Friday, August 14, 2009

What Remains into Eternity

I've been reading through D.A. Carson's book, Showing the Spirit, as part of my preparation for a Sunday School series I'm teaching on 1 Corinthians 12-14. Carson is very helpful in this passage of Scripture, as he is in other passages he has addressed. The section at the end of his comments on 1 Corinthians 13:13 caught my eye, and I thought I'd share it.

Two centuries ago, Jonathan Edwards probed the question as to what makes the church like heaven. His answer: it is love. The church's manifestation in time of the glories that are yet to come is not accomplished in the gift of tongues, nor even in prophecy, giving, teaching. It is accomplished in love. One day all the charismatics who know the Lord and all the noncharismatics who know the Lord will have nothing to fight over; for the so-called charismatic gifts will have forever passed. At that point, both of these groups of believers will look back and thoughtfully contemplate the fact that what connects them with the world they have left behind is not the gift of tongues, nor animosity toward the gift of tongues, but the love they sometimes managed to display toward each other despite the gift of tongues. The greatest evidence that heaven has invaded our sphere, that the Spirit has been poured out upon us, that we are citizens of a kingdom not yet consummated, is Christian love.
(pp. 75-76)

This reminds me of what our Lord said in John 13:35—"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." It's easy to allow our gifts or learning to take center stage in our ministries, but the sine qua non is love. Without love we are nothing and our best efforts are meaningless noise. With love we can be a visible connection to eternity.

D.A. Carson. Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987)