Today’s reading: Num 30:1–16, 1 Cor 12:12–13:13, Ps 25:1–22
Today’s theme: A better way
The ‘better way’ that cuts to the heart of the controversy over varied gifts and the use of those gifts, is love. We could be very gifted both naturally and spiritually, but without love it is not worth anything. This should be the heart and driving force of the Christian’s life; love for God and love for others because when all the gifts lose their use in the coming kingdom, love will remain.
God overrides our folly
But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the LORD will forgive her. Numbers 30:8 (ESV)
God is our Father and we are the Bride of Christ, so in this way, there is a spiritual lesson to learn. We may say or declare something which later becomes a prison or burden to us, but God can reverse the foolish things we declare in our folly and lack of knowledge, because His words and decrees are more powerful than ours and because we are in a relationship with Him. He is our covering, head and authority. Jesus told us to avoid foolish vows but to make our conversation plain by simply saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, in Matthew 5:37.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13:13
People of the Spirit
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
All Christians are baptised and have the Holy Spirit living in them. We are by definition, spiritual people or people of the Spirit. The Spirit is what essentially distinguishes us from the unbelievers and marks the beginning of our lives in Christ (see Galatians 3:2–3).
The Holy Spirit above all is what makes a person a child of God, without the Holy Spirit we cannot be born again. This common source and entry into God’s kingdom should cause us to walk in unity, despite cultural and ethnic diversity. We are a new community in Christ.
Purpose and function in the body
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV)
We should not be focused on position but on purpose and function in the body. We have the gifts and position that God has given to us, He has arranged the body and He knows what will be the greatest blessing for the body as a whole and for the sake of the glory of His name and kingdom. So, let us joyfully embrace the purpose that God has for us in the body.
Interdependence in the body
which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:24–26 (ESV)
We have interdependence to one another in the body, God has designed the body of Christ in this way so that we care for one another.
We are not all the same
Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 1 Corinthians 12:30 (ESV)
The answers to these rhetorical questions are ‘no’. We are not all prophets, we do not all work miracles or speak with or interpret tongues etc. This is Paul’s point, we all have different gifts, callings and positions in the diverse but unified body of Christ.
Love, the better 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. 1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (ESV)
Paul is now outlining the better way, which is not to use our gifts to outdo each other, build ourselves up, or in a competitive spirit, but to use these gifts in love for our fellow believers and to build them up.
Paul begins this line of reasoning by using three hyperbolic (extreme) examples of the use of spiritual gifts and endeavours, he pitches them against love and concludes that without love, these great gifts are nothing.
The gifts should never be used aside from love, otherwise the gifts can be abused and lead the one using the gift, into a false sense of security and ultimate fruitlessness (I am nothing, I gain nothing). Love is essential.
What love is and is not
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. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (ESV)
Paul gives us a wonderful poetic description of love, stating what it is and what it is not. Try replacing the word love with our own name, it is a good exercise to help you meditate on the way Agape love functions in your life.
Love will never be surpassed
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)
When the new heaven and earth come and we see God face to face, the gifts will be surpassed but love will never be surpassed. Love is eternal and is more important than anything else in the Christian life.
Ask God to lead and teach you
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:4–5 (ESV)
This should be the humble and needy prayer of our hearts today, how deeply we need God to teach and instruct us. Thank God that we now have the Spirit of Truth to guide and lead us into all truth, in accordance with God’s word as Jesus tells us in John 14:15-17, John 15:26 and John 16:13.
Friends with the Lord
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. Psalm 25:14 (ESV)
Only those who fear and obey the Lord can truly be called His friends. In John 15:15 Jesus said “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
Desiring God on 1 Corinthians 13