A Still More Excellent Way
Today I will be speaking on 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-7.
Before I begin with chapter 13, I will summarize chapter 12. Chapter 12 talks about spiritual gifts and their usefulness and importance. In the conclusion of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 12:31 says,” And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
Now, lets discuss this “still more excellent way”. That brings us to Chapter 13, which in essence says, “without love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3,” 1 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. 2 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. 3 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.”
This chapter is full of ifs. If I speak with the tongues of men and angels. If I prophesy. If I have faith to move mountains. If I give all that I have, even my own life. These actions are all good things, but Paul says that if we don’t have love, we are nothing.
So, why are we nothing without love? Here is my answer. God is love, as it says in 1 John 4:16. Therefore, to be without love is to be without God. Love is the essence of God, it is the characteristics of God. In Genesis 1:26 the Bible says that we are created in the image of God. If God is love, then we, being made in his image, should try to embody love as well. If we don’t try to live as we were created to live, with love, then that leaves us empty. That is why Paul says that we are nothing without love.
Not only are we nothing, but (verse 3) we gain nothing as well. All that we do and accomplish will be done in vain, if it is not done in love. Because we are doing it for ourselves and our benefit, instead of sacrificing ourselves as we should. When we do this, we focus on ourselves, instead of God. When we act in love, we live for others, and have a purpose that fills us. 1 Corinthians 16:14 says,” Let all that you do be done in love.”, emphasizing that once we have love, all of our actions will be based on love.
The Definition of Love
I’ve talked a lot about love, but have yet to define it. Now to define love. First, read verses 4-7, “ 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” These are the characteristics of love.
Now let’s read 1 John 3:16,”We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” From these two passages we can discern the definition of love. 1 John 3:16 tells us that we know love from the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us. We are then commanded to do the same. This shows that love is self- sacrifice. A willingness to give of oneself for the benefit of another.
Next, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 built on this definition of love by showing some characteristics of love. It begins (verse 4) by saying what love is. Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t get easily angry with others and doesn’t speak harsh words when it is unnecessary to do so. Continuing on, it says that love is not arrogant and does not brag, does not take into account wrongs suffered. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. All of these characteristics point to putting others before yourself. To love is to put others before yourself in everything.
With this definition and this knowledge of love, look at Jesus, because Jesus is perfect love, He embodied all of the definition of love. Because of this, he was able to perfectly embody the things written in verses 1-3. Christ spoke in the tongues of men and angels, he prophesied. He had faith not only to move mountains, but to raise the dead. Jesus gave everything he had to others, even his own life. Christ is able to do these things perfectly because he is perfect in love. Love is the starting point from which all other things stem. Without it, we are empty. With it, we can do all things.
So, how do we apply this? How do we display love through self-sacrifice? The answer is simple, though not always easy. Love others. Love other regardless of whether they deserve it, whether is hard, or whether we feel like it. Why do we do this? 1 John 4:19 says,” We love, because He first loved us.”