“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” I Cor. 13:1-3
In I Corinthians Paul is rebuking the Corithian church for the problems they had. He deals with several surface problems, knowing that the real root problem was lost church members. In I Cor. 6:9-10 (“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”) he gives a representative list of people who are not saved. As you read that list you will notice that all of us are listed there in one form or another. But there is hope as Paul says in I Cor. 6:11, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The language indicates that some of the professing church members in Corinth were still in that list--just not saved.
In our text Paul is in the middle of dealing with the problem of tongues. Some of the members of the church were seeking gifts, especially tongues and Paul closes out I Cor. 12:31 (“But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”) by showing them a “a more excellent way.” And that more excellent way is charity--love in action. (Chapter 13)
This agape love (charity; God kind of love) only comes when one is saved. ( Rom. 5:5: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”) That love is proof of being saved. (I John 3:14: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”) The brethren is the church; therefore, Paul is calling for the church at Corinth to examine themselves in our text--I Cor. 13:1-3. Thus the question and title of this message: What can a lost person do in the kingdom of heaven? I use the term--Kingdom of heaven--to refer to the professing church age which is filled with lost and saved as the parables of Mat. 13 bring out.
What can a lost person do in the kingdom of heaven?
1. Have a gift of speaking. V. 1: (“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”)
Many great orators (one who has the art of speaking in order to persuade) are not saved. How do I know? By their fruit. (Mat. 7:20: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”) This gift of speaking includes preachers who have the gift and ability to move congregations or assemblies. They can articulate, outline, and even believe they are called by God to preach. I know that many will say God does not call a lost man to preach. What does the Bible say? Jeremiah was called from his mother’s womb. (Jer. 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”) You may say this is OT. He called Judas and empowered him to do everything Peter, James, and John did. (Mat.10:1,7-8: “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”) You may say that is a special occasion during a transition period. What about a NT example? Paul makes it very clear in his testimony to Agrippa in Acts 26:16 (“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.”) that he knew beyond doubt that he was called to preach on the road to Dasmascus. And in his testimony before the multitude in Acts 22, he makes it very clear and plain that he was not saved until three days later when Ananias came to him on the street called Straight and told him what to do to be sav ed. (Acts 22:16: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”) Now during that time Paul did not preach but the call to preach was part of what he had to deal with in counting the cost for three days, as he brings out in Phil. Chapter 3. What can a lost person do in the kingdom of heaven? He can preach but if he has not charity--love in action--it will come to naught.
2. He can pray. V. 2 “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
A lost man can pray with faith. Abraham did and sought for a city by faith and built altars and called on the name of the Lord. He did these things several years before he was saved in Gen. 15:6 (“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”), where he understood Jesus was the Seed and righteousness was put on his account. You say that is OT. In the NT, in Acts 10:1-2 (“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”) a Gentile prayed with faith and an angel came and told him what to do that he might hear the gospel and be saved. Then in Acts 10:31 (“And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.”) when he reported to Peter what the angel said, we find out his prayer was heard.
Thus, we conclude a lost man prayed and was heard by God. But Paul says in verse 2 of out text that if a man prays with faith that moves mountains and has not charity--love in action--all his praying and accomplishments will amount to nothing.
3. You can sell out lock, stock, and barrel. V. 3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
I am referring to all outward appearances. You can give everything to the Lord, your material possessions, family, yourself, and even put yourself in a position where your body is literally burned out. For example, one can surrender to full time service as a pastor or missionary and become under such stress in the ministry that your body can not take it. This can cause your life to be shortened and your family suffers. You can even go to foreign soil and place your life in danger, and your family in danger for the so-called cause of Christ. And at the same time be deceived, (Jer. 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?) lost, and have no real love. To this Paul says “It profiteth nothing.”
What can a lost person do in the kingdom of heaven? He can preach, pray, sell out, and all that goes with it. But if charity or love has never been shed abroad in that person’s heart by the Holy Ghost then there will be no profit in it all. Salvation is of the Lord not works. How sad it will be when that person has to stand before God and tries to justify his works. (Mat. 7:22: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”) Then the Lord will say, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Mat. 7:23 How sad that will be. It profiteth nothing.
I beg you to examine yourself (II Cor. 13:5: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”) to make sure you have genuine charity shed abroad in your heart. Get honest with yourself now while there is opportunity to seek the Lord. This message was preached 2-22-04. If you would like a tape of this message or any other material to help you examine your profession, we would be glad to send it to you free of charge as a ministry of our church. We care. ELP
THE PERSUADER - January-March, 2003