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Updated 1 Jul 2019
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1 Corinthians 13
This is probably the best known chapter in the letter. It is a passage often used at weddings, but it is also very much a message to the Church. Paul is talking about Agape; the love that comes from God. And we know that this is a quality of love which is only possible through a relationship with God Himself.
The Most Excellent Way
Paul has been writing about spiritual gifts and he wants them to be used in a way that builds up the body of Christ. He considers these gifts to be of great value and refers to tongues, prophesy and faith. He also mentions sacrificial giving to the poor and even a willingness to die for the sake of the gospel. But what he says is that, without love, all of these gifts and actions are empty and meaningless. Pride, self-importance and arrogance should have no place in our lives. Everything that we do must flow from our love for others.
Paul takes us through a number of qualities which demonstrate what love is and he also indicates what love is not. He makes no detailed explanation of these things but, when we read them, they are a considerable challenge to the way we behave towards others.
Love is patient and kind, it rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and love never fails.
Love does not envy or boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs and love does not delight in evil.
Because love rejoices with the truth, Christian love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres and the body of Christ which faithfully demonstrates love towards one another, will be a very distinctive community within the world. Sadly, however, there is often a lack of Christian love, which causes much destruction in the body of Christ. In this letter, Paul has been concerned that there has been selfish behaviour in Corinth, which has not built up the Church but has actually caused division and a bad testimony.
The Love of Christ
When we look at the character of Jesus, we see so many of the qualities of love that Paul has described. The willingness of Jesus to seek the will of His Father and to go to the cross, despite its shame and great suffering, shows kindness, humility and a genuine love for mankind. Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, offers us protection and hope. He never gives up, even when we fail Him. He loves us and keeps on loving us. When He forgives us, the record is wiped out and He remembers our sin no more.
Paul recognises that there will come a time when many of the spiritual gifts will no longer be needed because, when we are with Jesus, we will be in a place where there is no sin and no darkness. However, there will never be a cessation of his love. We will enjoy that love forever!
Points to Consider:
- What do you think is the most excellent way that Paul refers to in this letter?
- How can we encourage spiritual gifts but still make love the priority?
- How does our love compare with the description of love in this chapter?
- Consider the statement that love keeps no record of wrongs. How can we address this in the church where, sometimes, resentment and unforgiveness can remain, even after many years?
- As leaders in the church, how can we practically protect God’s people and encourage them to love even as Jesus loves?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 13
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