Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s selected passage is found in verses six through thirteen of the thirteenth chapter. These eight verses conclude the thirteenth chapter of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation, and more specifically conclude the apostles words regarding love. I find the words of the apostle within this particular chapter to be incredibly powerful, for the apostle wasn’t merely setting out to define love to this carnal congregation. If you read the epistle in its entirety, and if you read that which is contained in the twelfth chapter you will understand that love defined is not enough without and apart context and setting. I do not believe the apostle Paul wanted to merely give the Corinthians a definition of love for the sake of a definition. I am convinced that this brief treatise on love was strategically placed at this point within the epistle for the apostle Paul wanted to set forth love in its proper context. I am thoroughly convinced the apostle Paul set forth this particular section within this epistle to not only show and demonstrate a better way and a better path, but the apostle also sought to set forth love in the context of the spiritual gifts which were found to be present within this church. I would dare say that we get ourselves into a dangerous place when we focus on defining love for the sake of defining love while spending absolutely time understanding the context for the demonstration and manifestation of its power and presence within our midst.
The apostle Paul wrote in the previous chapter—not only concerning spiritual gifts, but also concerning placement within the body of Christ. In the previous chapter the apostle Paul sought to trash the Corinthian congregation concerning the place of spiritual gifts, while in the following chapter the apostle would seek to teach this congregation concerning the practice of those very same gifts. What I absolutely love about the twelfth chapter of the epistle to the Corinthians is that despite the fact the apostle set forth nine individual, nine specific, and nine unique gifts of the Spirit, he spent a considerable amount of time speaking of the greater gift that was given unto and within the body—its members. Did you know that you have more worth and more value than these nine specific gifts of the Spirit? Do you understand that while there are indeed nine specific gifts which were given unto the body of Christ, the greatest gifts are the individual members that comprise Abe make up the body. There would be those who would choose to elevate and exalt these nine spiritual gifts given by the Spirit, but I would present for your consideration that the greatest gifts the Spirit has given unto the body is its individual members. Consider for a moment how these nine gifts of the Spirit could even function within the context of the body of Christ without and apart from the individual members which make up the body. Unless there are the individual members of the body of Christ which make up the body, there would be absolutely no vessels and vehicles whereby these gifts could be found and put into practice.
It’s actually quite interesting to consider that between the listing of the nine gifts of the Spirit and this brief treatise on love, the apostle Paul seeks to set both within the context of the various individual members of the body. I am convinced that we cannot truly and properly understand the gifts of the Spirit, nor even the presence and practice of love without and apart from the context of the body of Christ with its individual members. If we are to truly understand love the way we should, we must understand it in the context of the gifts which were given unto the body, as well as the individual placement of the members of the body. I absolutely love that the apostle Paul first writes of the spiritual gifts, yet before he speaks concerning love, he seeks to set forth to teach them concerning the individual placement of the members within the body. We cannot, we dare not, we must not seek to make any attempt to define love outside of and apart from the body and its members, and we dare not seek to diminish or undermine the specific place each member within the body of Christ plays within it. Moreover, we dare not try and understand the body of Christ without, apart from and absent the Head which is Christ, nor from the true source of the love we are to demonstrate and manifest within and among ourselves. Love as we know it was defined in its purest and greatest form by Jesus Himself when He spoke unto Nicodemus by night and declared unto him “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The single greatest expression and demonstration of love has always been and will always be Jesus Christ taking on the form of human flesh and dwelling among us until the time came when He would surrender and offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity which had been separated from a holy and righteous God.
The more I read and consider the twelfth chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth the more I am convinced that the greatest gift that is found within this particular chapter is not the nine individual gifts themselves, but the individual members that make up the body. I continue to hold to the fact that without and apart from the individual members of the body there would be no context, nor would there be any place for the gifts to be demonstrated and manifested within the earth. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven He promised to send the Promise of the Father which is the ultimate gift given unto the body in His absence. The single greatest gift that was ever given unto the body of Christ was Christ Himself, for Scripture makes it abundantly and perfectly clear that Jesus Christ willingly loved and gave Himself for the sake of the body. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifth chapter of his epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourished and cherished it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His gods, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).
