1 Corinthians 13
1 The greatest of these is love
Gift and the teaching in chapters 12 and 14 sandwich this chapter about love. This was a church high in the expression and experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, yet expressing them in a confused and disorderly way. A priority that was higher than all the teaching, is the context for all the work of mission – love.
Verse 3, “gain nothing”. Nothing at all?! Being martyred for the gospel is nothing? Is it here suggested that something of the power of heaven is released when a life of love is laid down in service? To lay down our lives does not always mean the easy out of martyrdom but of years of labour too.
2 Whose love?
Whose love is being referred to here in verses 4-7? This is our model but it is the love of God, the character of God.
See Luke 3:1-3
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
An exact time! Scripture deals with real events placed in history. Therefore this section on love is part of the redemption story and speaks of an eternal constant. This love is part of the fabric of the universe and in our “DNA”. We seek to express the love of God which is part of all creation.
Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
3 The Perfect
The gifts and equipping of the Holy Spirit for this life will pass away when this earthly life is over, when this world has passed from our eyes.
Holy Spirit dodgers have grasped at this section in an attempt to justify their claim that the works of the Holy Spirit died out with the apostles.
Some have claimed the “perfect” is the establishment and maturity of the Christian church!
Some have claimed the “perfect” is the completion of the Bible, the canon of scripture!
But neither of those convince me. I think the plain reading of the scripture can mean only one thing, this refers to when we see Jesus face to face, when we will know fully and be fully known.
This is not the only place in scripture that wording like this is used. See 1 John 3:1-3
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Love never fails because love is of God, and God is love, and God never ends and never fails or ceases to be.
For reflection this week, rewrite verses 4-7 putting them in your own words and see how it speaks to you.