I’VE BEEN RE-READING through 1 Corinthians 13 this week.
Each time I mull over and meditate on the verses within this chapter, I try to treat them as though they’re new to me—as though I’ve never read them before. I’ve been trying not to bring my prejudices and preconceptions to the text; I just want the Word to teach me. Here’s what I’ve gleaned thus far:
- The context of the chapter is miraculous; Paul mentions gifts of tongues, prophecies, faith and knowledge (v. 2).
- Chapter thirteen is actually sandwiched between two other chapters concerning miraculous gifts. Chapter twelve addresses the number and MANIFESTATION of gifts, chapter fourteen addresses the use and REGULATION of gifts, while chapter thirteen addresses the DURATION of gifts.
- Each member of the Corinth congregation who possessed a gift was able to exercise it of their own free will and volition (cf. 14:32). Unlike many Pentecostals today, there was no out-of-control, frantic behavior by those who had received an endowment.
- Not everybody who exercised their miraculous gift did so with the right intent. Some used it with selfish, proud and arrogant motives rather than for the edification of the church body at large (v. 3). “Look at me! Look at the gift I possess!” The underlying problem that permeated Corinth was division (cf. 1:10ff), and ultimately what created the division in the first place was a lack of love.
- Agapē love is based upon a decision as opposed to a feeling.
- Love (vv. 4-8a) is expressed by what it does positively (e.g., patience, kindness, bears-believes-hopes-endures all), as well as by what it doesn’t do negatively (e.g., envies, parades, puffs up, behaves rudely, seeks its own, is provoked, thinks evil, rejoices in iniquity).
- It is possible to understand, from an historical perspective, how the lack of love hurt the church at Corinth and still act in an unloving fashion today.
- The apostle made a clear distinction between those gifts which were temporary (e.g., miraculous) and the gifts that were permanent (e.g. faith, hope and love). See #2—and remember DURATION.
- Paul distinguished between that which was “in part” (v. 10b) and that which was “perfect” (v. 10a). The Word was being received in part/fragments—while the finished, finalized (Jude 3) Word would be perfect/complete (cf. Eph. 4:11-13).
- The miraculous gift period of the early church was child-like and immature because it did not possess the finalized, entire Word of God (v. 11). It only had bits and segments of the whole, divine revelation.
- The miraculous gift period of the early church was like looking into a cloudy, brass mirror (v. 12). But when God fully and finally revealed the totality of His Word in the latter part of the 1st century, the church’s insight would no longer be obscured, and she would be able to see and understand the Father’s will from a sharper and richer perspective (i.e., “face to face”).
- Paul couldn’t have been talking about the return of Jesus when he said, “When that which is perfect is come,” and I don’t need a degree in Greek language to know that: a) If “that which is perfect” refers to Jesus at His final coming, THEN ALL MIRACULOUS GIFTS ARE PRESENT IN THE CHURCH TODAY. But Paul didn’t say, “These twelve…”, he said, “these three” (v. 13), and b) If “that which is perfect” refers to Jesus at His final coming, THEN WE DO NOT HAVE THE COMPLETE, FINALIZED WORD OF GOD TODAY.
- Even though miraculous gifts are no longer employed in the 21st century, love must continue to be practiced.
MARTHA AND MARY urged the Lord to check on their brother’s welfare (John 11:3)…
Instead, Jesus tarried for two more days before leaving for Bethany (John 11:6) to check on his ailing friend.
When He finally did arrive on the scene, Lazarus had been graveyard dead for four days (John 11:39).
The Lord made His way to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried. He asked that the stone be rolled aside and then shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).
Scripture records wondrously, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth…” (John 11:44).
Some of those who witnessed this awesome scene reported the event to the Pharisees (John 11:46).
What is striking to me is that even the avowed enemies of Jesus admitted His miraculous work. They pondered, “…What shall we do? For this Man works many signs” (John 11:47).
Did you catch that?
The truth of the resurrection was so self-evident and undeniable that even those who hated Him couldn’t deny what He had done.
What is especially telling to me is the fear and concern that the Pharisees experienced. They said, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48), so they conspired to murder Him (John 11:53).
Let that rattle around in your brain for a while.
Why would folks want to kill a Man with the ability to raise the dead, and why were some of the Pharisees afraid of Jesus – the embodiment of truth?
The answer to these questions also explains WHY many people fear truth today. Consider:
- Truth threatened their POWER base. The Pharisees said, “If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him…” These men realized that if folks kept seeing what Jesus could do and hear His message then they would forsake their oversight and follow the Lord.
- Truth exposed their ERROR and SIN. “…From that day on they plotted to put Him to death” (John 11:53). If there had been no corruption within the Jewish leadership of the day, they would have welcomed Jesus as the Promised One. One of the reasons the Pharisees rejected the Truth was because they were living in a state of unrepentant sin. These “religious” men had murder in their hearts. Had they been living within the will of God, they would have had no reason to fight against what the Lord taught and practiced.
- Truth threatened the STATUS QUO. “…The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” The Jews were afraid that the excitement from the news of Lazarus’ resurrection would incur Rome’s heavy hand down upon them and lead to the loss of what national life still remained in their possession. They weren’t ready or willing to change. Note the phrase, “Our place…”
Good reader, how do you feel when the truth of Jesus Christ is taught and practiced?
When the preacher urges you to die to self and “walk in newness of life” (cf. Rom. 6:3-4), do you get upset? Do you feel threatened?
Are you worried that your sin may be discovered?
Do you feel the need to fight and keep things “as they are?”
Give it some thought.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be…” Mike
“I pray you leave my name alone and do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one… How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes.” LIFE OF LUTHER, p. 262
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor. 1:10-13