In the middle of the Apostle Paul’s exposition on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 is the often quoted chapter on love: 1 Corinthians 13. While Paul recognizes the importance of the spiritual gifts and their place in the Christian’s life, he tells that there is something superior to these gifts. Without love all other gifts have little value.
Eminence of Love (v. 1-3)
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 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.
Love must be mixed in with all the spiritual gifts. Paul specifically mentions the gifts of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith and giving . These gifts can’t accomplish their purpose without the supremacy of love. Love is preeminent to all the spiritual gifts.
Explanation of Love (v. 4-8)
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
Paul gives a succinct explanation of love that describes many of its attributes. From these verses we see what love is and isn’t, or what love does and doesn’t do.
- Rejoices in truth
- Bears up under all problems / Protects
- Believes / Trusts
- Understands the of faults of others
- Never fails / Perseveres
- Inappropriate / Rude
- Accepting of sin
Endurance of Love (v. 8-13)
1 Corinthians 13: 8-13 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
While some of the spiritual gifts will be cut off or pass away, love will remain. One may have had the gift of prophecy or of knowledge, yet they wouldn’t know all things. God does not reveal all things at one time to us. But there is a promise  that “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away.” Though some spiritual gifts will cease, there is always a need for love. Love is permanent. Specifically he mentions that three items will continue and endure: faith, hope and love (or charity). Of the three, Paul says that love is superior. Even the enduring, permanent qualities of faith and hope will be of little value without love.
Life Application of 1 Corinthians 13- A Biblical Study on Love
Love should penetrate every relationship we have, not just romantic and family relationships. Love is not confined to boyfriends and girlfriends. Love should be shown at work, the grocery store and in the classroom.
The two lists of what love is and isn’t shows attitudes. Love is not just a word we say, but an attitude that we have towards others. Have you ever met someone that you immediately enjoy being around? What is it about that person that makes you enjoy their company? It is their attitude. The way they express themselves, or the feelings they can produce through their presence. Of course people can be liars and transmit an attitude of love without really being loving. However, it usually does not take long for one’s true attitude to be revealed. You have probably also been around people who immediately cause you to dislike them. That is a lack of a loving attitude. The attitudes of love express the qualities of love shown in verses 4 through 8.
Are you loving? That may be a hard question to answer. It is very generic. But what about the qualities of love? Are you patient? Are you kind? Trusting? These types of questions are more pointed. How do you stack up?
There is the other list too. Are you envious? Proud? Boastful? What about rude and short-tempered?
Go through the list of attitudes and see how you do when thinking about your work colleagues or schoolmates. What about the other parents at your children’s school who probably need a change of attitude? Paul doesn’t say this is a list of what you need to require of others.
There are various Greek words for love used in the Bible. The word used in this passage is the word agape which is the type of love God has towards us. It is a love that is not dependent on others; rather it is a personal choice. You can’t make someone else have these qualities of love, but you can make a personal choice in your attitude toward them.
Love: A Lesson & A Command
Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Making the choice to love others is not only a suggestion given in Paul’s Bible study on love in 1 Corinthians 13, it is also a command given by our Lord to those who would call themselves Christians.
The Holy Bible, King James Version
YouTube “Wedding Song (There is Love)” by Paul Stookey