1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…
31 … and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
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. 1 Cor. 12:1-13:1
Have you ever noticed how each member of our physical bodies fits into the body? Each part is so useful in its proper place and this fitting usefulness of each part perfects the body.
And you probably have noted also that the reason these parts work together in such perfect harmony is because they love one another. There is no doubt about it… the body loves itself!!
Finally, it most certainly will not have escaped your attention that no member of the body can do anything without the body, i.e. outside the body. Each member is dependent on the body. In the final analysis, it is clear that the body works in perfect unity!
It is even so with the Body of Christ. Every member, put and working in their proper place, perfects the Body of Christ, His church. When each member of the Body is working out their gift in their proper place and in perfection, the church is edified and it is perfected more and more.
When it comes to gifts of the Holy Spirit, I know of dear brethren who fit in their place so well that, when they are ministering, you can feel the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit at work. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit and it is being put to good use.
Now, this is good and extremely needful in the Body of Christ. It is important that all the gifts that Christ has given the church work in perfection in order that the Body may be built up and perfected. What could be better than this?
But the Apostle Paul shows us “a more excellent way”! In other words, important as it is to have all these gifts working perfectly in the church, yet the more excellent way for them to work is when they are carried out in love.
Why is that so? It is because, although the gifts may be administered perfectly in the church, yet it is love that bonds them together. The body is all about unity. So is the church. And where there is no love there is no unity.
It says in Colossians 3:14:
“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
This scripture tells us that if there is no love, God’s desired result for His church, i.e. perfection, will not be achieved. We could have the faith to raise the dead, but faith cannot perfect the Body (1 Cor. 13:2) simply because faith is not the bond of perfection.
The gift comes from God, and it is perfect. But the gift in itself does not perfect the Body. What perfects the Body is love.
Someone said that when we crucify the flesh we become dead as a nail. He said we become like a corpse in the morgue. But that is hardly the Bible’s description of the believer’s state. The Bible says that when we die to the flesh, we become living stones (1 Pet. 2:5)!
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
The church cannot be built up by dead stones – however ‘holy’! The church is built with living “stones”, living souls. Love cannot reside in a dead “stone”. But it can be found in a living one.
That is why the Bible always comes round to us, to the way we live. Holiness is more about how we carry on with our lives, than anything else. The bottom line with God’s Word is that it always confronts us. It desires to work in us so that our hearts and lives may conform to God’s will.
We should be thankful to God for the great ministries that He has given the church. But we cannot rest in these. We must rest in the “more excellent way”, which is love.
There are many men of God, great and small, who exercise the gifts of the Spirit perfectly well. But they all – we all – ought to learn that that line of operation alone will not perfect the church. Only love can perfect the church.
The Corinthian church is an example in perspective. This church had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in their midst. But they lacked in love and the result was that, in spite of all the gifts they had, the Corinthian church was breaking apart. There was no unity, no cohesion. They had many gifts in operation, but there was no spiritual growth, no step towards perfection. How so contradictory!!
We can see even in Paul’s description of how they ate the Lord’s supper that the Corinthian church lacked in love (1 Cor. 11:20-22). That particular account tells us that some brethren came to show off their expensive food and to oppress those who had nothing in their midst! This is completely against the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul told them, “If you want to eat your expensive food alone, please do it in the privacy of your own homes.”
The church is all about love. Love is the more excellent way. Love is the bond of perfectness.
[Below: Even the ministry of witnessing must be driven by Christ’s love; how much more the greater ministries?]