1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 90
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|What is it? First Corinthians 13 focuses on it. It’s love, but not this humanistic, fluffy kind of love. It’s God’s love actually produced in and through us by the means of His Holy Spirit who now lives in us.|
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Absolute Proof of a Surrendered Life – Part 2
Would you turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13 and let’s read verses 1, 2 and 3. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
It’s interesting to me as I study Corinthians how many ways we look outside of Christ to satisfy ourselves spiritually. Do you realize the fleshly means that we go to to try to accomplish spiritual ends? When we’re not surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, when we’re not being filled or controlled by His Spirit, we’re going to seek to satisfy the flesh. It’s either over religious flesh or rebellious flesh. There’s only two masters. One is God and one is us, our flesh, our own selves. When we’re not living surrendered to Him, even though it’s in a Christian setting, we’ll still seek to satisfy spiritual ends with fleshly means. Although Scripture says that flesh is never satisfied, it demands, however, to be satisfied with emotional experiences, with those things that are sensual that satisfy it.
I saw a bumper sticker not long ago that said, “If it feels good, do it.” That’s exactly the way it is in our Christian walk. We want to disassociate, now, the worldly, pagan way of living. Come on over to Christianity. That’s exactly the way it is when we’re not living surrendered to Christ. We’re going to look for what feels good. We’re going to look for what we can experience. We’re going to try to satisfy a spiritual need by fleshly, sensual, and emotional means.
Corinth was the epitome of this futile attempt to satisfy their spiritual hunger with fleshly means. They teach us a lot. They show us that we can have all kinds of experiences. There are a lot of things we can do. There’s a lot of things that we can do to make ourselves look spiritual, even to some people super spiritual. But God has a foolproof way of showing us whether it’s of Him or whether it’s of our flesh.
I want to tell you something, folks. We live in the twentieth century. We’ve learned how to play the game of church really well. We know how to sugarcoat it. We know how to make everybody think one thing when it’s really a veneer that we put up. God has a foolproof way of determining what’s of Him and what is not. By the way, it’s not perfect church attendance as some people would tell you. That doesn’t prove anything. There are many people who come to church every Sunday who won’t give Him the time of day. It doesn’t prove anything. It’s not how many people you witness to, although some people would have us believe that. Many people have witnessed in the flesh, folks. They’re not witnessing according to the Spirit of God. It’s not how involved we get at church. It’s not how big our ministry becomes. It’s something that God and God alone can produce. It’s something we cannot fake. It cannot be manipulated, duplicated in any way.
What is it? First Corinthians 13 focuses on it. It’s love, but not this humanistic, fluffy kind of love. It’s God’s love actually produced in and through us by the means of His Holy Spirit who now lives in us. Why would it be anything else? Christ lives His life through us. It’s Christ in me and through me. As Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me.” First John 4:16 says that God is love. If God is love and He’s going to be seen in our lives, then that’s the quality that’s going to mark His presence, that’s going to be the fruit of His Spirit. He is love, not our love, His love produced in us. His love is foolproof. You can fake all the gifts. You can fake ministries. You can fake affects. But you cannot fake the fruit that only God’s Spirit can produce in a person’s life.
One of the ways in which the police can tell who did it or who didn’t do it is by fingerprints. Do you know that you and I have fingerprints that are different? That’s amazing to me: As many people as God has created, and yet the unique differences in the fingerprints of each person. The FBI has on file all the fingerprints and when they find a fingerprint they can track it down as to who the individual is. They can find a match for that fingerprint.
Well, God wants His fingerprint on what we do. The fingerprint that is unique only to God is that character of love He produces in our heart. When that’s there, it points to Him. There’s no other person it could point to. It only can point to Him. It is this love that motivates us to live a surrendered life.
I think it would be helpful to make sure we qualify the difference of this love that God produces and the conditional love that our flesh comes up with. There’s a huge difference between the two. In the New Testament there are two words that are used predominantly to describe this love which is only of God. The verb is agapao, and agape is the noun. You’ve heard that term. The verb is found in some secular writings. But the noun is never found in any of the secular writings outside of Scripture.
