís Spirit is not resident in a person, you will not see these gifts in that person.  Where the Holy Spirit truly is in you, you will see His effects in and through your life.  Therefore, it makes no sense that these gifts have been laid aside after the end of the first generation church, as some say.  I would go as far to say that if the grace gifts are not seen in a church, then it's not because the gifts of the Spirit have passed away, it's because that church has passed away.


The reason for these gifts is "for the common good."  These gifts are not given to make some spiritual superstar.  These gifts aren't given to make people rich and famous.  The gifts are to make a church and all of its individuals healthy in all respects.  


Note in verse 7, and the same is seen in the following verse, that "to each one a gift is given."  This passage states that not all get the same gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, despite the hope of some Christians, not every Christian has the gift of miracles or the gift to heal people of their sicknesses.  We actually see this at work in Acts 2:43 and 5:12 and 13 where it is the apostles, not the ordinary believers, if in fact you call them ordinary, who have the gifts of miracles and the gift of healing.  Not all Christians healed people or performed miracles.


There are 9 gifts that Paul list.  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 the book of Galatians, chapter 5.  So the number 9 might well be important.  For those who put a lot of stock in Biblical numbers it is important.  


The gifts are as follows.  The first gift is a message of wisdom.  This is wisdom that could not be assessable without the Holy Spirit providing the wisdom.  It is supernatural wisdom, wisdom that a person could not acquire on his own.


The next gift is the gift of knowledge.  Again, this is supernatural knowledge, not some kind of knowledge you can get on your own.  It's miracle knowledge.  It's knowledge of something that you could not have humanly known.  I personally have been used in this gift of the Spirit.    


The next gift is the gift of faith.  Again, this is a faith beyond human faith.  Romans 12:5 says that faith is a gift from God.  The faith Paul is talking about here is not faith leading one to salvation and continuing on in his walk in the Lord.  This faith is a special faith for a special occasion that requires faith beyond the norm. 


The next gift is the gift of healings.  This gift is seen in a person who prays for another to be healed of some kind of sickness.  Some believe that it's when one gets healed, but in context, I see it as a gift of healing one person gives to another who needs healing.  


The next gift is the gift of miraculous power.  This is a gift given by the Holy Spirit to one who needs to do something in the service of the Lord.  It can be anything that is needed for the common good of the church.  It does not have to be a healing of a sick body.  It's any supernatural miracle.  Jesus turning the water into wine would have been a gift of a miracle.


The next gift is the gift of prophecy.  In a Biblical sense, prophecy is speaking forth what God would want you to say on His behalf.  Prophecy is more than telling the future, although it is that as well.  A Sunday morning sermon, if given under the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit where it speaks to the hearts of men and women is a gift of prophecy.  In many Pentecostal or Charismatic circles you will see a person stand and give what is called a word from the Lord, a gift of prophecy.  Although one does have to say "thus says the Lord" as an Old Testament prophet would say, this phrase is often spoken when someone speaks such a word.  I have been used of the Lord on many occasions with this gift.        


The next gift is the gift of distinguishing between spirits.  The Greek word "glossa" is translated here as "tongues" into English. This is where get our English word "glossolalia" where if you were a Charismatic Christian in the 1960's and 1970's you might remember.  This is where someone is given the supernatural ability to see into the spirit world and see demonic spirits at work.  It could possibly include clearly seeing that one is simply being motivated by their own human spirit.  


The next gift is speaking in different kinds of tongues.  This is the supernatural ability to speak or to pray in a language that you have never learned.  I was given the gift of praying in tongues in 1971 and I have used that gift every day sense.  Some Evangelicals think this gift is only for missionaries on the mission field and it is used when you need to speak to someone of a different language, a language you don't know.  It is more than that.  When we get to 1 Corinthians 14 you will see that it is actually a prayer language.


The next gift is interpreting of tongues.  In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that if someone speaks forth in an unknown tongue, that is, the gift of tongues as described above, someone should interpret that gift.  Of course, this is a supernatural interpretation.      


There are some things to note with these gifts of the Spirit.  One thing is that these are supernatural gifts as I've been noting all along.  They are beyond any human ability to perform.  If someone gets up in a meeting and speaks forth some kind of knowledge that is known to everyone else and claims that to be a gift of the Spirit; it is not a gift of the Spirit.  As Paul says in verse 11, these gifts are given to individuals as the Holy Spirit "determines."  These gifts are not gifts upon demand.  Gifts are given to individuals for the good of all, as the Holy Spirit decides to give them.


