We’ve been talking about the Holy Spirit lately at Lakeside Church. The series is titled God 3.0 and you can listen to it on Lakeside’s website or on the mobile app. I’m currently writing about some of the things we’ve been talking about and some of the things we aren’t getting to.
Jesus told his disciples that when the Spirit came, he would glorify Jesus. That’s not a completely helpful translation these days, because we don’t commonly talk about glorifying anything. To glorify means to make something visible, to reveal someone’s character, or to acknowledge someone’s significance. The Holy Spirit came to do this for Jesus. More simply, the Spirit is on a mission to make Jesus visible to the world.
And the remarkable thing is: the Holy Spirit invites us into this mission! We become partners with the Spirit in making Jesus clear and visible to our friends and neighbors.
One way the Spirit prepares us for this mission is by giving us gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). Every follower of Jesus receives gifts through which he or she can show him off. Some people receive the gift of prophecy, of speaking for God. Others receive the gift of speaking in languages they don’t know. Others have gifts of healing or mercy or helping or administration or generosity, among others. So you can see, these are beautiful, life-giving things.
In fact, another name for them is graces. We usually think of grace as an undeserved favor or blessing. Well, that’s what these gifts are—they are graces that we do not deserve, but they allow us to bless others so that they see can Jesus. What a great gift! Graces. I have been graced with some specific ways to honor and point to Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus, so have you.
What you might find shocking is that these “graces” aren’t always handled with grace. The gifts of the Spirit are not a foolproof way to glorify Jesus. In fact, that’s what happened in the Bible where we read about the gifts. Paul wrote three entire chapters of scripture to the Corinthians so they could learn how to use their gifts in a way that would help, not hurt, the mission of the Spirit. The Christians in Corinth were so proud of their God-given graces that they began boasting about how cool their gifts were. People got jealous and selfish and very much not like Jesus. How ironic that the gifts given to glorify Jesus can be used in ways that dishonor him.
And that’s why Paul spent one whole chapter saying, “Here is a better way.” That chapter is 1 Corinthians 13. It is often referred to as the Love Chapter. We hear it most often at weddings, but it was not written to add poetic punch to a wedding. It was written because Christians were getting sideways with their gifts and their mission. So Paul said, You know, people will see Jesus better if we just learn to love one another. And then he described love. Beautifully. Poetically. Compellingly.
I love 1 Corinthians 13. But sometimes it gets lifted out of its context in the middle of spiritual gifts. It gets lost. And we forget what Paul is trying to say.
It seems that Paul recognized that possibility. So he wrote a summary of the Love Chapter in two brief verses in Galatians. It is also a well-known passage of scripture. But we don’t usually connect it to 1 Corinthians 13. It is Galatians 5:22-23. Here it is:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit is a bullet-point summary of the Love Chapter. Paul describes for us not just the gifts or graces of the Spirit, but the fruit of the Spirit too.
Here’s the point of the Love Chapter, and of the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit, expressed without the fruit of the Spirit, will disintegrate the church. The church in Corinth was a mess. People forgot to check their egos at the door of the church. They brought all of their pride and self-centeredness right into their use of the gifts. But without love, or without the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit were actually harmful to the church.
So walk with the Spirit, Paul would say. Live with him. Let your roots go deep into the soil of his life and love. And let the fruit of the Spirit grow within you. Then use your gifts, whatever graces God has given you, to let people know about Jesus through you.