Good morning! So we’re continuing in 1 Corinthians, we’ll be skirting around Chapters 12, 13, 14 this morning – and as you guys turn there, to the letter from Paul to the church at Corinth, I want to ask you when last you received a letter – this here is the most recent letter our household received, very kindly sent to me by the city of cape town. OF course, all you saints don’t recognise what it is because you drive at reasonable speeds – but this is a speeding fine. Don’t be fooled by the red ink – this is not a love letter – it is a letter telling me where I ‘ve gone wrong, and what I need to do about it. Not really the kind of letter you enjoy readingBut, here, check this out, here is a collection of letters I have from the year 1999 to about 2005 – and these are genuine, bonefide, love letters from the Andrew and Sarah Rowan collection. Why have I kept them, because, one day, when Dr Rowan writes the next Harry Potter or whatever, I can sell these and become rich too! Until then, they’re kept in a safe place – if my kids find these I have some explaining to do. And they’re full of really nice things sweet lovey dovey messages and cutesy thoughts tc etc, and then there is this, the centrepiece of the collection. A book! How much did Sarah love me that she wrote me a whole book, my goodness! How lucky am I…well, let me tell you the story behind this book – I was in 2nd year, and after a year of dating / going steady/ what do the kids even call it these days? I had to go on a Varsity trip up the West Coast – I was away for a few weeks, and like a good boyfriend I promised to call every night, this was before whatsapp - I promised to send her smses telling her what I was up to – it also didn’t help that the group I was assigned to on the trip was mostly girls, just my luck…. And so over the course of the next two weeks, in the absence of regular communication I didn’t follow thought on any of those promises , Sarah put her thoughts into this book and presented it to me . I have my excuses- no reception, broken phone, busy with work, but let’s just say I wasn’t keeping up my side of the deal – and Sarah writes, in no uncertain terms telling me exactly how she feels about it. Now this is a love letter – I know, because she says many times in it how much she loves me, cares for me, and is thinking of me – but it also contains some rebukes – rightfully so – deservedly so – you said you were going to do this, but you aren’t. We had agreed to do that, but it’s not happening. And I needed to hear that, because, well, I wasn’t being a very good partner. I was taking a lot of the stuff for granted. AND since then I became a first class boyfriend. Well no – but this long page after page epistle has a foundation in love – love is the motive, Sarah’s care for me causes her to put pen to paper. Sarah’s desire was for us to be the best couple we can be - it’s not nagging, and not bossy behaviour. It’s not a power trip. She wanted us to be on the same page – not divided. So, let’s look into Pauls love letter to the Church in Corinth A letter full of corrections, and instructions, and responses to situations that are not so lekker, but a letter grounded in love. A love letter to the church that he helped found - why does He write it – because he cares – he wants to see this church flourish – he has heard about divisions – and he wants to help set the matters straight. So it’s this mixture of encouragement, exhortations, pleading, begging, warning, clarifying on certain matters. Answering some difficult questions in a truly diverse church. Why did Sarah write me those letters- because she loves me – this guy…. Why do the City of Cape Town write me that red letter – well, ok, they don’t exactly love me – but they do want to see me behave in an orderly and fitting manner!We’ve been going for a few weeks, and is our custom, Lawrence started us off, Stuart had a couple of week, it’s my turn now, and in a couple of weeks Lawrence will wrap up and correct all the mistakes that Stuart and I made And this guy, he had the hard weeks – Sexual Immorality – Ooh, The Lords Supper, head coverings – I get the easy stuff – Spiritual Gifts - nice to talk about – Love – 1 Corinthians 13 loooove, like a wedding sermon a real feel good message – well, we’ll see… maybe notSo, Paul begins Chapter 12 – rather suddenly – there’s no precursor to the Spiritual Gifts things – he just kind of starts – he’s been talking about the Lord’s supper in the chapter before, and really giving guidance about the proper way to act when they come before the Lords in corporate worship – remember from last week examine yourselvesAnd so he begins Now, about the gifts of the spirit – He is responding to something he has heard about the behaviour of the church at Corinth – let’s read on and pull the pieces together.12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.So, Paul doesn’t want his reader to be uninformed – so he’s going into detail here. Before you all came to faith you were being led astray - , but the point here is to lay down some solid guidance.Guys, the gifts – and he lists a whole bunch – not an exhaustive list – you read around some of the other epistles you get even more., says Paul, they’ different, yes, they’re not all the same – but you what, they all come from the same spirit – the Holy Spirit – they all come from the same God. They all have a place in God’s church – they’re all necessary - So here’s an interesting thought we stumble into in the text – SO all the gifts are given by God, and they’re all different, and they’re all necessary – The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need You’ or that sort of thing, but as I was prepping I wrote down this note yes, and they’re all equally important. But you have this interesting thing happening at the end of the chapter – where, yes Paul discusses how they’re all necessary, but it seems like there are gifts that are greater than others…. Hmmm. Verse 