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.  They are not for the super 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.  So I have to believe that gift resides within me.  I'll talk more about tongues when we come to chapter 14


One Body Many Parts (ch. 12:12 - 31)


Paul is about to explain how the church is like a body.  In reality, since Jesus is not physically on earth at this present moment, I believe we are His replacement body.  You may have never thought about it in this way, but I do not believe Paul was talking figuratively when he spoke of the Body of Christ.  Many, if not most, Bible teachers suggest that the term "Body of Christ" is symbolic or figurative.  I don't see it that way.  I see this term as being literal and that is why I believe the church is the literal replacement Body of Christ on earth.       


In verse 12 Paul states that the body, as in our body, is a unit.  That means that the body, like our body, is one complete thing.  Paul goes on to say that the body is made up of many and various parts.  All these parts form the one unified body.  This is obviously true with our own physical body and it is also true concerning the church, the Body of Christ.  We are many, with varying gifts, talents, ministries, personalities, and so on; yet, we are still just one body.  It is, however, in these differences we find much conflict. 


Our present day doctrine of tolerance in many respects has crept into the church.  There is obviously differences of duties and personalities in the church, the Body of Christ, that needs to be tolerated, but, unlike our present day doctrine of tolerance there is one head that determines that actions and thought process of each and every individual in the church.  Individualism is balanced by ultimate truth that comes from Jesus, the Head of the body.    


In verse 13 Paul uses the word "baptize" in relationship to individuals in the church, the Body of Christ.  When we read or hear the word "baptize" we often think of water baptism or Spirit baptism, but I do not think that Paul is talking about those forms of baptism here as some think.  This is how I view the word "baptism" in this chapter.


First of all the Greek word "baptizo" translated as "baptize" in our English Bibles simply means to immerse.  As in water baptism, when one gets drenched with water, and in Spirit baptism when one gets drenched with the Spirit, here, one gets drenched with people in the Body of Christ.  Paul is saying that when we become a true Christian; when we receive the Holy Spirit into out lives, we are immersed into the Body of Christ, the church.  In actuality, and this is something few have thought about or understand, we are immersed into the lives of people when we become a Christian.  If western world Christians thought in these terms, they would view church much differently.  In turn, church would be more like Jesus meant it to be.  To put it another way; we are not immersed into an organization.  We are immersed into a living organism, the Body of Christ.  We are immersed into the specific lives to whom Jesus has joined us in His body.       


The verb "baptize" here is a Greek aorist passive indicative verb.  Aorist means a one time action.  That would confirm my point that when one receives the Holy Spirit, which is a one time action, it is at that time when he becomes immersed into the lives of people  in the Body of Christ.  The passive form of this verb means that you are the recipient of an action.  This means that you are not doing the action.  The action is being done unto you, which is, the Holy Spirit doing the baptizing into the Body of Christ.  The indicative part of this verb means it is a certainty.  Therefore, there is no doubt that when you received the Holy Spirit into your life, He immersed you into Jesus' replacement body on earth.          


Paul also says in verse 13 that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who baptizes us, or immerses us, into the Body of Christ.  I would suggest then, that when one receives the Holy Spirit, it is at that point that he is immersed into the Body of Christ.  That would mean that one who does not have the Holy Spirit, is not part of the Body of Christ.  I believe I can safely say that from what Paul says here.   That tells me that not everyone who sits in a church pew on a Sunday morning is actually a part of the church.  He may hold a membership in an organization, but that does not mean he is a member of the real church, the Body of Christ. 


Paul then goes on to say in verse 13 that there is no distinction between ethnic peoples in the Body of Christ.  It does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, or any other distinction you can think of.  If you have the Holy Spirit living within you, you are a vital part of the Body of Christ.    


As a personal testimony to the truth that Paul just mentioned, I have never been a wealthy person.  I've actually been quite poor.  My personal experience at times has proven Paul's point.  I have been in very close relationship with very wealthy people in the Body of Christ.  My poverty and their wealth did not take away from the good relationships we had.  To me, that has been simply amazing.  It goes to show you that if we are willing to submit to the unity of the Spirit, such things as wealth, or lack thereof, mean little.    


