Summary: Love is more important than any spiritual gift you may have or desire to have.
1Cor. 12:27-31 (NIV) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
Stop: We spent 4 weeks in August looking at all the spiritual gifts and discussing how they can be utilized to help grow our church. Here in the end of 1 Cor 12 Paul urges the Corinthian church to “eagerly desire the greater gifts”. He wants them to seek gifts that will build up the church and assist the work of the Kingdom. But as we reach the 13th chapter, he changes direction a bit. He says, “I’ve spent all this time talking with you about spiritual gifts – but there is something that is more important. There is a way of life that beats all the spiritual gifts in the world. Let’s hear what he has to say…
1Corinthians 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
So, what is Paul saying?
Love is more important than any spiritual gift you may have or desire to have.
1. Speaking in tongues without love for others is just a bunch of racket. (v. 1)
I cannot count the amount of times I have prayed for God to bless me with the gift of speaking in tongues. I have longed for it. I have “eagerly desired it” as Paul instructs in chapter 12. I have had people lay hands on me for it. I have been anointed with oil for this gift.
I long for it because I have many friends who have received this gift from the Lord and they describe the incredible closeness they feel to God when they use this gift.
But here’s what Paul says – desiring this gift or having this gift is not as important as having genuine love for others. He says in fact that having this gift without love for others is just a bunch of racket – as useful as someone banging a gong incessantly.
TRANS: Paul goes on to say that…
2. Receiving words of prophecy and having great knowledge without love for others makes me a zero. (v. 2)
Paul has taught us in chapter 12 that prophecy is the greatest spiritual gift. Who wouldn’t want to be able to speak for God directly into people’s life situations? It is a powerful gift that God gives to certain people.
Other people are just plain smart – they understand things about the Bible, they have degrees on their wall, they have huge libraries, people come to them for answers.
But again – Paul says all these great gifts amount to a big ZERO if they are not accompanied by an authentic love for people.
TRANS: The same goes for faith…
3. Having faith enough to do miracles without love for others makes me nothing. (v.2)
Maybe you think you would be more useful to God if you could muster up more faith somehow. You think if you could do miraculous things because of your faith then you’d really be something in the Kingdom!
But again – Paul says “Faith and miraculous powers without love equals ZERO.
4. Giving of myself sacrificially without love for others gains me nothing. (v. 3)
Now that Paul has put all the supernatural gifts in their proper place he moves to some of the other gifts.
He says – “You could become really religious and give all your money to the poor. You could give all your time and energy to religious activities – even good ones at that – even to the point where you get burned out. But if you do those things without the right motivation – LOVE – then you gain absolutely nothing.”
THE BIG QUESTION: What is your motivation for the religious activities in your life?
If your motivation is not authentic love for others then you need to go back to the drawing board.