The Way of Love
13 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 gain nothing.
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. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
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. 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.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“People of little religion are always noisy; he who has not the love of God and man filling his heart is like an empty wagon coming violently down a hill: it makes a great noise, because there is nothing in it.” – Josiah Gregory
It seems the Believers at the church of Corinth were captivated with the topic of spiritual gifts, in particular, that of tongues. They had become a noisy empty wagon (to reference Josiah Gregory) but were lacking the greatest of all things, being love.
You step back and consider the writing here of Paul, so much of what their problem was, besides their human sinful nature rearing its head over and over, was a lack of love for one another. They were shells of people who were hardly transformed by the love of Christ in their own daily life.
This passage is one of the more famous of Paul’s referenced in sermons and weddings. Have we become numb however to the incredible words of challenge and truth of which he speaks?
Once again, Paul articulates as a follow up to the aspect of spiritual gifts and honoring one above the other that all actions and behaviors must come back to love in our hearts. It is the foundation that must drive people above the legalism, the opinions, and spiritual gifts. This aspect is what will set the unity of Believers on the course for a greater things. His summary at the end of the chapter above the gifts are faith, hope, and love and should be the focus of how we live and interact, how we respond to needs and struggles.
Truly these three aspects are what we should come back to time and again. But as he drives home the greatest of these 3 is love. For although we cannot function and run on all cylinders without faith and hope – without love as a central aspect, everything else becomes meaningless; we become distracted by these and overlook the greatest. If we lose love, we have lost everything.
1 Corinthians 13 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The Greeks had four different words to describe love.
- ‘Eros’ described erotic love. It was the word used to describe sexual love.
- ‘Storge’ referred to family love. It described the love between father and son or between family members in general.
- ‘Philia’ is best described as brotherly love or deep partnership. The opposite of philia would be phobia.
- ‘Agape’ is the love Paul is describing here in 1 Corinthians 12.
Agape love is very unique. It is a commitment type of love that does not change. It is a self-sacrificial type of love that does not demand or even expect to be paid back. It is a love that does not make sense; it’s a love extended to the unlovable. According to Alan Redpath, we get our English word agony from agape. “It means the actual absorption of our being in one great passion.” The word has more to do with denial of self than an emotional feeling.
So, considering all this, it really does make the passages stand out in a new way.
If we are not denying ourselves for the sake of others, our lives are nothing.
We could have prophecy, knowledge, faith, good deeds, and even give our lives up – but if we do not have agape love, it has all been for nothing. It sounds almost contradictory, but there were early Christians who bragged about their ability to endure suffering for Jesus. They viewed suffering and dying as a martyr as the most important aspect of a Christian life. In many ways, they did it for themselves. Though all these traits Paul has listed are important, none of them are more important than agape love.
How do we even begin to do this?
“Agape love does not come naturally to us. Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love. If we are to love as God loves, that love—that agape—can only come from its Source. This is the love that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” when we became His children (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). Because of God’s love toward us, we are able to love one another.” -GotQuestions.org