Paul ends verse 13 by saying that "we were all given one Spirit to drink."  This phrase needs some consideration.  The verb "to drink" is an aorist Greek verb, meaning this drinking is a one time action.  To me, and I admit I am not totally certain of this at this point, that when we received the Holy Spirit, it was at that point, that we were given Him to drink, and to drink not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those to whom the Holy Spirit joined us in the Body of Christ.  The one time action aspect of this verse that is seen in the aorist tense suggest to me the one time action of being given the Holy Spirit.  Once we receive Him, our drinking is a continuous action.      


This reminds me of the time when Jesus met the Samaritan women by a well in John 4.  He spoke to her about drinking living water.  It seems to me that it might well be possible that the living water Jesus is telling this woman she would be able to drink is actually the Holy Spirit.  You will note in Acts 2 that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 people who received the Spirit into their lives.  The term "poured out" suggests to me that as you pour some water out of a cup, heaven poured the Holy Spirit out and into the lives of the 120 people. In this sense of the word, the disciples in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost drank from the Holy Spirit.  Beyond that, those same people had the Holy Spirit poured out on them several other times, even though He was already in their lives.  This tells me that we can drink of the Holy Spirit over and over again.                 


In verse 14 Paul reiterates that the body, our physical body, is made up of many parts but it is till one body.  He really wants us to get this thought into our heads.  The reason for this is because the Corinthian church was divided into many factions.  The Christians there were making more than one body out of one body and that is just not right, but that is what the church has consistently done over the centuries.   


In verse 15 Paul goes on to say that a foot cannot claim independence from the body because it is not a hand.  Neither can an ear claim independence from the body because it is not an eye.  Therefore, we as individuals in the Body of Christ, the church, cannot be independent from each other, from the rest of the body, and if we do claim and live out this independence, we will die.  A foot cannot live apart from the body.  Separating one's self from the living Body of Christ is a very serious matter that people don't take seriously these days.     


I have seen many people fall away from the Lord because they have separated themselves from those to whom they were joined in the Body of Christ.  This does not mean you have to be a member of what I call a traditional church.  Church can take on different forms, like house churches, or whatever.  My point is this.  Jesus joins us to a few others in the Body of Christ, no matter where that is or what it looks like.  We cannot separate ourselves from these people.  For 9 years my wife and I were not a part of a traditional church.  We, however, were still part of the Body of Christ because of our personal relationships we continued to have with those to whom Jesus had joined us, both for fellowship and ministry.   


Furthermore, in verse 17 Paul says that "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.  Each part is vitally important.  We need both the sense of seeing and the sense of hearing for the Body of Christ to function as it should.  As a matter of fact, verse 18 says that "God has arranged the parts of the body Ö just as He wanted."  It is Godís choice and His alone to call people to certain functions in the Body of Christ.  It is His choice to place people in His Body where ever He wants them to be placed.  This should make us understand that we must hear from the Lord through His Holy Spirit to know where we are to be placed in the Body of Christ.  Again, I really don't think that the average western world Christian thinks in these terms.  We are very much a consumer orientated church.  We find a group that best fits our needs and leave the will of the Lord out of our decision.  This is not New Testament thinking.   


When it comes to finding one's place in the Body of Christ it seems to me that much of normal routine for the western world church is humanistic when it comes to this.  We decide what we want to be.  We decide to go to Bible College and be a pastor.  For many, being a pastor is a career choice.  Biblically speaking, it is not a career choice.  It is a calling.  


Verse 19 makes a lot of common sense.  "If we were all one part, where would the body be?"  Well, there would be no body.  There would be no life.  There would simply be a pile of dead eyes, or dead ears, or dead whatever. 


Again, Paul reiterates this again in verse 20, now for the third time.  There is only one body and that one body is made up of a variety of different parts.  Paul wanted these Corinthian believers to know that yes, they had their distinctive differences, but these differences were not to disrupt the body.  They were to enhance the Body of Christ to make it one unified body with varying and effective parts working together in unity, which, was not happening in Corinth .


In light of what Paul is saying here, and, if you look at the western world church today, the Body of Christ that is supposed to be a unified functioning body, is dysfunctional.  If our physical bodies were as dysfunctional as the western church is, we would suffer a disabling illness that would cause us to cease to be a productive person.


In verse 21 Paul says it all again.  He is really trying to make this point clear.  He says that "eye cannot say to the hand, I donít need you."  As Christians, we simply 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, and, the less effective we are as individual believers.  We are created to function within the unified structure of the Body of Christ.  


