Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 12:11-13:13
1 Corinthians chapter 12, we have been taking our time going through it. We have been laboriously going through some of these verses, sometimes covering a verse when usually we cover a chapter or two. Sometimes we do that. Wednesday night is through the Bible. We're going verse by verse, chapter by chapter. But because of the nature of some of the material, we wanted to look at in depth and explain the use of spiritual gifts as given here and their place in the church, in the body of Christ. We want you to understand them. We don't think you should be ambiguous about them. We think that you should discover what they are, if God has so graced your life with them, and how they are to operate. And that's what Paul said here. I don't want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning these spiritual gifts. So we thought we would go slowly. And tonight, gladly, we start picking up our pace once again. And we'll just see how far we go. Let's pray.
Father, we need the mind of the Spirit. We need you ultimately to be our teacher. I pray, Father, that as you have given each one here a hunger, a desire to understand, to apply the word of God, the scriptures, to their lives. Thank you for them and thank you for that desire. You said you are a rewarder of those who diligently seek you. And so, Father, show us not only the meaning of these things, but the application, especially our involvement in them. It is so pertinent to our spiritual life. And we pray that going forward you would equip us and show us where we fit in this grand scheme of the church. In Jesus's name, amen.
Well, your body is amazing. The Bible says in Psalm 139 that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Beautiful verse. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Or as one translation says, you are wonderfully complex. And some of you maybe are more complex than others. But you're still fearfully and wonderfully made. And so your body, the human body, that's the analogy that Paul is going to be working off of next here. The human body is an analogy for the spiritual body, the church. So your body, your unit that you call you, you have about 30 trillion cells. 30 trillion cells compose your human entity, your human body. In each of your cells, you have a nucleus. In your nucleus of each cell, you have 23 pairs of chromosomes. You know this. You remember this from grade school going to those science classes.
One pair come from your mom. One pair come from your dad. And in your cells, you have this material that is scrunched up like a ribbon that has densely coated information on it, DNA. That densely coded information on that scrunched up tape inside the nucleus of every cell of your body gives instructions of how that cell is to operate. And it gives instructions of its operation from the moment of conception in the womb to the moment of demise, from birth to death, dictating the complexion of your skin, dictating the color of your hair, how tall you will be, color of your eyes. All that information is in the nucleus of your cell on that DNA.
If you were to take one cell and translate that information, that densely coded information, in the nucleus of just one cell, the equivalent of written book information, one cell would provide a 4,000 volume library. One cell translated into a written code would give you 4,000 volumes. If you were to do that with all 30 trillion cells, how big of a room would you need? Well, you could fill, if you did all 30 trillion cells, took that DNA coded information, translated into written form, you could fill the Grand Canyon. Now, you know the Grand Canyon is a big hole, right? It's between three and 20 miles across and about 200 miles long. You could fill the Grand Canyon 40 times to overflowing with the information decoded in written form in all 30 trillion cells. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are wonderfully complex. Your human body is amazing.
Most of us know that. And most human beings are body aware, body conscious. Maybe a little too much so in our culture. We spend, in America, roughly $33 billion a year on products to make us look good. Don't know how much it helps. But we buy into it, obviously. It's a big industry, $33 billion a year to make our bodies presentable, to make us beautiful, to make our appearance attractive. That's important to us. Our bodies are important to us. That's how we relate to people. Using the analogy of the body, Paul speaks here about the body of Christ. It's one of his favorite analogies, favorite metaphors. The church is more than an organization. Yes, it should be organized. But it's an organism. It's alive. It's living, like a body.
There are other analogies the Bible uses to speak about the church, not just the body of Christ. But all of them are living analogies. The bride of Christ, that's a living entity. A bride is alive. A flock of sheep, there's life there. So all of these analogies speak of the fact that the church far more than an organism, far more than a polished, organizational machine that has checks and balances, it's an organism filled with people who are filled with life. So the Bible talks about our bodies, presenting our bodies, Romans chapter 12, as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God. If every one of us filled with eternal life, everlasting life, all of us who are filled with life are dedicating, giving our bodies over to the Lord, presenting our bodies to the Lord, and finding our place within the church, within that group.
