By Brooke Holt
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Throughout this letter to the Corinthians, Paul has addressed their love of spirituality and the exercise of spiritual gifts. As we have read, they loved the showy, glamorous gifts as they craved glory, power, and honor for themselves. Naturally, there was competition in the church along with comparisons and a very worldly mindset. Paul will continue to challenge the Corinthians and us in chapter 13 by going straight to the heart.
There are spiritual gifts and then there are natural gifts. Both are God-given, but not both are God-empowered and directed. To be spiritually gifted, one must be under the Lordship of Christ. To be naturally gifted, one must be created by the Lord (which is everyone). Now, Paul is going to take his spiritual testing deeper—are you motivated by love? The great underlying question is not are you not spiritually gifted, but are you spiritually mature?
Just because you can speak in tongues or prophesy does not mean you are spiritually mature. In fact, it does not even mean you are a Christian. Remember the warning of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matthew 7:21-22). Jesus and Paul indicate that it is not the works but the heart behind the works that confirm faith.
Without love, there is nothing—no value and no gain in this world or the world to come. Those are hard words, and they will cut you to the core! How much good have you done in this world? How much of what you have done has been motivated by love for God and love for God’s people? The first two of Paul’s tests were vitally important, but this test trumps the first two. Spiritual gifts without spiritual maturity have no purpose or value. Spiritual maturity comes as one grows in the love of God and the love of his people.
May we grow faithfully today and then exercise our gifts to his glory and the church’s edification.
How are you doing with love? Do you live as one who is deeply loved by God? Does that love then generate love for God, his people, and yourself? Spend some time with the Lord today asking how he wants to pour out even more love in you and through you. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!
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