The “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, is one of the most widely cited passages of scripture. But did you know that these popular verses are usually referenced out of context? The chapters before and after 1 Corinthians 13, consist of Paul discussing the various spiritual gifts and their proper usage. It is in this setting of spiritual gifts that love is described and extolled.
Immediately following the love chapter, Paul tells the church in Corinth, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1 – NASB, italics added). The Greek word used here that’s translated “desire earnestly” means to “burn with zeal.” Are you passionately longing for spiritual gifts?
These two riches of the kingdom of heaven, love and spiritual gifts, go hand in hand. Sometimes there’s a focus on one to the exclusion of the other, but this is not what the Bible teaches. Both are essential to the Body of Christ.
I know a woman whose husband gave her a costly emerald ring for Christmas. She asked him to take it back so she could get a treadmill instead. There are entire churches that despise the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit and encourage their congregants to do likewise, instead running in circles and trusting in their programs to get the kingdom work accomplished. How that must grieve the Holy Spirit!
If God has instructed us to burn with zeal for spiritual gifts, they must really be worth having. Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” As the church ministers in the gifts–with love and in their proper order–Christ is glorified that much more.
The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, stands alone very well on its own. But when read in its context, it means even more.
Which spiritual gifts are you most desiring?