It’s found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It’s found in 2 Samuel 13:15; it’s found in the Song of Solomon 2:4; it’s found in Jeremiah 2:2. The point being is this, that agape does not have any of its roots in the human languages of the world. A person without Jesus Christ has no clue what this agape love is. They do not understand it. They think it’s this mushy, frilly feeling that you get for somebody. But it’s not a feeling. It’s more than that. It’s a choice. It’s a commitment. It’s really out of the very heart of God.
You know John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That’s the kind of love that it is. No wonder Paul could say in Philippians, “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” And a person could say, “What do you mean?” He said, “Though He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, He emptied Himself, came down and became a bondservant even unto death.” You say, “I’m not God. How can I have that attitude?” That’s right, you’re not God. But God lives in you and His Spirit manifests this kind of selfless love in and through our life. That’s the foolproof test. If that love is there, then a person is living surrendered and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Agape is God’s own love.
Where was it greater manifested than in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross? First John 4:7 says, “all love [and it refers to agape] is of God”. The word “of” is ek, out of God, comes right out of the very resource of who God is. Now, agape, to say it again, doesn’t have any of its origin in man. It has all of it in God. It’s rooted in Him. Agape manifested in a believer is what brings God down and through man to man. In other words, it’s God’s actually loving people through us. It’s not us loving them as much as it’s God manifesting His love through us. It is this love in man, produced by the Holy Spirit, that enables us to love others. It has within it the divine commitment, this is important, to do what is best for the other person no matter what it costs you and no matter what it makes him think about you. You have a desire deep within you. It’s God’s heart that wants you only to do what is spiritually beneficial for the other person. It does not matter what it costs you to do it. It’s that very love that God has manifested to us.
Now, when the believer realizes that this potential is within him and he surrenders to Christ, then God the Holy Spirit produces that love through Him. Let’s just say my coat sleeve is a person without Christ. The Christian life is never you and me trying to live like Jesus. I could say to this coat, “Sleeve, raise yourself up,” and that coat just hangs there like a dummy. “Come on, raise yourself up. Do you hear what I’m telling you? Raise yourself up.” And it just hangs there. It can’t. It just cannot by itself. But I put the coat on and the moment I put the coat on I say to that same sleeve, “Sleeve, raise yourself up.” Wow! What a difference. But we know now it’s not because of the coat. It’s because of the life that is in the coat. God is that life. Christ is that life. Christ is that love produced out of that life. That’s what we’re talking about. If that love is there, the life is there and a person is living surrendered to Jesus Christ no matter how else it looks on the outside. That has got to be there in order to prove that we’re living a surrendered life.
It’s most interesting to me how God actually lives in us. But is it not awesome to you that God lives in you? My clock went off this morning at six and I didn’t feel like God lived in me. Did you feel like God lived in you this morning? I just haven’t felt anything like God lives in me, but the Word of God says He does. Does it not? Does it not say that He comes and lives within us? And then I begin to think of this. It’s like dough and leaven. He doesn’t throw away my personality. First of all, dough and leaven by themselves are not fit for food. But you put the two of them together and one transforms the other. The dough is transformed by the leaven. This is a beautiful point to me.
God didn’t come in to throw my personality away. I’ve got my own personality, and you’ve got yours. God doesn’t throw that personality away. God gets in it and transforms it, infuses Himself into it and then exudes His love through the very individuality He’s already given to you. That is awesome to me. That is the Christian life. The way you see Him is you see His character, and His character is the love His Spirit produces. Agape literally transforms the whole of a person’s life. When a person gets saved he’s a brand new creature. You can’t join a church and get saved. You don’t join Jesus. You’re born from above, and God puts His Spirit in your life and gives you brand new life, His life, and literally transforms you, not from the outside in. No, no. From the inside out. That’s the Christian life. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not me. It’s Christ living in and through me, me yielding but to Him.
