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1 Corinthians 12:12-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28 (The Message)

12 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts - limbs, organs, cells - but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. 13 By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain - his Spirit - where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves - labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free - are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. 14 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. 15 If Foot said, "I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body," would that make it so? 16 If Ear said, "I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head," would you want to remove it from the body? 17 If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? 18 As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. 19 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. 20 What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. 21 Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, "Get lost; I don't need you"? Or, Head telling Foot, "You're fired; your job has been phased out"? 22 As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way - the "lower" the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. 23 When it's a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. 24 If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn't you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? 25 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, 26 the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 27 You are Christ's body - that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything. 28 You're familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his "body": apostles prophets teachers miracle workers healers helpers organizers those who pray in tongues. 29 But it's obvious by now, isn't it, that Christ's church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It's not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, 30 not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. 31 And yet some of you keep competing for so-called "important" parts. But now I want to lay out a far better way for you. 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 4 Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, 5 Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, 6 Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 7 Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. 8 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9 We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10 But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. 11 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1 Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it - because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. 2 If you praise him in the private language of tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. 3 But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you're letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you. 4 The one who prays using a private "prayer language" certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God's truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength. 5 I want all of you to develop intimacies with God in prayer, but please don't stop with that. Go on and proclaim his clear truth to others. It's more important that everyone have access to the knowledge and love of God in language everyone understands than that you go off and cultivate God's presence in a mysterious prayer language - unless, of course, there is someone who can interpret what you are saying for the benefit of all. 6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don't address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? 7 If musical instruments - flutes, say, or harps - aren't played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? 8 If the trumpet call can't be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle? 9 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what's the point of opening your mouth? 10 There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. 11 But if I don't understand the language, it's not going to do me much good. 12 It's no different with you. Since you're so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don't you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? 13 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don't hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. 14 If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. 15 So what's the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. 16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what's going on know when to say "Amen"? 17 Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it. 18 I'm grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him. I enter into this as much or more than any of you. 19 But when I'm in a church assembled for worship, I'd rather say five words that everyone can understand and learn from than say ten thousand that sound to others like gibberish. 20 To be perfectly frank, I'm getting exasperated with your infantile thinking. How long before you grow up and use your head - your adult head? It's all right to have a childlike unfamiliarity with evil; a simple no is all that's needed there. But there's far more to saying yes to something. Only mature and well-exercised intelligence can save you from falling into gullibility. 21 It's written in Scripture that God said, In strange tongues and from the mouths of strangers I will preach to this people, but they'll neither listen nor believe. 22 So where does it get you, all this speaking in tongues no one understands? It doesn't help believers, and it only gives unbelievers something to gawk at. Plain truth-speaking, on the other hand, goes straight to the heart of believers and doesn't get in the way of unbelievers. 23 If you come together as a congregation and some unbelieving outsiders walk in on you as you're all praying in tongues, unintelligible to each other and to them, won't they assume you've taken leave of your senses and get out of there as fast as they can? 24 But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God's truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth 25 and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they're going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. 26 So here's what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. 27 If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three's the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you're saying. 28 Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. 29 And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. 30 Take your turn, no one person taking over. 31 Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. 32 If you choose to speak, you're also responsible for how and when you speak. 33 When we worship the right way, God doesn't stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches - no exceptions. 34 Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, 35 asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God's Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking. 36 Do you - both women and men - imagine that you're a sacred oracle determining what's right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you? 37 If any one of you thinks God has something for you to say or has inspired you to do something, pay close attention to what I have written. This is the way the Master wants it. 38 If you won't play by these rules, God can't use you. Sorry. 39 Three things, then, to sum this up: When you speak forth God's truth, speak your heart out. Don't tell people how they should or shouldn't pray when they're praying in tongues that you don't understand. 40 Be courteous and considerate in everything. 1 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time - this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand 2 and by which your life has been saved. (I'm assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you're in this for good and holding fast.) 3 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; 4 that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; 5 that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, 6 and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); 7 that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; 8 and that he finally presented himself alive to me. 9 It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don't deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God's church right out of existence. 10 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven't I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn't amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it. 11 So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it's all the same: We spoke God's truth and you entrusted your lives. 12 Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? 13 If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. 14 And face it - if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. 15 Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ - sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection. 16 If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead. 17 And if Christ wasn't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. 18 It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves. 19 If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. 20 But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. 21 There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. 22 Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. 23 But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, 24 the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. 25 He won't let up until the last enemy is down - 26 and the very last enemy is death! 27 As the psalmist said, "He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them." When Scripture says that "he walked all over them," it's obvious that he couldn't at the same time be walked on. 28 When everything and everyone is finally under God's rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God's rule is absolutely comprehensive - a perfect ending!
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