One chapter that should make any honest person aware how short he falls compared to the perfect love of God is 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter the Authorized Version uses the word “charity” for the word “love,” and thus the impact of what Paul wrote is not clearly grasped by modern readers. Paul describes what kind of love Christians should truly exemplify. Notice it in the Moffatt Translation.
Love is very patient, very kind. Love knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient. Love never disappears. (1 Cor. 13:4–8)
Who can honestly say he or she has lived up to this kind of love, or is able to fully manifest these feelings? The carnal man cannot, but one who is converted can to a degree express these characteristics. How? By means of the Holy Spirit, ” . . . because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). The love of God is a gift. It produces fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22).
By contrast, many nominal Christians do not have this gift and as a result manifest the works of the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19–21)
In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were a prime example. Jesus told them: “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:42). Paul referred to others who were like this: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
Those who manifest the love of God keep God’s Commandments. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: andhis commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). To many, however, the commandments are a burden. The prophet Malachi described this view: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?” (Mal. 3:13–14). Antagonism against God’s Law of love simply reflects human nature. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7).
The Christian application of the last six of the Ten Commandments—love toward one’s fellow man—is illustrated in 1 Corinthians 13 . What must be changed is the carnal mind—a process that begins with conversion. Conversion begins with repentance and baptism. After repentance and baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given, and this empowers one to become a “new man.” The love of God enables one to feel empathy, not only for Christian brethren, but for mankind in general. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:26–27).
Here is how the Apostle Paul described the new man:
. . . But though our outward man perish, yetthe inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16–18)
The converted Christian has a new point of view toward both the world and himself. His attitude toward God is now completely changed. He realizes that what is important is his relationship with God. He is a new man. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
He no longer places confidence in the world and what it has to offer.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15–17)
The Christian becomes aware of the many dangers that can affect his spiritual life. The Apostle Paul gave this example in 2 Corinthians 6:14–18.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
In this world there is much cheating and dishonesty. Christian living requires honesty in every aspect of life—being an honorable man and woman. This is why Paul wrote: “For we [Apostles] are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men (2 Cor. 8:21 NIV). Other Scriptures include: “Having your [conduct] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
In order to live a Christian life, a major hurdle is the world’s anti-God philosophical thinking. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Men in their vaunted self-importance are unwilling to accept God as the ultimate authority in their lives. A spiritual battle of minds is taking place. Paul wrote the Corinthians that ” . . . the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them . . . ” (2 Cor. 4:4). He wrote the Ephesians: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our [conduct] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2–3). The converted Christian recognizes that ” . . . the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5).
God is not impressed with the “great men” of this world. Paul tells us that those He has called are not the highly regarded.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Cor. 1:26–29)
We are not judged on our worldly accomplishments, but by how much Jesus Christ is living in us. ” . . . Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Paul instructs us not to compare ourselves among ourselves. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you” (2 Cor. 10:12–13).
Spiritual growth requires constant evaluation—taking an honest and close look at ourselves. Too many spend time evaluating others, but fail to take a good look into their own spiritual mirror. Here is Paul’s instruction: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). The Living Bible gives a modern sense to the meaning. “Check up on yourselves. Are you really Christians? Do you pass the test? Do you feel Christ’s presence and power more and more within you? Or are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren’t at all?” Anyone who has God’s Holy Spirit should be able to tell. He should be able to compare his present life with that of the past. And he should be able to see that spiritual growth is taking place.
Here is what the Apostle James cautioned: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (Jas. 1:22–24). Spiritual growth means not only growing in biblical understanding and in the appreciation of the Scriptures, but also being able to see by one’s attitude and behavior that Christ is living in him—that he is overcoming the pulls of the flesh. Overcoming is only accomplished by a change of heart and mind. Paul demonstrated this when he wrote: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Christian living requires submitting to the will of God and must be based on understanding what God’s will is (Eph. 5:17). The Israelites did not understand this: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Righteousness cannot be feigned, though some try to do so. Jesus warned: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). Empty profession is meaningless. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Christ in us is doing the works. We are His workmanship. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
While many ignore the importance of obeying God’s Commandments, it is only too late that they see the consequences. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:7–9).
Over all, Paul’s Epistles give us two fundamental things: 1) the legal proof of Christ’s ministry [the validity of the New Testament Dispensation], along with the abrogation of the sacrificial system, and 2) the need to keep the Comandments of God in living a Christian life. If there is anything that Paul did not preach, it is that the law was done away and that there is no need to keep the Ten Commandments. All the Christian–living principles Paul taught are based on this law.