Now there are days that I just choose, “God, don’t you call me. I’ll call you.” There are days that are like that. There’s invisible lines drawn before us every day, and we have a thousand choices to make. And God says, “What are you going to do, your way or My way?” Many times I choose my way. Do you know what the first thing is that shuts down in my life when I make those choices? Immediately the love of God disappears. And when the love of God disappears, I can get busier in ministry. I can study more. I do whatever more to make myself appear to be spiritual, but inside it’s betraying me because I am nothing of what I want other people to think that I am. It all comes back to that surrendered yielded heart to the Lord Jesus Christ which is the whole message of 1 Corinthians. I have not seen anything else. You’re attaching yourself to flesh. You’re not willing to attach yourself to Christ. This is the test. This is the one nobody can get around. Is the love there? Is it there? And if it’s not, the rest is nothing more than silly game.
The Corinthians believers had spiritual gifts. Chapter 1 verse 7 says that they lacked no gifts. They had a right doctrine for the most part. Chapter 11 verse 2 tells us that. But there was no love in Corinth. Love was absent. How do we know that? There was division, 1:12 and other places. There was division and strife in that church. If there is division between you and a brother, somebody’s not walking attached to Christ because the flesh divides, the Spirit unites.
So we must look at this carefully. What’s the problem? The Corinthian believers were perfect examples for us to realize how upside down flesh can bring our lives and the devastation it can cause each of us. The fact that they had division and the fact that they had all these things tells us everything about their experiences. It tells us everything about how they pursued gifts. It tells us that there was nothing more than pure unadulterated flesh. You don’t want to go to 1 Corinthians and build your doctrine. You want to go to 1 Corinthians and let it be a mirror to find out whether the Spirit’s ruling your life or the flesh is ruling your life. They are the epitome of flesh ruling someone’s life. If you’ll watch what Paul addresses, you can tell the problems that they were having.
You do know that Paul was like a lawyer. The book of Romans was used in most law schools years ago to teach lawyers how to build a case. Paul was the most unusual lawyer led by the Spirit of God in the New Testament. He’s not like Matthew, not like Mark. He’s not like Luke or John. He’s certainly not like James. He’s not like Peter. He’s different. He builds his case methodically. What a tremendous picture of that Romans is. He’s doing the same thing here, folks. He’s not just bringing these things up off the top of his head. He’s addressing a problem, but doing it in such a skillful, God-ordered way that it will bring them to the conclusion they need to come to.
We do know that they were having trouble with speaking in a tongue, not tongues. That was not their problem. A tongue was their problem, language that was nothing more than a gibberish that nobody could understand. They thought that was a spiritual gift, and God the Holy Spirit actually was in charge of it. They also had a problem with prophesying and to whatever degree they would take that, foretelling or instantaneous revelation or whatever. They distorted it. They chased after the wrong side of that thing. They had a problem with supernatural faith. They wanted to have the kind of faith that could do miracles, even remove mountains. They had trouble with extraordinary deeds. The ordinary was not good enough for them. They wanted to chase after something that would make them stand out to others, as if they had the greater gifts. They not only chased after those things, but the people who had experienced some of these, the people who were doing some of these things, they esteemed them and made them appear to be the most spiritual in the body.
The apostle Paul is addressing that severe problem that flesh causes. He says in 12:31, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts.” He just finished proving there were no greater gifts. My personal understanding of that Scripture is a little different. I don’t throw rocks at anybody who disagrees. But the indicative and the imperative form here are the exact same, so you could translate it one of two ways. The translators chose to translate it in the imperative form in the sense of making it a command, “Desire the greater gifts,” as if there were any. But if you look at it in the indicative, it changes the whole statement. The present indicative would be “You are earnestly desiring the greater gifts, and that’s your problem.” There are no greater gifts. So Paul comes in behind it and says, “Listen, let me show you a better way.”
