1 Corinthians 13

1Corinthians 13:1 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.

If it were possible to understand all languages, speak in the tongues of angels, and have all nine gifts of the spirit operating within each one of us and we had no love for one another, it would profit absolutely nothing. I do not believe that it is by accident that chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is smack dab in between chapters 12 and chapters 14 which speak of the gifts and operation of the Holy Spirit within the church of Corinth. Paul says at the end of chapter 12 that he is going to show a more perfect way for all things to be done.  That is that all things: preaching, prophesy, tongues, healing, miracles, is done with perfect love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The fruits of the spirit must always accompany the gifts of the spirit or we will be greatly flawed. Think about it for a minute.  If we loved perfectly we would never rob God of His glory, want attention to self and become a big show off not caring that other believers be edified and also used by the Holy Spirit.


I'm reminded of the letter to the seven churches in Revelation.

In the letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus told them that they excelled in all things but one thing they lacked and that was they had left their first love.

This doesn't mean that they were to forsake sound doctrine and just have love. That is the mistake many are making. Actually if we do not speak the truth it is a fake people pleasing kind of love and not real love. We see from the other letters to the other churches where false doctrine had crept in, that Jesus corrected them also. Yet it is possible to know all things and understand all things and not have love and compassion. If we do this, we have religion without love and that is dangerous.

We must not make the mistake of just picking on people who speak with tongues that get accused of getting out of order. Frankly I seldom hear anyone speak in tongues any more so that is not a problem. Someone can speak brilliantly and preach messages that get the altars full of people coming to salvation and the preacher still lack love. Stirring up a crowd and getting them to praise and worship is great but even that is possible to do without having a love for the crowds. Some may do all these things for money, show of their natural talents and their thought may be to work up crowds, make them think the speaker is super spiritual so that people will give more money. We see here that it is possible to be a brilliant worker for the Lord and still lack love. The first letter to the Ephesus church confirms that truth. Itís sad but true. Seeking God's presence continually and realize how greatly we can't do anything without His presence is very important to keep us walking in our first love for the Lord and for other believers.

Does this mean that Paul is teaching if we have perfect love we won't need the gifts of the spirit? Are we to refuse the gifts and just seek to love? Absolutely not. God doesnít give gifts for us to ignore and think we do not need them. Paul wouldn't have written chapters 12 and 14 explaining how to properly allow the gifts of the spirit to be able to work among us so that everyone is edified, if we didn't need them. We need the gifts but to confirm the word we preach is true, to witness and speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and also to prove the power of the resurrection. In order for things to be done perfectly, we must have love first for God and then for the people we are ministering to.

1Co 13:2 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.

Paul is bringing out the importance of love when we work for God and present His gospel. We must remain full of love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

My dad is 90 years old and at the family gathering we had to celebrate this, he stood up and told us all that we are to love one another. If there is anything he has learned throughout the years is that we must not go out into eternity with any unforgiveness in our hearts. Love was the main emphasis that Dad mentioned.

My dad was always a person who believed strongly in the sound doctrine of the scriptures. He would know right away when a popular teaching was false. I use to think he was a skeptic. Yet I remember him always being quick to forgive and not hold grudges. We see so much bitterness in those who are what we would call religious, but my dad did not have that kind of spirit. Yet we don't have to forsake sound doctrine to have love like some modern people believe. If we really love we would also love the truth and want all that is possible to find the truth and be saved.

If one is made perfect in love there would be less fear of the gifts of the spirit not working properly like someone getting out of order or someone giving a word from their own imagination rather than by the spirit. Perfect love will overcome selfishness. Perfect love will not want to false accuse, net pick on trivial things or desire to interrupt the service just to be heard. However, perfect love will stand for truth if that truth is for the good of the whole body of Christ.

Perfect love will not want to be used in the gifts of the spirit in order to appear super spiritual or to lord over others. Perfect love does not want to draw attention to oneís self. Perfect love will cause us to want the gifts of the spirit to edify the believers, build up the body of Christ in faith, love, sound doctrine and perfect love will desire to see Jesus lifted up not self.

1Co 13:3 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.

Usually it is thought that one who gives to the poor would most probably have love but it may not be the case. They could be giving to be seen of men and make themselves look like good people. I guess we could ask the question, "Would they be giving if no one was around to see?" Some businesses give for a large tax write off. It profits nothing if itís not done with love being the motive.

It would seem as if even giving one's life for the gospel's sake would not profit if we had no love in our hearts. The type of love we need to seek is greater than what the world calls love. It is the type of love Jesus had for us when He allowed Himself of bear every one of our sins and die in our place so that we who believe could inherit eternal live.

1Co 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Look at the traits of true love (The kind that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit). It is not something we can just make ourselves do. It puts up with people's shortcomings. It is kind, it does not envy, it doesn't exalt itself and does not always want its own way. In fact true love will be present when things are not going one's way.

1Co 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Love has no bad behavior, it does not cause us to seek things for selfish reasons, it causes us not to be easily offended and makes us prefer to believe the best instead of the worse. We should never desire to hear bad about somebody. The flesh loves to hear gossip. This is something we must work to overcome.

