The Truth about Love

Recently a friend of mine quoted 1 Corinthians 13. Even though I am very familiar with the passage I was caught off guard by its daring and beautiful loftiness. In my opinion it is one of the most powerful things ever said about love and one of greatest pieces of literature ever written. [1]Ironically, the apostle Paul wrote this marvelous piece of exalted prose as a digression in [2]serving a larger issue of unity and diversity in the church. Unfortunately today, we unnaturally yank it out of its context and use it almost exclusively for weddings. There is much more this passage has to offer and I hope you will take just a moment to think about it.

…I will show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 ESV

Header image source: Kristine Pamatian

[1] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, p. 486, IVP Academic, 2014.

[2] N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 171, SPCK, 2004.


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