“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Charity And Its Fruits
If you’re a Christian, you’re familiar with the Love chapter: 1 Corinthians 13. We know how its defining words cement together a beautiful picture of love. Love as God sees it and as Jesus lived it. Our challenge is to learn how it applies to us personally. We all need to love, and when love doesn’t come naturally – and that happens often – we quickly become aware that God will not rest until we learn to love the way Christ loved.
Jonathan Edwards has an entire book on this chapter of Scripture. It’s worth reading. Slowly. The quotations you see in this post come from the second chapter of Charity And Its Fruits. You will be blessed by this book!
Verse two challenges me because, out of all the spiritual gifts presented in Scripture, the gift of prophesy most summarizes my personality. No, I’m not claiming to be a prophet in the Old Testament sense of the word! And yet, prophesy does incur a sense of vision, of seeing beyond the moment and being able to capture a sense of what may be coming in the future.
It’s an ability, or a way of thinking, that circumspectly looks ahead as a normal manner of thought. I’m a visionary. Just as a person endowed with the gift of teaching generally thinks in patterns of explaining or sharing how to do something, a visionary seeks to share truth or a “big picture” view of a situation.
Although we don’t live with the Old Testament reality of prophets and miracles, this verse still speaks to us. Each of us can relate to the spiritual gifts given to the faithful men of old (see 1 Cor. 12), simply by looking at our own ‘gift’, talent, or personality.
I am in no way intimating that we have the ability to “see into the deep things of God by immediate inspiration” like the prophets Jonathan Edwards was speaking of. Their prophetic ability was endowed by God alone and was extraordinary!
But if God tells us that even supernatural ability is nothing without love, then no amount of talent or personality that we muster up can compare! Love is the summation of all things. Edwards reminds us that “all the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, without it, are nothing, and can profit nothing.”
“The ordinary influences of the Spirit of God, working the grace of charity in the heart, is a more excellent blessing than any of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.”
Our strengths and personalities are gifts from God, and yet it is easy to begin to trust in those gifts rather than the Gift Giver. We can begin to ‘prophesy’ (share truth) from our own strength rather than from a position of humble servanthood; from a place of service to the King. We often forget that we are to serve God and look to Jesus as our ultimate example. Jesus taught us to love first.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Jonathan Edwards speaks of these supernatural gifts of God such as healing, prophecy, and miracles: “the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit of God are indeed great privileges” and “tokens of God’s extraordinary favor and love.” Could it be safely assumed that any gift or personality that God bestows upon His people is to be viewed in the same light? A special gift, given to each of us, to be used in love , with responsibility and a view of blessing others with it.
The Perils of Being Visionary
If you have a visionary personality, one that sees well in front of where you are going, it can be a huge blessing. It’s a good thing to take precautions when we see future problems in our life or the lives of those around us. Especially when we see others in sin. Yet, lacking kindness, generosity, or compassion in the delivery of that message will only result in deaf ears.
We become “nothing” – like the verse states. Others can’t hear us. Our words just beat against the sound of their own need for love. We become like a noise machine that helps someone sleep through the chaos going on inside them. The drone of our warnings actually does the opposite of inciting change.
Amazingly, even Paul, who was endowed and blessed with many extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, “expressly declares, that without charity they are nothing.”
Jonathan Edwards seeks to show us “that the ordinary influence of the Spirit of God, working the grace of charity in the heart, is a far more excellent privilege” (than extraordinary gifts done without love). He paints a wonderful picture of how these extraordinary gifts are “like a beautiful garment” or “precious jewels, with which the body may be adorned.”
Yet, he continues, “true grace is that whereby the very soul itself becomes as it were a precious jewel.” God’s grace resulting in the very act of love is more precious in the soul of a believer than any special gift or talent or personality we can possess!
Great privileges were given to the men of old, but “they are nothing compared with the privilege of being like Christ, and having His love in the heart.”
So for one who has the gift of vision, Mr. Edwards would say:
“A man may have extraordinary impulse in his mind by the Spirit of God, whereby some future thing may be revealed to him; or he may have an extraordinary vision given him, representing some future event; and yet the Spirit may not at all impart himself, in his holy nature, by that.” It is not the gift that reveals the work of God. It is when “The Spirit becomes an indwelling vital principle in the soul, and the subject becomes spiritual, being dominated so from the Spirit of God that dwells in him.”
So it is not the extraordinary gift within that implies a holy nature, a mature man; it is the Spirit within that imparts new life!
Love Like Christ
Being like Christ has much more to do with:
“…having the same mind in us which was in Christ, in being of the same Spirit that He was of; in being meek and lowly of heart; in having a Spirit of Christian love, and walking as Christ walked. This makes a man more like Christ than if he could work ever so many miracles.”
“Be watchful against yourselves, against a corrupt, worldly, proud disposition, that might lead you away from God who has been so kind to you, and from the Savior who has purchased such blessings for you, at the cost of His own agonies and death?”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” “…engage your hearts in thankfulness…and consider how you are living – how little you have done for Him – how much you do for yourself – how little this divine love hath wrought in your heart to incline you to live for God and Christ, and for the extension of His Kingdom.”
So what does 1 Corinthians 13:2 teach us about sharing truth, knowledge, or faith? About exciting change in this fallen world?
- That it is Love with a capital ‘L’ that rules!
- Love reaches the depth of the human soul.
- Make love the foundation of all the truth you may share.
- Keep love at the core of our motivation to expose lies.
What do we do if we’ve already hurt with our ‘words of wisdom’?
- Love. It’s that simple.
- Be examples of Christ to others.
- Love them as you love and care for yourself.
- Love covers all transgressions.
- Show our “sense of high privilege, by the exercise of Love!”
- Simply Love!
“All the fruits of the Spirit which we are to lay weight upon as evidential of grace, are summed up in charity, or Christian love, because this is the sum of all grace.”
Charity And Its Fruits, is a written record of sermons Jonathan Edwards preached in 1738. It is an entire book on the Love chapter. It’s worth reading. Slowly. You will be blessed!
Let’s serve the Master by learning to Love!
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love… Ephesians 4:2