Have you ever seen a Biblical sandwich? You probably have if you’ve studied the Word of God for a number of years. But you may not have noticed it because it isn’t mentioned as such in Scripture. In this article you can order up a 1 Corinthians 12-14 sandwich and sink your teeth into this divine deli delight. Actually, it may be quite a mouthful requiring some serious chewing, and some of it may be hard to swallow. Yet, in due time, your attentive spirit will say as did Jeremiah, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16 KJV). The First Slice: Gifts Given First Corinthians 12 outlines the different gifts God has set in the Church: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, diversity of tongues (12:28), as well as the words of wisdom and knowledge, faith, prophecy, discerning of spirits and interpretation of tongues (12:8-10). Each gift is a manifestation of the Spirit, given to each Christian for the profit of all (12:7). It is not given for show or for attention to self, but for growth, encouragement and help.
The Second Slice: Gifts Used
First Corinthians 14 outlines definite instructions for the use of some of the specific gifts outlined in chapter 12. Most are to be used for the building up, exhortation, and comfort of the Church, while others may be for the edification of the user. In the proper use of those that are more public, the person exercising them will also be blessed (Lk. 24:32). This is in keeping with the Lord’s words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). While chapter 14 does not give instructions as to the use of every gift, the general instruction is that “all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
First Corinthians 13 is between the two gift chapters; it is the filling between the two slices of bread – between one of gifts given and the other of gifts used. It is the filling of profitability, for the Church and for those receiving and using their gift.
Note again that 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 (the “bread” chapters of this biblical sandwich), indicate that the gifts given by the Lord are generally for the building up of the Church. Yet they also suggest a blessing for those who have and use their gifts appropriately. This is especially emphasized in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3: “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. 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. 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 profits me nothing.”
The Meat: Divine Love
Did you notice how often the word “I” is used by Paul? Eight times, plus one “me”! He makes this portion sound very personal doesn’t he? Especially that last phrase, “It profits me nothing.” Get your teeth into that one! Here is the meat of the sandwich as it appears in this “love chapter.” There can be no profit to anyone, even to oneself, in the use of the gifts given unless divine love is active in and through the exercise of the gifts.
Any use of the gifts (apostolic authority, prophetic revelation, teaching, miraculous deeds, healings, helps, and the others listed in chapter 12), if not done through the power of God’s divine love, becomes unprofitable both to the Church, and to the one exercising the gift. Anyone acting outside the power of divine love will miss out on that precious commendation of our Lord Jesus, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21). About those gifts being used without the working of God’s love, Paul said, “It profits me nothing!”
Paul was a man who could count on a reward for his service done in the power and attitude of divine love. He had tender feelings towards the saints of God and acted as a nurse to them (1 Th. 2:7). In love he suffered greatly in serving the Lord, the Church and the Gospel (2 Cor. 11:23-29). Next to the Lord, he may have been the closest to exemplifying the demonstration of love described in the “love chapter” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Paul could claim the profit of having properly used the gifts given him. Recognizing that it was divine love which drove his service, he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Christians should not seek to serve the Lord for any personal profit. To do so would immediately forfeit any reward because the service would be for a selfish motive rather than for a godly one. Those serving the Lord and using a divinely-given gift outside the attitude of divine love will suffer loss. When their works are made manifest at the judgment seat of Christ, any works of “wood, hay, stubble” (those done in the flesh rather than by the power of divine love) will be burned (1 Cor. 3:12-15). There is certainly no profit in this.
These verses in 1 Corinthians 13 are the meat in God’s love sandwich on how to use the gifts He has given to the Church. We should pray that the Lord would show us the spiritual gifts we have received. They are listed in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. Then we should use them appropriately, in accordance with the measuring stick of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.
By Hank Blok
“You will not find a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
It gives us a display of love, not a definition.”
— J. Vernon McGee
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org