The gift of tongues in the Bible always referred to foreign human languages. God’s servants and His apostles were given special authority and power through the Holy Spirit to speak in foreign languages which they have not learned, for the sake of advancing the gospel in other parts of the world. In the Corinthian church, people were misusing this gift of tongues to elevate themselves as super spiritual Christians appearing to have high status in God’s sight than those who don’t speak in tongues. In this passage, we see how the apostle Paul handles this tension and discrimination in the church and the solution he provides.
Spiritual gifts are primarily given to Christians for the benefit and the edification of the church, so that the church might be blessed with all the necessary resources through the gifts of God’s people. But it is possible for Christians to boast about themselves and their gifts and not serve others through their gifts. It is possible to make the gifts an end in themselves and not have a greater purpose. In this passage, we learn that spiritual gifts only serve to strengthen others and love people because the gifts are temporary but Love is not.
Christians are called to reflect the character of God. This passage lists out various characteristics which believers need to exhibit. In the last part of this section, we see how love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but in truth. Love also forebears all things when someone sins against us, because God has been forbearing towards us when we sin against Him. Gospel becomes the foundation on which we relate to other people in love.
There are many ways we can be rude to others, for example when we’re not grateful to others for the service they have rendered, or we interrupt people when they’re speaking to us, or we ignore someone when they approach us. We can also irritate or hurt people when we say insensitive things. We often talk about love in radical and heroic terms and how we fail in those areas, but our failure to love can also be seen in small ways as mentioned earlier. In this passage, we learn how rudeness, self-obsession, and being provocative hinders us from loving others.
Jealousy is unhealthy craving of those things which the other person has, but envy is being astonished and feeling bitter towards a person who possesses something which you badly want. These two emotions are just two sides of the same coin. In this passage, we learn how envy, covetousness and pride poisons us and hinders our fellowship with God and His people.
Our culture paints a picture of love only in terms of sexual attraction and romantic feeling. But according to the Bible, love is more than a feeling. It is primarily an action, it speaks effectively through actions. In this passage, the Apostle Paul confronts our wrong and distorted notions of love.
What if your hand says that there is no need of a leg? This question sounds absurd at various levels because it is impossible for a hand to function well if there’s no leg. Every part of a human body is interdependent with each other. Similarly, in this passage the Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of preserving the diversity of the church because that’s how God intended His church to be.
For any mission to be accomplished, there needs to be peace and unity among a specific group standing for a cause. If there is no unity, the group falls apart. The disunity also weakens the individual to fulfill the mission so it is impossible to accomplish it alone. We’re hard wired to work and live in the context of community. How can such a unity be established among a group of people in the church who come from various backgrounds? This passage gives us insights into that tension.
Religious leaders often seem very kind in public, but get aggressive and violent when someone opposes them. Sometimes Pastors even beat up their wives and do not respect them in private. There are other leaders in the church, who serve people because of money. Some leaders are good with people in public but poor in managing their own household, their children don’t listen to them and are extremely rebellious. As a father and husband, they’re very passive about family matters, and the list goes on and on. But the Apostle Paul has a response against all these bad character qualities of a leader in this passage.
We often characterize our cultural distinctive by what we eat and drink. This is not necessarily wrong, but it goes wrong when we look down upon others because of our differences in eating and drinking. But the Apostle Paul teaches us in this passage to live in unity and be mindful of other people’s choices despite our different cultural backgrounds. Why is this unity important? Why should our Christian liberty needs to be carefully exercised? Listen to this sermon to find out.