As we’ve read and studied for the past few weeks, the Corinthian church was dysfunctional when it gathered together. The Corinthian worship services were chaotic and random, disordered and formless. They were messy and noisy as everyone was talking at once, drowning each other out, talking over one another. Paul’s antidote is to offer guidelines that create orderliness, promote self-control and keep in mind a concern for others. Paul has previously said the goal of the gathered assembly is to worship the Lord in an edifying and intelligible way. Therefore, Paul gives guidelines for 3 types of speech as it relates to promoting order and edification.
Last week we saw that love is like a diamond. Every diamond has dozens of facets. Facets are the windows through which you observe the exquisite beauty of a diamond. Through every facet you’ll see a different beautiful mosaic of light and color. Similarly, love is multifaceted and possesses an unsurpassing beauty making it supreme above all. Last week, we examined 1 Corinthians 13 and studied various facets or characteristics of love. And because this text and topic is worthy of more attention than what we could give it in one week, we will focus on it again. Our focus this morning is on the supremacy of love over all other works and giftings of the Spirit in us. In our text this morning we will see 3 reasons love is supreme.
And after affirming the value and necessity of all spiritual gifts, Paul turns his attention to instructing the Corinthians on how to use their spiritual gifts. Paul does not question the legitimacy of speaking in tongues. He believes it is a legitimate activity of the Spirit. But he stresses that this activity is useless, indeed worthless if love is missing. If our spiritual gifts are not carried on by, motivated by love and the common good of the body of Christ, Paul says then your speaking in tongues is just meaningless noise.
We continue this morning in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and the present issue being addressed is that some of the Corinthians were claiming to be spiritually elite. Within the church there was a fascination with tongues and a superiority complex by those who used them. The Corinthians had a hard time learning to live in unity while being diverse in their giftings. Again, many felt superior to others. And so Paul takes up this metaphor of the body to help them, to help us, see the importance and the practicality of Christian unity.
Within the Corinthian church, there was confusion and controversy, misunderstanding and abuse regarding spiritual gifts. And there remains confusion and controversy, misunderstanding and abuse regarding spiritual gifts in 21st century Everett. No other area of Christian doctrine has been subjected to so much confusion and debate. This week we will examine the Apostle Paul's teaching regarding spiritual gifts. Paul beautifully unpacks the reason for the diversity of spiritual gifts and their function in the church.
Sadly, the Corinthian church worship services were out of control, disorderly and sinful. They were not pleasing to God. And so Paul shifts topics from teaching them about how to conduct themselves individually, to instructing them on what they should and shouldn’t do in a worship service. Paul desires that when they gather to worship the Lord, it be done with reverence and respect, that they would be loving toward each other, that their worship service be distinguished by love for God and one another and orderly. The Corinthians are in desperate need of reforming their worship gatherings and Paul teaches them in chapters 11-14 about the changes they need to make.
The great conflict that Paul has been addressing in chapters 8-10 is the Corinthians misuse of their Christian freedom in selfish ways. They did not consider how their actions were affecting others or impeding the spread and progress of the gospel. Paul calls them to a higher and better way. A life driven to glorify God and seek the good of others. Paul beckons them to follow the example of Christ.
Through the Lord's Supper, the church is reminded that we belong to Jesus. This meal is a precious gift whereby we participate in the body and blood of Jesus and have fellowship with him. Through this meal we are nourished by Christ and the benefits of his death. And because we belong to Him, we cannot participate in the worship of any other being or thing. The Lord is jealous for our devotion and worship. We must guard our hearts and minds from being deceived into false worship.
In chapter 10, Paul continues to address the issue of exercising Christian freedom incorrectly. He addresses the Corinthian's insistence to use their Christian freedom to visit pagan temples and participate in a meal in which the food has been sacrificed and offered to idols. Here Paul takes his strongest stance, saying these meals are expressions of idolatry and warns the Corinthians of the dire consequences of persisting in idolatry. And he uses Israel’s history to do so. Paul cites examples of God’s people who did NOT exercise self-control, turned aside to idolatry and suffered mightily for it and failed to obtain the prize of eternal life. Paul follows his warning with a great encouragement, that those who exercise self-control, striving to resist sin shall be aided by God and provided a means of escape from temptation.