Day 307 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in First Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13 – Paul now proceeds to a beautiful description of love, without which spiritual gifts are worthless. In its context, this chapter serves three purposes.
First, it shows us our great need of redemption, warning us that sin causes us to prize dramatic—but worthless—spiritual displays (like those listed in verses 1–3) more than our neighbor’s good. In fact, the text directly counters sins addressed elsewhere in the letter. Love “does not envy” and “is not arrogant,” but the Corinthian church is full of jealousy (3:3), boasting (4:6), and arrogance (4:18–19; 5:2; 8:1). Love is “not rude,” but Corinthian worship is shameful and indecent (11:5, 22; 14:40). No church is immune to such temptation; we therefore need God’s pardoning, transforming, and sustaining grace so that we may follow the “more excellent way” of love (12:31).
Second, this chapter calls for a response of love. Those who have received the gifts of the Spirit must exercise them alongside the fruit of the Spirit, including love, patience, and kindness (Galatians 5:22). Wherever the gospel goes, it bears the fruit of faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4–5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3). Of these, love is the greatest, because unlike hope (which will be fulfilled at Jesus’ return) and faith (which will then become “sight”; 2 Corinthians 5:7), love will never pass away. For all of eternity, love will be the appropriate response to the mercy we receive in the gospel.
Finally, this chapter motivates and enables such a response by deepening our appreciation for the love of God, given to us in Jesus. Patience and kindness are not only marks of human love but key biblical descriptors of God’s gracious character (see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 25:7–8; 69:16; 100:5; Jeremiah 33:11; Romans 2:4; 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:16). When love does not “insist on [literally, ‘seek’] its own way,” it mirrors the sacrifice of Jesus, who did not “seek [His] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (10:33–11:1; Philippians 2:4–11, 21). Similarly, love “is not . . . resentful” (literally does not “count evil”) but forgives the evil things others do to us, just as in Jesus God does not “count” our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 4:8).
As we seek to grow in love, we must always keep Jesus’ saving work in clear view, since Scripture consistently treats this as the ultimate demonstration of love (John 3:16; 15:12–13; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4–7; 5:2, 25; 1 John 3:16; 4:9–10; Revelation 1:5).
How does this chapter help you see the character of God as revealed in the life of Jesus?
1 Corinthians 14 – Following his emphasis on love, Paul turns to a very specific problem: the Corinthian church’s improper use of speaking in tongues (speaking of God’s saving works in a language unknown to the speaker; ) and prophecy (spontaneous, Spirit-prompted proclamation and exhortation; ; ). Some believe that these gifts continue to operate in the contemporary church; others believe that such gifts served to confirm the testimony of the apostles ( ; Romans ; Corinthians ) and were therefore unique to the apostolic era. Whatever we conclude, we must not miss Paul’s Gospel-saturated logic: Believers’ use of spiritual gifts should be governed by the same priorities we see in the work of Jesus—namely, “the glory of God” and the “advantage . . . of many” ( Corinthians – ).
Where spiritual gifts are exercised without concern for the good of other people, we dishonor the Spirit who provides the gifts. When God’s gracious gifts are at work, we are satisfied not when we ourselves are “built up” but when others around us—both Believers (“the church”; verses 4–5) and non-Believers (the “outsider”; verses 16, 23–25)—are also enabled to delight in God and the blessings He gives. This presupposes that the power of the gospel is transforming our hearts, so that concern for our neighbor’s “encouragement and consolation” and understanding replaces sinful preoccupation with displays that only benefit self. When Paul says that he would rather speak five words for others’ benefit than ten thousand words that benefit only himself, we see proof that his heart has been gripped by the Gospel.
Concern for God’s glory comes to the fore in the latter part of the chapter. Hearts shaped by the Gospel will long to see nonbelievers convicted of sin and brought to worship God. Likewise, when we know God’s character we will desire to honor Him in our worship. This will express itself in humility, as we defer to others, submit to their evaluation of our words, and sometimes remain silent—even when we have something worthwhile to say. When the Spirit is truly at work in us, we will bear the fruit of self-control, submitting our desires to God and to the authority and communication structures He has instituted, including apostolic teaching and the husband-wife relationship (verses 34–35; these verses likely apply only to the public evaluation of prophecy, since 11:5 does allow women to pray and prophesy).
The patterns Paul describes are all reflections of Jesus, in whom the Spirit’s power and God-honoring submission were perfectly combined.
How is the Gospel transforming how you view and treat others?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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