Considering what Paul says in 1 Cor 8:1 and chapter 13, how can everything in between – prophetesses, Lord’s Supper, use of gifts – be explained in the context of love or the lack of it?

The lack of love in Corinth led to its opposite where people were puffed up with knowledge. So they KNEW that they had liberty to eat meat, but love would respond like Paul “not make full use of our liberties.” And this is part of what Paul is therefore saying about buffeting his body so that he wins the race.

“25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:25-27).

If we love, we become all things to all men, and curb our own appetites. Food and drink is lawful, but its good to do without as these can become idols. It takes self-discipline to lay aside any liberty here to put first the care of other peoples’ souls. From the previous chapter, we learn from Israel that went into idolatry so that when they rose up it was to play, and when they sat down it was to eat. Their liberties they turned into idols. And such chasing after the flesh is what we do when we forget to love.

And also in Corinth, the prophets had these amazing supernatural gifts which they were abusing. Prophetesses were praying and prophesying with heads uncovered. They were teaching and exercising authority in the assembly because their gifts puffed them up. If the Prophetesses loved, they would focus on edifying. But their knowledge puffed them up. When the Prophets used their gifts without making sure there was understanding (chap. 14), there was no edification because there was no love for their souls. In chapter 12, he talks about the importance of the entire body. But people only acknowledge this truth when they have Agape love. When we are puffed up, we disrespect some members and show undue respect to others – just the opposite of how God sees them so that the less seemly members are viewed as truly important.

22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12:22-26).

Only Agape love sees the value and shows this care for all members. But the carnal ones, the and doesn’t give all of its attention to those who speak in tongues – which is the least of the gifts. So we are to pursue love. In ch. 13 he shows these carnal acting Christians that the supernatural gifts – knowledge, prophecy, tongues – are part of the infant church and they will pass away or cease. Those who aren’t loving, and are puffed up with their gifts, and are disrespecting fellow Christians, are the cause of the disunity in the church at Corinth. The Lord’s supper is being abused in Corinth because true worship has been substituted with another carnal endeavor – gluttonous feasting. Paul asked, “do you not have homes to eat in?” Some in Corinth have become just like Israel is described in chapter 10 becoming idolatrous. This kind of idolatry will not occur if we keep food where it is supposed to be. If we worship food, we will justify bringing it into the worship even if it causes factions (see 11:16ff). Only by pursuing love can the church be biblically sound, edified, and unified.

Love puts souls first. Paul emphasizes this in chapters 8 and following. In 8:9, he says, don’t be a stumbling block to others. That’s putting people before ourselves. In 9:19, Paul made himself a slave, not taking full advantage of his liberties, in order to win some. Three verses later in 9:22, he says he became all thing to all men to save some. And Paul’s message of buffeting his own body and disciplining himself in order to be saved illustrates his attitude of love for others. He puts others first, ahead of legitimate Christian liberties, that he might win the imperishable crown, see v. 23ff. In chapter 10:24, Paul says to let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. In 10:31, he says, whether you eat or drink, do it to the glory of God. For God to be glorified we must put souls first, our personal liberties are secondary. In verse 33, he says to seek therefore the profit of many, so that they may be saved. Ch. 11:17, says what they were doing was not loving the church and fellow Christians, but they came together not for the better but for the worse. In chapter 12:25, tells us to have the same care for one another. And then chapter 13 he instructs that the better way is to love, love, love. Ch. 14 begins with the admonition to “pursue love”. Love is the answer to the problems that arise among people. Love.

If the Corinthians will heed Paul’s instruction, then the errors of chap. 14 where the assembly is thrown into turmoil will be remedied.

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1 reply

  1. Thanks for the hard study you put into this. I am edified and always look forward to seeing new posts on this blog.


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