It's powerful. It's a powerful expression of the life of God on the Earth to the individual members of the body of Christ. The problem with Corinth is that the body of Christ in Corinth was giving off a poor reflection of the life of God. They were riddled with all sorts of problems that we have noticed over the past several weeks. All the way from divisions noted in chapters 1, and 2, and 3, divisions, schisms in the body. And so the antidote to that is to realize what we are, who we are, what our identity is. The body of Christ. And what I want to do now, and we've gone through the gifts of the Spirit, is just sort of recap a little bit, then jump into verse 11, we didn't get into that, and then scoot all the way to the end of the chapter.
So to fix the problem at Corinth, this problematic church, this body that was not really reflecting the intention of God, because of the problems that they were dealing with, especially division, the antidote to that is found in chapters 12, 13, and 14. The first principle, we already covered, and we covered it in depth the last few weeks, is to recognize variety, recognize variety. There are diversities of gifts, verse 4. There are differences of operation, verse 5. There are diversities of activities, verse 6. And we've looked at the differences, all the different gifts that are listed, word of wisdom, verse 8, word of knowledge, also verse 8, faith, verse 9, gifts of healings by the same Spirit, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues. God is a God of variety. God loves variety.
Look at all of us, so different from one another. Our fingerprints, our thumb prints are different. Our facial features are different. So that if you have a facial recognition software on your phone, I can't take it and dress up like you and fool it. There's too many subtleties in it. You are unique as an individual, fearfully and wonderfully made. So we recognize variety. Because God loves variety. And He puts variety into the church with different gifts, different operations, different styles of ministry. Aren't you glad there's not one style of ministry? I would say aren't you glad? But a lot of people actually aren't glad. They want everyone in the church to think exactly like they think and every church to be exactly like their church. I don't.
I am so glad that there are different expressions of the Lord in every community. Because there are certain people that just wouldn't fit here. And I'm glad they fit in other churches. I might not fit in those churches, but they do. And they gravitate toward that style. God loves variety. It's pretty evident just looking around at creation. I am glad that the world doesn't all look like Albuquerque, or doesn't all look like California, or doesn't all look like Colorado. But there's variety. You go in one direction and you get desert, and you get mountains, and you get ocean, you get planes. There's variety. So it is with gifts of the Spirit. And even two people with the same gift, it's going to be like a fingerprint, like a thumbprint, like a facial recognition. There's going to be subtleties and differences of operation. That's the beauty of it. Recognize variety.
As a kid, I always looked forward to Christmas Day. And I hoped that I wouldn't get 10 packages of the same thing, 10 packages of t-shirts and underwear. That would be boring for a kid. You want to have variety in the gifts that you receive, especially what you asked for. You hope that that's in there somewhere. And so in the body of Christ, there is variety. So now go all the way down to, we covered verse 10, now verse 11, but one and the same Spirit works all these things. He's controlling the variety, distributing to each one individually as He wills. So who is in control of the distribution of the various gifts? The Holy Spirit is. The body of Christ, Christ is like the head. He's the brain. As we have noted, the Holy Spirit is more or less like the nervous system, conveying the messages from the brain to the different members, different parts, each of us, so that we can operate smoothly together.
So then I should never be part of a group and seek to impose my will on that group, or come to a church or a small group meeting and it's, let me tell you about what I want and my will. We're here to discover God's will and where God placed us and what gifts God has given to us. And so He is the one who gives gifts. One of the great joys and pursuits in the Christian life is to discover the gifts of the Spirit that you have. And it's OK to experiment and try different ones out, different things out, different places out, to see where you fit not only with your temperament and your natural talents and abilities, but your spiritual gifts. It'll be an interesting mix. And it's something only you can do. And because its Spirit given, it's a gift. It's not earned. You're not working for it.
So it's not like well, if I'm really good at the word of wisdom, you think I can work my way up to being a prophet? If I'm really good at the gift of help, so you think I could fill in one Sunday as a Bible teacher? You don't work your way up in the body of Christ in terms of gifts. You really discover how God made you and where God has placed you, and be content to operate as that part of the body that only you can do. I guess I would be sort of like my kneecap saying, if I'm a really good kneecap, could I become a shoulder one day? Could I work my way up? No, it's best for you to just stay a kneecap. Because if we lose the kneecaps, we're going to have problems. So it's the Holy Spirit that works these things, distributing to each one individually as He will. So that's first. We need to recognize variety.
