1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3
It is incredible, don’t you think, that someone can speak with the tongues of men and angels and yet be of no consequence before God. Or that they can have the gift of prophecy and an understanding of all the heavenly mysteries and be considered nothing.
These are almost unbelievable things to hear. Verse 3 is even more astonishing:
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
How can one bestow all his goods to feed the poor, or give their body to be burned and still profit nothing from it?
How can such things be possible?
They call it the litmus test. Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of the litmus test as “something (such as an opinion about a political or moral issue) that is used to make a judgment about whether someone or something is acceptable.”
They further describe it as “a test in which a single factor (as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive.”
The litmus test of our faith therefore is our life. It is the life we live. Our faith and the grace of God that goes with it are measured by the life – and love – of Christ in us. This talks of the Christ-like nature. What matters with God is the nature of Christ in us.
But this requires us to surrender our old, carnal nature.
Did you know that the Galatian church was so rich in faith that they had miracles occurring in their midst (Gal. 3:5)? Great faith was at work in that church.
And yet Paul told them they were “bewitched”! (v.1)
Now, that sounds like a contradiction. God’s people bewitched?
Oh, yes. These people were bewitched because they had the Holy Spirit working overtime in their midst to the extent of doing miracles – and yet they would not change! Those miracles and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst did not profit them in the least.
With the gospel, if we are not changing into the character of Christ, whatever we are doing is of no profit to us. No change, no deal.
It is good to have the Holy Spirit upon us; but it is infinitely better to allow Him to work in us. This is where He deals with the old man of the flesh. This is where He works to bring a mortification, or death to our earthly, carnal nature:
“5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:5-8).
The Galatians had faith to perform miracles but not faith to change!
This is where God has a problem with us. We cheer the great faith and the miracles, but at the same time deny the Holy Spirit a foothold to work in us, to break us. But that is exactly the price we need to pay.
Whatever does not lead us to take the strait and narrow road should be viewed with great suspicion. Whatever gospel does not require you to take up your cross and follow Christ cannot be of God. That is the simplicity of the gospel.
It is in following Christ through taking up our cross that we are transformed. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us He teaches us to deny self and to take up our cross and follow Christ.
When we are living this kind of life, we can show forth the love and life of Christ.At the end of the day, the test of our faith is our readiness to deny ourself, take up our cross and follow Christ.
[Below: The grace that is needed within the church can only come about as a result of the crucifixion of the flesh]