Why Should I Be Involved In Church?
I Need the Church
1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? :30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
When the apostle asks if every believer has the same gift—whether apostle, prophet, teacher, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, interpretations of tongues—the grammar in the original shows that he expects and requires a “No” answer.
Therefore any suggestion, expressed or implied, that everyone should have the gift of tongues, is contrary to the word of God and is foreign to the whole concept of the body with its many different members, each with its own function.
If, as stated here, not everyone has the gift of tongues, then it is wrong to teach that tongues are the sign of the baptism of the Spirit. For, in that case, not everyone could expect that baptism. But the truth is that every believer has already been baptized by the Spirit (v. 13).
1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
When Paul says: “But earnestly desire the best gifts,” he is speaking to the Corinthians as a local church, not as individuals. We know this because the verb is plural in the original. He is saying that as an assembly they should desire to have in their midst a good selection of gifts that edify.
The best gifts are those that are most useful rather than those that are spectacular. All gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and none should be despised.
Yet the fact is that some are of greater benefit to the body than others. These are the ones that every local fellowship should ask the Lord to raise up in the assembly.
And yet I show you a more excellent way. With these words Paul introduces the Love Chapter (1 Cor. 13). What he is saying is that the mere possession of gifts is not as important as the exercise of these gifts in love.
Love thinks of others, not of self. It is wonderful to see a man who is unusually gifted by the Holy Spirit, but it is still more wonderful when that man uses that gift to build up others in the faith rather than to attract attention to himself.
People tend to divorce chapter 13 from its context. They think it is a parenthesis, designed to relieve the tension over tongues in chapters 12 and 14. But that is not the case. It is a vital and continuing part of Paul’s argument.
The abuse of tongues had apparently caused strife in the assembly. Using their gifts for self-display, self-edification, and self-gratification, the “charismatics” were not acting in love.
They received satisfaction out of speaking publicly in a language they had never learned, but it was a real hardship on others to have to sit and listen to something they did not understand. Paul insists that all gifts must be exercised in a spirit of love. The aim of love is to help others and not to please self.
And perhaps the “non-charismatics” had overreacted in acts of unlove. They might even have gone so far as to say that all tongues are of the devil. Their Greek tongues might have been worse than the “charismatic” tongues! Their lovelessness might have been worse than the abuse of tongues itself.
So Paul wisely reminds them all that love is needed on both sides. If they would act in love toward one another, the problem would be largely solved. It is not a problem that calls for excommunication or division; it calls for love.
The Greatest Gift
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
Even if a person could speak in all languages, human and angelic, but didn’t use this ability for the good of others, it would be no more profitable or pleasant than the clanging, jangling sound of metals crashing against each other.
Where the spoken word is not understood, there is no profit. It is just a nerve-racking din contributing nothing to the common good.
For tongues to be beneficial, they must be interpreted. Even then, what is said must be edifying.
The tongues of angels may be figurative for exalted speech, but it does not mean an unknown language, because whenever angels spoke to men in the Bible, it was in the common speech, easily understood.
1 Corinthians 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Likewise one might receive marvelous revelations from God. He might understand the great mysteries of God, tremendous truths hitherto unrevealed but now made known to him. He might receive a great inflow of divine knowledge, supernaturally imparted. He might be given that heroic faith which is able to remove mountains. Yet if these wonderful gifts are used only for his own benefit and not for the edifying of other members of the Body of Christ, they are of no value, and the holder is nothing, that is, he is of no help to others.
1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
If the apostle gave all his goods to feed the poor, or even gave his body to be burned, these valiant acts would not profit him unless they were done in a spirit of love.
If he were merely trying to attract attention to himself and seek a name for himself, then his display of virtue would be valueless.
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Someone has said: “This did not start out to be a treatise on love, but like most literary gems of the NT, it was introduced in connection with some local situation.” Hodge has pointed out that the Corinthians were impatient, discontented, envious, inflated, selfish, indecorous, unmindful of the feelings and interests of others, suspicious, resentful, and censorious.
And so the apostle now contrasts the characteristics of true love. First of all, love suffers long and is kind. Long-suffering is patient endurance under provocation.
Kindness is active goodness, going forth in the interests of others.
Love does not envy others; rather it is pleased that others should be honored and exalted.
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. It realizes that whatever it has is the gift of God, and that there is nothing in man of which to be proud.
Even gifts of the Holy Spirit are sovereignly bestowed by God and should not make a person proud or haughty, no matter how spectacular the gift might be.
1 Corinthians 13:5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Love does not behave rudely. If a person is truly acting in love, he will be courteous and considerate. Love does not selfishly seek its own, but is interested in what will assist others.
Macdonald, Farstad Grady Scott, Hindson, E.E.