Man, this is so important for us to grasp. The word “show” is the word that means to point out. It’s used of a teacher who wishes to turn the attention of the group. “I’m trying to show you something. Think with me. Think with me. Let me point this out to you. Let me show you something that you wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t shown you.” He said, “Let me show you a better way.” Actually, I think the King James has the better translation, “a more excellent way,” because it kind of picks it up a little bit, not just a better way, but a more excellent way far beyond just being better. It’s an excellent way.
There are three words used there. One word is used to show the condition of something. One word is used to show that which is so far above average it’s excellent. And the word “way” refers to the manner in which you do something. To put it in my own words here Paul says, “I want to point out to you a more excellent way to live than to go around chasing gifts and experiences and emotional means to satisfy spiritual ends. Let me show you a better way.” By implication that better way is to live attached to the Giver, not the gift. You say, “How do you know that?” Because he’s only going to be talking about the fruit of the Spirit, but you’re not going to see the fruit of the Spirit unless you’re attached to the Giver and surrendered to Him. The fruit of the Spirit is produced when we are filled with the Spirit, controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. So by implication the better way is don’t attach yourself to gifts. Attach yourself to the Giver.
A language without love is an irritating noise
Let’s jump in and see what he tells us about how this love so qualifies everything that we do. No matter what they were dealing with, the love has to be there first or nothing else makes any sense. First of all, Paul tells them that a language without love is nothing more than an irritating noise. He says in verse 1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Paul is modeling the very love he’s talking about. Why? Because he’s not attacking them in their error. Instead he’s setting himself up to be the first to take the test. He’s giving them a test here. He’s saying, “Let me go first. I’m not going to attack you. Let me put myself in this situation. Examine me before you examine you.”
I’ve told you if you’ll pay close attention, each thing he mentions here has to do with the problems they’re having in Corinth. He didn’t just throw these terms out. He’s very precise. And one of the problems, the first one on the list, is speaking in other languages. In chapter 14 he takes this problem head on. He doesn’t do like he does in chapter 13. In 13 he sort of subtly says, “Look at me. Let’s examine me, for instance. I’m not going to examine you. Let’s examine me.” But in chapter 14 he attacks it with aggressiveness. Let me tell you what he does.
In chapter 14 every time he speaks of them he speaks in the singular. You’re speaking in a tongue, singular, every time. But when he refers to himself, he says, “I speak in tongues, plural, languages, plural.” So what he’s doing there is to show them what they were doing, this gibberish that was coming as a result of the Oracles of Delphi 30 miles down the road. This gibberish was what the problem was. Languages is not the problem; gibberish is the problem. They were speaking it and calling it an unknown tongue. He does that in chapter 14. He also aggressively attacks this problem. He says that if believers were all speaking in a tongue that nobody had ever understood, an unbeliever would come in and they would think you were insane. They would think you’re mad. They’d think you’re crazy.
This gibberish was also something that in no way could edify the body. Chapter 12 verse 7 says that all gifts are given, not to edify you, but to edify the body. Not only that, he attacks it in chapter 14 and says that it destroys the whole heartbeat of evangelism. How can you evangelize if people have never heard the language you are speaking? But he’s not doing this in chapter 13. He’s taking a different approach. He’ll do that in chapter 14.
In chapter 13, Paul does not attack them. He puts himself on the spot and instead of examining them he says, “Let’s examine me.” He says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” That’s a hypothetical situation. He says, “Let me just give you a hypothetical situation. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” He uses two examples, one the tongues of men, and two, the tongues of angels. I want you to know that both languages, whether it be of men or of angels, are understandable languages. Find me an angel in scripture that spoke to where we couldn’t understand. God always speaks that we can understand. But, you see, the tongues of men are languages that are naturally understood and learned. But the tongues of angels are supernaturally given. They are given by revelation. In other words, that happened at Pentecost. They spoke and everybody heard in their own language. This is supernatural.
