If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3
As we start this classic passage on LOVE, note clearly that Paul does not stop discussing gifts to wax eloquent about love. His comments on love are made in the context of the gifts. He is still talking about the gifts. “What’s the proof?” you ask. Just look at the verses above and the note also 1 Cor 13:8-10 and furthermore Paul does not stop talking about the gifts until chapter 15. From chapter 12 through to chapter 14 he is focused on the manifestation gifts of the Spirit. Don’t forget that. Your job in understanding it all is to see how it all fits together.
It doesn’t matter if I speak in tongues, prophesy, give words of knowledge, even know all God’s secret plans, have faith to move mountains it all counts as nothing if I don’t have love. Paul adds I can even give everything away to the poor and sacrifice my body. In addition to the manifestation gifts Paul has added two examples of Christian virtue that we would consider the epitomy of Christian sacrifice – giving away everything I own, even to the extent of sacrificing my life for another. You have to admit that is top shelf stuff. But even in doing that if you do it without love then it is worth nothing. Doing things motivated by love for the body of Christ is what is needed. The message he is giving these Corinthians is consistent with the same recurring refrain.
- 1 Cor 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
- 1 Cor 12:25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.
- 1 Cor 12:31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
And all of this mixed up with images of the body and its parts all making up the whole.
I think it is clear that the factionalism of Corinth was manifest in their practice of the manifestation gifts as well. Hence Paul appeals for love and acceptance to be expressed. His major focus is the issue of the gifts of the Spirit. Indeed he has stated that already when he started this section on the gifts – Now concerning the gifts . . . and for the next three chapters he deals with matters related to the gifts of the Spirit into which he places that familiar passage about love.
Spend time reading the three chapters devoted to this “question they asked” as a whole. It finishes with 1 Corinthians 15:1 where Paul adds something of his own choosing.
The entire section from 1 Cor 12:1 – 14:40 is one unit focused on their question(s) about the gifts. Read it as such. Love is the better way of handling the gifts and valuing others as you seek gifts that are for the common good, help others, promote harmony and build the body of Christ.
It’s easy to love people like you! To grow in love, God will bring unlovely people into your life so you can practice real love.Rick Warren
I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt, but only more love.Mother Teresa