I can’t think of many people, Christian or not, who have not heard the words from 1 Corinthians 13. Just about anyone who has attended a wedding where the Bible was quoted at all has probably heard much of this passage of scripture read out loud. It is called The Love Chapter, because it talks about love, its benefits and characteristics, and its eternal value. My Bible study today came to a close by discussing this chapter, and relating it to another passage written by the apostle Paul, Galatians 5:22-23. I have copied these passages below, and I’d like to share with you the connection my study pointed out that exists between them. Then I’d like to discuss 1 Corinthians 13 in another light to finish up.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The first thing I’d like to point out, which I read about in my study today, is that these two passages line up with each other almost perfectly. For each item listed in Galatians 5, there is a descriptor of love that corresponds to it in 1 Corinthians 13. For instance, one part of the fruit of the Spirit is Joy – in 1 Corinthians 13:6 it says that “Love…rejoices with the truth.” Other parts of the fruit of the Spirit are Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and Self-Control – in 1 Corinthians 13:4 it says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” If you look closely, you can see that each fruit in the first passage lines up with some aspect of love in the second.
Something I noticed as I read these passages today was that, in Galatians 5:22, it says that “…the fruit of the Spirit is…” The thing I noticed was the word is – meaning that the object that preceded it was a singular object. What this tells me is that love, joy, peace, and the rest all come together in one fruit. I cannot say that God has given me the fruit of patience or kindness, but not the fruit of self-control. All of them come together in one package.
The final thing that I’d like to discuss about 1 Corinthians 13 is the first verse – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” In the previous chapter, Paul had explained to the Corinthian church that no one spiritual gift was more important than another. He listed several gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues (other languages), and the interpretation of tongues (other languages). The church there was arguing about the fact that some members supposedly had greater spiritual abilities because they were displaying certain spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues. Paul says to them that all of these gifts “… are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” (v. 11). This flies in the face of those who, even today, propose that speaking in tongues is a necessity for the Christian life.
Once such group is the Assembly of God church**. On their website, they post in their 16 fundamental truths that “…all believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit…”, and that “…the baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues…” This doesn’t say that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation, but that a believer is missing out on something should he choose not to seek out this promised blessing of God. But this isn’t what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12 – he says clearly that all gifts come from the Holy Spirit, and that none are more important than another. Of course, an AG proponent would quickly point out that they differentiate between the acts of speaking in tongues when first baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the gift of speaking in tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. But I’d have to ask him to show me in scripture where the gift of tongues is differentiated like this…
So how does this relate to 1 Corinthians 13, you ask? Going back to the first verse, Paul makes clear that speaking in tongues is worthless if the person does not have love. And not just speaking in tongues, but other gifts as well. He says in v. 8 “where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” These gifts, and others, are all temporary. They are only given to us as an aid while we are here on this earth. But, Paul says, when we get to Heaven, “completeness comes.” What we are gifted to know on earth is only part of what there is to know…in Heaven, we will know completely, and there will be no need for the gift of knowledge. The same goes for prophecy, tongues, and other gifts. But the three that remain are faith, hope, and love. And, Paul says, “the greatest of these is love.”