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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians, Chapters 13 and 14 - Faith, Hope, and Love

INTRODUCTION: The opening topics Paul wrote about in these passages are not the common gifts given to Christians. The improper use at Corinth of prophecy and of the area often discussed as "tongues" was causing some concern for Paul. He had much to say about those gifts; but his greater emphasis was to write about the foundation for every believer to have faith, hope, and love as part of every other gift. I have tried to be cautious in my comments not to add my interpretation to what Paul has written regarding the presence of prophecy and "tongues" in the church.

NOTE: All scripture is from the Bible in Basic English unless otherwise specified.


A - FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

1 Corinthians 13 "1 If I make use of the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am like sounding brass, or a loud-tongued bell. 2 And if I have a prophet's power, and have knowledge of all secret things; and if I have all faith, by which mountains may be moved from their place, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my goods to the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it is of no profit to me. 4 Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; 5 Love's ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; 6 It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; 7 Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things."

COMMENTS: In the section of Paul's letter just previous to these passages he indicated there was a basic approach for those in the body of Christ to keep their service to the Lord on the right track. He now listed some seemingly outstanding gifts for Christians, but followed each one by stating they lack true value unless the individual has authentic love for the members of the church. This is a foundation Paul provides for building up our faith in our Lord, and the strength in our fellowship among believers. Paul listed some very practical examples of how we can express our love for others: patience, kindness, no envy, no feelings of superiority or pride, fairness, not putting yourself first, being slow to anger, and avoiding evil motives or pleasure in wrongdoing. Take joy in what is true, knowing that love has the power in every situation to supply endurance, faith, and hope.


B - THE GREATEST QUALITY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN IS LOVE

1 Corinthians 13 "8 Though the prophet's word may come to an end, tongues come to nothing, and knowledge have no more value, love has no end. 9 For our knowledge is only in part, and the prophet's word gives only a part of what is true: 10 But when that which is complete is come, then that which is in part will be no longer necessary. 11 When I was a child, I made use of a child's language, I had a child's feelings and a child's thoughts: now that I am a man, I have put away the things of a child. 12 For now we see things in a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now my knowledge is in part; then it will be complete, even as God's knowledge of me. 13 But now we still have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

COMMENTS: Paul drew attention to the fact that Christians need to look past this present life accepting that what we can now know is only in part. . Therefore, prophecies may come to an end, great diversity in language may pass, and great amounts of knowledge may no longer have value; but love has no end. When that which is complete is in place with nothing to be added, all things that are only in part will no longer be necessary. Paul gave his personal example of the differences experienced between childhood and adult life. Now we are unable to get a clear view of all things, but when we see Christ face to face our knowledge will be made complete, even as God has complete knowledge of us. For the present time, the Christian have faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.


C - GO AFTER LOVE ABOVE ALL ELSE

1 Corinthians 14 "1 Go after love; still desiring to have the things which the Spirit gives, but most of all that you may have the prophet's power. 2 For he who makes use of tongues is not talking to men but to God; because no one has the sense of what he is saying; but in the Spirit he is talking of secret things. 3 But the word of the prophet gives men knowledge and comfort and strength. 4 He who makes use of tongues may do good to himself; but he who gives the prophet's word does good to the church. 5 Now though it is my desire for you all to have the power of tongues, it would give me more pleasure to be hearing the prophet's word from you; for this is a greater thing than using tongues, if the sense is not given at the same time, for the good of the church. 6 But, now, my brothers, if I come to you using tongues, what profit will it be to you, if I do not give you a revelation, or knowledge, or the word of the prophet, or teaching? 7 Even things without life, having a voice, such as a music-pipe or other instrument, if they do not give out different sounds, who may be certain what is being played? 8 For if the war-horn gives out an uncertain note, who will get ready for the fight? 9 So if you, in using a strange tongue, say words which have no sense, how will anyone take in what you are saying? for you will be talking to the air. 10 There are, it may be, a number of different voices in the world, and no voice is without sense. 11 But if the sense of the voice is not clear to me, I am like a man from a strange country to him who is talking, and he will be the same to me. 12 So if you are desiring the things which the Spirit gives, let your minds be turned first to the things which are for the good of the church. 13 For this reason, let the man who has the power of using tongues make request that he may, at the same time, be able to give the sense. 14 For if I make use of tongues in my prayers, my spirit makes the prayer, but not my mind. 15 What then? let my prayer be from the spirit, and equally from the mind; let my song be from the spirit, and equally from mind. 16 For if you give a blessing with the spirit, how will the man who has no knowledge say, So be it, after your prayer, seeing that he has not taken in what you are saying? 17 For your giving of the blessing is certainly well done, but of no profit to the man without knowledge."

COMMENTS: Each person should be open to receive whatever is given by the Spirit, to be used always with love in every way. Paul described how prophecy and speaking in various different languages can be appropriate for building up the body of believers if the general examples he gave can be applied. If someone speaks to the assembly in an unfamiliar language, it will have value to others only if followed by explanation or interpretation. Even unspoken sounds such as from a musical instrument or a trumpet for call to battle will not serve the intended purpose if not done in a prescribed and familiar manner. There are many languages throughout the world, but if one is spoken without the listener understanding, it will be like speaking aimlessly into the air. So if you have the desire for things given by the Spirit, Paul advises to turn your mind first toward that which is for the good of the church. This is especially true when you offer a prayer or other form of blessing in the assembly, so others can join you with an amen.