Paul actually says in verses 22 to 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 Body of Christ, the church, that should be thought of as second class.  Each member has his or her role to play.  Each member is important. 


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 among people in the church.  Paul is not talking about some kind of Christian socialism or communism here.  Note the word "honour" seen in these verses.  Equality is to be thought of in terms of honouring and valuing one another for who  each of us are, and that is, an important person in the Body of Christ.    


Paul goes on in verse 26 to say that "if one part suffers than all parts suffer and if one part is honoured then every part rejoices with it."  There is no "poor me" attitude in a functioning church.  There is no "look at me, the honoured on" attitude either.  How many times have you heard people say, "it must be nice" when someone else other than them are honoured.  There is no place for such a thing in the Body of Christ.  There is no spirit of competition.  There is no place for one to try to out-do another.  That's all about pride and we know that pride precedes a nasty fall, and, for that reason, the church has often taken a nasty fall.   


In verse 27 Paul says clearly that "you are the Body of Christ."   The Greek text says that "you are now Christ's body."  I personally take these words literally; not figuratively or symbolically.  Paul does not say "figuratively speaking, you are the Body of Christ."  He says "you are Christ's body."  This is where I get the idea that we are indeed Jesus' literal replacement body on the earth.  Since He is no longer here in physical form, He has filled us as individuals and the church with His Spirit, making us His living and active replacement body on the planet.    


Paul then says, once again, "you are a part of it."  Each and every true believer is a functioning part of Jesus replacement body on the earth.  Each and every believer has a vital part to play in making Jesus' replacement body healthy.  


In verse 28 Paul says that in the church "God has appointed first apostles."  I would think that apostles come first because it was these men that spread the news of Christís salvation throughout the known world 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 prophets would speak Godís words to the church.  Then thirdly comes teachers, teaching the established church the ways of God.


You might wonder just why after saying everyone is equal in the Body of Christ why Paul lists these three ministries as first, second, and third.  Is he listing them in terms of importance or might he be listing them in terms of chronology, as in, how a local church is established.  After what Paul has just said, I can't see him thinking in terms of greatness when he lists these ministries in terms of being first, second, and third.  He must have something else in mind.     


You will notice that in Ephesians 4:11, at least in our English Bibles, Paul lists five ministries, many Bible teachers call the "gifts of Christ."  He lists three here.  He omits the ministry of evangelist and pastor.   That being said, he really doesn't omit the ministry of pastor because the Greek construction of Ephesians 4:11 actually combines pastor and teacher into one ministry.  So, here in 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul most likely uses the word "teacher" to mean pastor/teacher.        


After specifically mentioning three ministries Paul list others that include, those having the gift of healing and those who have the gift of performing miracles.  There are a couple of things to note here.  Healing and miracles we saw earlier in this chapter to be gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Here, we see that these gifts reside in certain, not all, people in the Body of Christ.  The point here is that these gifts are ministry gifts.  I'm not saying others who do not have these ministry gifts can't perform healings and miracles from time to time.  I'm saying that there should be designated by God, people in the church who job is to heal and perform miracles. 


The last few verses of Mark are debatable.  Many, and for good reason believe they should not be part of the New Testament, but, let's say they are.  Jesus said that "these signs will follow those who believe."  Some people say that these signs should be resident in every Christian.  Paul seems to say differently here in 1 Corinthians 12.  That being said, these signs should follow those, meaning those in church as a whole.  That is to say, all local churches should have an expression of these gifts.        


Beyond the above ministry gifts is the gift of helps.  This is the ability to help others.  This may not be an exciting gift, but let me say, those of us who have benefited from others who have this gift are quite thankful. 


There are two other gift ministries listed in verse 28.  They are administration and tongues.  Tongues, of course are one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but here, tongues are more than a gift.  It is a ministry resident within a person. 


Administration, especially in today's church is real important.  Not everyone is capable of administration.  It takes a special person with gifts inherent within him by birth.  I call the gifts of administration and helps, and other such gifts, gifts from God, or, God given talents from birth.  You will recall that Paul spent a couple of years collecting money for the poor saints in Jerusalem .  This would have taken some administrative skill both on his part and on the part of those who helped him.  


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?"  The answer is still "no."  We all do not have all these gifts, or at least all at once in one gathering of the saints.


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.  It's my thinking that the gifts mentioned in the last few verses are what I call "ministry gifts."  They differ from the nine gifts mentioned earlier in the chapter in that the gift itself is a person with a particular ministry. 


