We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with 1 Corinthians 13. In the last chapter, Paul talked about the different Spiritual gifts God bestows upon His children. He ended the chapter saying, “And I show you a still more excellent way.” In chapter 13, He explains that the more excellent way is love.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
v. 1-3 (NASB)
It says if we do not have love, it profits us nothing. The word translated as do not have is echó, which means “I have, hold, possess.” The word translated as love is agapé, which means God’s kind of love: “selfless, unconditional, sacrificial.” To possess God’s love, we must receive and remain in His love. We can’t give something we don’t have. If we are not seeking Him to be filled with His love, we will have nothing to give to others.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
…We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:7-8, 16-19 (NASB)
Paul continues by explaining what God’s agapé love is:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
v. 4-7 (NASB)
God’s love should be the motivation for our service. When our works are motivated by His love these are the fruit that will be displayed in us. Only by abiding in His love can we be patient, kind, forgiving, and not boastful, proud or rude toward others.
Paul closes encouraging us to grow in God’s love.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
v. 8-13 (NASB)
Even though we will only see and know God’s love in part until we stand before Him face to face, we are still encouraged to grow in His love now.
In John 21, Jesus asked Peter twice if he agapaó loved Him. Peter replied twice that he phileó loved Him, which means “love of friendship, regard with affection.” The third time, Jesus met Peter where he was at in his knowledge of God’s love and asked if he phileó loved him.
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapaó) Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileó) You.”
He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapaó) Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileó) You.”
He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileó) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (phileó) Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileó) You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
John 21:15-19 (NASB, emphasis mine)
As Peter continued to follow Jesus, he continued to grow in God’s love. Jesus didn’t need to ask Peter again if he agapaó loved Him. Jesus knew if he remained in Him, God would fill Peter with His agapé love. Peter couldn’t have gone from denying he knew Jesus to denying himself and giving up his life without growing in God’s agapé love.
We praise You for Your amazing love for us. Fill us with Your love and help us grow in the knowledge of Your love. We know that we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Help us to remain in Him and follow Him wherever He leads us. Let our life and service be the proof of Your love growing in us.
We praise You for Your love in Jesus’ name, Amen!
*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 14.