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The Power of Love

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the spiritual gifts.  He’s explaining them to the church in Corinth.  The apostle was trying to straighten out some of their foolishness.

For the last few posts, we saw that the Gifts of the Spirit are useless without walking in love.  That’s the most important ingredient in any ministry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1

We’re told here, that of the three most important concepts in Scripture – faith, hope, and love – the greatest is love.  Paul then tells us to pursue love.  In order to do that effectively, we need to walk in the spiritual gifts.

It literally says to be passionate about the things of the spirit.  We should especially desire to show love by speaking a Word on behalf of God.  That’s what prophecy is.  God is love and if you speak His Word, then love will be evident.

In order to understand First Corinthians, chapter 14, we need to keep it in its context.  Paul is writing to a church where everyone’s doing their own thing.  All they care about is their own wants and desires.  Love for others doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

He wants them to use their gifts to bless others.  That’s the context of his next statement.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:2-3

There are those who look at these verses, and the ones that follow, and conclude that the gift of tongues is bad and prophecy is good.  That’s not what Paul is trying to get across to this church.  That’s why I talked about the context.

The apostle wants us to see that in the church setting, love needs to be the major component.  Prayer in tongues has a definite purpose.  I use it to build myself up.  That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t directly show love to others.

So if I come to church and all I do is pray in the spirit, then I’m not loving others.  Instead, I’m being self-centric.

In the church, there needs to be an evident communication of God’s love.  Prophecy is a great gift for showing God’s love.  God’s Word can be a powerful encouragement to those around us.

In the church, I have a choice.  I can major on making sure that I’m blessed.  That’s what the Corinthian Christians were doing and Paul wasn’t happy with them.

My other option is to go to church with a desire to bless others.  Through the gift of prophecy, I can speak a word of strength, encouragement, and comfort.  I believe that’s what “being the church” is all about.

And in reality, I’ve found that when I want to bless others, God finds a way to bless me in the process.  There’s a mutual encouragement in the body of Christ.

Be passionate about spiritual gifts.  And seek to show the love of God in all that you do.

Question: How were you positively affected by someone operating in their spiritual gift?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Maturity and the Gifts

We’re continuing our look at the love chapter – First Corinthians, chapter 13.  We always need to keep in mind that the greater context for this passage is a teaching about the Gifts of the Spirit.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

This is another of those hotly debated Scriptures.  There are some who teach that the “perfection” spoken of in this verse refers to the completion of the New Testament.  They say that once the Holy Bible is complete, then there’s no more need for the power-gifts of the Spirit.

But is that what Paul is trying to get across?  I don’t believe so.  The words that he uses don’t open up that interpretation.

He tells us that our knowledge and our prophecy are all partial.  That’s obvious.  None of us gets the whole plan from the Lord.  We only see partial glimpses into what God’s doing.

Paul goes on to say that when the perfect or complete thing arrives, then the imperfect thing will be rendered useless or idle.  This verse does not say that the imperfect thing would become more and more perfect until it was totally complete.  That would be the case if it were talking about the New Testament.

As he was receiving his revelation, the Apostle John was told something very important by an angel.

“Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:10b

All prophecy ultimately points to Christ.  But in our current conditions, it only a partial view of Him, or what He wants to accomplish in us.  However, when Christ – the Perfect One – appears, there will be no need for any of those prophecies anymore.  They will be rendered useless by the Lord’s appearing.

We will then have a perfect view of the One to which all knowledge and prophecy points to.  That’s right in line with what Paul goes on to explain.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

I think it’s clear from this verse that he’s talking about the church coming to maturity.  It’s not the Bible that needs to be matured and completed, but us.

This is especially true in regards to the Gifts of the Spirit.  As children, we think that everything is about us.  As we grow older, if we mature, we start thinking about the needs of others.

In some cases what you do remains the same.  It’s your attitude that changes.  When I was a teen, one of my chores was to put out the trash.  Guess what?  Now that I’m married I still put out the trash.

There’s a difference, though.  As a teen, I did those chores to gain privileges or an allowance.  Now, I do them because that’s what adults do.  I want my family to be healthy and safe.

That’s what Paul is trying to get us to see through this chapter.  Not that the gifts are going to cease to operate.  But that we need to move in the gifts with a heart of love towards those we are ministering to.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about prophecy, tongues, or giving someone a drink of water.  Walking in love is the sign that you’re becoming mature in Christ.

Question: How does walking in love bring about maturity in you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Love and the Gifts

We’re continuing our study of love in First Corinthians, chapter 13.  Paul is now going to compare its lasting effects to that of some spiritual gifts.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

This is a verse that has sparked a lot of debate over the years.  There are those who point to it and say that the Gifts of the Spirit had an expiration date.  They conclude that these gifts ceased to operate after the original 12 apostles died.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is trying to say.  He’s teaching us a more excellent way of walking in the gifts.  Love is a factor that brings greater results.