The second, and again, I'm going generally now. We've covered it in depth those first several verses with the gifts. That's sort of a general summation to recognize variety. Second is to emphasize unity. And this balances out that first one. If the first one, recognize variety, is important, and it is, the second point balances out the first. We need to emphasize unity. Because if don't, if we're all about celebrating variety and it's, man, it's about who I am and it's about who God made me, there can be a malfunction in the church. Because you're off just celebrating variety and doing your own thing your own way and not really concerned about everyone else, and the harmony, and the unity. So you are not the body of Christ individually. We are the body of Christ together. Any more than you are not the temple of the Holy Spirit. We've told you before. It's not singular like you're a temple, you're a temple, I'm a temple. No, we all together, when we gather together, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
So we need to emphasize unity. The brain, the head of the body, the head is Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us His orders. If we're not listening to His orders, there's going to be a malfunction. I had a friend I remember when I was growing up. And I remember the day he told us that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And I was young. I didn't quite understand what that meant. And then I had it explained to me that the brain has the cortex of the brain, little hard patches form on the brain and on the spinal cord. And so the message that is normally transmitted from the brain to the parts of the body are unable to make the right connection. And so the body, instead of a smooth motion, will be forced to make jerky motions and uncontrolled motions. And I watched my friend deteriorate over the years as those patches became more pronounced.
So back to the body, our physical body. You've got 30 trillion cells. In your brain, you have 10 billion cells, roughly. Some have a bit more. Some have considerably less, I would imagine. But about 10 billion neurons that are there to basically send messages to all the different parts, so there's a smooth function, ligaments and bones. And when it's all working together, it's awesome to watch. So there's real teamwork involved in a task. So it's dinnertime. And a message from your stomach is sent to your brain that says, I'm hungry, gotta eat. So the brain sends a message to your feet to walk toward the barbecue in the backyard, where they're barbecuing burgers. And as you get closer, your nose is involved. You start smelling the meat and smelling the grilled onions. And your body is cooperating. And then as you get closer, your eye spots the ketchup, and the mustard, and the bun, and the burger. And the brain says to your hand, grab it and grab the mayonnaise and mustard and put it on. And then your mouth cooperates. You open your mouth, and chop and swallow it. And you're fearfully and wonderfully made.
When your body is working together, it's a beautiful thing. Years ago, I'm from California, and we would go to Venice Beach. I don't know if you've ever had the interesting and sometimes awkward experience of walking Venice Beach. But there's all sorts of interesting characters on the beach from bodybuilders and weightlifters to people who do magic tricks. And I remember one evening, there was a guy out there who was a juggler. But he wasn't just juggling like apples or bowling pins. He was juggling chainsaws, live chainsaws. So he'd start up a little chainsaw, start up another one, and start up another one. And he'd toss one in the air and catch the handle and get it. We're all, everybody's standing way back. But it was a marvel. And I thought, if the message doesn't make it at the right time from the brain to the hand, he's in trouble. He's in trouble. If there's a malfunction in this beautiful coordination, there's going to be blood everywhere. There's going to be a news story. There's going to be bad news.
So the church, like the body, only works when we are receiving the messages that come from Christ. And we're discovering our gifts and operating smoothly together. So I should have read the text before I went into that long tirade, verse 12. For as the body is one, there's the unity, the body is one. And it has many members, that's the variety. But all the members of that one body being many are one body, so also is Christ. Just like the human body that has a variety of different units and members, so also is the church, the body of Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact, the body is not one member, but many. Verse 15, if the foot should say, because I am not a hand, I'm not of the body, is it therefore not of the body?
Now, verse 15 introduces us to a third little principle here. So the church at Corinth, not a beautiful body. It's an ugly body. It's a malfunctioning body. And so Paul is saying, we need to recognize variety. We need to emphasize unity. Third, we need to maximize equality. We need to maximize equality. There's no such thing as a part of the body that is worthless or useless. There's no vestigial organs in the body of Christ, no useless organs. If the foot should say, well, because I'm not a hand, I'm not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the ear should say, because I'm not an eye, I am not of the body. Is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now, God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? The body of Christ, the church, malfunctions when we emphasize one gift over another gift.
