But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor.12:31-13:3. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor.13:13.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident,…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal.5:19,22-23.
“We come to the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. It is fruit. You will notice the word is in the singular-not fruits, as we generally say, but fruit, which will emphasize the thought that if there be nine different virtues in this category, it is not that nine different persons are to manifest these virtues, but it is that each person is to have the nine. It is not that one has joy, another peace; but every man has love and joy and peace and all the rest of them.” W. Y. Fullerton
“In addition to a victorious life, the fruit of the Spirit is the only credible evidence of a Spirit-filled life attested by the holy Scriptures.” Joseph Ezeigbo
The fruit of the Spirit, perhaps, is the most neglected aspect of pneumatology. There is a vast literature on the personality of the Holy Spirit, the different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit including His gifts, but very scarce material on the fruit of the Spirit. This is even though the fruit of the Spirit occupies a unique place in the study of and operation of the Holy Spirit. In addition to a victorious life, it is the only evidence of a Spirit-filled life attested by the holy Scriptures.
The study about the Holy Spirit is as vast as the study about God Himself. But the study about the Holy Spirit becomes more energetic because of the unending debates and disagreements with regards to His operation and outward manifestation in the lives of believers. One of these disagreements is regarding the subject of filling. The question may be asked, “what does a Spirit-filled believer look like?” How does one identify a Spirit-filled Christian?” Or perhaps as in forensics, “What is the evidence of a Spirit-filled life?” These are questions that cannot be ignored in the study of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, in answering the last question, some people erroneously teach that the outward evidence of a Spirit-filled life is the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, especially speaking in tongues. Nothing can be further from the truth. On the contrary, the Scripture teaches that the evidence of a Spirit-filled life, in addition to a victorious life, is the fruit of the Spirit.
In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul admonishes the believer to walk in the Spirit in order to overcome the battle against the lust of the flesh. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Then in verses 19-21, Paul provides a partial list of the works of the flesh. And in contrast to that, in verses 22-23, he mentions the fruit of the Spirit as the antithesis to the works of the flesh.
Paul further exhorts, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” V.13.
In Galatians 5:13-15, Paul began a warning against indulging the flesh or carnal living. In verse 16, he exhorts the believer to walk in the Spirit in order to overcome the lusts of the flesh.” Walk” (Gr. peripateo) means to live a Spirit-filled life. It has the same meaning as “Be filled with the Spirit.” Eph.5:18. This is the antidote to living a carnal life. He presents “walk in the Spirit”, a Spirit-filled life as the way to be victorious over the unceasing conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. V.16-18. In verses 19-21, Paul gives a list of the “works of the flesh” and in quick contrast, in verses 22-23, he presents the list of the outward evidence of a Spirit-filled life. The soundness of the argument is logically evident. No clearer teaching or evidence of a Spirit-filled life is found anywhere else in the New Testament or in the entire Scriptures.
The Model of The Church at Corinth.
There is no church in the New Testament whose testimony belies the claim that the manifestation of spiritual gifts is the outward evidence of the Spirit-filled life as the church at Corinth. The Corinthian church had so many spiritual gifts and their manifestations, and yet it received the greatest reprimand and reproach of all the churches that were addressed by Paul. The giftedness of this church is referred to in the statement, “ I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, ( emphasis added) eagerly awaiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor.1:4-7. Yet, despite not lacking behind in spiritual gifts, this church was popularly known for its scandals and carnality. Not only was the Corinthian church saddled with a long list of carnal, immoral and ethical misconduct, but even the spiritual gifts counted among its problems. 1 Cor.1:10-13; 5:1-8; 6:1-8; 11:17-22,27-33;14:26-38. It is a church that is known for its carnality and spiritual immaturity despite its abounding spiritual gifts including speaking in tongues.
Paul addressed it in these rebuking words, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul’, and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? 1 Cor.3:1-4. It is an irony of spirituality that the gift that God gave for the edification of the church was turned into a weapon of its disruption. Early in his explanation of the spiritual gifts, Paul states, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works in all.But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.1 Cor.12:4-7. (Emphasis added)
After a painstaking effort explaining what could be termed the “anatomy and physiology” of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, Paul concluded by stating, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.” V.31. And to that more excellent way we now turn.
Love- A More Excellent Way- 1 Corinthians 13 In Its Original Context.
1 Corinthians 13 is one among many passages of the Scripture that have suffered “hermeneutical injustice”, being often read out of its original context. Its subject matter and literary prose have caused it to be called by other names as love chapter, hymn to love and frequently used at wedding ceremonies and marital counseling.
While these extended uses may be appropriate for their purposes, the main teaching of the passage is still concealed until studied in its original context. One can imagine that the carnality and other unspiritual characteristics in the Corinthian church contributed in a large measure to its multiple problems and to the misunderstanding of the operation of the spiritual gifts- a phenomenon that is not uncommon today.
Paul had earlier received some reports about these sad trends of events before the Church wrote to ask him for direction. 1 Cor.1:11; 5:1; 7:1; 12:1. Quite very much like today, among the boiling issues in the Corinthian church was the method of operation of spiritual gifts. It seems that this must have been particularly troublesome considering the lengthy discussion that Paul devoted to it. (1 Corinthians 12-14.). Why did Paul suddenly introduce another subject during his discussion of spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts as noted earlier, were a very vexing matter in the Corinthian church. Not unlike today, some people not only emphasized certain gifts and neglected others but expressed their preferred gifts in a selfish and quarrelsome manner. There was exceeding disharmony and rancor in the body life of the church because of the way many were parading their gifts.1 Cor.12:12-30. Note particularly verse 25. “That there be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” This matter of disorderliness is given a fuller discussion in chapter 14.
In correcting this confusion, Paul introduced a virtue that supersedes every and all spiritual gifts- love. Love is not a Spiritual gift, but a fruit of the Spirit. Since the fruit of the Spirit unlike the gifts is one bundle, love represents all the virtues of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is not like the Spiritual gifts where one possesses one virtue and not the other. Every Spirit-filled believer possesses all the nine fruits of the Spirit. While all the gifts are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, the partial list represents the whole, and the overall statement depicts love, (the fruit of the Spirit) as superior to all Spiritual gifts.
Although the Corinthian church abounded with many spiritual gifts, it’s abounding with so much moral scandal, spiritual immaturity and misunderstanding makes it apparent that it lacked the fulness of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13 is an ironic, and perhaps also, irenic way of pointing out what the church lacked as well as the remedy for its ills. The summary teaching of 1 Corinthians 13 is as follows: Verses 1-3 is that it is possible to have the manifestation of the Spiritual gifts in the absence of the in-filling of the Spirit and that all such manifestations profit nothing. The characteristics of love in verses 4-7 represent the whole spectrum of the fruit of the Spirit and are presented as a positive manner of displaying spiritual gifts. In verses 8-13, love, which represents the fruit of the Spirit is shown to be more enduring than Spiritual gifts which are but temporal.