What Did I Learn When I Re-Read 1 Corinthians 13?


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:

  1. The context of the chapter is miraculous; Paul mentions gifts of tongues, prophecies, faith and knowledge (v. 2).


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Agapē love is based upon a decision as opposed to a feeling.


  1. 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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”).


  1. 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.


  1. Even though miraculous gifts are no longer employed in the 21st century, love must continue to be practiced.


Why Am I Afraid of Truth?

The truth of the resurrection was so self-evident and undeniable that even those who hated Him couldn’t deny what He had done.


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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

What was Luther’s Plea?


“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

Do We Leave Out the Most Important Part?

Water wave

I HAVE OFTEN heard folks tell their friends, “You need to be baptized.”

It’s certainly true that immersion is necessary (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21; cf. 2 Kgs. 5:13-14).

Despite what our denominational neighbors say to the contrary, baptism is essential for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5).

But I fear that, at least at times, we’ve not said nearly enough when we tell people, “You need to be baptized…”

Hear me out.

Simply getting in the water is insufficient.  Yes, I said insufficient.

If there was something miraculous or holy about the water in and of itself, we could just strong-arm folks up to the baptistry and force them under.  But there is no inherent power in the water itself.  Water is water–whether it’s in a baptistry, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a pond, a creek, a river or an ocean.

An individual has to be buried (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), but sometimes well-intentioned church folk stop there at immersion in water and in so doing, stop short of their responsibility (cf. Mat. 28:19-20).

They push the action of faith without first properly and fully emphasizing the person of faith.  They fixate on the water without focusing upon the One who mandates the water in the first place.

But beloved, without Christ baptism is simply a bath; the removal of the filth of the flesh (1 Pet. 3:21).

Christ is the center, the beginning and the end, and He’s why water is important in the first place!

Through the years I’ve watched us (i.e., the church) baptize folks in numbers I cannot recall, both stateside as well as on foreign soil.  And I’ve also watched many of those folks who went down into the water leave the church soon thereafter because even though they got the water right, they never got the Savior right.  They heard, “You need to be baptized…” and “You’ll be lost in hell if you don’t get baptized.”  They were told and heard “water” and perhaps wanted an insurance policy against eternal fire (Mat. 25:46a).

Our Baptist friends sometimes accuse us of what they call, “water salvation.”  I suspect on occasion, they may actually be right.

Christ is everything!

  • We are saved by Christ.  1 Tim. 1:15
  • We are saved by faith in Christ.  John 8:24; cf. Jas. 2:17, 24
  • We are saved by repenting of sins committed against Christ.  Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; cf. Mat. 12:41; Jonah 3:10
  • We are saved by confessing Christ.  Mat. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:10
  • We are saved by baptism into Christ.  Gal. 3:27
  • We are saved by the name and authority of Christ.  Acts 4:12
  • We are saved by the words of Christ.  John 6:63
  • We are saved by the works of Christ.  John 20:30-31
  • We are saved by the blood of Christ.  Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7
  • We are saved by the death of Christ.  Rom. 5:10a
  • We are saved by the perfect life of Christ.  Rom. 5:10b
  • We are saved by the resurrection of Christ.  Rom. 4:25
  • We are saved by hope in Christ.  Rom. 8:24
  • We are saved by calling on the name of Christ (i.e., baptism).  Acts 22:16; 2:21; cf. Mat. 7:21
  • And at baptism God adds us to the body/church of Christ.  Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24; cf. Rom. 16:16

Let me say it here–and please don’t wrest my words out of their context.  It’s not the water in and of itself that saves.  It is Christ who saves and He graciously does so through obedient faith that accepts His word and goes down into the water (Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9).

In Christ alone my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

Songwriters: Keith Getty/Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone lyrics @ Capitol Christian Music Group

Who Receives Both Sunshine and Rain?

IN HIS BOOK, Marriage God’s Way, Scott LaPierre tells husbands, “Our Christianity is related directly to the way we treat our spouse.  Our marriages are an outpouring of our relationship with Christ.”

There are doctrinal issues where I respectfully disagree with Mr. LaPierre, but in this particular context, He’s spot on.  There is a direct correlation between a man’s relationship with His Savior (John 15:7; Rom. 7:4; Rev. 3:20) and his relationship with his mate.  And it’s impossible for him to either neglect or mistreat his wife and simultaneously be close to Christ—because his marriage to her is an outpouring of his marriage to Jesus.

Men, we must remember #1—CONSISTENCY (see the previous blog post), but we must also remember #2—MATURITY.  Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48).

No, that’s not a misprint, brothers; that’s Bible. “You.shall.be.perfect.JUST.AS.your.Father.in.heaven.is.perfect…”

Don’t choke while you’re chewing on that, okay?  Jesus said it, not me.  “Perfect.”

It is helpful to remember that the Greek word rendered “perfect” in our English Bible is teleios and is sometimes translated “complete” (cf. 19:21) or “mature” (1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20; Eph. 4:13).  Hang on to that idea for a second, guys.

God is THE standard by which we measure ourselves as men and husbands.  He is absolute perfection.  But now, with that in mind, go back and re-plow Matthew 5:48 in its immediate context:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so” (Mat. 5:43-47)?

Watch it.  A man’s standard, his perfectly straight measuring stick for how he treats his wife is Jehovah God (cf. Deut. 18:13; Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Luke 6:36).  And as God lavishes His blessings on both the evil and the good, a husband is to love his wife in the exact same fashion.  He is to act towards her with a divine, perfect love (cf. Eph. 5:25).


“But Mike, what’s that mean…?” you ask.  It means that when your wife’s words are short, impatient or terse, you don’t fire back with your own salvo of verbal weaponry.  On the contrary, you express your care and appreciation for/to her—even and especially when she isn’t acting or sounding lovable (Eph. 5:28-29).  And when and if your wife acts in anger, you as her husband don’t attack her with an ill-tempered retaliatory strike of your own.  Instead, you show her a perfect, God-like love and give her your time and attention—even when she doesn’t appear to deserve it at the moment.  And when she is sometimes emotional and easily brought to tears, you don’t push her away in frustration.  Rather, you hold her close and confirm your constant devotion (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 2:8) because that’s how God loves (cf. Hosea 1:2-3; 3:1).

He doesn’t withhold His love from sinners.  He gives sunshine and rain to saints and sinners alike.  Both are the recipients of His providential blessings and favor.