After Jesus ascended into heaven, those close to Jesus were tasked with building the church up in a time of great persecution and hardship. In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains that he did not want any of the believers to be led astray by false teaching or to have disunity amongst themselves (12:2). Instead, he clarifies about the spiritual gifts, explaining that “there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” God gives each person gifts that they can use to bless those around them. Paul goes on to articulate these gifts and to emphasize that they all come from God and are to be used to help the whole body of Christ. As the members of the physical body are not greater or lesser than each other, so the members of the body of Christ (believers and their unique gifts) are equal to one another in value.
Then Paul takes this further and says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (12:31)
This is the introduction to what is known as ‘The Love Chapter,’ 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter builds on the previous chapter by saying that not only are all the gifts equal, but they are all worthless if they are used without love. This of course does not mean that gifts, like teaching, serving, and healing, do not have worth, but that their purpose is to bring God’s love into peoples’ lives.
As humans, we are powerless against the evil and hardship of the world. Thankfully, we serve a God who is all-powerful and by bringing His love into seemingly hopeless situations, we bring hope and life-changing grace.
Below is 1 Corinthians 13. Read through it and consider the different aspects of love. Maybe some of these come easier to you and some of them are more challenging. Underline or write in a notebook one of these areas of love that you would like to demonstrate better in your own life. Thank God that all gifts and love come from Him and ask Him to empower you to show love to others in this way.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as rI have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13 ESV