1 Corinthians 13 (NKJV)
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 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, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This powerful passage on love is one of Paul’s most well-remembered writings in Scripture. Love is a broad subject and this chapter covers the attributes of love that could be applicable in almost any relationship, but Paul specifically speaks here of the importance of love as a component of the Christian life. He starts by touting love as the symbol of Christianity itself. Without love, all the machinations of Christian existence–tongues, faith, and even martyrdom–are worthless. Love is the sign of true Christianity.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Paul then moves to a discussion of the traits of love. Love is characterized as producing patience, kindness, generosity, humility, mannerly behavior, selflessness, purity, abhorrence of evil, strength, doctrinal fidelity, and endurance. This is truly a parallel to the fruit of the Spirit, showing that love is the root fruit of all the things the Spirit produces in the life of the believer. Exhibiting the traits of love is Godly at all points.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.1 Corinthians 13:8=13
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Paul then describes the the eternal nature of love. It is one of the foundational qualities of God, and will not disappear when death or the end of the earth comes about. Love will outlast prophecy, tongues, and earthly knowledge. The imperfect world in which we live contains and other-worldly characteristic: the agape love of God. This inexorable trait of God Almighty is eternal. Paul describes the changes that will take place once we are in heaven in light of the changes that take place when a child becomes and adult physically, intellectually, and emotionally. When the Christian soul reaches heaven in the presence of the Lord, his or her knowledge blooms fully, and that Christian will know like God knows. In that environment, love will be the trait of God and all His people in that wondrous, perfect place. Paul then aligns love with faith and hope, and then elevates love to the place of the greatest of the three.
What does this say to the church of today? We must embrace the concept and reality of God’s love. Sinners must accept and embrace His love to be saved. Christians must appropriate and embrace His love to be like Him and to witness that love to others. Ministers must preach and reach in love in order to reflect God in their lives. When love is restored as the hallmark of the Christian faith, revival will come and conversion will be easy. With the hate or indifference that marks much of the church today, no one sees Christianity as a viable option for improvement or relief. But love will sin the sinner, cleanse the unclean, and draw the wicked into the light to be changed. Love above all else, especially as God loved the world.
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