Studies in First Corinthians – XIX
1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:1-3
I imagine love lights up the face of Paul as he dictates the next words of his letter. For twelve chapters he has dealt with issues concerning the low spiritual state and disunity of the Corinthian church. As he said in the beginning, they “came behind in no gift” (1:7), but they were tragically lacking in love. It must have been the climax for him to finally give the answer to every problem they faced: the love of God.
Love remains the answer for us today. In fact, Paul tells us quite plainly in these verses that if we have no love, we have nothing; but if we have love and lack much else, we have what matters most.
The word that Paul uses for “love” (translated “charity” in the KJV) is agape. It means an actual absorption of every part of our being in one great passion. It is used most often in relation to God: “God so loved [agapao] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This word has little to do with emotion; it indicates love which deliberately, by an act of will, chooses its object, and through thick or thin, regardless of the attractiveness of the object concerned, goes on loving continually, unconditionally, eternally.
It suggests complete self-denial. Loving in this manner means never thinking of self over the object of love. There is only One who has ever lived up to its definition.
It is the only word used to describe God without any qualification or explanation: God is agape. No explanation needed.
Whatever love is, Jesus is. Jesus suffers long and is kind. Jesus envies not; Jesus vaunts not Himself, is not puffed up, does not behave Himself unseemly. Jesus seeks not His own, it not easily provoked, takes no account of evil, rejoices not in unrighteousness, but rejoices with truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.
Love is the one thing that is completely indestructible. It is the most powerful force in the universe. While everything else fades, love lasts. It is not dependent on anything outside of itself. It is not affected by the worth or worthiness of its object.
God is love. Love is. That is the greatest truth you could ever know. To know Him is to love Him.