31 of Chapter 12 - Now eagerly desire the ‘greater’ gifts – and yet I will show you the MOST excellent wayChapter 13 verse 13…. And now these three remain faith, hope and love – but the Greatest of these is Love. And why is love the most important thing – well you’ll see just now how it is the foundation for all the others - .God is love, we love because he first loved usJesus comes and says – the greatest commandment – Love the Lord your God, with all your heartNumber two – Love your neighbour as Yourself ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS HANG ON THESE TWO COMMANDMENTS. But back to the gifts – we’ll get to the love part just nowHe uses the human body as an analogy – you’re a foot, maybe, and you’re arms, and you’re the brains, and you’re he muscle – and you know what, you’re all completely different – but you all need to work together. You can’t all do everything, that’s now how God has put his church together. And furthermore – you would think, if you do have a church body where everything is being done by one poor guy – that’s a problem. That’s not the multifaceted, unified in diversity church that God has designed. We need each other – we are better together – like the DA says. I like verse 26 a lot – if one part suffers – every part suffers with it – if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Which brings us right to the mighty 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 – Possibly one of the most famous sections of scripture outside of the Gospels. Love – Love is patient, love is kind.I wonder if there is a passage of Scripture that you have – that you can remember the first time you read it? DO you? Well, this is my baby – I clearly remember the first time I read it. I was in high school and, as a fresh convert I was attending a school Christian group and we had this meeting and I was invited to share and I really didn’t know my bible at all, was just wondering through and I came across this passage and it blew me away – And really, it excited me – it was different to all the boring stuff and confusing stuff, and - but here was something that said such nice things – and I shared it with my friend and I was all like, you won’t believe what I discovered – it’s this passage about love in na in the new testament and it’s amazing and he was like ja, oh, Cool ,Corinthians 13 and I was like and it goes one about being patient, and kind, and he was like , ja, no , Andrew that Corinthians 13 and doesn’t envy, and does not boast, is not proud – and eventually he was like, ja, now, we get it… you guys, this is good stuff.And it still is. Twenty something years later – it’s still good stuff – in fact, it’s even better stuff when you learn how to appreciate the context… so when Paul says that he could speak in the tongues and men or of angels, but if he doesn’t have love it’s like a clanging cymbal – he’s busy writing letter to a church who haven’t been using the gift of tongues properly. When he says he have can have the gift of prophecy and knowledge and without love it’s nothing, he’s in the middle of settling an argument about the use of these gifts in the church – the context and the timing of the definition of love add to the picture, and you lose it at a wedding, or valentines or or a hallmark card – so when he says love is patient and it doesn’t boast, and does not dishonour others, is not easily angered…. He’s busy talking to a group of people, who its seems by the type of behaviour that he is busy addressing - have not been patient, kind, have been boastful in their gifts and have been getting angry – there is division in his beloved church at Corinth, and the church practices have gone off the rails – but he is restoring them – reminding them of the love the protects, that trusts and hopes and perseveres…Love has to be the foundation for all the gifts - Love has to be the proper, fitting way in which these gifts are used – they are clearly not being used properly in this Church – they are clearly being abused, so much so the Paul has to write a loooong detailed letter setting it straight.All the other things – meaningless without love they fall apart without the foundational heart behind them. And love never fails – you know what will fail – you know what will cease? well, it seems from the text some of those very Gifts will cease – middle of verse 8But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. Jump to verse 1212 For now we see only a 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.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.Interesting – maybe you’ve been wondering what happened to those gifts you don’t see around here, know, the weird ones – Tongues, Prophecy – well, we interpret these verses to talk about those revelatory gifts being necessary at that time – because they didn’t have the full canon of scripture at their fingertips – Stuart said it last week – these guys didn’t have bibles… how do we hear from God – primarily I would say through his word, how fortunate we are to have it so easily accessible. The idea here is the gifts ceased when the full bible of scripture was complete. The continuationist view point would be that the gifts are still relevant and necessary today – which you might find out if you went and visit that cousins of yours and his more charismatic church. They’ve got better music than us, but I remain unconvinced about some of the theology points. But we love them all the same don’t we. I trust we do – one body. Let’s follow the way of love – as it says as we start chapter 14The first 25 verses of Chapter 14, are detailed instructions about Tongues - which, I would brush over as N/A, but for the benefit of your cousin at the church with the loud music, In a nutshell – the point of this stuff is not to babble weird things into the air – a tongue – should have translator – it’s an actual language in any case. Of prophecy – should have an interpretor – the church