The More Excellent Way

MEMORY SELECTION: “[Charity] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.” —I Corinthians 13:7,8

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 12:29; 13:13

IN OUR last lesson we considered the various “gifts of the Spirit” and noted that they were given to the disciples for a special purpose in establishing the church. We also observed that those special gifts were given for a short time only. In this lesson we turn our attention to Paul’s discussion of the fruitage of the Spirit.

The development of fruitage is, as the apostle explains (I Cor. 12:31), “a more excellent way.” Love is the ultimate outworking of the Spirit of God manifested in the characters of those who strive to serve him in spirit and truth. The “gifts of the Spirit” were granted to a select few for a very special purpose. The “fruit of the Spirit,” on the other hand, is a necessary part of the development of every new creature in Christ Jesus. Every one who takes the name of Christ and desires to be a faithful follower of him must keep the goal of perfect love in mind.

Paul teaches that knowledge, wisdom, talents, and the various “gifts of the Spirit” must all give way to a growth in love. Love is so important because God is love, and all who would be pleasing to him must make progress in attaining unto the character-likeness of our Lord Jesus, who has shown us the way to perfect love. In proportion to our development in the character-likeness of the Lord Jesus, in that same proportion will we be drawn and blessed as children of our Heavenly Father. Love is the net result of our growth in the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle explains that the special gift of speaking in tongues was not to be confused with Christian development. Indeed, the ability to speak in all the tongues in both heaven and earth would not constitute proof of a Christian’s closeness to God and of his walk as a new creature in Christ Jesus. That special revelation would be no indication of his acceptance to the divine nature and the privileges and blessings of the kingdom. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”—I Cor. 13:1

Paul then points out that neither prophecy, nor oratory, nor the understanding of mysteries and special knowledge, nor the possession of great faith would be an indication that he was accepted for a place in the kingdom. He explains that all these special abilities have no merit in themselves unless they be manifested in the spirit of love. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing.”—vs. 2

He continues by saying that if he gave all his earthly possessions to feed the poor, or were to be burned at the stake as a martyr, he would not be assured a place in the kingdom if these acts were not carried out in the spirit of love. “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”—vs. 3

In his letter to the Corinthian brethren the elements of perfect love are enumerated. These godlike attributes are: patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, guilessness, and honesty. All these elements are encompassed in the one special quality of love.

Love is the more excellent way, because it is the most enduring. The gift of prophecy would pass away, the necessity to speak in tongues would be done away with, and all knowledge of the present time would cease to be valuable in comparison with the knowledge of the kingdom which will be given to all in due time. “Charity [love] never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”—vs. 8

The very best informed at present know only in part. But when the kingdom is established, the imperfections and inadequacies of the present will give way to the glorious knowledge of God and his purposes. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”—vss. 9,10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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