The Way of Love: The Foundation for Spiritual Gifts

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I Corinthians 13:1-6 NIV

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

CONSIDER THIS

So, here we are: Heaven-meets-earth people, the beloved of the Father, filled with and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11), seated in heavenly places with Jesus (Eph. 2:6), ready to enter another day as the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9), relying on God’s love, learning to live in love (1 John 4:16), to move about in time and space as the People of the Resurrection. How will the Spirit work through you, through me, today?

Spiritual gifts, especially those noted in 1 Corinthians, have long been a fascination of the Body of Christ. These “gracelets” from heaven, expressing ministry in Jesus’ name, have been a curiosity for the Church ever since Jesus released his disciples to do miracles and the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. Spiritual gifts should be eagerly desired by anyone wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do what Jesus did. But we must first learn to do what Jesus did in the way, in the why, he did what he did (John 14:12-14). 

And to this point, Paul wants to make something clear. The progression for gifts of the Spirit to be made manifest in the life of a believer is to be as follows: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit…” (1 Cor. 14:1a). In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul takes an entire chapter to make the “way of love” very, very clear. If you want the gifts, he is saying, start by learning the way of love. Love is the foundation, the “complete” (love) toward which the incomplete (spiritual gifts) points (1 Cor. 13:8-13). 

In other words, love matters most. Love is the center, reason, and meaning for any spiritual experience. Love is real where you see it with these characteristics: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We could go so far as to say that, for Paul, love is the most powerful force on earth—and love is the center of all things the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do in the universe.

There is nowhere to hide from these words of Paul, and we brush them off to our peril. If we’re even going to begin to talk about spiritual gifts, the prerequisite is a long, drawn out, life-long course on love. The Jesus-kind of love is mingled with everlasting truth—it is not sappy or sentimental, it is in accord with the essential character and reality of God. We have seen enough confusion created by love-immature leaders who gain their identity from hyped spiritual power sessions. The Father wrote Jesus’ business card in his baptismal waters—Beloved. The Christian’s heart must first know it is beloved, and be artful at expressing love and compassion, for gifts of spiritual power to be expressed healthily and fruitfully through each one of us.

If the Spirit is training you in love, and you are leaning into love’s life curriculum, you are in the right spot for being used in spiritual gifts. It’s time to learn to step into spiritual gifts as we remain in love’s gravitational pull.

THE PRAYER

Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I want to be used in various forms of Spirit-ual gifts. I know that first means you want to teach me the way of love. Come, Holy Spirit, teach me to love as Jesus did, without reserve and without condition. In Jesus’ name, amen.

THE QUESTION

Have you ever experienced a spiritual gift in action that you would put in the category of “beyond” natural gifting? If so, did you sense that the deep love of the Father was involved and expressed in the experience?

For the awakening,

Dan Wilt

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Dan Wilt is a member of the Seedbed farm team. He has decades experience as a pastor, worship leader, teacher, and leader of creatives across the globe.

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