And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.
31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 31
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures (protects) all things.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
God has given (as in free, through grace) each of us in the body of Christ gifts. The purpose of these gifts is not to exalt one believer over others, but to serve in the building and maturing of every member of His church so that we can look like Him and minister like Him. The gifts and offices are given by grace. Grace is unmerited favor, something that is not bestowed because we “earned it,” and it does not make us “better” than others. When we get caught up in self pride in our office or gift and forget the purpose, we take what is meant to be exercised in love for the building up of others and instead turn these gifts into a wrecking ball, crushing spirits and destroying the body.
1 Corinthians 13 is strategically placed after chapter 12, which is a discussion of the gifts, and chapter 14, which discusses orderly worship. Love is to be the “more excellent way.” If we are behaving in such a way as to confuse or hurt someone, whether inadvertently or purposefully, we need to take heed.
Alistair Begg in his Truth for Life sermons has presented an invaluable series on Christian love in the church this week. I would encourage all to listen to the series.