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1 Corinthians 13: God’s Love

Posted by adventbiblestudy on September 20, 2012


How do we understand what Paul is writing here?  We can look at Paul’s personality revealed through his style of writing to see if it gives any clues.  Paul has a tendency of building up to a conclusion.  Like a defense attorney pleading for the life of his innocent client, Paul adds detail after detail in a successive chain of evidence, building up until he reaches the climax of his defense, the one piece of evidence which is undeniable and perfectly credible.  In this case, love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-5  If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  (2)  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  (3)  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  (4)  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  (5)  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

This sends us right back to chapter 1, Paul’s introduction. In it Paul assures the early believers they have; “every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  If Jesus’ followers have every special gift, wouldn’t love be among them?

1 Corinthians 1:4-8  I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.  (5)  Through him, God has enriched your church in every way–with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge.  (6)  This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true.  (7)  Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (8)  He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.

Paul also tells us that if we, “understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”   Look at how the scriptures already explain this:

1 Corinthians 1:20-21  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.  (21)  Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:27-31  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  (28)  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  (29)  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.  (30)  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.  (31)  Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”
1 Corinthians 2:8-10  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.  (9)  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  (10)  But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.

We gain perfect understanding of God’s Word through His word.  We gain perfect love through His love.  The world looks at God’s love as foolish, just as they look at His Word.  They cannot see, perfect understanding comes only from God, just like perfect love can come only from God.

As we follow through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we see him trying to get them to understand a message, how to reach others.  Paul knows there is a great temptation for them to act like the Jews, to want to be like them.  To set themselves apart from the world once they convince themselves they have some sort of special truth only revealed to them.  Paul tells them, “I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”  What is anything, everything, without an understanding, yet more, a desire to plead for God’s love?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

Jesus came to teach God’s Love.  Nothing changed Jesus.  He lived and died without sin.  Just as nothing in this world can ever change God’s love.  Without God’s love, a mother will separate from her children, a wife from her husband, Jesus’ followers from one another.  Paul wrote this letter to bring unity back to the Corinthians.  Now he tells them, the only way is through God’s eternal unchanging love.

May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
(Ephesians 6:24, 2 Timothy 1:7, James 2:5, 1 John 2:5, 1 John 4:8)

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