1. A CHAPTER FOR TODAY
a. How is the Christian steward affected by prayerful study and meditation on 1 Corinthians 13? 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 4:19–21.
“The Lord desires me to call the attention of His people to the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Read this chapter every day, and from it obtain comfort and strength.”—The Review and Herald, July 21, 1904.
“In the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians the apostle Paul defines true Christlike love. . . . This chapter is an expression of the obedience of all who love God and keep His commandments. It is brought into action in the life of every true believer.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1091.
b. What should be deeply considered by all who profess the present truth in these last days and seek to share it? 2 Peter 1:10–12.
“How careful we should be, that our words and actions are all in harmony with the sacred truth that God has committed to us! The people of the world are looking to us, to see what our faith is doing for our characters and lives. They are watching to see if it is having a sanctifying effect on our hearts, if we are becoming changed into the likeness of Christ. They are ready to discover every defect in our lives, every inconsistency in our actions. Let us give them no occasion to reproach our faith.”—The Review and Herald, June 5, 1888.
2. OVERCOMING SELFISHNESS
a. Why is a knowledge of the truth—along with a polished ability to express it—insufficient to glorify Christ? 1 Corinthians 13:1.
“If the knowledge of the truth produces no beauty in the soul, if it does not subdue, soften, and recreate the man after God’s own image, it is of no benefit to the receiver; it is as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1181.
“It is not the ready speaker, the sharp intellect, that counts with God. It is the earnest purpose, the deep piety, the love of truth, the fear of God, that has a telling influence. A testimony from the heart, coming from lips in which is no guile, full of faith and humble trust, though given by a stammering tongue, is accounted of God as precious as gold; while the smart speech, the eloquent oratory, of the one to whom is entrusted large talents, but who is wanting in truthfulness, in steadfast purpose, in purity, in unselfishness, are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. He may say witty things, he may relate amusing anecdotes, he may play upon the feelings; but the spirit of Jesus is not in it. All these things may please unsanctified hearts, but God holds in His hands the balances that weigh the words, the spirit, the sincerity, the devotion, and He pronounces it altogether lighter than vanity.”—Ibid., vol.6, p. 1091.
b. What warning is given against a self-centered employment of God’s blessings? Malachi 2:2; James 2:15, 16.
“The sin which is indulged to the greatest extent, and which separates us from God and produces so many contagious spiritual disorders, is selfishness. There can be no returning to the Lord except by self-denial. Of ourselves we can do nothing; but, through God strengthening us, we can live to do good to others, and in this way shun the evil of selfishness. We need not go to heathen lands to manifest our desire to devote all to God in a useful, unselfish life. We should do this in the home circle, in the church, among those with whom we associate and with whom we do business. Right in the common walks of life is where self is to be denied and kept in subordination.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 132.
3. A TRAP FOR THE CHRISTIAN STEWARD
a. Although scriptural doctrines, accurate prophetic understanding, and uncompromising courage are essential, what is the warning to all who believe the present truth? 1 Corinthians 13:2, 3.
“No matter how high the profession, he whose heart is not filled with love for God and his fellow men is not a true disciple of Christ. Though he should possess great faith and have power even to work miracles, yet without love his faith would be worthless. He might display great liberality; but should he, from some other motive than genuine love, bestow all his goods to feed the poor, the act would not commend him to the favor of God. In his zeal he might even meet a martyr’s death, yet if not actuated by love, he would be regarded by God as a deluded enthusiast or an ambitious hypocrite.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 318, 319.
b. What dangers can beset even the most zealous adherents to the threefold message? Revelation 3:17; Isaiah 65:5.
“A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. When fastings and prayers are practiced in a self-justifying spirit, they are abominable to God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposed sacrifice—all proclaim to the world the testimony that the doer of these things considers himself righteous. These things call attention to the observer of rigorous duties, saying, This man is entitled to heaven. But it is all a deception. Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. . . . Look up to God, look not to men. God is your heavenly Father who is willing patiently to bear with your infirmities and to forgive and heal them.”—The Review and Herald, March 20, 1894.
“There is nothing that can so weaken the influence of the church as the lack of love. . . . If we are to meet opposition from our enemies, who are represented as wolves, let us be careful that we do not manifest the same spirit among ourselves.”—Ibid., June 5, 1888.
4. DRAWING FROM A PURE FOUNTAIN
a. What type of service is unacceptable to God, and why? Jeremiah 2:13; Isaiah 58:4, 5. How can we overcome this problem? Isaiah 58:6–8.
“Watch unto prayer. In this way alone can you put your whole being into the Lord’s work. Self must be put in the background. Those who make self prominent gain an education that soon becomes second nature to them; and they will soon fail to realize that instead of uplifting Jesus they uplift themselves, that instead of being channels through which the living water can flow to refresh others, they absorb the sympathies and affections of those around them. This is not loyalty to our crucified Lord.”—Counsels on Health, p. 560.
“It is the daily dying to self in the little transactions of life that makes us overcomers. We should forget self in the desire to do good to others.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 132.
b. Describe the result of true religion. James 1:27.
c. How are we to bear these living fruits? John 7:37, 38.
“The pure religion of Jesus is the fountain from which flow streams of charity, love, self-sacrifice.
“A Christian is a Christlike man, a Christlike woman, who is active in God’s service, who is present at the social meeting, whose presence will encourage others also. Religion does not consist in works, but religion works; it is not dormant.
“Many seem to feel that religion has a tendency to make its possessor narrow and cramped, but genuine religion does not have a narrowing influence; it is the lack of religion that cramps the faculties and narrows the mind. When a man is narrow, it is an evidence that he needs the grace of God, the heavenly anointing; for a Christian is one whom the Lord, the God of hosts, can work through, that he may keep the ways of the Lord of the earth and make manifest His will to men.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 935.
5. POWER FOR GENUINE STEWARDSHIP
a. What is the highest rung of the ladder of Christian development? 2 Peter 1:4–7. What must we realize in seeking to cultivate all the qualities of a true Christian?
“We are to add to faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. You are not to think that you must wait until you have perfected one grace, before cultivating another. No; they are to grow up together, fed continually from the fountain of charity; every day that you live, you can be perfecting the blessed attributes fully revealed in the character of Christ; and when you do this, you will bring light, love, peace, and joy into your homes.”—The Review and Herald, July 29, 1890.
b. Explain how we can become imbued with new spiritual life and right motives. Ezekiel 37:1–14; Mark 2:22.
“ ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.’ (Psalm 51:17). Man must be emptied of self before he can be, in the fullest sense, a believer in Jesus. When self is renounced, then the Lord can make man a new creature. New bottles can contain the new wine. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. In him who looks unto the Author and Finisher of our faith the character of Christ will be manifest.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 280.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why should the Christian steward study 1 Corinthians 13 daily?
2. In what ways can any of us be in danger of being as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal?
3. Why could a martyr professing Christ be lost?
4. When will our attitude and work be pleasing to God?
5. How does charity operate with the other qualities in 2 Peter 1:4–7?