Some say that Paul is saying, “If I speak with eloquence”—by using that term “tongues of angels”—“and have not love.” That possibly is true but to some degree. That’s not what he’s saying. You can’t separate this verse from the context. I wholeheartedly disagree with that thinking. We cannot deny the context, and the tongues that Paul’s dealing with.
Let’s look at the tongues of men, the languages of mankind. We’ve said this before, but there are as many languages of mankind as there are mankind. As a matter of fact, Revelation 7:9 would be a good verse for you to write down. We looked at it in chapter 12, but I want to look at it again to show you that the word “tongue” means language. It is given to peoples and tribes that communicate with one another by these languages. Revelation 7:9 says, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation [here we go] and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” It has to be languages, because he’s already described everything else that could define the people he speaks of.
When Paul refers to tongues of angels, there’s no scriptural phrase that we can go back to, but in the context it would have to mean those tongues given by supernatural means to where you speak a language you have never personally learned but which can be understood and spoken. Paul says, “Let me examine my own life first.” In other words, you’re speaking in a gibberish, a language that cannot be understood; I’m speaking in languages that can be understood. So I’m not going to get on you. Let’s get on me because the rule works both sides.” He said, “Let’s examine me first. Suppose I speak with the languages of men, whatever they are. Let’s go a step further. Suppose I speak with the revealed languages of angels.” Then he comes to his point, “but to not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
I love those two phrases because by using those two phrases he is bringing up an irritating noise. Do you hear what he’s saying? He’s saying, “Hey, a person who doesn’t have the fruit of the Spirit in him, no matter whether he speaks in the tongues of men or tongues of angels, he’s nothing more than an irritating bit of noise. That’s all he is.” He’s willing to be examined by the people so that they can understand, “Hey, if he’s nothing but noise and love is not there when he speaks in an understandable language, how much more so if you speak without love in a language that cannot be understood.”
There was no love in Corinth. If speaking in a language that can be understood without love is nothing more than an irritating noise, then the people of Corinth were nothing more than irritating noise. That’s all they were doing. The words “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” really affect an irritating noise. I want to emphasize irritating. The term noisy is a term denoting loud noise.
We’ve got to get this idea. He said to the Corinthians, “I don’t care if you speak in a tongue that’s understood or if you do what you’re doing. If you have no love, all you are is a bunch of loud, irritating noise.
The word “gong” is the word used for a piece of metal that somebody strikes against. Then he uses almost the exact same phrase. He says “clanging cymbal.” It’s almost as if Paul says, “Let me give you another illustration. This is not good enough. Let me go a step further, a clanging cymbal.” A cymbal is plate of metal kind of hollowed and beveled out. When you struck it, it made a sound that harmonized with nothing. It’s an irritating sound, very irritating. That’s what Paul says we’ve become. That’s a real edifying statement, isn’t it?
I just want to make sure you get the idea of irritating noise. Have you got it? Paul says, “I can stand up and preach in the tongues that men can understand and I can speak to reveal the tongues of the angels but if love is not there, I’m nothing more than that awful clanging sound that irritates everybody, the clanging of a cymbal.” I’ll tell you what. That ought to deflate the Ephesians all of a sudden. “Well, I have the gift of speaking in a tongue.” Paul said, “Big whoopee deal? All you’re doing is making a lot of irritating noise because the very fact you had to brag about having the gift shows that there’s no love in you and respect for others in the body of Christ.” You see, we are only an irritation to others when we speak without the Holy Spirit producing that love that’s within us. Language without love, any language without love is nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Prophecy without love is nothing
The point is so clear that Paul is making to the Corinthians. I don’t see how they could miss it. He doesn’t stop there. He moves to the second thing that they’re dealing with. He says prophecy without love is nothing. There are three definitions of prophecy: foretelling, instantaneous revelations, and to tell forth the Word of God. Anyway you want to take it. He uses himself again. He’s not blasting them right now. He says, “If I have the gift of prophecy,… I am nothing.” He goes from the noisy irritating sound to the fact that he’s nothing.
