1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The greatest, most essential gift that God gave His church, the gift that contains the most divine power, is the gift of His love working in us and through us. His love was placed within us when we were saved by His grace (Rom. 5:5). His love, working in us and displayed one to another, is the greatest testimony we have to a lost world (John 13:35).
When we walk in love one for another, we are walking in obedience to the Lord (John 13:34). When we walk in love one for another, we prove that we are saved by His grace (1 John 3:14).
One of the problems in the church at Corinth was that they were manifesting nearly every spiritual gift in existence, but they were not walking in love one for one another. The Corinthians loved the flashy gifts: tongues, prophecy, and other gifts that made them look spiritual in the eyes of others. But God wanted them to come to the place where they loved each other as He loved them.
First Corinthians 13 talks about what matters most. How smart you are, how wealthy, how popular, how famous, how well-liked—it doesn’t matter. How well you love is what matters. When you learn to love as Jesus loves, you have discovered what matters most.
I. LOVE’S DISTINCTION (VERSES 1-3)
The whole idea of these verses is that love is distinct from and superior to anything we can be or do! Regardless of what we do, if it is not infused with and carried out through the love of God, it is a colossal waste of time.
A. Love is higher than the sensational (verse 1). You may be a great speaker, but that is no substitute for love. Without love, you are simply a clanging cymbal.
B. Love is higher than the spectacular (verse 2). This verse mentions several spectacular abilities. But, even if a person does all these things and does not have God’s love in their heart, he/ she is nothing!
C. Love is higher than the sacrificial (verse 3). We can give away everything we own and even give up our bodies on the altar of martyrdom, but if we do so without love in our hearts, it is a waste of time and does not profit us one bit.
The emphasis is clear! When love is absent, the Christian is no better than a heathen (verse 1); he is nothing (verse 2) and can expect nothing (verse 3). Regardless of what others may think of us, our abilities, or our gifts, without love, it is all a spectacular waste of time!
II. LOVE’S DESCRIPTION (VERSES 4-12)
In these verses, Paul gives an in-depth description of love and reveals all of its characteristics to us. These are truths that we need to be reminded of continually.
A. Love‘s features (verses 4-6). Paul shows us the many sides of true, godly love. As if love were a great and brilliant diamond, he holds it up before us and reveals its many facets. As he does, the Person of God is revealed in each gleam of light from the surface of love.
1. Suffereth long (verse 4). This means “patient endurance under provocation.”
2. Is kind (verse 4). This word refers to “active goodness that goes forth on behalf of others.”
3. Envieth not (verse 4). True love is “not jealous” over the abilities, successes, or possessions of others.
4. Vaunteth not itself (verse 4). Literally, this phrase means “does not make a parade.” Love does not brag! It does not draw attention to itself or to what it is doing.
5. Is not puffed up (verse 4). Love is “not arrogant or proud.” It realizes that all it has and all that it is has been given to it by God.
6. Does not behave itself unseemly (verse 5). Love is “never rude.” It always treats others with compassion, consideration, and respect.
7. Seeketh not her own (verse 5). True love is “never selfish and self-centered” but is actively interested in what will profit others.
8. Is not easily provoked (verse 5). True love “keeps no record of evils done to it” but willingly endures all slights and injuries.
9. Thinketh no evil (verse 5). Love “takes no worthless inventory.” First, genuine love does not attribute evil motives to people.
10. Rejoiceth not in iniquity (verse 6). Love does not rejoice in sin. Love hates sin! Love does not rejoice when another falls into sin.
11. Rejoiceth in the truth (verse 6). While love hates all forms of evil, it loves the truth. It rejoices when truth is proclaimed and when truth wins the victory.
B. Love‘s fortitude (verses 7-12). These verses tell us of love’s staying power. Love is a remarkable thing that never waivers or fails!
1. Beareth all things (verse 7). Love patiently endures and overlooks the faults of others.
2. Believeth all things (verse 7). Love always places the best possible interpretation on everything that happens.
3. Hopeth all things (verse 7). Love always expects the best possible outcome. Love always holds out hope that things will work out right in the end.
4. Endureth all things (verse 7). It stands its ground and continues in spite of everything that is thrown against it. It continues in spite of persecution and ill treatment.
5. Charity never fails (verses 8-12). When
everything else in this world has passed away,
when everything that we hold in high esteem
is gone, when knowledge and spiritual gifts no
longer matter, love will still exist. It is the great
constant throughout eternity.
III. LOVE’S DURABILITY (VERSE 13)
The Bible says that three things abide: faith,
hope, and love. Yet, faith and hope are encompassed
inside of love. Therefore, the greatest
thing a believer can possess is love! If our love
is right, faith is no problem! If our love is right,
our hope is in the right place. When our love is
right, we are right!
What makes love so great? Well, love is the
defining characteristic of who God is (1 John
4:8). When the Bible wanted to describe God in
one sentence, it said, “God is love.”
For just a moment, take all the things you
value today and set them aside. Forget about
your talents, your intelligence, your gifts, your
potential, your achievements, and anything else
you want to mention. Now, forgetting all those
other things, how well do you love? Do you
love God more than anything else in this world
(Matt. 22:37, 38)? Do you love others as God
loves them (Matt. 22:39, 40)? Is there room for
improvement in your life or have you figured it
If you need to talk to Him about how you
love, do it now. Who wants to ask Him to help
you love as He loves?