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 while some believe that only some can speak in tongues.  They 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 ministry give to one to speak in tongues in a gathering of the saints.  This ministry, not the prayer language, is not available to all.


Paul closes this chapter by saying, "eagerly desire the greater gifts."  Personally, I wished Paul had not have 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 donít believe that love is a gift.  It is a fruit of the Spirit, something that is produced and worked into a Christian over time.  Paul makes that point in Galatians 5.    


If you note, the NIV has an alternate translation for this verse.  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 already desiring greater gifts instead of encouraging them to desire greater gifts. 


The Greek word "megas" is translated as "greater" in this verse.  You will recognize that our English word "mega" comes from this Greek word.  As in English, "megas" is a quantitative word, meaning, large, huge, or something similar, thus our word "greater" in this verse.  Again, I would suggest greater in this context means what is most important for any given situation.  It does not mean one gift is always greater than the other.       

As a young Christian I was told to seek the giver of the gifts and not the gifts.  The reason for this advice is that I desired to pray in tongues.  The man who told me this did not believe in praying in tongues.  So, this was his way of getting me away from tongues.  He then said we should desire the important gifts, which wasn't tongues in his opinion.  I disagreed.  I suggest that the important gift of the Spirit, or, the most important ministry gift, is the one that is needed at any given moment, whether that is tongues, a miracle, or a healing.      


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 of Christ" as an analogy.  He is using the term as a real thing.  The church is the physical replacement body of Jesus on earth.  Within the body are members who are joined to one another, and as is my physcial body, one member is not joined to all the body or to every body part.  It is only joined 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 and support.  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, the place where we do the will of God.  We leave this up to the organized church structure.  That is not New Testament thinking.


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 point I'd like to insert and 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 not 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 and 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 those getting married really understand what is said in this chapter?  Is love a matter of hormones or is it a matter of something else?


The word "love" is used and spoken more often than any other word in the world of the arts.  It's the most used, and really, over used, word in modern popular songs.  Some kind of love is demonstrated in movies and portrayed in the arts, but again, is what we see in the movies really love?  The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 will answer this question for us.   


Love is not fuzzy feelings and sentimental emotions.  Love is not something that is demonstrated in words alone.  You donít really make love, you demonstrate, or give love.  Love apart from action is not love.  Love is serving others.  Love is putting others before yourself.  Love without sacrifice is not love. 


Our culture tells us that we must love ourselves before we can love others.  People even use Jesus' words to back that up.  Yes, in Mark 12:31 Jesus did say that we should love others as you love yourself, but what did He mean?  Jesus knew, and so should we, that as humans we love ourselves above all else.  So, Jesus was simply saying that as you love yourselves, which you do, love others.  In other words, put others over and above yourself.  In the way you love yourself, love others.    


If love is not demonstrated in some kind of action, then there is no love.  The Apostle John, in 1 John 3:18 tells his readers not to love in word alone, but in action.  That's not hard to understand.  Simply saying the words "I love you" doesn't mean "I love you."     


John said other things about love as well.  "If anyone obeys God's words, Godís love is truly made complete in himĒ (1 John 2:5).  Godís perfect love is only made complete in us when we obey Him.  Apart from God, we cannot begin to love as we should.  


John also said this.  "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).  When we are pre-occupied with all that our culture entices us with, we fail to love.  How true that is. 


"We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers," John said in 1 John 3:14.  Demonstrating love to others proves that we have pass from death to life, proves that we are genuine Christians. 


1 John 3:18 demands we love not just in action but also in truth.  Attempting to love apart from upholding the truth of Scripture is not love.  Sometimes an act of love demands we speak the truth, even if it hurts.  Loving within the boundaries of Biblical truth means that we can't compromise what is right in the process of love, and if we do, we fail to love.    


1 John 3:16 is important too.  "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."  Real love demands sacrifice, something we all struggle with. 


I could go on with many other Scriptures from John, but we are studying Paul and 1 Corinthians 13, so I will end my quotes from John.


One thing that does not sit well with me is when I hear people say "love ya" as they leave your presence.  I wonder why people can't say, and say with meaning, "I love you."   Is "love ya" just another way of saying good-bye or is it a meaningful expression of true heart felt in action love?  Somehow, if it is a meaningful expression from the heart, I think we'll take the time to say "I love you" and then show it by the way we live.      