of Corinth needed to be built up – people needed to understand what was being said – and even more so when you sense the context of the position of Corinth – remember back to Lawrence how the place is so diverse, all the different types of peoples, a melting pot of cultures – you see why God would put something as CRAZY as people start to talk different languages – in to place in the early church. Not to cause chaos and confusion, but to bring order and clarity19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.And the rules continue – you wanna speak in a tongue – someone must interpret You wanna prophecy someone must weigh up what is being said, if some else is sitting down, the first guy must stop – I mean, these are particular instructions. This is the rulebook for orderly Corinthina church conductNext ruleWomen must remain silent – oh my goodness – did you just? what? And the blood pressure of half the people in this rooms starts to rise… Husband busy holding the hands of their wives just had their hands crunched. Ok, calm down people - this doesn’t mean what you think it means. Obviously we don’t believe this to mean that women must be dead silent in church – well, if we did, Medway would have some explaining to do… We might as well hand out muzzles to the ladies as they walk in. But there are few quick things to remember here to stop you getting tripped up by these few verses :Remembering the context of the chaotic dysfunctional church – these meetings are not being run well – exactly what is happening - not too sure, but you can sort of back analyse from the answers that Paul is giving.So, bear in mind the following:One – Women are allowed to speak in the Church in Corinth – see two chapters ago – Paul was busy telling the ladies how to pray and prophecy. It would make no sense if he said – ooh, don’t pray or prophecy with your head covered and then later said – oh, by the way, don’t pray or prophecy…..Number two - and don’t shoot the messenger - remember firstly the jewish men were the ones with the education, who had been sent to school, who knew the ins and outs of the religious argument, who would have been raised in the Jewish faith, and had insights into al the precepts and arguments. So when an eloquent speaker like Paul or Peter recalled an old testament piece of scripture from memory – the guys knew what he was talking about – and the poor ladies, had less of a clue – so the natural response, was, hey, husband, you with education and background, you , just, tell me what he’s talking about just, quickly, gimme the background of years and years of schooling please… well, then, the meeting quickly becomes chaotic and disorderly, and that is what Paul is trying to sort out – so he’s simply in a sense saying – keep your questions until you get home and your man – who is supposed to be the spiritual head of your household – he can explain properly, rather than in the middle of a meeting. What’s the point here – tongues are bad and women with questions are bad – no no no.The point is order in the worship service. He wants the meeting of the church that he knows and loves so well, to be the best it can be – to be functioning properly – to be God honouring – to be a place where all can learn and share and contribute according the gifting they have been given. Not a big divided mess.They also even seemingly had a question about the money – what do we do with the financial gifts… jump to Chapter 1616 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.Now concerning he says same turn of phrase as before – like, in response your previous email… every week store up some money in keeping with your income.If you are earning a lot, you give a lot, if you earn a little, you give a little, and you do it regularly so when the need comes – you are not caught off guard. So it’s not a cover charge – it’s not a membership fee – it’s a gift that you are stewarding – a gift you have received from God, and a gift you give to the church, for a work. For a ministry. So that the churches functions can continue.These three chapters link together nicely – all connecting to the proper use of the things you have been given by God. With love underpinning it all. Praise God who saw it fit to bless you with all you have – butBut the challenge is the duty that comes with the gift – with great power comes great responsibility – who said that? Spiderman? But it’s still true!So, naked as you came into this world – just as you entered into this world with nothing – you have been given – all things – your talents, your abilities, your opportunities, your education, your families, your friends, your church group the money in your bank account – the Sunday lunch you have waiting for you at home – every single thing is a gift. For you to use, for you to enjoy, given from a father who loves you – and wants to see you enjoy the gift – last Christmas…. I gave you my heart - no - last Christmas I got Asher a mountain bike – I took him past Sportsmans Warehouse a month or so before – my Buddy Bradley sorted me out Asher liked this bike, or so I thought, and I got it for him – got it out on Christmas morning – next to the tree – and the look of sheer disappointment when he saw the bike. He hates it. Has been on it like maybe once in 3 months. Anybody want to buy a bike, call me – but – anyway, this is the point – everytime I go into the garage, and I see this stinking bike, untouched, unused , it stabs me right in the heart. – I especially bought that bike and I know, when he eventually gets round to getting into riding – he’ll probably love it – I mean…kids and bikes…come on. But it hurts me that he rejects it and doesn’t use the gift I gave him.Our heavenly Father – has gifted us – and he wants to see us put these gifts into regular use – not gathering dust and getting rusty in the garage – Peter, it’s not rusty, it’s in great condition.12 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be