When we put a certain gift or a certain gifted person on a pedestal, pedestalizing any person is bad for that person and bad for the rest of us. Because you're saying that certain people are more important than other people. Not according to Paul. All parts of the body are necessary. And so what he does is compares two parts of the body that are rarely seen. And he compares those to two parts of the human body that are often seen, more visible. Ones that are often seen are the eye and the hand. Parts that are not seen as regularly, the foot and the ear. But they're important. But what if my foot said, I'm tired. I'm always down here, down low. I want more visibility. I'm always in this dark, dank, wet, smelly place. I'd rather be up high. If I could just be on the forehead, I would be a happy big toe. You'd be an ugly dude. You'd have to call a tow truck I suppose. I know. I know. I nailed it, right? Yeah. Hard to get back into the, hard to get spiritual when you do stupid stuff like that, dad jokes. Hands are visible. You reach out and grab somebody's hand. We shake with our hand. You don't shake feet.
But you don't walk on your hands. You could. Some people can. But it's not normal. And you won't go very far. You wouldn't take a walk on your hands. You might do it as a fun party trick. But you need your feet to give that cadence to the rest of your body. But the feet aren't as visible as the hands. The eyes are more visible than the ears. When I first met my wife, Lynne, her eyes were stunning, still are. I went, wow. I noticed her brow, the gleam in her eye. I didn't walk away from meeting her going, man, she's got great lobes. Her ears are like awesome. Because honestly, ears are never awesome. They're ugly. They're twisted. I mean, right? I mean, do you think ears are beautiful? They're not. But they're formed a certain way to direct sound. So they're not as visibly stunning as the eyes. They're important. So that's the analogy that he's making. And then just to kind of go off the chart and almost be ridiculous, Paul in verse 17 says, if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
Now, you just have to picture that. I mean, because that's just highly impractical. I mean, what would you do with a 5 foot 6 eyeball? You'd roll around and see a lot, but wouldn't be able to hear or speak. You'd have to put a big sunglass on it out in the sun, I guess drive it in your car. I don't know what you do with it. It's ridiculous. So if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the smelling be? But God has set the members each one as He pleased. So he is talking about the equality and the necessity of each part of the body, whether you see it or not. And he's going to go on to say that you have parts of the body that are never seen or rarely seen. And you protect them. You can thank God that your body, your physical body, doesn't act like the Church of Jesus Christ.
What if your lung decided it wanted more exposure, wanted to be seen? I'm tired of being unto the shirts, and blouses, and under the skin. And I'm important. Yeah, you're so important, we don't want you out and about. You've got to stay tucked in there, in a bacteria free environment, breathing away. But so many times, you'll have people just trying to leave their giftedness, leave their calling, leave the importance, because they think wrongly that I am not as important as somebody else. And we can give them the disservice by putting certain ones on pedestals and saying, well, we really esteem those over the rest of the body. Paul says you can't do that. You shouldn't do that. You ought not to do that. Maximize equality. Verse 21, and the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you nor again, a head to the feet, I have no need of you.
So that's another principle. We need to minimize self sufficiency. Nobody can say, I don't need anybody else. I don't need to go to church. And I've heard people say that. I don't need to go to church. I don't need to go to a place and be around people. I can watch it now on my phone, or on my computer, or on television. I can get the information. Yes, you can get the information. But you won't nearly get the amount of transformation that you get by the accountability of being with other believers. By the way, for you to say I don't need church is a lie. It's a lie. God created us not to be independent, but to be interdependent. We need each other. We do. And it's not until you have real life-giving relationships within the community of the body of Christ that you really understand that. That's why we tell people get involved in a connect group. Don't just come to listen and gather information. But now, now spread the inspiration, and see the transformation that comes from those kind of relationships.
