To say that the church in Corinth had problems would be an understatement. Many of their problems surrounded the use of spiritual gifts. Up to this point Paul has reprimanded the church pretty severely. He now switches gears and tells them something they need to focus on cultivating. What Paul wants them to cultivate has greater value than the stuff they are arguing about, it will last longer, and it will benefit the church more than anything else. What does he want them to cultivate—love.
Paul is convinced that if the church focuses on cultivating their love for one another most of the problems in the church will vanish. Paul is seeking to show the Corinthians the superiority of love over everything else. Throughout this chapter, Paul is trying to teach them the “more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).This chapter is all about the importance of love. He begins the chapter by explaining that without love our words, service, and gifts are meaningless.
Words Without Love Is Useless. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NKJV)
One of the major problems at Corinth surrounded the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul informs them hat even if he could speak in any language in heaven or on the earth and didn’t have love it would just be noise. We could also apply this to being an eloquent speaker. We could be the most eloquent speaker in the world, but if our speaking is devoid of love it is meaningless—just a lot of noise.
Spiritual Gifts Without Love Is Worthless. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV)
Love is greater, and more important than spiritual gifts. If you had the gift of prophesy, knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, it would be useless if you didn’t love others. If you had the gift of faith and could move mountains but didn’t love others, you would be no good to anyone.
Sacrifice Without Love Is Meaningless. “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NKJV)
Love is even greater than sacrifice. If you sold all you had and gave it to the poor or sacrificed your life but didn’t love others, you would be of no value to God’s Kingdom at all. This is all pretty significant.
This all makes love pretty important. I tend to think the world at large understands the importance of love. That’s why there are so many love songs that are so popular. That’s why romantic comedies are so popular. I think most people realize the importance of love. The problem lies in our understanding of love. This is why Paul takes the time to describe what love looks like.
Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13 what love does and what love does not do. He explains what love in action looks like. He explains that love is less about words and more about actions. This week I plan to write about love from 1 Corinthians 13.