As we study 1 Corinthians 13 we should know that in the Greek culture of Paul's day there were a number of different words that expressed some form of love.  Take, for example, the word "philos."   This Greek word was a brotherly love, friendship love, or reciprocal love.  "Eros" meant sexual or sensual love.  It's where our English word "erotic" comes from.  There were other words but the one we want to zero in on is "agape."  It was the least spoken word for love in the Greco-Roman world, probably because it meant "sacrificial love."  People were probably more interested in eros love, as they are in every generation and culture.  Sacrificial love is seldom in style.


The first century Christians took this unused word for love and gave it a Christian meaning. We, therefore, say that "agape" means God's love because it is selfless, sacrificial love.  It is the love that God has for us.  It is the love that Jesus demonstrated while on the cross.  It's the love Paul speaks of here in 1 Corinthians 13.  I will now turn to the text of 1 Corinthians 13 to see how it fits into the context of spiritual gifts and ministries that Paul was addressing in chapters 12 and 14.     


The NIV actually opens 1 Corinthians 13 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 in the Body of Christ, not for our own good.  So, Paul is about to show these people an excellent way to live their lives and use their gifts. 


Verse 1 says that "if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong Ö"  Note hear that Paul says "if I speak in the tongues of men and angels."  Don't confuse yourself with the word "if" and think that Paul did not speak in tongues because we will see in chapter 14 that he did.    


Also note that Paul specifies the tongues of men and of angels.  There are more than 7000 different languages and dialects in the world, so God has many different tongues that He can give you to use for the common good.  If He chooses not to give you a language of common man, He could give you a language spoken by angels.  Whatever kind of language that is, I have no clue.  There are some people who claim to speak in tongues but the sound that comes out of their mouths sounds weird and sounds like just plane gibberish.  For that reason they claim to have the tongues of angels, which I question.  Paul does not really say here that tongues are both the language of men and angels.  He says that "if I speak in the tongues of men and angels.  He is not saying that one of the gifts of the Spirit is the tongues of angels.  He is simply saying that if he spoke in the language of angels and did not love, he is nothing.     


Whatever language the Lord gives you means very little if you do not love, Paul says.  The tongues become a resounding gong.  Therefore, if you do not love, you are turning Godís precious gift into a meaningless gesture.  You are not only making a show of yourself as you speak in tongues; you disgrace the precious gift that God Himself has given you.  I dare say that there have been many gifts given to men and women that they have abused.  This appears to be what was happening in Corinth .


Paul does not say that the tongues you speak become a sounding gong if you speak them without love.  He says, that "I," the one who speaks without love, becomes a sounding gong.  The tongues are still a gift from God.  It's the speaker that becomes stupid and foolish, a noisy distraction.


I remind you that the word "love" here and throughout this chapter is the Greek word "agape," meaning sacrificial love.;


In verse 2 Paul says the same thing about some of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as, prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and miraculous faith.  He says that if I can do all of these things and do not love, then "I am nothing."  All of these powerful gifts used in the wrong way, used out of selfishness and not love are meaningless.  Even more than that, the one who is using them is useless, or, nothing as Paul says.  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, I die for nothing.  I am nothing.  Once again, it's not the gifts of the Spirit that are nothing; it's Paul who is nothing. 


The word "flames" is most likely in reference to Christians being burned in the fire because of their association with Jesus.     


Paul is not saying that you will not make it to heaven if you become a martyr for Jesus without love.  He is saying that it wonít benefit you in this life.  You are simply 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.  See 1 Corinthians 3 that I've discussed earlier.  All Christians will be rewarded with heaven, but beyond that, we will be rewarded for our good works.  These good works do not save us, but they do provide a special reward for us.       


In verse 4 Paul proceeds to explain what love is.  He says, "love is patient."  The verb "love is" is a Greek present active indicative verb.  This means that love is a present and certain reality that one is actually doing.   It's more than words.  It is a present and certain action.  The Greek word translated as "patient" is translated from two Greek words meaning "long" and "temper."  In modern terminology, love does not have a short fuse.    


Paul also says that love is kind.  I remember President George Bush Senior saying that he wanted a more kinder and gentler America .  Well, I don't believe he got what he wanted, but what he wanted is what Paul says here that love is all about.  


