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The Spirit’s Gifts and Love


If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. –1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Paul spends 1 Corinthians 12 talking about gifts and abilities that the Holy Spirit imparts to build up the Body of Christ. These are supernatural releases that don’t come from earthly origins or means, and the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church to go after these gifts.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love]. –1 Corinthians 12:31 (AMP)

Even gifts imparted by the Spirit of God are to be cultivated and desired, to edify and encourage other believers and establish the Church. Some people take this verse to mean, however, that gifts are all right–they are secondary, but what you really need is love (perhaps following a Beatle’s template there). And if I understand Francis Chan’s quote here (from Forgotten God) talking about 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, this may be how he feels as well.

This passage is so powerful because Paul redirects the focus from supernatural gifts to love. He specifically says that without love, speaking “in the tongues of men and of angels” and “prophetic powers” and understanding “all mysteries and all knowledge” mean nothing. The Holy Spirit is the one who fills believers with God’s love and the one who enables us to love one another.

I agree in the sense that running after a gift or insight or revelation for your own benefit will ultimately produce nothing, but I don’t think Paul is shifting focus away from spiritual gifts as he is continuing to clarify what he’s already said. Why go through all the exposition of spiritual gifts and the Body, telling them to eagerly desire the greater gifts, and then completely negate it in the next section of his letter? I believe what He’s saying is the “more excellent way” that he is showing is to express these gifts through love. In other words, these gifts are intended as a means for expressing the love of God. Jesus lived a life full of the Holy Spirit and power. He certainly loved people everywhere He went. How did He express the deep compassion He would feel? He would speak and teach. He would heal sick people. He would deliver those bound by the evil one. Loving the world, loving the Church through and with the gifts the Holy Spirit gives–that is what Jesus modeled, what the disciples then modeled, and what is expected of us today. I don’t say that flippantly. I can’t even say that I like it all that much. I would rather be able to love in other ways (i.e., more comfortable ways), but then it probably wouldn’t be the Holy Spirit. He is the only One who makes the difference here. They’re His gifts and through Him, we love in all the incredible ways 1 Corinthians 13 goes on to explain. As scary as it is, I want supernatural gifts and I want love–until when people who meet me and forced to encounter the greatness of God and His love toward them.

That’s the focus.

How about you? Do you see a diverging in these two chapters or a uniting? Why or why not? (Please don’t feel any compulsion to agree with me. I love respectful discussion).

Welcome to Chapter 4 of our book club discussion of Forgotten God (disclosure) by Francis Chan. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. We’re covering a chapter a week. If you have a response on your blog, add the link to the widget below. Either way, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for her thoughts.

Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!

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  1. I have to say that I agree with you. I doubt that God would lead Paul to say two separate and possibly contradictory things. Therefore, it is most likely that our interpretation needs to be deepened.

    Our message this Sunday was about serving one another. And the subject of spiritual gifts was brought up. In 1 Peter 4, serving is connected to a gift, a special enablement or ability, in order to equip us to serve God by serving one another. Therefore, the gifts are given to be used, to edify the Body of Christ, in a loving expression in order to bring ultimate glory to God.

    We are not to seek the gifts themselves, for then we would be seeking them with wrong motives. For they are not the end in themselves. The end is love, using the gifts is the means.

    I suppose for me this is the way I sum it up. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts out of the magnanimous nature of God. So, the gifts are given in love. Therefore, we shouldn’t seek after the gifts themselves, but rather seek to recognize, develop, and use them, in humility and love, to serve the Body of Christ. In this way, we are giving back the love that has been so generously lavished on us.

    I look at it like my own kids. I don’t want them to like me because of what I give them. I want them to love me. But, when I do give them something, and they use it in a good way, I am overjoyed.

    I often say that I just want to be a *sluice box* for the Lord (reference to the old gold mining days!!). Out of my love for Him, I want Him to pour His Living Water (sometimes in the form of spiritual gifts) through me, to others, in love -- and then back to Him, for His glory.


    (I just re-read this. I hope it’s not too rambling…)
    Sharon recently posted..STRUT YOUR MUTTMy Profile

    • I’ll let you know when you’re rambling--I’m fluent in rambling. 🙂 You make sense to me, Sharon. And while I do feel like we should seek both the Spirit and the gifts (eagerly desire and cultivate), it has to come back, like you said, to love. Why are we seeking gifts? To love the Body and love the world. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response!

  2. I love this kind of stuff. I think what Paul is referring to as the best gifts are the ones he describes in ascending order starting in verse 28, of course the best ones being the most humble.

    I agree with you that it’s about love first, and seeking anything in pride or without humility isn’t in the greatest will of our Father.

    • Scripture does say the foundation of the church is the apostles and prophets. Foundations aren’t too showy, but they sure are necessary! Good thoughts, Floyd. Thank you.

  3. I do think the chapters are intertwining. All gifts which we have come from God and should be used, with love, to His honor and glory.
    Blessings, Jason!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..Changes in Latitude, Changes in AttitudeMy Profile

    • Thanks so much, Martha. Blessings to you too! 🙂

  4. We always seem to go to “either/or” thinking when far more often we should be going with “both/and” -- so it seems to me -- and every time I try to stuff God into a box of my own design (or, as was more often the case, a box designed by whatever teacher/pastor I’d put on a pedestal) He insists on showing up outside of it, kind of like a David Copperfield illusion, but far more real. Good stuff -- oh, and for another musical take, try “All You Really Need is Love” by Brad Paisley. 🙂
    Rick Dawson recently posted..Visiting HoursMy Profile

    • I’m guilty, I’m sure, of the either/or at times. Makes me all the more thankful for the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth as we humble ourselves. And though I’m not a big fan of country music, Brad Paisley is good so I’ll check it out. 🙂 Thanks Rick!

  5. For years, I thought that Paul was contradicting himself when in I cor.12 and I cor. 13.
    After reading this article,I re-read the passages and saw them in a different light.
    Thank you for helping me to see that.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Cory, thanks for coming by and sharing! I appreciate it.

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