“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
1 Corinthians 14: 1
1 Corinthians 13-14 (Psalm 147)
Paul has covered a number of heavy topics in his letter so far: division; sexual immorality; lawsuits; the Lord’s Supper; spiritual gifts; and unity to highlight some of the big hitters. He now moves to the well-known ‘hymn of love.’ In doing so he agrees with Peter that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8) and is the most excellent way. Love is simply the solution. He describes amazing gifts: prophecy; tongues; knowledge; faith; and charity. If these gifts are not motivated by love they are useless. There is a way Christians are called to live by, a way that imitates Jesus; it is the admirable way of love. Paul describes fifteen characteristics of this love….each is worth meditating upon. This love is permanent, complete and therefore absolutely supreme (13: 8-13); love is the power behind and in our faith and the motivation for our hope (13: 13).
Having described love so beautifully Paul encourages his readers to pursue the way of love and to eagerly desire Spiritual gifts. This naturally leads us to a worshipful relationship with God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live in the way of love and draws the Church to Unity. Therefore, as members of the Church we are to worship God in an intelligible and orderly way. The gift of prophecy, foretelling and forthtelling, is to be desired as this builds the Church up as a whole. Speaking in tongues is a gift that blesses the individual in their relationship with God and should only be used in Church if a person is present who has the gift of interpretation. Worship is to honour God and must not be self-seeking or glorifying. True worship where God is present and His Truth proclaimed will be orderly and bring individuals under conviction of their sin and God’s judgement, thus bringing them to worship filled faith (14: 22-24).
Quite simply God is love (1 John 4: 8). He is the source of all love. Therefore, if we are be in a real relationship with Him, love will be our foundation. The Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus Christ in our hearts and the wellspring of this love. As He daily transforms us through His sanctification process these characteristics of love will grow and be more evident. Our part is full submission and obedience. As we gaze upon Him and grow in our understanding of who He is and His love for us we cannot help but love Him back. We then begin to see others as God sees them and our love for our neighbor grows too (1 John 4: 12). This in turn means we can even begin to love ourselves! This love is the source of our strength and the means of Unity for us as a Church.
The Question of Application
Meditate on each of the fifteen characteristics of love (13: 4-7). Which area does the Holy Spirit highlight to you, what action is He calling you to take?
Almighty and loving Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit through your Son Jesus Christ enable our love to be patient and kind. Help us not to envy, boast nor be proud. May we not dishonor others, nor be self-seeking, easily angered, nor record the wrongs of others. May we not delight in evil but rejoice in your truth. Finally may your love within us always protect, always trust, always hope and, always persevere. Amen
From 1 Corinthians 13
Stand in your Love, Bethel Music
1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 often causes consternation, hurt and ill feeling. Commentators highlight the context of this letter and the differing positions women held in society, ranging from low in the Greek culture and Jewish faith to high in some of the cults present at the time. It is most likely that in the new freedom and equal status within the early Church, honouring worship was being derailed by conversations and distractions. Paul was calling for orderly worship. I would encourage you not to focus on this one point but see the bigger picture of true love and honouring worship.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.