It is quite obvious from this particular passage in Scripture that the single greatest gift given unto the body was indeed and was in fact the Head which is Christ. Within this particular passage we not only understand that Christ is the head of the Church, but we also understand that He is the Saviour of the body. Moreover, we understand through and from this passage that the church is subject to Christ, and that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. Within this particular passage we understand and recognize that Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it in order that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and that the church should be holy and without blemish. This same reality is echoed in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Colossian congregation where the apostle Paul essentially wrote essentially the same words he wrote unto the Ephesians. Consider if you will what is found and recorded in the third chapter of this epistle beginning with the eighteenth verse: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive fro the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respecter of persons” (Colossians 3:18-25). Within the various epistles the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches, perhaps no greater truth stands out concerning the Church and the body of Christ than that Jesus Christ is indeed the Head of the body, and that He gave Himself for the sake of the body. It’s actually quite interesting to notice the progression of gifts which were given unto the body beginning with the single greatest gift that was given unto it—namely, Jesus Christ who both loved the Church and gave Himself for the sake of the body.
If you transition back to the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel of John you will find a second gift being given unto the body after Jesus Christ had already loved and given Himself for the sake and purpose of the body. If you begin reading with the fifteenth verse of the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel you will find the following words—“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I love, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keep them them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love Him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15-21). If you continue on a little further in this same chapter you will find Jesus go on to speak concerning the Comforter and the Holy Spirit even more—“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26). If you transition to the fifteenth chapter of John’s gospel you will go on to find the following words recorded by the apostle concerning the Comforter and the giving of the Holy Spirit—“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).
Jesus continues to speak even more concerning the Comforter and the giving of the Spirit in the very next chapter when He declares and speaks the following words—“But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to Him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:4-10). Jesus would go on to further speak of the Comforter and the Holy Spirit by speaking the following words—“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them not. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father” (John 16:12-16). This reality of the Holy Spirit being given unto the Church and unto the body of Christ is further expressed toward the time of Jesus’ departure from this earth and return to sit down at the right hand of the Father. If you direct your attention to the twenty-fourth and final chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find the following words spoken by Jesus prior to His ascension to the right hand of the Father—“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance, and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).
As you journey to the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find more references concerning the giving of the Promise of the Father which is indeed and is in fact the Holy Spirit. In verses four and five we find the following words spoken by Jesus—“but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5). Again in verses seven and eight you find the following words spoken by Jesus concerning the giving of the promise of the Father—“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). When addressing the crowd in Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost had come and the Spirit was poured out upon all one-hundred and twenty in the upper room we find the following words spoken by the apostle Peter concerning Christ and the Holy Spirit—“Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on His throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but He saith Himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:30-36). This reality is expressed even further after Peter had finished delivering his speech and sermon on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. Beginning to read with the thirty-seventh verse of this chapter we find the following words recorded by Luke: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and the shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40).
It is absolutely and quite obvious from the various passages already mentioned that Christ was the ultimate gift which was given unto and for the Church and body of Christ. With this being said, however, Christ could not remain upon the earth, but needed to return to His place at the right hand of the Father who is in heaven. Prior to His departure and return unto His Father, however, Jesus declared that He would not leave His disciples, His church, His followers comfortless, but would send unto them the promise of the Father, which was indeed the Comforter and the Spirit of truth. Christ gave Himself and gave of Himself for the sake of the body of Christ and the Church, and when that work of giving Himself was completed, He proceeded to give unto the body and Church the promise of the Father, which was indeed the Spirit of truth. Thus far we have witnessed Christ giving of Himself unto and for the sake of the body of Christ, and then upon His departure giving and sending the promise of the Father which was the Holy Spirit of truth. With all of that being said, there was indeed and there was in fact another gift that was given unto the body of Christ and the Church. If you direct your attention to the twelfth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation you will find a powerful account of this gift which was given unto the Church and body of Christ. Consider if you will the words and language which are found in this particular chapter within the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of the min the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestowed more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have mor abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
This reality and concept of the members of the body of Christ and of the Church as being gifts which were given unto the body is further expressed in the twelfth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. If you begin reading with the first verse of the twelfth chapter of this particular epistle you will find the following words written by the apostle: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,e holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).