So the eye can't say to the hand, I don't have any need of you. Nor can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you. I just want to say, especially to the American church, I realize that these studies go around the world. But there is a problem in the American church. And listen, I'm an American. I love America. America. Yeah, I do. But one of the hallmarks of America is self-sufficiency, don't need anyone. We put on a pedestal the rugged individualism of the pioneer who goes it alone and and forges his way and doesn't need anybody else, doesn't rely, self-reliant. But God created us to be interlocking and interdependent on other people. The body of Christ ought not to function like any other institution, especially the government, which is one of the worst forms of malfunction on the planet, any government is, any form of human government is. So we need each other, the point, we need each other. So verse 22, no, much rather those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
Now, think about that. Your hand is important. But you can afford losing a hand. I don't suggest you try. But you can survive. You can't survive without a liver. You can't survive without a heart or a brain. You can survive without some of your intestine, but certainly not your whole alimentary canal. So you don't see them. But you need them. You need your pituitary. You probably didn't go through the day at all thinking about your pituitary gland today. You did if recently you've been diagnosed with a disease that affects the pituitary gland. But see, that's the point. There are so many parts of the body that are vital and necessary. And you really don't know or think about them until one malfunctions. So it is in the church. If there's malfunction and then all of the focus and all the attention goes to that one little member that is creating the difficulty, well, now you have to address that.
You have to attend to that. You have to get that fixed. You have to go through radiation therapy, or physical therapy, or surgery, whatever it might take to address the issue. But on a normal day, you shouldn't have to think about your pituitary or your lungs. It's just automatic, functioning away, creating chemicals, exchanging synapses, et cetera. Your body should just function. But those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. Sometimes those gifts and those gifted people that you see on the platform and we think oh, that person is so important. When you get to heaven, you're going to see who really is important. You're going to see people that maybe you saw in church, but you wonder why are they in the front row? Oh, they were the prayer warriors. They were the reason that the church had any success at all.
Well, where's Pastor Skip? Oh, he's here. He made it. He's in the back row. And I'm not just saying that to be like in self humility. I really think that sometimes God places people in the church in places of visibility, because He knows we need church more. See, I come to church. I'm at church all the time. I listen to the message on the weekend three times, used to be four times. We had four services pre-covid, and Wednesday nights. So I'm always in the Word. And I'm learning and speaking and thus listening to the message. I think God knows that I need to be in church that much. It's like when Jesus spoke at the Sea of Galilee. He said to Peter, Peter, launch out from the shore. I need to use your boat here to speak to the crowd. So Peter did that and probably was there with Jesus. Maybe even felt like, man, I'm special. I'm holding the boat for Jesus.
People are going to look out here in this little cove at the Sea of Galilee. They're going to see Jesus and Peter together. Because I'm Peter. And I'm important. And I'm holding the boat. Well, maybe Jesus knows, Peter, you need to hear this message. That's why you're so close to Him holding the boat. You need this more than anybody else. And I think the Lord knows I need to be around this stuff maybe more than the average bear. Because He knows me. So those members that seem to be unnecessary, yet are vital are necessary. And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor. And our unpresentable parts have greater modesty. But our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body having given greater honor to that part which lacks it. Certain parts of our bodies need to be made presentable.
And so we select clothing that will make us more presentable. We want to wear certain things to cover up love handles, or bulges here, right? I mean, we're presenting. We're clothing. We're covering ourselves up to make ourselves presentable. Verse 25, that there should be no division or schism in the body. But that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. It's that way in your physical body. If you get hurt, your body compensates for the hurt. So if you're swinging a hammer and you miss the nail and you hit your thumb hard, full swing with the hammer, where do you hurt? Everywhere. It's not like you go, oh my, my thumb hurts right now. There's a reaction. You writhe. Your face contorts, like that slow motion cartoon. And if you stub your toe, your whole body is impaired. And you are compensating for the problem.
So in the church, if one member suffers, all the members suffer. We are only as healthy as the health of each member together, as the cooperation of each member getting the signals from the mind of Christ and being obedient to that. We're only as strong as that. We are also as weak as people who are not involved, not plugged in, not using their gifts, not listening to the Holy Spirit. And so we might limp. And the whole body is affected. If one member suffers, we all suffer. If one member is honored, we are all honored. And we rejoice. Now, you are the body of Christ and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; after that, miracles; gifts of healings; helps; administration; varieties of tongue. Interesting list. Because first, what Paul puts first is not what some of us might put first. We might say, first of all, miracles and healing. That's way down the list for Paul. It's the apostles, those church planters who go out, and then those teachers who bring maturity to the body of Christ, and then way below that healings, administration, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles?
