Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 12-14.
I love this section of 1 Corinthians and I am so glad that these three chapters are all on the same day, because Paul uses all three to make his point. Paul transitions to his discussion about gifts of the Spirit by pointing out how we can recognize whether the Spirit is working through a person or not. He tells us that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless the Spirit is working through them. Now. Paul is not referring to those specific words (otherwise, how could he have written the first part of this?). What he means is that no one through whom the Spirit is working will express the thought that they believe the former and the only way that someone can truly believe the latter is if the Spirit of God is working in and through them. From there Paul goes into the meat of his message on gifts of the Spirit. We cannot emphasize enough the idea that there is no gift of the Spirit which every believer has, except for the gift of love (I will come back to this). Not only do we all have different gifts, but we should not think ourselves better than others because of the gifts which we have which they do not AND we should not think ourselves inferior because of the gifts they have which we do not. Both of these are the flip side of the same sin. “I am not as good as you…” is the same sin as “I am better than you…” That sin is believing that we know better than God what He needs in this world.
Paul does tell us that there are some spiritual gifts which we should desire over others. However, those gifts are not the “flashy” gifts. He does not quite tell us what gifts we tend to seek which we should not, but just before going off on the importance of love he lists some gifts which are usually highly rated. However, Paul clearly tells us that, while it is wonderful to speak in tongues, we should desire other gifts more than speaking in tongues. Then he spends the entirety of chapter 13 telling us how wonderful love is (he is not wrong). Paul tells us to eagerly desire the greater gifts. Those greater gifts are those which will remain for eternity and those are but three: faith, hope, and love. Let us continuously pray to the Spirit that He give us more faith, more hope, and, especially, more love. All other gifts only have value and meaning as they serve the ends of those three. I want to have the faith that can move mountains and raise the dead. I want to possess the hope which will allow me to joyously embrace suffering the way that I read martyrs for the faith have done. But above all, I want to love strangers so that I would without a second thought sacrifice my life so that they might live. I fall far short on all of these, but I pray that God’s Spirit will transform me to that state.