Operate in Love

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What are your thoughts on the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13:2?

In the larger picture of 1 Corinthians 12-14 concerning spiritual gifts and their operation in the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 13 sits in the middle. Paul has described the nine spiritual gifts used in corporate worship in 1 Corinthians 12.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives a lengthy teaching on how to use especially the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues with interpretation. These must have been the two gifts that the Corinthians most misused.

In between introducing the gifts and teaching about their operation Paul explains the best way to use any of the gifts he mentions. First Corinthians 13 is usually used in weddings and is called the Love Chapter. But it is not about marital love.

The word for love used in the original language refers to unconditional love. It’s function in 1 Corinthians 12-14 doesn’t concerned marriage, but the unconditional love we have for one another as we operate in all of the gifts.

We know that it is a clear connection not only because it sits between these other two chapters but because Paul speaks about spiritual gifts and the importance of love over spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10).

In 1 Corinthians 13:1, he begins with the example of speaking in tongues. This powerful gift spoke to the community of faith. But if it wasn’t done with unconditional love for the entire body and all of its members, it was just a bunch of noise. Paul will later clarify in 1 Corinthians 14 that speaking in tongues for the corporate service must be accompanied by interpretation.

First Corinthians 13:2 contains Paul’s second example of gifts that are powerful but useless without love. He lists prophecy, words of knowledge, and the gift of faith. These can be very powerful when used..

But underlying the operation of the gifts is an unconditional love for the ones that we minister 6. The entire point of 1 Corinthians 13 is that we must unconditionally love those to whom our gifts are directed if we will be at all effective.

First Corinthians 13 finishes out examples of the gifts by including ones that Paul has not introduced as spiritual gifts. I consider the gift in 1 Corinthians 13:3 to be generosity. Paul speaks about that in other places (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).

Perhaps not only generosity, but also humility and sacrifice are in view here. The point is that generosity and sacrifice are gifts we used to bless others. But when we use these gifts, we also are blessed when they are received by others.

This is what Paul means when he talks about gaining nothing. If our generosity and sacrifice are not done in the spirit of unconditional love, we have wasted the gifts.

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