D - DESIRE THAT THE WHOLE ASSEMBLY RECEIVES KNOWLEDGE AND COMFORT

1 Corinthians 14 "18 I give praise to God that I am able to make use of tongues more than you all: 19 But in the church it would be better for me to make use of five words of which the sense was clear, so that others might have profit, than ten thousand words in a strange tongue. 20 My brothers, do not be children in mind: in evil be as little children, but in mind be of full growth. 21 In the law it is said, By men of other tongues and by strange lips will my words come to this people; and not even so will they give ear to me, says the Lord. 22 For this reason tongues are for a sign, not to those who have faith, but to those who have not: but the prophet's word is for those who have faith, and not for the rest who have not. 23 If, then, the church has come together, and all are using tongues, and there come in men without knowledge or faith, will they not say that you are unbalanced? 24 But if all are teaching as prophets, and a man without faith or knowledge comes in, he is tested by all, he is judged by all; 25 The secrets of his heart are made clear; and he will go down on his face and give worship to God, saying that God is truly among you. 26 What is it then, my brothers? when you come together everyone has a holy song, or a revelation, or a tongue, or is giving the sense of it. Let everything be done for the common good. 27 If any man makes use of a tongue, let it not be more than two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let someone give the sense: 28 But if there is no one to give the sense, let him keep quiet in the church; and let his words be to himself and to God. 29 And let the prophets give their words, but not more than two or three, and let the others be judges of what they say. 30 But if a revelation is given to another who is seated near, let the first be quiet. 31 For you may all be prophets in turn so that all may get knowledge and comfort; 32 And the spirits of the prophets are controlled by the prophets; 33 For God is not a God whose ways are without order, but a God of peace; as in all the churches of the saints."

COMMENTS: Paul wrote that even though he praised God for the multiple language skills he had, he would much prefer to speak to a congregation with understandable words that would profit them, than to impress anyone with his extensive skills. It would be childish for the Corinthians to yearn for things that were impressive but ineffective, rather than a basic delivery that would build up fellow believers in their faith in God. Paul referred to the Hebrew scripture where the LORD said he would use men of other languages and by the lips of strangers his words would come to this people, but they would not accept what they heard. For that reason, unfamiliar language is for a sign, not to those who have faith, but to those who do not. If an unbeliever entered the assembly and heard a confusion of many different languages being spoken at the same time, they would see these people as being quite strange. The prophet's word is for those who have faith, and it may have the power to reach a non-believer who enters the assembly. If the words reach into the heart of that person, they will give glory to God, believing that God is active within this assembly. Therefore, Paul warned them not to have a confusion of simultaneous songs, different languages, or even speaking of prophecy. Everything should be done in an orderly fashion, in rotation if multiple believers have things to share; and all should be for the common good within the assembly. For God is not a God whose ways are without order, but a God of peace; and Paul said as in all the churches of the saints.


E - LET ALL THINGS BE DONE IN THE RIGHT AND ORDERED WAY

1 Corinthians 14 "34 Let women keep quiet in the churches: for it is not right for them to be talking; but let them be under control, as it says in the law. 35 And if they have a desire for knowledge about anything, let them put questions to their husbands privately: for talking in the church puts shame on a woman. 36 What? was it from you that the word of God went out? or did it only come in to you? 37 If any man seems to himself to be a prophet or to have the Spirit, let him take note of the things which I am writing to you, as being the word of the Lord. 38 But if any man is without knowledge, let him be so. 39 So then, my brothers, let it be your chief desire to be prophets; but let no one be stopped from using tongues. 40 Let all things be done in the right and ordered way."

COMMENTS: Paul had made some similar remarks about submissiveness for women in chapter eleven of this letter, and here he says they should avoid shame by being quiet and under control as it says in the law; but he does not provide any indication for a reference in the law. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the Word of God did not start with them, and it was not delivered only to them. He said if there was any man there who thought himself to be a prophet or to have the Spirit, he needed to take note of the things Paul was writing to them as being the word of the Lord. And if there were those without knowledge, let it be as it is. Paul addressed his readers as his brothers as he said to let it be their chief desire to be prophets; and also not to forbid the use of "tongues" as everything always to be done in the right and ordered way.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

I offer my praise to you, Lord, for my personal access to these words from the Apostle Paul that allows me to review his teaching to the Corinthians as it applies to all believers. Over the past centuries many believers had only portions of Scripture, and much of that they only heard read aloud in an assembly. Because of faith in our Creator, Savior, and LORD every Christian has a sure hope for eternal life; and we should express our thanks for all gifts given by your Spirit, by showing love to the people who are within the sphere of our daily living. Paul provided a list of ways to show love, and they are worthy of review and memorization for active application, especially since they often are contrary to the dictates of our fallen nature. May I remember that even though Paul encouraged the believer to desire rare spiritual gifts, he emphasized that the greatest quality for every believer is love. I ask Lord, that you guide me to do whatever should be my contribution so our entire local assembly will receive spiritual knowledge and comfort. I pray that everything that is planned and conducted in our assembly be done in a right and orderly manner that honors our God and our King. Amen.

Published 13 July 2018