1Co 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

When we see sin and someone committing a sin, it should grieve us. We should not desire to go out and tell someone else in order to tear down the person or destroy their reputation. We canít use the pretense of making it a prayer request to pray for them either. Sometimes we have to share things when weíve been hurt badly but that is usually a temporary upset. The person we choose to share our confidence with must we one who will not be tempted to dislike or hate the person being discussed. Once we are over the initial hurt, we need to watch that we do not harm someoneís reputation. Our rejoicing should be in truth, not in seeing someone do evil or desire to see someone exposed as evil. As Iíve said many times though, we do have to warn even mentioning names if a person speaks a false doctrine to deceive Godís people.

1Co 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

True love wants to see the best in others and does not desire to gossip, spread rumors and desire to see a person brought low for his sins. He or she is willing to believe the best, hope for the best and endures the trials and tribulations that may come from being faithful to the Lord and refusing to do evil.

1Co 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

The true agape love of God will never fail. Prophecies are great but some prove false and we have times when we don't hear prophecies. We don't always hear messages in tongues and interpretation. We could go years and not hear it. We are lacking in knowledge and sometimes we don't understand what is going on. In all these things though we can still walk in the love of God. We have love with us even when the gifts of the spirit are not active among us. All churches will go through times when nothing seems to be happening but we still can walk in love during those times. This is when the knowledge of the written word will sustain us. We never should depart from what God has already provided for us in the written word.

His word must be hidden in our hearts to keep us from sin. We may not always be around great gospel music, or hear messages in tongues and interpretation but the written word is with us always. In saying that though we must remember that the same God who provided the written word also provided the gifts of the spirit.  All the gifts of the spirit are great and wonderful. We should never downplay them at any time but we should be able to stand true when we go through the times when we do not see anything visibly happening. This is living by faith.

1Co 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
1Co 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

There is so much we still do not know but when Jesus returns, we will understand all things. There will be no need of the gifts of the spirit also if ever one was saved, filled with the spirit, Jesus is back with us and we are in our resurrected bodies. There will then be no need to pray in another tongue because we will not need to intercede in prayer. The answer will be among us. There will be no need of the gifts of healing because in our new bodies, there will be no sickness. When that which is perfect shall come and only then will the gifts of the spirit not be needed. That which is perfect is the second coming of Jesus Christ or when the gospel has reached as many as possible, the believers are edified and walking perfectly and there is no need of any correction or further change.

1Co 13:11 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.

I don't believe Paul is saying that the gifts of the spirit are childish. They are just limited to our own human weaknesses. Sometimes we do not respond to the spirit and allow the gifts to operate perfectly. Sometimes we resist the spirit and sometimes we allow the flesh to mess up. Yet through the love of God given to us through the Holy Spirit, we can love one another in spite of our weaknesses. When our brothers and sisters in the Lord mess up, we love them anyway and we always be slow to condemn. Lets be very careful not to downplay the gifts of the spirit. I repeat over and over again. God gave them. If God gave them, then He must have had good reason.

Being made perfect in love does not mean that we do not need the gifts. Besides Iíve never yet seen a Christian that was a 100% perfect in love. I wish I was but I know Iím not. To put away childish things may simply mean to quit using the gifts to puff up self, be seen as super spiritual, draw attention to self, rob God of His glory, think we are better than someone, or use the gifts to show off or exercise control over another believer. Walking in love will cause us to use the gifts for the right reasons and give all glory to the Lord who is the giver of the gifts.

1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

This is why we need discernment accompanied by great love because we do see through a glass darkly. We don't always understand all things and we have to make allowances for those who are weak and make mistakes when it comes to spiritual gifts.

Have love but also have discernment. Have discernment but with the heart of God

We will find that if we walk in perfect love, things will work out much better. I'm not talking about overlooking out and out open sin that is clear from scripture is sin. Neither am I talking about overlooking false doctrine that is clear from the scripture that it is false. I'm talking about sincere seekers of God who may not know how to yield to the spirit of God and may make a few mistakes in prayer, in worship and in their daily life that we may consider a little strange. Let us walk in love.

Remember Jesus did a lot of strange things that the Pharisees did not understand. Those that loved Him may not have understood but they loved Him anyway. Jesus did not sin, nor did He teach any false doctrine but some things He did were strange.

Here is an example: Speaking of Jesus.
Mark 7:33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

That was strange but it was not sin, nor a false doctrine.

We may see a brother or sister get out of their car. Walk around the car seven times and get back in. Strange.....yes. Sin......no. False teaching......no. Let us love one another by overlooking the trivial.

Some think speaking in tongues is strange. Love one another. The bible mentions many that speak in other tongues. If you see one committing adultery, grieve and be concerned. If you hear one speak in tongues rejoice for they are not doing anything wrong. If you still have doubts, leave it up to God and just love one another.

1Co 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I've found that those with love usually have faith too and great hope. I can really understand why Paul put this chapter in between the conversation about the gifts of the spirit. He most probably knew that we were still weak and not made perfect in love. He probably could see ahead and see us accusing one another because some spoke with tongues at the wrong time and some acted a little strange. Some laid hands on the sick and some did not. Some were able to prophesy and some did not. He could probably see that some would not understand it when one church or pastor worshipped one way and another church worshipped entirely different. Some people pray out loud and some quietly weep.

He could see that we needed a great love in order to accept one another in spite of the differences. At no time did Paul ever condone sin or false teaching but he did see that in order to have love and true unity, we would have to have a love that was similar to what Christ has for us. We must overlook the trivial, use discernment of course, but do all in love.  No where in the Old or New Testament does it teach us to forsake sound doctrine in order to have unity in love.  Perfect love is based on truth not lies. 

1 Corinthians 2

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