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Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Corinthians 13, and 12, and 14

Context is important.

You know 1 Corinthians 13, don't you? It's the love chapter (or the "LUVVVVVV" chapter - long story).

But perhaps it's important to see where it falls within 1 Corinthians itself. The earlier Pauline letters tend to be somewhat orderly things that move from point to point. So what does Paul say BEFORE "love it patient and kind"? And what does he say afterwards?

Well, 1 Corinthians 12 speaks about spiritual gifts. Throughout the letter, it appeasr that Paul is answering questions that the people at Corinth posed to him. (I guess that makes Paul the Answer Man of his day.)

So what does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 12? First, he says that there are different spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same God. There are several lists of spiritual gifts throughout the Bible. Here are the ones cited in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10:

  • Wisdom

  • Knowledge

  • Faith

  • Healing

  • Miraculous powers

  • Prophecy

  • Distinguishing between spirits

  • Speaking in tongues

  • Interpretation of tongues


Then comes the famous description of the interdependence of the parts of the body (two thousand years after Paul, Snoopy made the same points). Then in verse 28, we have another list of spiritual gifts, and it is again emphasized that all gifts come from the same God. And it is also noted that each gift is important ("...are all apostles?..."). Incidentally, here's the list of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28:

  • apostles

  • prophets

  • teachers

  • workers of miracles

  • healing

  • those able to help others

  • administration

  • speaking in different kinds of tongues


But before we concentrate on the gifts, Paul says "And now I will show you the most excellent way." THEN we transition into 1 Corinthians 13, and the first three verses speak about spiritual gifts again. But this time, Paul notes that spiritual gifts without love are useless.

Now we see the context of "love is patient" etc. Love is an important factor in the use of the spiritual gifts that have been bestowed to us. This is emphasized again in 1 Corinthians 13:8:


1 Corinthians 13:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.



So while the spiritual gifts are important, love is much more important.

The first twenty-five verses of 1 Corinthians 14 continue the spiritual gifts theme, this time comparing two of the spiritual gifts - prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Paul clearly believes that the former is of more value to the congregation, because tongues without interpretation does not benefit the assembled people (including unbelievers), while (true) prophecy will benefit the assembly.

After all, it's loving.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

Doug's comments on I Corinthians 12 can be found here (in Word Search).

8/29/2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

And Angel's comments on I Corinthians 13 can be found here (again, in Word Search).

8/30/2006 7:55 AM  

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