OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues” (I Cor. 12:7-10).  These nine miraculous gifts caused problems in the church at Corinth.  The members debated and divided over who had the “best” gift.  Into this heated controversy, Paul interjects his teaching on “a more excellent way.”  The excellent way is the way of love recorded in I Corinthians 13.

            Paul begins the chapter with a discussion about the ESSENTIALITY of love.  The members of the church at Corinth might possess the most wonderful and most powerful gifts of the Spirit.  They might do some of the most newsworthy things.  But if they lacked love, their gifts and their displays meant nothing.  “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).

            Once the apostle revealed the importance of love, he then lists the ELEMENTS of love.  When members bicker, argue, fight, war, and divide, their behaviors do not conform to Paul’s description of love.  In fact, they usually act just the opposite of love.  Paul lists sixteen behaviors of love in this text.  “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things; hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth” (I Cor. 13:4-8a).  If the Corinthians would do these things, their ungodly actions over spiritual gifts would cease.

                In the apostle’s last section, he reveals the ENDURANCE of love.  Being of an enduring nature was not one of the aspects of the spiritual gifts they were fighting over.  Their spiritual gifts were going to come to an end.  The manifestations of the Spirit were going to be done away.  Those who come to this section of Scripture need to remember that Paul is writing to a first century church.  His words were to be applied directly to their situation.  He was telling the Corinthians that a day was coming when they would no longer have spiritual gifts.  Once the gifts were gone, love would be the thing that was left.  Paul teaches that spiritual gifts would end when “that which is perfect is come.”  Some think that the “perfect” is Jesus Christ.  Thus, they believe that miraculous gifts will continue until the second coming of Jesus Christ.  This does not fit the context.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that their spiritual gifts will come to an end when that which is perfect is come.  “That which is perfect” is the full, complete revelation of God’s will to man.  When the New Testament was completely revealed, then the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit would cease.  When the gifts were gone, what would the Corinthians fight over?  The thing that would keep them together would be their love for one another.  Let’s hear Paul on this matter.  “Charity never faileth:  but where there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.   But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:  but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:  now I know in part; but then shall I be known even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Cor. 13:8-13).

            Churches often get caught up in the trivial, the mundane, the selfish, and the temporary things of life.  These things create bitter feelings, harsh words, and deep schisms in the body of Christ.  Paul’s more excellent way needs to be remembered by all.  Without love, nothing else matters.  This love needs to be practiced in each of its component parts.  It will be the thing that endures.  Love is one of the key ingredients that united churches are made of!