One of the most talked about sections of Scripture is found in the book of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 13, commonly called the “love chapter of the Bible”. In this small section of Scripture we have several basic principles concerning love being addressed:
- vs 1-3 – the absolute necessity of love (charity) in all aspects of Christian life and ministry
- vs 4-7- the evidences of Biblical love
- vs 8-12- the eternal nature of Biblical love compared to the ceasing of Divine, inspired revelation to man; the physical / spiritual maturing of an individual picturing the increasing revelation of God received by man until completion; the increasing understanding of God due to completed revelation
- vs 13a- the continuation of love, faith and hope
- vs 13b- the supremacy of love over faith and hope
We will divide our study of this section of Scripture into 3 basic parts. In the last part of our study we will be looking at 1 Corinthians 13:11-13.
Let us prayerfully, begin our study of the compelling and important subject of love…
1Cor 13:1-13 (KJV)
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
In our previous study, we saw how both the gifts of prophecy and knowledge ceased to exist when the last of God’s revelation to man was received. We now turn our attention to two examples given by Paul to help illustrate the principle.
1 Corinthians 13:
Vs 11 – When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Paul now uses the example of the physical maturing process to picture the process of God’s revealed Word being brought to completion. Just as Paul’s growth allowed him to come to a more mature and full understanding of life, so too, as God’s Word is brought to completion, it brings to us a fuller understanding of our Lord and our responsibilities as servants.
Based on the Word being brought to completion during the age of the Corinthian church. It was time for them to “grow up” and become mature as well. It would only be at that time that they could use the wonderful blessing of His completed Word to help them to correct the many errors in their assembly.
Vs 12 – For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Paul now compares our understanding of God in our sinful flesh with mankind’s knowledge of God with only a portion of His Word given to them. In both cases, an incomplete view of God is had by man.
- Paul describes a time when God cannot be seen clearly
- Paul describes our life in sinful flesh as seeing our Lord “through a glass darkly”.
- Paul then compares this to mankind trying to see a full picture of Christ with only a portion of God’s Word given to man. “now I know in part”.
- Paul next describes when we can receive a fuller vision of Christ
- When we go home to be with the Lord in heaven, it is seeing Him “face to face”, this will result in seeing Him much more clearly than while in our sinful flesh.
- Paul then compares this to receiving His completed Word which gives us a much more full revelation of the Lord. “ then shall I know even as also I am known” .
In other words, through the completed revelation of God given to man, we can now understand truths about Him, much like others can come to know us. Others can see much about us clearly but they still do not know everything about us (especially what goes on inside of us)
Vs 13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
After telling us about the Word it’s soon completion, Paul now beings us back to the original thought. That love is even greater that our three existing gifts of faith, hope and love.
Why didn’t Paul mention prophecy or knowledge as abiding (to continue on for extended period of time, to endure to limit)? We have already seen they would end within a short period of time when Word was brought to completion. So he didn’t include these on our list.
But why didn’t he include the gift of tongues… when did they cease to exist? Tongues ceased to exist, around the same time as knowledge and prophecy. Tongues was one of several “sign gifts” that God gave to mankind. These were gifts given by God to His followers to accredit their message and to prove He was the only true God. This is why these types of miracles are called “sign gifts” from God (Exo 3:14, 4:1-8) A listing of the sign gifts can be found at 1 Cor 12:8-11.
Over the years, studying the sign gifts of the Bible, I have noticed something very interesting. It seems as if these sign miracles of God were basically performed in three “groups” throughout Biblical history. Please notice the following basic, generalized table to help explain my point:
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
Miracle Workers: Moses, Joshua Elijah, Elisha, Other Prophets Christ, Apostles
Worship Accredited: Tabernacle Worship Temple Worship Church Worship
Message Accredited: Law Prophets New Testament
It has been so interesting for me to come to an understanding of the Lord’s motives in these sign miracles that were performed. Note that the Lord, through divine miracles, accredited the messenger, as well as the section of Scripture written, and the worship place used at that time. In each case, the “sign miracles” were in existence for approximately 70 years. In each case, a “silent time” existed after each group of miracles, where no sign miracles and few, if any, other miracles were performed. Why? Once God established the validity of each of the above segments, there was no need for miracles until another segment was about to take place.
For example, following the accreditation of the tabernacle and the message of the law, there was no reason to accredit anything, or anyone, until the temple and the prophets came on the scene. Likewise, there was an extended period of “miracle silence” after the completion of the Old Testament. It was only when Christ came on the scene that we have a period of sign miracles taking place to validate the message of the New Testament and the church as the new place of worship for God’s people.
So therefore, tongues, being one of several sign gifts came to an end approximately 70 years after they had come into existence (29 or 30 AD), probably about 90-100 AD. They would have gone out of existence in and of themselves, nothing had to act on them. This is unlike the gift of prophecy and knowledge which ceased at the completion of God’s Word.
Putting all of this together, it is easy to see why only faith, hope and charity are said to “abide” (to stray in place for an extended period of time). The gifts of prophecy, knowledge and tongues would go out of existence within a few years after Paul’s ministry would be complete.
But not so with faith, hope and love. They would continue on until the second coming of Christ. When Christ comes back we will have no need of faith nor hope…. As we begin, our eternity with Him, we will begin the process of receipt of all His promises to us. Faith and hope will no longer be needed, we will be experiencing all He has for us.
At that point, faith and hope will no longer be in existence, but only love will continue on to eternity. Thus making “love” the greatest gift of all that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:.
- Gifts are temporary but love is eternal
- Gifts are elementary but love is mature
- Gifts are partial but love is complete
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION
For those who are saved…
As we come to a completion of our study the basic principles we have learned about love compared to the other gifts mentioned is significant.
First of all we saw that God’s gifts to man are temporary, but love is eternal.
Secondly, the gifts of God are elementary, love is the essence of maturity.
Thirdly, the gifts of God are partial, but love is complete.
Keeping all this in mind, it should not surprise us that the Lord gave Peter this word of self inspection and instruction….
John 21:15-17 (KJV)
15So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.16He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.17He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
You see, our love for the Lord should be one of the ultimate motives in our service to Him. The more we love and appreciate Him the greater our service to Him. Is our service motivated by our love for Him? Is our helping and instructing others coming from a heart filled with love for our Lord?
May the Lord help all of us to be able to say “yes” to these questions.
For those who have never trusted in Christ…
If you have never experienced the love of God in your lives, look to Him knowing He has made clear His love and concern for His people…
1John 4:7-12 (KJV)
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
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