Now, these are rhetorical questions. Are all apostles? Is everyone here an apostle? No. Are all prophets? No. Are all teachers? No. Are all workers of miracles? Nope. Do all have gifts of healings? Nope. Do all speak with tongues? The context is in the congregation. Nope. Do all interpret? Of course not. But earnestly desire the best gifts and I will show you a more excellent way. So it's not about superiority. And it's not about inferiority. It's about variety. And it's about unity. And it's about equality. It's about finding our part and doing our part, being part of the church, the body of Christ. Now, I love how it closes. He said, but earnestly desire the best gifts. Which brings up a question. OK, which gifts are the best gifts? My answer is it all depends. It all depends what work needs to be done. Certainly the best gifts you could have are the ones that God has ordained that you have. The best gift for you isn't the gift that I have. The best gift for me isn't the gift that you have. It's the gift, or the gift mix, and variety of expression and administration, just for me, just for you.
So earnestly desire the best gifts. That's like saying earnestly desire the best tool. If you were to say, Skip, which tool in your toolbox in your garage is the best tool? I would say, it depends what you want to do. Well, I need a saw. What's your best saw? Again, it depends what you want to cut. If you're trying to cut a pipe, I'm not going to give you my skill saw. I'm not going to give you a tree saw. I'm going to give you a hacksaw. But if you want to cut holes in wood, I wouldn't give you a hacksaw. I wouldn't give you a skill saw. I'd give you a jigsaw. It all depends on what work needs to be done. What is the best gift depends on what God needs to do. Then He gets the people with those gifts and applies that to that need. And it gets done. That's how the body works. That's how the church is to work. Earnestly desire the best gifts and yet, I will show you a more excellent way.
Now, right in the middle, as we've noted before, chapter 12 and chapter 14 is about the use of gifts in the church, and in this case, the abuse of gifts in the Corinthian church. Sandwiched in between these two chapters about gifts of the Spirit is chapter 13, which is about something more important than even gifts. And that is love or fruit. So in chapter 13 verse 1, though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have not love, I am become a sounding brass or a clanging symbol. One of the things you need to know to make sense out of this verse and really this chapter, but especially this verse, is the kind of worship that was going on in the pagan temples in Corinth. In Corinth, in the whole Greco-Roman world, the temples were filled with worshippers that would drink alcohol, come in, and work themselves into a frenzy, sort of a semi-conscious state, and start speaking with ecstatic speech, kind of wild, crazy, ecstatic speech, whatever the mine came up with. Because they believed that such speech in that semi-conscious state was the most effective way to communicate with the God or goddess that was being worshipped in that temple.
Some of that ideology and practice had spilled out into the Corinthian church. That's why chapters 12 and 14 are all about how to do it right and what not to do, what they've been doing wrong. So though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, so we talked a little bit about the gift of tongues last time and what its purpose was. But if I could speak with both the tongues of men and of angels, but I have not love, then I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, though I have all faith. I've never met a person that had all of those things. But let's say you could and you did. So that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. The pathway of love is far more important than the pathway of power. The gauge of true spirituality is never the gifts of the Spirit. The true gauge of spirituality is the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, gentleness. Jesus spoke about true prophets and false prophets. You will know them, he said, by their fruit. Not you will know them by their power or you will know them by their gifts. You will know them by their fruit. So first on the list is love as being preeminent. Dwight L. Moody put it this way. A person can be a good doctor without loving his or her patients. He or she can be a good lawyer without loving his or her clients. You can be a good geologist without loving rocks or science. But you cannot be a good Christian without love. Love is preeminent. By this shall all men know you're my disciples, by the love you have one for another. John in 1 John chapter 3, this is how we know we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren.
