25 May 20191 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. (v. 8)
Psalm: Psalm 136:1-9
This famous passage of love occurs in the context of Paul’s discussion of worship in the Church. Given divisions among Christians, Paul emphasises the centrality of love, pointing to its supremacy, its character, and its eternal duration.
The first stanza affirms that love is greater than all the gifts (vs. 1-3). Even if we can speak in tongues or prophesy or have great faith, that is all useless unless our lives are grounded in love. Even if we sacrifice our bodies or our lives for others, it is for nothing if we do so without love. To the Corinthians who prized spiritual gifts, this was a reminder that love was what was central.
The second stanza gives us a rich description of the character of love (vs. 4-7). Many have been reminded of Jesus as they have read the description, and it’s not surprising that these verses have been applied in all sorts of different circumstances, including at weddings! For Paul, of course, such love should characterise life within the Church. When we pursue the way of love, we reflect God’s intention for life together.
The final stanza affirms that love will continue into eternity, in contrast to the spiritual gifts that will someday end (vs. 8-13). Prophecies, tongues and knowledge may be important in this age, but it is only love that will continue in the age to come. Just like an adult puts away childish ways when they mature, so the church will no longer require spiritual gifts when Christ comes again. Then Christians will see God "face to face", then will "know fully", and the veil separating this age from the coming age will fade away (v. 12). Paul ends by affirming that faith, hope and love abide – each will continue throughout eternity – and the greatest of these is love.
- How can we keep love central in our relations to other Christians?
- In what ways does the description of love remind you of the character of Jesus?