Studies in First Corinthians – XX
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
In these first three verses we see a life without love. We have a picture of an individual who is blessed with many gifts and talents, but without love that life is empty and worthless. We learn from these verses three area’s over which love must be sovereign: the heart, the mind, and the will.
1. Love – Sovereign in the Heart
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (13:1).
Alan Redpath said, “The power behind your tongue, your speech, is not determined by the extent of your vocabulary but by the depth of your heart, by how much you love.” The tongue possesses incredible power to build up and to destroy. Our words hold incredible weight and reveal the condition of our heart.
I have heard preachers, and you probably have too, who were simply incredible public speakers. Their mastery of language and words was tremendous. One moment, they have people laughing. The next moment everyone is in tears. It is easy to admire an orator like that but while oratory can command admiration, only love can reach the heart. When love is sovereign in the heart, it will be manifested in what we say.
2. Love – Sovereign in the Mind
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understanding all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing” (13:2).
There are men in the Bible who illustrate this point. For instance, Balaam was a prophet, but he had no love, and therefore betrayed his office and God’s people. Caiaphas, the High Priest, had discernment, knowing that one must be killed for the nation, but he was without love, and become a leader among those who crucified Jesus. Judas Iscariot had knowledge from his three years at the side of Jesus, but he had no love, betraying Him in the end.
Love is not a gift, but a grace, and it is the primary proof of a genuine new birth.
3. Love – Sovereign in the Will
“If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing” (13:3).
How dangerous it is to be willing to fight and die for our faith and yet lack the spirit of love. It is pointless to die for the wrong motive. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “I know thy works, and they labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear evil men…and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left they first love (agape)” (Revelation 2:2-4). What a picture of busyness, patience, work, and endurance! And yet it is lacking in the most important thing: love.
We must allow His love to be sovereign in our lives: heart, mind, and emotions.