It is so easy, from our perspective today, to look back at the early church as some sort of model of harmony and peace, an example of what true worship was all about. Unfortunately, New Testament history is so similar to Old Testament history in that both show just how far fallen we all are.
Take, for example, the church in Corinth, which Paul established on his second missionary journey. A commercial hub, known for its luxury and wealth, Corinth was also a center of one of the most sensual and degrading religions of that era. Influenced by their culture, immorality and dissension had invaded the church. And yet, as bad as it was, it was not the only problem there. Paul addressed other issues that were causing factions to develop in the church, including idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), and the seeming over emphasis of the gifts, especially the misuse of the gift of tongues for self-seeking motives (1 Corinthians 14).
In the midst of his discourse to the Corinthians and all their problems, Paul gives them the famous chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. What is the essential message here? More important, how can we apply this to our lives and worship today?
Paul suggested that no profession we make, no mighty miracles, no charismatic gifts, no piety or zeal, will profit us unless there is a heart filled with love for God, confirmed by love for one another. That, says Paul, is the ultimate gift for which we should seek, which may not be substituted with anything less.
Spiritual gifts are helpful, and Christians should use their gifts to honor God and to build up the church in unity. But never should any gift be used for display of self, personal gain, or in a disorderly way in worship or otherwise.
In the end, a church filled with loving dedicated Christians will exert an influence and power that extends far beyond the weekly worship service.
How much does unselfish love for others impact your daily life? That is, how much of your own time and energy do you spend on seeking to minister to others? How much of self are you willing to renounce, all for the good of other people? It is not so easy, is it?