First Corinthians 13 is the famous love chapter. These words can be heard proclaimed at extraordinary events, such as weddings, or read in more mundane contexts, such as on coffee mugs sitting on a work desk. Given that these powerful words are so often pulled from their original context, it can be easy to forget that this chapter is penned by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church as part of his instructions on spiritual gifts.
Paul contrasts the temporary nature of spiritual gifts with the permanence of love (verse 8).
Paul’s point is not to abandon spiritual gifts for love but to employ them in love. Indeed, the very first verse following the love chapter (1 Corinthians 14:1) commands us to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit…”
Paul’s instructions about love and spiritual gifts go far beyond the specific issue of tongues or prophecy in congregational worship. It cuts through to a larger issue in all our hearts: The temptation to take the good gifts God has given us for the purpose of blessing others and glorifying His name and use them for our selfish gain.
The attitude and actions of the Corinthians are so often our own: The desire to feel more spiritual than others. The arrogance to see gifts as earned. The desire for flashier gifts so we can be admired. The tendency to rank people based on our perceived measure of importance. However, the Advent season provides the believer with the time to reflect on the fact that we serve a Savior who came and “made himself nothing” and took on “the very nature of a servant” as an expression of love (Philippians 2). And we take hope in the fact that we serve a Lord who will come again, and “we shall see face to face” (verse 12).
“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB1995
Father God, thank you for Your love for us expressed supremely in Christ Jesus. Give us the same mind as Your servant Son. Help us not to do anything out of selfish ambition or conceit. Forgive us our impatience, our unkindness, our envy, our boasting, our pride, our contempt, our self-seeking, our anger, our unforgiveness, our delight in evil, our lies, and our self-deception. We long for the day when we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.
Read Luke 17 today
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