1 Corinthians 13
This chapter is like sitting under a warm blanket on a rainy cold drizzly day with a good book. There may even be a fire crackling in the fireplace. It has all the warmth one can receive from one chapter and it is amongst a book with what may feel like a lot of rules and a lot of don’t do this, and do that! I got excited this week just knowing this book was coming up.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love I have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Paul is telling these Corinthians what is the most important in and among all of the other things he has told them. He has taught them about sacrifice, he has taught them about faith, he has taught them about spiritual gifts but if they don’t have love for each other and love for God in the midst of all of that they have nothing! We can store up all of the knowledge of God. We can have enough faith to move mountains. But if we can’t love our fellow man then we are merely blowing smoke, as they say. Only worse because its like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal!
It’s also important to know the Greek word that Paul is using here. When we read the Bible and when we see the word love we see one word. But when you find out what Greek word was used it brings a clearer meaning to the passage. The Greeks had four different words that they used for love. Eros is the physical love between a man and a woman. Storge is a family love, it describes the love of a parent and child or love of family. Philia is a brotherly love and affection. Agape love is all encompassing. It is sacrificial, it is giving more of yourself than you ever would expect to receive. It denies self, it does not want anything back. It gives because it wants to, not because it has to. It does not give in order to receive, it just gives. It just loves. This love Paul is talking about, it’s agape love.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
I don’t see any way I could explain this passage any better than Paul has put it. Love is patient and kind. He also tells us what it is not. It does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing. And then what it is, it rejoices with truth. All of that is pretty self explanatory. But then he ties it up with a bow
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Love covers everything we could bear from another, it believes the best in circumstances and in people. It is hopeful for the future! It endures, it keeps on believing and hoping and bearing what comes. It does not give up! This is the kind of Love that can feel so deeply it hurts but it can’t feel any other way. It is the kind that goes on and on and on!
“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
Paul is referring to the spiritual gifts that he has just been teaching them about, prophecy, speaking in tongues even knowledge will or may go away one day. But even no matter how much we think we know, or how much we think we could possibly prophesy or if one can speak in tongues. All of that is just a small part “but when the perfect comes” all of that will go away. What does he meant about “when the perfect comes”.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)
As we grow up in Christ and we gain more faith and more knowledge of Jesus we still can’t know Him like we will know Him when we are face to face with Him. We will know Him “fully”, the same way that He knows us when we are face to face with Him. That’s when the perfect comes!
“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The things our Christian life should be in pursuit of faith, hope and love! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are great, but they are not to be our focus. We should not just pursue, miracles or power. But faith hope and love is what we pursue, it’s what the world needs more of. Faith and hope are attributes of us, not of God, He does not need to have faith or to have hope. But love, this agape kind of love is a love that only God can put in us. To pursue this kind of love is to pursue God. God is love!
Sweet Lord, we pursue You! We want to feel the warmth of You, like a warm blanket in this cold, dreary world. God we want to have faith and hope that things will work out but the kind of faith and hope we need we can only get by pursuing love, pursuing You!
Please pray for your pastor and your church today. Things are still so strange.