He starts by saying that love never fails.  This means that the effects of love are enduring.  An act of love will continue to touch someone’s life long after the event has passed.  With that in mind, look at some of the other gifts.

Paul says that prophecies will cease.  That word, cease, means to be rendered useless or idle.  It does NOT mean that people will stop prophesying.

The prophecies themselves are only temporary.  Once they’ve been fulfilled, they have no more purpose.  That’s because a prophecy will always point to something.  And once the focus of the prophecy arrives, we begin a new chapter.

He goes on to say that tongues will be stilled.  Again, this verse does NOT say that the gift of tongues will no longer be available.  The word, stilled, means to be paused or restrained.

This tells me that the gift of tongues will be paused or put on hold.  It also means that those who operate in this gift would be physically or legalistically retrained from using it.  A look at church history will prove the truth of this interpretation.

Finally, the apostle says that knowledge will pass away.  It’s actually the same Greek word he used when he said that prophecies would cease.  It simply means that the usefulness of the knowledge given will come to an end.

Why is Paul telling us all this?  Because he wants to take our supernatural gifts to a higher level.

The Gifts of the Spirit, all by themselves, are only temporary events.  People won’t remember that I gave a prophecy on a certain date in the past.  But they will remember if the prophecy was used to show love to them.

Prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge – they all give temporary benefits.  But if they’re used to show love to others in a tangible way, they have a lasting effect.

The Corinthian church was boasting in their ability to “flow in the anointing.”  They had all the gifts evident in their meetings.  Unfortunately, it was all for show – “Look what I can do!”

They left out the most important ingredient – love for one another.  There were factions and divisions.  The poor within their congregation was being publically shamed.  Love was noticeably absent.

We need to learn their lesson.  Having a move of God with the Gifts of the Spirit is an awesome thing.  But we can’t leave out love for our brothers and sisters.

It’s not an either/or proposition.  We need both the Gifts of the Spirit and love if we’re going to minister as Christ did.

Question: How have you experienced the Gifts of the Spirit operated in love?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

 

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Useless Without Love

How do you rate churches or ministries?  What criteria do you use in determining their impact or effectiveness?  Let’s see what the Scripture uses as a standard.

In my last post, the Apostle Paul introduced what he called a more excellent way of ministry.  That brings us to First Corinthians, chapter 13 – the Love Chapter.

The word used for love, is the Greek word, agape.  This word is very significant.

Agape-love has no emotion attached to its definition.  It’s purely an act of your will.  It’s a choice that you make in how you treat others.

We know that Jesus Christ, Himself, commanded us to love each other.  If it were based upon feelings, then He could never make such a request.

Keep this in mind as we go through this chapter over the next few posts.  It’s up to you how you choose to treat people.  You’ll either walk in love or choose to follow the leading of your flesh.

The first thing we see in this chapter, are three things that human religion would point to as excellence in ministry.  Unfortunately, they’re not what God’s rating system includes.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

The first area is that of your preaching and teaching ministry.  What if I had the command of every language on earth?  I could preach the Gospel anywhere I wanted to.

I could stand before thousands and proclaim Christ.  I could be God’s messenger to the world.  After all, that’s what the word, angel, means (messenger).

According to this verse, without love, I’m not ministering.  I’m simply making a noise that gets people’s attention.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

What about the flow of supernatural power.  Certainly, that would mean my ministry is on track with God’s plan.  Not necessarily.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are things that we point to as indicators of success.

“Look at my ministry.  The miracles are proof that I’m in the center of God’s will.  Send me your offering.”

We think the supernatural move of God is an indication that we’re someone special.  On the contrary, it only proves that we serve a great God.  Paul makes it clear that no matter how many miracles in my ministry, without love I’m a nobody in God’s kingdom.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3

The third area is one we’d probably never think of.  Self-sacrifice for others.

The word for flames is actually the Greek word, glory.  In other words, I use up every ounce of my physical strength for the benefit of others.

We sometimes think that we’ll give to the poor because God wants us to.  Or maybe because we see it as sowing seeds for God’s blessing.

The problem is that if I don’t give out of love…a desire to see the recipient blessed by my giving, then I’ve gained nothing.  There’s no profit, physically or spiritually.

Love is the determining factor in how God rates a ministry.  Keep that in mind as you work for the Lord.

Question: How can you tell if love plays a role in what you do for Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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A Passion for Greater Gifts

In my last post, I finished talking about the local church ministry gifts.  Paul concludes this section of his letter with an exhortation as well as an introduction to his next thought.

But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31

The first thing that gets my attention is that Paul tells us to eagerly desire something.  That’s important.  The word he uses means to be passionate about it.  We’re to be emotionally invested in obtaining these gifts.