The word “nothing” in the Greek, in my definition, is a zero. I’m nothing. Flesh always distorts anything that God does. Flesh will take speaking in a known understandable language, distort it to where it’s a language of nothing more than gibberish. But flesh will also take the purity of the prophecy, of telling forth the Word of God, and twist it and turn it around and make it something mystical and magical and even call it a greater gift. Paul’s dealing with that. Paul simply says, “I’m not talking about you. I’m saying if I, the apostle Paul, have the gift of prophecy and do not have love, I am nothing.” Once again he’s putting himself to the test.
Did Paul have the gift of prophecy? What do you mean does he have the gift of telling forth the Word of God? He’s the greatest preacher in the New Testament and, aside from the Lord Jesus, the most intelligent preacher in the New Testament. In fact, he preached at one place and they said, “The gods have come down to us.” And the god they referred to in the pagan culture he was in was the god of Oratory, the one who spoke so well. They said, “We’ve never heard a man preach like this.” Did he have the gift of prophecy?
Paul’s putting all of this in such an absurd way to try to get them think. He says, “Alright, let’s just create a situation. If I have the gift of prophecy.” Go back to 2:1 and let me show you something that was mixed in to Paul’s life that we now know because of chapter 13. It says, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.” That’s a humbling statement there. He could have wiped them out. They would have had to have had a dictionary to understood what he said if he came with that wisdom. He was schooled by Gamaliel. He’s one of the most beautiful people in the New Testament. He said, “I didn’t come that way.” “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” He knew the seriousness of the situation.
Verse 4 goes on, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but [look at this phrase] in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If it was in demonstration of the Spirit, love had to be wrapped all around it because the first thing the Spirit demonstrates is the manifested love of Christ. Paul was mixed with it. That was all in him, so of God. But Paul, the greatest preacher in the New Testament, puts himself up on the test. He’s wanting them to examine themselves. But he says, “I’ll start. I’ll examine me. If prophecy is my gift [and obviously it was], and there’s no love in it, then I am nothing.”
I’ll tell you what that ought to do to the Corinthian mindset of that day. I think I’d be getting the point real quick. Here these people were, “Oh, I’ve got the gift of foretelling the future. I got a word from God about you and if you’re smart, you’ll listen to me.” Paul said, “If love is not present in that, you’re nothing. No matter what you think you have, the love has to be there.” Language without love is a noisy irritating sound, but prophecy without love means the person who says he has it is nothing.
Knowledge without love is nothing
The third thing he mentions here, as he goes to the different areas they’re dealing with there, is “Knowledge without love also is nothing.” He says, “And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge.” The word for “know” here is the word eido, to know intuitively, to divinely perceive something. It’s an inward knowledge God alone can give to a person. It’s a little different from something that is learned. It’s more something that is instantaneously perceived because of God’s working within a person. Unlocking, as the next word says, the mysteries of God.
The word “mysteries,” musterion, in Scripture, and especially in the New Testament, refers to the hidden things that man could never discover. Man does not discover what God has hidden. God reveals it to man, and what God doesn’t reveal remains a mystery to man. Do you see what he’s doing? It’s so funny. He’s creating such an absurd thing they’ve got to look at it. He said, “If I;” this is totally hypothetical. He knew he hadn’t obtained. He hadn’t arrived. He said that in Philippians. But he says, “If I have all, could unlock all the mysteries of God, if I had this ability.”
What’s he dealing with here? There were those in the church of Corinth who projected to others that they had a spiritual hotline to God that nobody else had. By the way, do you know anybody that projects that kind of mindset? It’s kind of like you want to run every time you see them. But he says, “Hypothetically, let me put myself in this absurd situation, then I can unlock all the mysteries of God.” Then to show you how absurd that he’s talking about, he goes on and says, “and all knowledge.” That’s good, Paul. All knowledge? All knowledge, understanding of everything? This is a smart dude. You talk about divine intelligence here if he can unlock all the mysteries of God and has all knowledge.
