Contributor: Alex Alajiki
INTRODUCTION: Last week, we looked at the second part of the use of Spiritual Gifts. We concluded saying that Paul’s admonishment to earnestly desire the greater gifts is not addressed to the individual but to the collective church. And that the “best gifts” are those that benefit the general body of Christ. He also mentioned “the excellent way.” The excellent way Paul was referring to is love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart.
1) LOVE IS GREATER THAN ANY SPIRITUAL GIFT: 1 Cor.13:1-3
In these three verses, Paul mentions spiritual gifts and other God-given abilities: tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, giving, and martyrdom. The first four gifts are listed in 12:8-10. Martyrdom is a God-given ability to die for Christ’s sake. Paul kicks off 13:1 with the gift of tongues when he writes, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Paul says you can speak in tongues all you want (of men and angels), but if you don’t have love you are merely making a lot of noise. Then in verses 2-3, Paul mentions more spiritual gifts when he writes,
“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Prophecy refers to the ability to declare God’s truth in a powerful, life-changing way. Knowledge involves the deep understanding of the Word of God. Faith is the unique ability to trust God for great things. These three gifts are all from the Holy Spirit, and yet without love the person who has them is “nothing.”
Verse 3 poses a problem because it asks us to ponder activities that we automatically consider noble. Giving to the poor is a good thing to do. And dying for your faith in Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. But as good as these things are, without love they do you no good. Paul declares that the greatest expression of spirituality is love. We could summarize these three verses like this: Without love…I say nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing.
Clearly, we must have love when we are exercising our spiritual gifts. So, let us stop for just a moment and reflect on our spiritual gifts as individuals and as a church. Do you do what you do out of genuine love for people? Or do you serve out of a sense of obligation? Do you serve because of the satisfaction you derive from ministry? Do you minister because you like honing your skills? Although no one has perfectly pure motives, we ought to be seeking to grow in our love quotient. Paul says that love is an action, not an emotion; therefore, we need to put feet to our love. Love is the measure of true spirituality (1 John 4:7-10).
2) THE CHARACTERISTICS OF LOVE: 1 Cor.13:4-7
After talking about the importance of love, Paul now will discuss how love behaves. Love is expressed by supernatural responses. Love is a word that can only be properly defined in terms of action, attitude, and behaviour. Paul wanted his readers to know what love looks like when we see it. And so, he paints fifteen separate portraits of love. Not our contemporary definition of love as an emotion or a feeling—we love our jobs, we love football and we love pizza. In the biblical definition of agape, love acts, for love is an action, not an emotion.
Verse 4 begins by summarizing the unselfish nature of love. Love sums up our Christian life!
Everything we need to be prepared for heaven, and everything we are admonished to imbibe is what love
1) Love is patient. Patience with circumstances and patience with people. Love doesn’t have a short fuse. It doesn’t lose its temper easily. A person who exercises agape love does not lose patience with people. Love never says, “I’ll give you just one more chance.” Love is patient; it never gives up (Galatians 6:9)
2) Love is kind. Kindness is not to be equated with giving everyone what he or she wants. Sometimes love must be tough. Kindness means to withhold what harms, as well as give what heals. Love is kind, but often tough.
3) Love is not jealous. Jealousy implies being displeased with the success of others. Yet, true love desires the success of others. The best way to cure envy is to pray sincerely for the one of whom you are jealous. To pray for him or her is to demonstrate love, and jealousy and love cannot exist in the same heart.
4) Love does not brag. Love is not big-headed but big-hearted. This means the more loving you become, the less boasting you need to do. The greater your spiritual gifts, the less prone you should be to brag.
5) Love is not arrogant. The term “arrogant” refers to a grasping for power. It is more serious than bragging, which is only grasping for praise. Arrogant people push themselves into leadership, using people as stepping-stones, and always consider themselves exempt from the requirements on mere mortals. Arrogance disrespects others and carries a distain for others. God calls us to serve others and be gracious toward them.
6) Love does not act unbecomingly. This word is best translated “rude.” There are some Christians who seem to take delight in being blunt, justifying it on the grounds of honesty. Love doesn’t always verbalize all its thoughts, particularly if those thoughts don’t build others up. There is a graciousness in love which never forgets that courtesy, tact, and politeness are lovely things.
7) Love does not seek its own. A self-absorbed narcissistic person cannot act in love. Love is not possessive, demanding, stubborn, or dominating. Love does not talk too much but listens as well. Love does not insist on its own way. It is always willing to defer to others.
8) Love is not provoked. Love is not given to emotional outbursts, is not exasperated by petty annoyances, and refuses to let someone else get under one’s skin.
9) Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Paul uses the normal word here for bookkeeping. Love does not keep a ledger of evil deeds. It doesn’t write down each injury done and keep the account open to be settled someday.
10) Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. Love takes no joy in evil of any kind. It takes no malicious pleasure when it hears about the inadequacies, mistakes, and sins of someone else. Love is righteous. Now, after eight sobering negatives come five glorious positives:
11) Love rejoices with the truth. Truth must make our love discriminating, and love must make our truth compassionate and forgiving. If our actions are in accord with agape love, we will always welcome biblical truth, never resist it.
12) Love bears all things. The phrase “bears all things” comes from a Greek word meaning to cover something. It is related to the word for roof—a covering that offers protection from the hostile elements. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins. That is precisely the meaning here. Love protects other people. It doesn’t broadcast bad news. It goes the second mile to protect another person’s reputation.
13) Love believes all things. Love always gives the other person the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best about people. Love always trusts. Love says, “I am willing to wait for the evidence to come in before making my decision. I choose to give you the benefit of the doubt as long as there is reason to do so.
14) Love hopes all things. The third phrase in 13:7 tells us that love “hopes all things.” This is simply a step beyond believing. Love hopes and expects the best. Love never loses faith in other people and gives up on them but remain faithful to them, in spite of their shortcomings.
15) Love endures all things. The word “endures” is a military term that means to hold a position at all costs, even unto death, whatever it takes. Love holds fast to people it loves. It perseveres. It never gives up on anyone. Love won’t stop loving, even in the face of rejection.
3) LOVE IS AN ETERNAL GIFT: 1 Cor.13:8-13
In these final six verses, Paul discusses the temporary nature of the spiritual gifts and the eternal nature of love. Verse 8 says: “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.”
Love never ends but spiritual gifts will be done away with one day.
The reason that spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongues will come to an end is revealed in 13:9-10. Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” Paul explains that we are limited in our understanding, but this will not always be the case. A time of perfection is coming! The “perfect” refers to the returning of Christ.
Paul explains himself further in 13:11-12: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
Paul explains that our understanding of God is indirect in this life. He uses two analogies: childhood and a mirror. In using the analogy of childhood, Paul is not suggesting that those who speak in tongues are childish and immature. Rather, he is adopting an eternal perspective and simply saying that there will come a time when the gifts of the Spirit will no longer be necessary. The analogy of the mirror implies that our visibility of Christ is indirect. In other words, Paul is comparing the nature of looking in a mirror to the relationship we will enjoy with Jesus when we see Him “face to face.”
Paul concludes this chapter in with these words: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” For all eternity, we will enjoy love. We will experience God’s incredible love, we will experience a deep love for God, and we will love one another with a perfect love. Faith, Hope and love, the greatest of these is love. Love is eternal. Love covers not only what we experience in our relations to others and to God, but what we experience from God Himself.
This Study was culled from bible.org