We have come to that part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which is about the gifts of the Spirit which were possessed among the believers there. The Gospels were not yet in circulation, probably they had just been written. Now what was the purpose of these gifts? After writing, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” [v.7], we notice the first gifts that are then mentioned, “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance ofwisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge, to another faith by the same Spirit …” [v.8,9] Properly used, these inspired utterances would stimulate the spiritual life of the believers in Corinth.
The different gifts were like different parts of the body and Paul proceeds to draw an analogy on this, that as the parts of our body team together, so the believers should. “The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” [v.21]. It is evident that the believers in Corinth were not teaming together very well at all. A lesson we may need today!
Chapter 13 describes what was lacking – love! Paul wrote, “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” [v.2] Nothing! What is it to be “nothing” in Christ’s eyes!? After that generation the gifts ceased. What continued is summed up in the last verse, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
When Jesus returns, faith will be turned to sight and hope fulfilled! So Paul is speaking of the things which are central to the here and now – and surely in God’s kingdom, with Jesus reigning from Jerusalem, then “love” will be the guiding principle of life!
We remember when the disciples of Jesus came to him and asked for an explanation of “the parable of the weeds in the field” [Matthew 13 v.36] that he said, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law breakers … then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom … “ [v.41.43] It is evident that “love” with be the motive power for that shining!
Then the Spirit will be seen in all its “goodness” for the Spirit gifts are “the powers of the age to come.” [Hebrews 6 v.5] Let us beware of those who make claims they have such powers now. The gifts then were to provide strength of conviction in the believers until the gospels and apostolic letters were in circulation. They, and the other Scriptures, are the foundation of our strength today.