Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
“But earnestly desire the best [greater] gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” [1 Cor 12:31]
There had been some serious issues and excess in the Corinthian Church concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They had been misused, and some people were even forbidding others to use the gifts of the Spirit. People were judging one another and suggesting that those who were not exercising certain gifts of the Spirit were not spiritually minded. The whole matter was causing disunity in the Church. Against this background Paul wrote chapters 12-14 of his first letter to the Corinthians to correct them. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and emphasises strongly the importance of unity in the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul continues to teach the Corinthian Church about the gifts, and in particular, prophecy and tongues.
Sandwiched between these two chapters is one of the most remarkable chapters of the Bible and it is all about love. The gifts of the Spirit had become a divisive issue and the answer is love! In no way does Paul decry or put down the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actually says that we should seek after and earnestly desire spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians 12:31a; 14:1]. Having said that, Paul continues by saying that he will show them a more excellent way [12:31b]. That way is love.
It is a more excellent way of living, and as we shall see tomorrow, without love the gifts of the Holy Spirit have no value. Jesus spoke about people who prophesied, cast out demons and did many signs and wonders, but he never knew them [Matthew 7:21-23]. Love, not signs and wonders, is the evidence of new birth [1 John 47]. God is love, and so to live a godly life means to live a life of sacrificial, self-denying, unconditional love.
Love is not only a more excellent way living but also of judging spirituality. Jesus made it very clear that we will recognise false prophets by their fruit. We should never judge a person’s spirituality by their gifts but rather by the fruit of their life, that is their character.
What clear statements does Paul make about the Body of Christ in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians?
Read Romans 16:17 and Jude 16-19. What do the writers say about those people who cause division in the Body of Christ?
Why is it important that we don’t make spiritual gifts the criteria for judging a person’s spiritual life?