Paul says that love doesnít envy.  If someone has something that you would like, you donít 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 canít have it.  There are some people who just can't stand others having something nice or receiving esteem.  You often hear people saying, "O, that must be nice."  They say it with a hint of sarcasm and covetousness.  The word "covet" can easily be inserted in place of the word "envy" here.   


"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 or what he has.  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.  When it comes to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, love is not proud about such a ministry.  The one with this ministry puts all the attention on Jesus, not himself.  In our day of superstar ministries, not all go according to this rule of love.  


In verse 5 Paul says that love "is not rude."  Another way to say this that the Greek text seems to suggest is that love does not behave in an unbecoming manner.  Rudeness seems to be gaining in popularity in these days of social media.  People donít mind being rude.  They could not care less what they say to people.  Some even like being rude and think it is cool, yet Paul says that being rude is not loving.  The way I see it is that rudeness is fast becoming second nature to North American culture.  


Love "is not self seeking."  Our world today is very self seeking.  We tend to seek out our own interests ahead of other people's interests.  We love ourselves instead of loving others.  This is not just seen in the world around us.  It is sadly seen in the church, especially in ministries that have become well known and popular.  There are way too many self seekers in today's western world church.    


Love "is not easily angered."  Another way to say this is that love is not easily provoked.  If seems as if Paul is saying that at times we do get angry, 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, even fresh in our minds, but we live as though the wrong was never committed.  What I am saying here is not forgiveness.  It is love.  Forgiveness and love are two different issues altogether.  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, as God does too.  It might well be our love that brings that one to repentance that leads him to being forgiven.      


In verse 6 Paul says that "love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth."  One who loves flees from evil.  Paul says that the person who loves "rejoices in the truth."  Of course there is only one truth that Paul must be speaking of here and it is God's truth.  It is Scriptural truth.  Here again, like we see in the Apostles John's first letter.  We cannot divorce love from truth.  If we do, we weaken love to the point that it is no longer love.  Real love demands truth.  We must present the truth in the process of love and if we neglect it, we fail to love.  It's often called "tough love."  It's simple.  If your son does something wrong you don't cover up the wrong in the name of love.  As an act of love, you confront him with the truth of his wrong in order to help make him a better person.  Christians must then rejoice in what is Biblical truth, and, when Biblical truth is ignored or put down, we speak up.          


In verse 7 Paul says that "love always protects."  After what Paul has just said about the importance of truth in the process of love, the word "protect" here can't mean that we hide or cover over the sin of a person we are protecting.  The Greek word translated as "protect" can mean to cover, but it believe Paul is talking about covering or protecting a person from outside influences that would hurt him.  It's about preserving the good within a person.  


Paul says that "love always trusts."  Does this mean we always trust a person who continues to sin against us.  I don't believe Paul is saying that.  I do think Paul is a man of wisdom.  He is not stupid.  If someone is constantly out to get him, he will not trust him.  I believe Paul is speaking here, and all this is in context of living and exercising your gifts in the Body of Christ, brothers and sisters in Jesus to whom you have been joined.  Unless you have some reason not to trust a brother or sister in the Lord, you trust him or her.   


The word "always" here should not be understood as "always."  That is to say, "always" has its limitations.  For example, back in chapter 5 a man was having sex with his father's wife, his step-mother.  Paul's advice was to remove him from the church.  If Paul was saying we should always trust here in verse 7, why would he have this man in chapter 5 removed from the church?  That is not a matter of always trusting.  Obviously the trust that might have existed between the father and the son was broken.  How could the father trust his son?  He couldn't.  Before he could trust his son, trust had to be rebuilt.  If a husband commits adultery on his wife, trust is broken.  If he continues to commit adultery, do you think Paul would tell the wife to keep trusting?  I don't think so.


Besides what I have just said, in John 2:24, John tells us that Jesus did not trust the vast number of people who followed Him from place to place because He knew what was in their hearts.  Jesus did not always trust as some think Paul was telling his readers to do in verse 7.                      



Paul then says that "love always hopes."  Hope is an optimistic characteristic.  I think Paul is saying here that we always hope for the best in the relationships we have with one another.  There is nothing wrong with hope.  In some Christian circles I think hope gets a bad rap, so to speak.  Hope is not weak faith.  Hope is not doubt.  Hope, in Biblical terms is an expectation of the future that you know will come about because God's plans will be accomplished.  Hope is actually a result of faith.  Faith is trust.  We trust in our Lord and because of our trust, we have confident hope that what He as said will be accomplished. 


