God has set a precedent for us to become competent workers for Him. We are called and chosen to work for His glory. We are to do it by the gifts He gives. Without them none can perform works to His satisfaction. For the works done to please Him according to flesh cannot reap eternal results. Christians are a transformed people in the spirit and not in the flesh that is to decay. Anything that decays does not interest God to produce everlasting results. A spirit transformed in Christ lives to God forever. He uses him for His purpose and glory. To him He adds glory by giving gifts. It is by His will and we, who are transformed, are called to keep the one quality that allows Him to work efficiently through us. And, Paul encourages Christians for it saying, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8).
The love Paul speaks of here is heavenly. It is the sacrificial and unconditional love of God. It is not the weak, selfish and conditional love seen in men. The love of men is weak, because it cannot take the needed step when required. It is selfish, as it works for its own benefit; it does not act for the sake of others. It is conditional, since it weighs options and the actions of others to make its presence felt. When Paul in the Spirit says “love never fails,” he speaks of the love of God that does not know failure. It did not fail when He called Abraham and established Jacob as a nation. It did not fail, and continues to succeed, when He offered His only Son on the cross for our sins. It is because of it we are able to obtain continual grace from Him. So, when he says it never fails, it means it will always reap successful results. We have all obtained it for salvation by grace. This means we have experienced God’s sacrificial and unconditional love to have the riches of His glory. To have obtained it is for our sake, but to keep it and exercise it is to let God work efficiently through us for His glory. The gifts and provisions He gives us bring forth eternal results only when they are satiated with it.
We may have great faith, but it is effectively shown only with love. A faith full of love does not fail. Paul had earlier expressed the true nature of love wherein it hopes, believes, endures and bears all things. Now, if our faith is with love, it does all these, and, it will only reap successful results. All gifts will fail when they are without love, but if we are able to incorporate love in them, they do not fail, because love does not know failure. In order to bring forth this reasoning Paul, in the Spirit, reasons the presence of prophecy, knowledge and tongues. Basically, what he arrives at is that without perfect love gifts do not function. We should all desire them, and as he says, the excellent way for it is through love. We know that faith is a gift of God. It is through it by grace we have been saved. Now, it becomes stagnant, if we do not harness love in us. It neither helps us move forward in the Lord nor allows God to work efficiently through us. Indeed, it fails to produce eternal results for Him. So will it be the case with all gifts when we are without love.
The need to possess gifts with love is by no means redundant. On the contrary, a desire for them without love is unprofitable. Gifts are the way for God to exercise His desire of salvation to all men. In the former days “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb. 10:11). The present days under Christ are different. God employs gifts to all the saved in order to work effectively through them for His kingdom and its enlargement. Those who pacify the need for gifts, to say the least, have not known the sacrificial love of God. When God gives us gifts, it is not to glorify ourselves; they are for bringing God’s glory upon the weak in Christ and the perishing. Once God saved us in Christ He does not intend to refrain from giving us gifts. For this reason, He insisted through Paul that love accompany gifts. Christ is the One through whom all the sins of everyone that believes are blotted out. And God gives us gifts that we may lead men to Him. We lead them, since we know His sacrifice removes their sins forever.
While this hope was not there in the former days, the priests had to daily minister by continually offering sacrifices for sins. But now we are chosen to offer ourselves as sacrifice to God through Christ. For this act to have eternal result God gives us gifts. And the love with which we spend them makes sure we do not fail. If you wish God to work efficiently through you, listen to Jesus. “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). Why did Jesus say to the disciples ‘until now you have asked for nothing in My name?’ Did they not ask Him for anything? Many times they did; at one instance they asked Him to increase their faith. So, what did He mean? The aspect Jesus is speaking of here is to pray in His name. This they did not do before, since He was with them. He even took care of all their needs and promised they would receive back everything they left for His sake. So, when they prayed on the day of Pentecost, God the Father gave them gifts. They were able to bring many people into Christ.
We are usually used to asking God to supply us with all the things needed to live on this earth. This is not a bad thing to do. However, there are better things to ask for. They are the spiritual things by which God desires to bestow His glory to the church and salvation to the world. Listen, whatever Jesus promised to the disciples concerning the earthly things inevitably apply to us when we are saved. We do not need to worry about them. But if anxiety overwhelms us, we can ask Him and He will answer; He told us to ask. However, the secret to possessing earthly blessings or be relaxed about them lies in possessing the spiritual ones. For this reason, Jesus said, “ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” Spiritual blessings certainly make our joy full. They will not keep us stagnant. First of all, they retain in us the peace and comfort that was obtained when we were saved. In doing so, they constantly remove all anxiety by helping us understand that if God gave us spiritual gifts He will certainly give us the lesser things that pertain to this life. With this confidence we become a vessel for God to be used efficiently. We distribute to men the peace and comfort He gave us. So, God desired the following from us. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17).
Let us join ourselves to the Lord. Let us pray in His name that God may avail us His gifts and we become one with His Son. The result of it will be wonderful. Our thoughts and works will match the desire of the Lord. To be precise, He gives us His thoughts and works. It would be as if He Himself is working. To be one spirit with Him is to be like Him. Paul had become such a person and how well did he do to write it down to the church! God enabled him for it. Remember, he was writing to Christians who were saved and who were required to serve God. One should always be cautious of his or her walk for God. They should always make sure they are joined to the Lord. If God has given you the gift of faith, wisdom or healing, it is by that gift that He joins you to the Lord so that He works efficiently through you by His will. This further means you do not have the opportunity to join with sin. So, there are many advantages of possessing gifts adorned in love. We will surely do the following. “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16).
If we are able to rejoice over and over and again, it is because of the love of God that never fails in us; it succeeds through His gifts. This then means we are progressing in His kingdom accomplishing whatever He expects of us. Besides, with a rejoicing heart we even know what overcomes suffering even as Jesus or as Peter, Paul and the rest. “But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them” (Rev. 11:11). The point of this figurative speech is that the lives of God’s people, who are chosen to employ His gifts, will always end with victory; even death cannot seize them. But if we neglect the whole idea of “love never fails” in relation to gifts, we will miss the greater rewards of heaven at the coming of the Lord.
God has chosen us to work for His kingdom. He has already given us eternal life when He saved us by grace. And the reason He wants us to continue to live on this earth is to serve Him. As we work for Him with His love integrated in us, whatever gift He gives, we use it diligently to bring forth eternal results. They are for His glory. So, Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).