Spiritual Gifts and Unspiritual Men

from Blog and Mablog by 

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #153

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31).

Paul is now moving into his very famous chapter on love, and the last verse of chapter 12 is actually the first verse of chapter 13.

In order to understand his argument here, and the juxtaposition he sets up, we have to understand that gifts of the Spirit are good, if they are used rightly, and the fruit of the Spirit is good, by definition. If the Holy Spirit has given someone the gift of teaching, he has that gift on days he is walking with God and on days when he is not. When someone is exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, by definition he is doing right. Teaching, administration, encouragement, etc. can all happen when the practitioner is not right with God. But love, joy and peace cannot.

In this verse, Paul urges the Corinthians to desire the “best gifts,” which is referring to the gifts he has been discussing in the previous chapter. But he then relativizes that whole discussion by introducing them to a “more excellent way.”

Remember that Paul began this letter by saying that the Corinthians had all the spiritual gifts; they were not lacking in any (1 Cor. 1:7). At the same time, he could not address them as spiritual men, but rather as carnal, as babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1). Put another way, spiritual gifts may be given to unspiritual men—there is tension in that, but no logical contradiction. It is not right, but it is not a round square either. But spiritual fruit cannot be given to men without making them spiritual men.

And so it is a more excellent way. Jesus taught us that love would be the “tell,” the way nonbelievers would be able to see that we do in fact belong to Christ (John 13:35).

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