Three Abiding Things
There is a striking contrast the apostle Paul makes in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to Corinth. He speaks of three temporary things and three things which will abide. The church in Corinth was so enamored by the temporary gifts of tongues, knowledge and prophecy that they had lost sight of three things far more important.
It appears that many in the modern charismatic, Pentecostal movement have elevated their view of these same gifts, and they have failed to understand the message Paul wrote to Corinth. While the modern “tongues” are presented as being the same as those in the first century, such is not the case. Acts chapter two clearly shows that Bible tongues were languages which were spoken by people in various lands of that day. This is not what is being done in this movement.
The chapter opens with an affirmation that those early Christians who actually had the gift of tongues had not reached the highest level of spirituality. There was something far greater than tongues. It was love. Paul taught that if love was not present, the gift had the same impact as a clanging cymbal. The same was true of the gifts of prophecy (inspired preaching) and divine knowledge which was instantly imparted. Without love, these gifts from heaven were useless. The external display of “spirituality” is far different from true spirituality.
Read his words carefully which show the contrast between that which was temporarily part of God’s plan and that which is permanently part of God’s plan. “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease, as for knowledge it will pass away” (1 Cor. 13:8, ESV).
These gifts were part of the church when it was in its infancy. Paul showed this when he stated, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11). God had something far greater than these gifts which were so necessary for the church as it began and part of His plan until the church reached maturity.
What was greater than these temporary things? Look at the last verse. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” These three qualities of godliness are external and come from a deep spiritual relationship with the Lord.
Think how this principle impacts us all. We are not spiritual simply because we look like Christians on the outside. So study His word and build your faith, and your hope will deepen. “Above all these things put on love” (Col. 3:14).