Have you ever been preparing for a trip and after looking at the directions thought that there has to be a better way than this or planning event and know that there has to be a more productive way to accomplish your goal? That is what we will be thinking about today not just a better way but a more excellent way.
Paul addresses the church at Corinth, on the topic of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. He explains that not every gift is the same and he gives the example of how each of our body parts is made for different purposes but are all part of the same body. Evidently, there were some people that felt their gift wasn’t as good as others and probably some who thought because their gift was considered one of the “good ones” that they were more important. This was for the church at Corinth right? We would never think that today, would we? Being envious of others gifts does not benefit the body of Christ.
In the last verse of chapter 12 Paul says this, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” When he tells them to covet earnestly the best gifts, it sounds like he is contradicting himself. Spiritual gifts are what made them useful to the kingdom. What Paul is really saying here is that if they should desire to be as useful that they can be, they should desire to use the gifts that they possess to the highest potential.
The last half of the verse was Paul’s main point. Let’s break it down a bit. The little would “yet” holds a lot of power. Translated from the Greek, it means “a thing which went on formerly now a different state of things exist.” Being envious of the best gifts and trying to decide who was more important was what went on formerly but now Paul wants to show them a different way to exist.
Not only did Paul want to show them a different way but a more excellent way. The word excellent defined from the Greek means “a throwing beyond or beyond all measure.” This was the last verse of Chapter 12 so what was Paul talking about? He used the whole next chapter to tell them. 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.
Love is the more excellent way. It doesn’t matter what gifts you possess or how well you use them without love they are empty. Theologian John Trapp said it this way “Graces are better than gifts. A shopful of barrels enrich not, unless full of commodities. Gifts as to heaven are but the lumber of a Christian.”
As we use our commodities or gifts for God, let’s remember to fill them out of love and not be empty barrels. If Mr. Trapp had it right and I think he does our gifts are to be used to build the kingdom the more excellent way.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) (NIV)