Are you a loving person? As you think about that, consider this as a follow up, according to who? Who is the ultimate arbiter of whether or not we are loving? As we approached 1 Corinthians 13-14 this past Sunday, we saw in God’s Word, God’s definition, description and an example of love within the church. Love characterizes the way believers exercise their gifts by seeking to build up others.
- Love is the True Marker of Belonging to Jesus: 13:1-13
It’s important to keep in mind the context and what surrounds chapter 13. We often look at this text in a vacuum, and yet on both sides of the chapter, the discussion is focused on spiritual gifts. Paul is connecting love with the usage of gifts. We first see that there is a futility in using our gifts absent of love. In the first 3 verses, Paul goes to great lengths to highlight the absence of love and how meaningless our efforts or work is if it isn’t rooted in love. It’s futile! This would have undoubtedly grabbed the Corinthians attention (and it should do the same for us as well). Given that, Paul takes this moment when he has shocked the Corinthians into listening closely to describing and defining love. In verses 4-7, we have verses that often are used at a wedding, and yet Paul is using them as a rebuke of the Corinthians. He’s saying, all these things that you see about love, they are not true of you! But in making clear this rebuke, Paul is also pointing the Corinthians back to the one that this is true of; Jesus. Inasmuch as we need to see these verses in their proper context, it’s also important that we respond to them accordingly. Our response is not to be one of white-knuckled resolve and discipline to be these things. We can’t! We will fail, quite miserably I might add, at attempting to “be” all of these things. However, we serve one who has been and continues to be the embodiment and very definition of these things. In that, we are to throw ourselves upon Christ, to be radically transformed by Him, and allow love to mark and authenticate in our lives that we do in fact belong to Jesus.
- Love Uses Spiritual Gifts to Build Up: 14:1-40
For many, we tend to see this chapter as a treatise on tongues and prophecy. Again, the context is really helpful and informative for us. In light of Paul’s admonitions in chapter 12 about spiritual gifts and the church being one body comprised of many members and then his rebuke about love in chapter 13, we come to chapter 14. It’s here that we see Paul is finishing his argument about spiritual gifts, and uses chapter 14 as a case study of sorts. There are two overarching items that Paul drives at in the chapter: The first is that a proper use of gifts will aim to build up the church. The second is that a proper order of gifts will aim to bring structure to the church. Both of these serve to leverage the gifts that God has given to us in order to build up one another.
As we make our way through Holy Week and approach Easter, let me encourage you to continue to pray around our final emphasis and Easter. Let me encourage you to join us Friday evening as we remember Christ’s sacrifice in our place. Let us take advantage of the opportunity to invite friends, classmates, co-workers and whoever else may not normally attend a Sunday morning gathering. Finally, let me encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus, and to marvel at the insanity of His death, burial and resurrection. Marvel at the fact that the sovereign God of the universe, would choose death to bring life. Marvel at the power of God to conquer death. Marvel at the hope that the resurrection brings…and then celebrate that God has so graciously given us life in Him!