Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Today’s passage is perhaps the best of the readings in this daily Bible reading schedule. Not because the passage is so much better than others, but because these three chapters are all on the same topic, AND Paul’s thoughts on the topic do not run over into tomorrow’s passage (not did they start in yesterday’s). The topic which Paul covers in this passage is spiritual gifts.
Each and every one of us has received a spiritual gift from God. God has given us these gifts for the common good (how the NIV and the NASB translate it), or to help each other (as the NLT translates it). Paul makes it very clear that we should not expect that everyone has the same spiritual gifts. One of the most important parts for us to remember is that each and every one of us has the gifts which God has chosen to give us, and we have those gifts because the Church needs us with those gifts. If we fail to use our gifts, the Church will be missing something which it needs. The focus of Paul’s writing here is that we should not look down on others because they do not have “glorious” gifts, nor should we look down on ourselves. However, he is also pointing out that God has a plan for us with the gifts He has given us.
Having compared the members of the Church to parts of the body, pointing out that the Church is the Body of Christ, Paul encourages us to seek the greater gifts. Then he proceeds to show us how to tell which gifts are greater. First and foremost the gifts we desire and strive for should be determined by our love for others. No matter what gifts we may have, if we do not have love for others, and use those gifts as expressions of our love for others, those gifts will do neither us nor anyone else any good. When we considering how we should use our gifts, Paul’s description of the characteristics of love in chapter 13 verses 4-7 should guide our actions:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Paul goes on to point out that the usefulness of the spiritual gifts will end, but that love, faith, and hope will have value through eternity. From there he gives us an example how love will guide our desire for greater gifts. Paul shows us how the gift of prophecy is more valuable than the gift of speaking tongues. His reason why we should desire the gift of prophecy more than the gift of speaking in tongues is that, except under certain rare circumstances, the gift of prophecy will be of more use to others while speaking in tongues will enrich only ourselves.