The Priority of Love: 13:1-3.
(Read 1 Cor 13:1-3)
In Chapter 12 we find the theme of unity in diversity and the use of various spiritual gifts. In chapter 13, Paul explains that love must be the motivation behind the use of these gifts. Paul now gives the beautiful and complete description of love in this chapter. Agape is the highest form of love. This is the love of God that is constant, never ending and self sacrificial. Someone has spelled love as, s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16). We love God when we love his Son. This passage shows that love is more important than spiritual gifts. Without love, gifts have no lasting value. Love is the essence of Christian faith. God is love (1 John 4:7-9). We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). God graciously reveals his sacrificial love by sending his son to die on the cross (Rom 5:8). God is concerned with the motives behind our works. All spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love. This chapter can be divided into three sections: the priority of love (1 Cor 1-3); the character of love (1 Cor 4-7); and the permanent nature of love (1 Cor 8-13). If we speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have no love, it has no lasting value (1 Cor 13:1). Scholars suggest that when pagan priests spoke in tongues, it was considered that they spoke in the language of their gods. The spectacular talents such as eloquence may impress people but in God’s sight it is of no value. Paul says that we may possess many gifts but if they are not exercised in love we gain nothing (1 Cor 13:2). Our sacrifices including our willingness to die for Christ gain nothing if we don’t have love. We are able to love others because God has poured into our heart his love through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). The fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal 5:22). The world says we should love ourselves. God says we should love others with sacrificial love. Pray that we may meditate on God's love so that we can serve others.
The Character of Love: 13:4-7.
(Read 1 Cor 13:4-7)
Paul now shows 14 qualities of sacrificial love. The Corinthian church was enriched with all spiritual gifts but it was filled with jealousy, boasting and arrogance. Only God’s transforming grace can change our hearts to love other (1 Cor 12:31). The spiritual gifts must be exercised in love (Gal 5:22). The love is the greatest virtue because unlike hope and faith, love never passes away. For all eternity we will be meditating on God's love toward us. Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s sacrificial love (John 3:16; Gal 2:20; Rev 1:5). There is no love like the love of our dying Savior. Love should be the natural outflow in the Christian life.
The Permanent Nature of Love: 13:8-13.
(Read 1 Cor 13: 8-13)
Unlike many of the spiritual gifts, love will never cease. For all eternity, love will be our response to God’s mercy and grace. Paul says “Prophecies, tongues and special knowledge will pass away. When Paul was writing the epistle, the scripture was not complete and these gifts were necessary. But when the scripture was completed, these gifts are not needed for the edification of the church. Faith, hope and love operate together. Faith is the confidence that God is working in our lives for His glory and our good. Hope is the confident expectation of what we are going to experience in the future. Love is the greatest of all virtues because God is love. Everything in God is permeated with love, including his wrath. If God does not get angry with sin, we would question his love. Love is the highest expression of the Christian life. Paul says “But when the perfect comes, the partial prophecy and partial knowledge will pass away” (1 Cor 13:10). This should be understood in light of 1 Cor 2:6, Ephesians 4:11-16 and Heb 6:1. Paul uses the neuter gender for perfect here, so it does not refer to an individual. Paul compares Christian life to childhood life. When we become mature we give up the childish habits. Now we see things imperfectly but then face to face. Now we know in part but then we will know everything completely (1 Cor 13:12). During the apostolic period, they saw everything dimly but when the last book of Revelation was added to the New Testament, they knew more fully than before. We will never have perfect knowledge of God, even in heaven. God is omniscient. The scripture was given so that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18; 1 Pet 2:1-2). The sign gifts are fragmentary and only a means to an end. God has given us everything needed for living a godly life through the scriptures (2 Pet 1:3; 2 Tim 3:16-17). Paul says “Now faith, hope and love abide but the greatest is love”. Faith and hope will pass away when Christ returns. Love alone abides. Paul challenges Corinthians to grow in love by focusing on Christ’s saving work. There is no love like the sacrificial love of Christ. We are exhorted to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21).