Very next chapter, God is love. And he circles through that a few times. So I can have all these gifts. But if I have not love, what good is it? It'd be like a Christmas tree. When you look at a Christmas tree, it looks beautiful if it's decorated, it's got lights on, it's got tinsel on, it's got gifts under it. People love to look at a Christmas tree. But you know that Christmas tree, as beautiful as it might appear with its gifts, and lights, and tinsel, might be better than a doornail? You go up to it and touch it. And the little leaf crumble, fall off. So they give it to you. It's spray painted green. But it's dead. There's no life to it. Some Christians are like Christmas trees, glitter, and tinsel, and gifts, but no life. And you know there's life when there's fruit. That's the real evidence.
So you can have gifts that he mentions, that he enumerates, that we explained in chapter 12. But if you don't have love, that preeminent fruit of the Spirit, he said you're nothing. It's nothing. And then he describes it. Verse four, love suffers long. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil. We could spend a week on each of those little phrases. Love suffers long, long suffering, Makrothumia in Greek. It's somebody who has a long fuse, somebody who puts up with stuff again, and again, and again, and again, somebody who just hangs in there, and hangs in there, and is very patient, long suffering. You forgive a person once. They do it again. You forgive them again. They do it again.
Now, in America, we're so used to baseball, we think, OK, you've done it three times. Three strikes, dude, you're out. Peter was sort of this way with Jesus. He said, how many times should I forgive my brother if he does the same thing? And then he was really generous. You know, he's far above our three. Seven times? Thinking that Jesus would go, Peter, that's so generous and magnanimous of you. Jesus said, Peter, 70 times 7, figuring you put up with something after several times, you'll lose count. But that's love. Love bears up. Love puts up. Love doesn't call it quits. It suffers long, is kind, winsome, warm, welcoming. Love doesn't envy. Love doesn't parade itself, is not puffed up. Doesn't make it all about me. Doesn't behave rudely. Doesn't seek its own. Does not provoke. Does not rejoice in iniquity. Rejoices in the truth. Bears all things. Believes all things. Hopes all things. Endures all things. Love never fails. This part of Paul's epistle is so rich and so sublime.
It's almost like we should just let it soak in without much commentary. It's just so good. But wouldn't you agree in what we just read, in this description of love, that this sounds exactly like the character of God? God is love. 1 John 4:08, God is love. This is a perfect description of God. In fact, this is a perfect description of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus suffers long and is kind. Jesus does not envy. He doesn't parade himself. He's not puffed up. He doesn't behave rudely. He doesn't seek his own. He's not provoked. He thinks no evil. He does not rejoice in iniquity. But Jesus rejoices in truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails. It's a perfect picture of Jesus.
Now, here's a little test for you. Insert your name. See how far you can get down the list without throwing up. I mean, it gets ridiculous after a while. I'll try it. Skip suffers long and is kind. Skip does not envy. He does not parade himself. He's not puffed up. He doesn't behave rudely. You haven't seen me drive. He doesn't seek his own. So often I do. He's not provoked. Too often I am. He thinks no evil. I haven't had a day where that has happened. And then you get down to verse 8, Skip never fails. You're laughing. But put your name there. Doesn't work with us. You put Jesus's name there, it flows, man, perfectly. So now we know by doing that little taste test, that little comparison, how far we have to grow to be Christ-like and how much work He has yet to do on us. But verse 8, whether there are prophecies, they will fail. Whether there are tongues, they will cease. Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part. We prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
We spoke several weeks ago when we began our study in chapter 12, we made note of this. We went ahead and looked at this. And we explained that there are a group of Christians in the church, church generally, who are cessationists. They don't believe in the perpetuity of gifts. They don't believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today. They believe they passed away with the early church. And they will often cite this verse and interpret this verse to mean that which is perfect means when the scripture has finally been all written, then we don't need to rely on that little Band-Aid approach of spiritual gifts. Now that we have the Bible, the full revelation of God, that is a reference to that which is perfect. And I mentioned that I totally disagree with that. Because in the Greek, it's just when the perfect has come or when perfection comes, or as Ryrie translates it, who is a conservative Dallas grad scholar, when He who is perfect comes.
