1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith…
I. PROPHECY — i.e., preaching. Great power of setting forth the truths of the gospel often co-exists with a bitter, exclusive, uncharitable spirit. Has not the hatred of theologians become a byword? Look at the language of so-called religious publications, and judge by it of that which is current where they circulate. What is our religious influence upon the world without, with all our preaching, religious meetings, reports, pleadings for good and for God? Are not our hospitals, reformatories, missions, church-buildings, struggling or languishing — striving to exist by continually strained artificial appeals from the pulpit and from the platform? Is it not true that, having this gift of utterance in abundance, yet as to any worthy effect on the vast mass of wealth and talent about us we are next to nothing? And this because of our want of love.
II. THE UNDERSTANDING OF MYSTERIES AND ALL KNOWLEDGE.
1. What St. Paul intended we may gather from his own expressions, viz., the mystery of God's purpose in revealing the gospel to the Gentiles; "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He refers, therefore, to sacred things, and the knowledge of the truths of salvation.
2. There is such a thing as a very accurate and thorough knowledge of Christian doctrine; nay, more, a power of reasoning able to enter thoroughly into, and carry further, speculations on the deep things of God; and yet all this taken up and carried on in a cold and selfish and unloving spirit. Some of the soundest theologians have been some of the keenest haters. It is perhaps one of the commonest temptations of those who are much versed in theology to forget the necessity of allowing for those who differ from them. And what have been the consequences?
(1) A considerable portion of the knowledge of Divine things has remained shut up as the possession of one or other of the Churches.
(2) A proficient in doctrinal distinctions has almost always been a person dreaded and shunned as exclusive and narrow-minded.
III. FAITH AND POWER TO WORK MIRACLES.
1. Faith is realising belief in the truth of God. The faithful man not only yields assent to, but believes and lives in, God's revelation concerning His Son. And that no less than this is meant is evident; for Paul's supposition is dealt with also by our Lord, when He says, "No man that can do a miracle in My name can speak lightly of Me."
2. I suppose, if we are to translate what is said into the language of our own day, we have a man working by means of faith great victories over himself and others, mighty in word and deed; and yet such an one is nothing. Why? Because these spiritual endowments are held and exercised in an unloving spirit. Thus even Divine truth loses its power for good: with such an one, even the birth of the Spirit is cut off in mid-youth, and comes to an untimely end: beneath such an one, even the Rock of Ages crumbles away like the shifting sand.
(1) We uphold essentials in a wrong spirit. Is our usual behaviour to, and method of speaking of, the so-called Unitarian such as to induce him to re-examine the grounds of a faith which can bring forth such fruits?
(2) We put that first which should be second. The first and indispensable care for every Christian and every Christian body is the spirit of love. No difference of belief can be truly conscientious unless it be subordinated to the spirit of love. If you are a Christian, you must love me before you can conscientiously differ from me.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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, I am nothing.