Todays readings … Leviticus 3&4, Psalm 104, I corinthians 12&13
“THE GREATEST OF THESE IS …”
What is the most valuable thing to possess? It is not a material possession – not even gold, which was greatly used in making the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. Paul spells out to the Corinthians in today’s ch. 13 what is the greatest attribute that a believer can – and must – possess.
It is evident from his words in ch. 12 that the believers in Corinth were keen to possess gifts of the spirit. Most Corinthians had been idol worshippers and had previously possessed “gifts” of some sort. Paul, makes the point, “when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols” [v.2] He then adds, “however you were led” (“moved” – some versions) – referring to some ecstasy experiences. Such ecstasies have been practiced down the centuries and even in recent years in some tribal regions in Africa, some go into a trance to walk on hot coals and so forth!
Paul summarises the varieties of genuine gifts that were now miraculously available. Why were these needed? We must remember that they had no Bible to read – so, says Paul, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge … to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy …” [v.7-10]
From v.14-20 Paul spells out the need for teamwork. In v.25 he says there should be “no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” Then we come to ch. 13 we note his declaration, “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. “[v.2]
This chapter ends with his declaration of the situation after the gifts “cease” and “pass away” [v.8]. He makes a point we must take into our hearts. ” So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Let us all seek to develop “the greatest of these” – for when the kingdom becomes a reality – what we hope for and have faith in – will be fulfilled – but love will abide forever.
How we live now will ‘decide’ whether we too will abide forever. Today we must make sure we have laid the foundation to our thinking and living – by believing from our hearts the original gospel message Paul and other disciples taught as they followed in the footsteps of their (and our) Lord. Let us do the same.