We find further confirmation of this truth in the fourth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus. Beginning to read with and form the fourth verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle: “There is only body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all,a nd through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the father, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:4-16).
If you read the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle written unto the Corinthians you will find the apostle first speaking of the nine gifts of the Spirit which were given unto the body of Christ, and immediately following the brief treatise concerning the gifts of the Spirit we find the apostle Paul writing concerning an even greater gift and even greater gifts given unto the body than these nine individual gifts. It is my belief and my persuasion that greater than these nine individual gifts of the Spirit, the individual members of the body which were and have been given unto the body of Christ are the greatest gifts given unto the body of Christ. It is true that we read in the epistle unto the Ephesians concerning apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists, yet I would dare say that even greater than these five distinct gifts and offices, the greatest gifts that were and have been given unto the body of Christ are the individual members that make up the body. In fact, were it not for the individual members of the body there would be no body, for it would only be a partial body. Consider your own physical and natural body and what that body would look like if it were missing a leg, or perhaps a foot, or perhaps an eye, or perhaps both eyes, or perhaps both legs. Of course there are men and women who have had various parts of their body amputated out of necessity, and we dare not say they are any less of a person than we who have all our members and faculties. When speaking of the body, however, we dare not think that the body can continue to exist without and apart from its individual members. It is the individual members that make up the body of Christ and make up the Church, and it is for this reason I am convinced that the members of the body of Christ are the greatest gifts given unto the body. The Church and the body of Christ is not about those who are in the spotlight, and those who are the most prominent members of the body. In fact, the apostle Paul seeks to set the record straight when he writes and speaks of those parts which are uncomely and feeble as being the greater necessity within the body. Consider the following words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians in the twelfth chapter of this epistle concerning those various parts—“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestowe more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Corinthians 12:22-25).
When we come to the thirteenth chapter we find the greatest manifestation within the body of Christ—over and above the nine individual gifts which the apostle Paul just wrote and spoke of. It is true the nine gifts of the Spirit are indeed necessary and critical for the edifying, the maturing, the growth and the building up of the body, but even more important and more necessary than all of this is what we read and find in the thirteenth chapter. The gifts of the Spirit are great, yet without and apart from the individual members of the body, the gifts mean absolutely nothing and are absolutely useless. What’s more, is that while the gifts of the Spirit are instrumental and necessary in the ministry of the body, there is a more excellent way that is demonstrated and manifested within the body. In all reality, I would dare say that even above the individual gifts of the Spirit which were given unto the members, the display and manifestation of love is the single greatest demonstration and manifestation within the body of Christ. The apostle Paul proceeds to provide a definition concerning love, but I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus Himself spoke in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel according to John: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant kn worth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:11-16).
I am also reminded of the words which John went on to write in the first epistle he wrote unto the Ephesian congregation: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother had need, and shutters up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John 3:17). “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). “And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23). “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). “”Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). “If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20). “And this commandment we have from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2). Do you understand that you are a gift given unto the body—despite and regardless of what role, what function, and what purpose you feel you might play in the body? Do you truly understand that not only are you a gift that has been given unto the body, but that gift is put to use the greatest when you not only walk in love, but demonstrate and manifest love toward your brethren. I am convinced the gifts given unto the body are best given and best put to use when they are tempered with love and when love flows forth from them unto the brethren, and unto those to whom they have been sent. The question you must ask yourself is not only what you will do with the gift(s) you have been given, but what you as a gift yourself will do within the body of Christ in this generation.