Let me show you how that was tied into that speaking in a tongue that we’re going to get to in chapter 14. Look over in 14:2. The word “mysteries” is used again. There’s always something eerie about a person who could get into the realm that nobody else could understand. If you’re not discerning, you’ll think that they’re more spiritual than you are. In verse 2 it says, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God.” In other words, he couldn’t be speaking to men, they don’t understand him. God can know their heart, “for no one understands.” Why don’t they understand? Because they’re speaking in a gibberish, in a language nobody can translate, “but in his spirit he speaks [what?] mysteries.”
Oh boy, doesn’t it make you seem spiritual if you can just speak in an unknown tongue and everybody look at you and say, “Golly! I didn’t know you could do that. What else can you do?” That’s the kind of stuff that they were dealing with in Corinth. Paul said, “Hey, alright. They think they’ve got a hotline to God. Let me just put myself in a situation where I have all knowledge and I can unlock any of the mysteries of God.” Somebody had to be in the audience who said, “Wow! Man, that’s what I want in my life.” And the apostle Paul anchors it and says, “but do not have love, I am [what?] nothing.”
Do you realize that people who chase after this stuff will split a church wide open at the drop of a hat and they never think anything about it? Do you realize they’ll walk over people who have other gifts of serving and other things and say, “Oh, that’s the lesser stuff. Let me show you the greater things that God can give to you.” There is no compassion at all, and they call themselves spiritual.
Paul said, “Hey, take that to the tenth degree, both sides, mysteries, knowledge, and if I could have all of it which would be equal with God, and have not love, I am nothing.” Paul says, “Hey, I’m willing to examine myself. Are you willing to examine yourself?” If you’re not surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you’re not letting the Holy Spirit of God convict you of the simpleness in your life, and you’re not dealing with it and you’re not repenting, which does not mean to make a better promise to God because you’ll never keep it, but changing your loyalty from the flesh and putting it back onto Him, realizing, “I can’t He never said you could. He can and He always said He would.” If a person’s not going to live that way then church becomes nothing more than a silly game that we play in America, particularly in the South. We come because we want people to think something of us that we’re not. God knows the hearts of man. It’s the motives of a man’s heart that He’s going to judge.
I’ll tell you. I can speak with such authority on some of this flesh because I’ve been there. My flesh is no different than anybody else’s. Listen to the words to this song. “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me. Can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood. Died He for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued. Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” That’s the attitude of a believer, not one who stands up and says, “Look at me, buddy. I’ve got a gift that you need to have because I’m more spiritual than you are.”
Do you think Corinth is any different than what we’re seeing today in America? It’s like reading the newspaper. It’s the exact stuff we’re dealing with today. That love is not some frilly feeling somebody’s going to give you. He doesn’t mean he says mushy things to make you feel better. It means if he says the hard things or if he does the hard things, it’s because it’s for your benefit. That’s what God’s love is all about. He chastens and disciplines and scourges those whom He [what?] loves. It doesn’t mean you feel good with it. But it’s for the benefit of somebody else.
You may ask, “Wayne, can you really be encouraged in Corinthians?” It’s kind of tough, but it’s there all the way through it. It was very dark in Corinth. Why was it dark? Because of the fleshliness of the Corinthian believers. But in that darkness, remember, there was still the light. There’s always light. The apostle Paul did not bring light to the Corinthians. No, no. He just turned on the light that was already there. He just took God’s word that they had had for years and turned it up so he could illuminate what was going on. That encourages me. As dark as it ever gets for a believer, there’s still light. Thank God for those who will come along and turn it up so we can see what’s going on and get our feet back on the ground.
If the love is not there, hang it up. You’re chasing an illusion if it’s not there. You’ve got to be, first, attached to the Spirit. Ministry’s not achieved. Ministry is received. The God who produces the love is the God who’s the author of any ministry that comes through our life.