I feel bad when I see Christians who seem disinterested in walking in the power of God.  What greater witness could there be than to see a divine miracle take place in your life or the life of your loved one?  It’s the power of God that draws people to the cross.

However, there’s another aspect of this statement that’s often misunderstood.  I’ve heard teachers use this verse to say that some gifts are more important than others.  So they start comparing gifts.

“After all, speaking in tongues only builds up that believer; while prophecy builds up the church.  So it’s more important that you prophesy.”

That statement shows a lack of understanding concerning the gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve heard others explain that the greater gifts are the ones that you need right at the moment.  While that’s a little bit better, it doesn’t go far enough.

The word greater, in the Greek, is a special word.  It literally means larger or to a greater degree.  I don’t believe that Paul wants us to compare gifts and only be passionate about the better ones.  He’s telling us to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts to a greater degree.

There’s a verse of Scripture that will bear this out.  Look at how this same Greek word is used here.

But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

More grace.  Do you think that the grace we have isn’t good enough?  So God has to give us better grace?  No!  God wants to give us His grace to a greater degree.

We need to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts, and His grace, to a greater degree than we now have.

But Paul isn’t finished yet.  He wants to show us the most excellent way of walking in the gifts of the Spirit.

The Greek word translated as excellent is hyperballo.   Hyperballo, literally means, to throw beyond.  The word picture being used is of an Olympic sport such as the javelin throw.

Everyone else has thrown it to a certain, average point.  You, however, get up and throw it beyond all the others.  That’s a picture of the concept of excellence.  When you throw beyond the normal or what’s expected, then you’ve entered the realm of the excellent.

When you serve Christ, you need to be going beyond the average or what’s expected.  That’s what will get people’s attention.

So starting in my next post, we’ll be looking at this most excellent way of ministry.  Of course, many of you already know that Paul is going to be talking about the way of love.  Hopefully, as we study it together, we’ll get some new insight into this amazing walk.

Questions: How passionate are you about walking in the Lord’s power to a greater degree?  How does it show?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Church Ministry (Part 2)

I’m continuing my discussion of the ministry list given by Paul in First Corinthians, chapter 12.

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?
1 Corinthians 12:28-30

I’ve already looked at apostles, prophets, teachers, and workers of miracles.  Now I’ll continue from there.

Those having Gifts of Healing.  This is another of those ministries that God is going to restore in these last days before Christ’s return.  Every local church should have a ministry of healing prayer.

In his book, James tells us that if we’re sick we’re to call the church elders.  This means that he fully expected it to be a part of every local congregation.  It’s unfortunate that many churches don’t even believe that healing was made available to all at the cross.

I believe that God has a calling on certain people in the church to have a healing ministry.  I also believe that this could explain why so many people are not healed.  Those with whom God has entrusted these gifts are not giving them out.  Do you have a call to this great ministry?

Those Able to Help Others.  This is from the Greek word for help or relief.  It comes from a compound word that means to take turns holding on to something.

In other words, there’s something that needs to be done and we take turns meeting that need.  It could really be applied to any support ministry in the church.  This could include anything from cleaning the church, to ushering, to feeding the hungry.

There are so many support ministries that are needed for the church to run smoothly.  The unfortunate thing is that in most churches 10% of the people do 90% of the work.  That’s not the way God sees it. Everyone is called to do something.

Those with Gifts of Administrations.  The literal Greek of this word is steerage.  Those who can steer the ship.  This is an important concept that’s missed in many churches.

There are two levels of leadership in the church.  There’s the apostolic – the pastoral team – who spend time before God finding out the vision for where the Lord is taking the church.  Then there’s the leadership team who steer their departments in the direction of that vision.

I’ve seen this principle abused in a number of ways.  There are churches where the pastor is merely an employee of the church committee.  That’s absolutely anti-scriptural.

Then there are other churches where the pastor puts himself in charge of everything.  That’s just as wrong.

We need to follow scriptural patterns if we don’t want our church to run aground.

Those Speaking in Different Kinds of Tongues.  This is a reference to the ministry of intercession in the church.  There are those who are called to spend a large quantity of time in private prayer in the spirit.

These prayer warriors are praying for people and situations that, for the most part, they don’t even know about.  In the natural, we can only pray according to our limited human thinking.  When we pray in tongues – in the spirit – we’re praying God’s will, even if we don’t know what we’re praying about.  It’s a much-needed ministry.

As God continues to restore these ministries we’ll see a growth in the power of the church.  Signs, wonders, and miracles will be on the increase.  Make it your prayer that God would use you in any area that He sees fit.  Then be expecting great things from the Lord!

Question: What’s your vision of the church that Christ will return for?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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