It's not a reference to the coming of the full revelation of New Testament scripture. It's a prediction of the coming, the second coming of Jesus Christ. And how do I know this? Well, I know this for a couple of reasons. The prophecy in the book of Joel quoted by Peter in Acts chapter 2, this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel who said in the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, that's a gift of prophecy. And then he says, the sun will go dark. The moon will turn to blood before that great and terrible day of the Lord. Those are tribulation signs and wonders. That's the last days, the last of the last days. So it shows me that the gift of prophecy will be in operation all the way up until that time. Also, I know that it is not referring to the scripture. But it's to Jesus coming. Because in verse 12 he says, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
When are we going to see God face to face? Not when we have the Bible fully written, which is now. We don't see His face. We see His face when He comes, when we are in His presence. When Jesus comes back, we see Him face to face. So it can't refer to when we have the full revelation of New Testament writ, the Holy scripture intact. Now we don't need to use the spiritual gifts. That was only for the infant church. It is not a reference to that. It is a reference to the second coming of Christ, when He who is perfect, when the perfect comes, then that which is in part will be done away. We don't need any of the spiritual gifts in the presence of God. We don't need a word of wisdom, or a word of knowledge, or gift of prophecy, or teaching, or anything else. We're face to face.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. When we grow, when we grow up, when we mature, our values change. When you grow older, when you grow more mature, what you thought was important at one time is no longer important. It was important at a certain age to look a certain way, and to be cool, right? But now you look at the old pictures of yourself. And you're embarrassed. You go, I can't believe I wore that haircut. That is so geeky. Yeah, but then it was cool. And it was important to you that it was cool and that you were perceived as cool. That's childish. Kids, children are all about themselves, and selfishness, and self-love. And as we mature, we start understanding true love, sacrificial love. It's one of the things that marks maturity from childhood. Children are all about my bottle, my toys, my stuff. But when you grow, real love comes into play. You adjust to sacrifice for other people to bless other people.
So when I become mature, become a man, I put away childish things. And this is especially germane to the church at Corinth. Because they were all about exercising spiritual gifts to get noticed. So they would speak in an ecstatic utterance publicly in the church, so that people would look at them, or give a word. And it was confusion. It was a melee of bedlam and confusion in the public assembly. And I believe Paul the apostle would agree with whoever came up with this great statement. It's not how high you jump. It's how straight you walk when you hit the ground. And some people are about jumping high in worship. But they don't walk it. They don't live it when they hit the ground. So it's not about how high you jump. It's about how straight you walk when you hit the ground. And part of maturity is to sacrifice and show real love in the body of Christ for others.
That's the context of all this, the ability to truly love. For now we see in a mirror dimly and then face to face, just you should know that Corinth was famous for its manufacture of mirrors. In antiquity, mirrors were not what we have today. The amount of silver that we were able to put into glass to make the first modern mirror vastly different from polished metal in antiquity. So it worked. You could see a reflection. But it was a dim reflection. It wasn't an accurate reflection. There were lots of flaws. So we are seeing the image of God reflected in the church dimly. And in the Corinthian case, really dimly. It wasn't a really strong, accurate, beautiful reflection. One day we'll see Him up close face to face, eye to eye. Now I know in part, but then I will know just as I am known, now abide faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.
Now, in that verse, that happens to be a nutshell version of the Christian life, of your life, the Christian life, faith, hope, and love. It's what we call the irreducible minimum. It's boiling things down to its irreducible minimum. You can't go any less than those three components. Faith, it's what began your Christian life. You entered a relationship with God by faith. Hope is what carries you on in your earthly journey toward heaven. But love is the only thing that is eternal. Once you get to heaven, you won't need to live by faith. Because you'll be in His presence. You won't need to have hope. Because all your hopes will be realized in His presence. But love that begins now will be perfected in heaven. So there abides three, faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these, because it is eternal, because it reflects the nature and character of God who is love, the greatest of these is love. So with that, I've got a little bit over time. I apologize for that. But look, we covered even chapter 13.
Father, thank you for the ability to go verse by verse, chapter by chapter, thought by thought, to uncover these gems as given to us by the apostle Paul. Now, now comes the time where we put these things into practice, discovering who we are, what gifts we have, how they're to be operated, and how we can love, and edify, and bless other people. Not living as children, but living as mature adults, sons and daughters of God, who express not love for self as much as love for others. May we be those who have in our lives the reflection brighter and brighter, crisper and clearer than ever before. The fact that we're still here shows that you have a lot of work still to do. So do your work, Lord. In Jesus's name.