Recognizing that the Corinthians are particularly attracted to the spiritual gifts of knowledge, prophecyProphecy is the gift, inspired by God, of speaking and interpreting the divine will. Prophets such as Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel spoke words of judgment and comfort to the people of Israel on behalf of God. More, and speaking in tongues, PaulA Christian missionary who once persecuted the church More argues that any of these without love is worthless.
Many people know this chapter as a reading from Scripture used at weddings. Yet the chapter is not written to a couple. It is written to members of a church. These church members have found many ways to imagine themselves as superior to others in the same community: some speak in tongues; some have prophetic powers; some have knowledge that baffles their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul asserts that even such gifts as these are nothing if those who possess them do not also have love.
The chapter returns to a theme of maturity in the faith that Paul first introduced in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. It is not merely the manifestation of spiritual gifts that identify a community or an individual as participating in the risen life of Christ. Rather, truly spiritual life has given up the childish activities of boasting about one’s favorite leaders or one’s superior talent and is instead characterized by patient, kind, enduring love.