The last thin in verse 7 is that "love always perseveres."  The Greek word translated as "persevere" here is made up of two Greek words.  They are, "to abide" and "under."  In other words, whatever situation we find ourselves in, love causes us to stay on track.  It's God's love shown to us that causes us not to be swayed away from the course we are called to be on. 


We must remember that the love Paul is talking about here and throughout this chapter is agape love.  It's God's type of sacrificial love.  It's this kind of love that God is attempting to put into our lives.  It's foreign to who we are as human beings.  All that Paul has said and will say about love is first seen in God's love towards us, which, He would like to see us extend to those He places before us at any given time.  


In verse 8 Paul says that love never fails (NIV).  Other translations say that love never ends.  The point here is that true agape love does not give up.  There is no end to such love.          


Paul continues to say in verse 8 that prophecy, tongues, knowledge, will at some point in history cease to be.  There will be an end to prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, as will be the case with all of the spirit gifts mentioned in chapter 12.  Some segments of the church tell us that the gifts of the Spirit have already ended.  I will speak to that later.  I believe that these gifts are still available for us today.  They are necessary for us to properly represent Jesus to the world.  If Christians really have the Holy Spirit within them, it is only natural to believe He will use them by allowing them to use these gifts.      


In verse 9 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 Godís 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.  Everything we believe, think, do, or whatever, in this present age is in part.  I don't think we need Paul to tell us that, but he did, and, it has caused us some problems over the years.     


The problem I just mentioned in the last paragraph arises from verse 10.  "But when perfection comes, the imperfect will disappear."  In my understanding this verse has been misinterpreted in some circles.  That which is imperfect is clear.  in context, the imperfect is our understanding of things as we have just seen.  Paul says that at some future point all that is imperfect will disappear.  That will take place, according to Paul, when the perfect comes.  The question is this.  What is that which is perfect that Paul is speaking about here?    


Christians of the Brethren persuasion say that which is perfect is our Canonized Bible, which most of them would say is the King James Bible.  As an aside, most people think the KJV was the first English Bible, but that is not the case.  John Wycliffe and his staff produced the first complete Bible into English in 1380 to 1382.  The KJV Bible was based on that version.  Those people who claim this say that we donít need the imperfect gifts of the Spirit because that which is perfect, the Bible, has already come.  I see no common sense in that thinking.  First of all, although the Bible is God's inspired Word, it is not a complete revelation of all there is to know.  If that was true, we would not know in part as Paul has just said.  We would know in full.  Besides that, the Bible we read is not the original writings that were inspired.  To be clear, there are textual difficulties that have to be worked through, thus making the Bible not that which is perfect.       


I attribute the word "perfect" to Jesus Himself.  He only is ultimate perfection.  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.  I believe that will happen with the creation of the new heaven and earth as seen at the end of the book of Revelation.  Before that day comes, even in the thousand year rule of Jesus from Jerusalem , we will still need every supernatural gift available to us.      


In verse 11 Paul explains all of this by comparing this present 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 God creates a new heaven and a new 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.  If our manhood doesn't come about at the creation of the new heaven and earth it might possibly come about when we return with Jesus to earth in our supernatural glorified bodies.  It might well be at this point in time that we, like Jesus, will be perfect.  Beyond that, all things will come into perfection with the new heaven and earth.     


In verse 12 Paul says that "now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face."  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 this.  "Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."  Who fully knows us?  The only one who fully knows us is Jesus Himself.   At a future time we will know all things, just as Jesus knows all things about us right now.  This is why the Apostle John says that we will be like Jesus in 1 John 3:2.  If we will be like Jesus, we will be perfect, just like Him.  


Paul closes this section in verse 13 by saying that three things remain, and these are faith, hope, and love.  He then says that the greatest of these three is love.  Paul seems to be saying that there are three important things that make up our lives as Christians now.  We need all three right now in order to be effective believers.  We need faith.  Faith is trust.  We need to trust Jesus in the present life.   Sometimes that trust is difficult, but when our perfection comes, trust will not be difficult.  When that which is perfect comes, there will be no need for hope, but love?  Well, love is an eternal virtue.  When our perfection comes, we will love perfectly.  

We should remember the context of chapter 13 is between chapters 12 and 14.  The context is important because we learn how to express our gifts of the Holy Spirit and our ministry in the church.  As Paul says in the next section, we need to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts" while at the same time 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