15 September 2010

1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13

"Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part." (13:8-9)


The Corinthian church community was a mixed bag. Some found it really hard to let go of their supposed high social status and tried to import those ideas into the new Christian fellowship. Others discovered spectacular and sometimes noisy "gifts of the Spirit" (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11) and in the way they used those gifts they found, or invented, their own version of high status. The later verses of this chapter talk about 'knowledge' - one of the special gifts of the Spirit. Paul, the writer of this letter, was concerned at the way some of the Corinthians were priding themselves on their greater (secret) knowledge. He pointed out that all our knowledge is provisional.

For instance... here is a newcomer in our fellowship (or into our circle of friends). Here is someone who has experienced a call to preach, or to fill some representative role in church life. We decide, perhaps on the basis of their dress, or their appearance, their speech or their manner, whether or not they are OK. Are we relying upon some supposed 'knowledge', insight, or intuition? Perhaps we should remember that we know only in part.

Paul's response to this uncomfortable situation in Corinth is to declare the supremacy of love as being the greatest of the Spirit's gifts. While the Corinthians may pursue others, the one they should covet most is love.

This remarkable chapter seems to be inextricably linked with weddings. But surely it establishes a model for all human relationships, whether they are intimate (as in marriage) or more distant (as in fellow citizens).

To Ponder

How do you tend to 'sum up' other people?

How does your personal summing up affect the way you deal with people?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 60s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.