1 Corinthians 13
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The word “LOVE” in the English Language limits our understanding of the full meaning of that word.
So daily the word “LOVE” is used in a generalised way by many people without a true meaning of what that word “LOVE” really means.
Through the Word of God we receive insight into what Love really is.
1 Corinthians 13 is a letter written to the church by Paul sandwiched between a chapter on spiritual gifts, and another chapter on prophecy and speaking in tongues.
Paul ends 1 Corinthians 12 with these words, “31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” Paul was telling the Church that there was a gift far better than speaking in tongues, a gift far better than interpreting tongues, a gift that makes a whole lot of difference to the human race. So, we should with sincere and intense conviction seriously desire that gift.
This gift is the gift of the Love of God which we are told in Romans 5:5 ……. because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
In essence the Love of God has been poured out into the hearts of every believer in Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul now introduces the Church to this Love and what it really is.
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
I want to submit to you from scriptural point of view that it does not really matter how eloquent, how gifted in speaking in tongues, nor how generous you are, your spiritual gifts and generosity without love is fruitless.
Let’s take a moment to look into 4 Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated into English as “LOVE”. This will help us have an understanding of Biblical Love.
is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. This word depicts sexual desire, physical attraction, physical love, and lust. Eros was dependent on the object of your affection. When the object of your attraction ceases the relationship struggles. Eros is a dependent love.
This word though not commonly used, describes family love and the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. In the Bible we find examples among Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. In Romans 12:10 believers are commanded to "be devoted" to one another with brotherly affection. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
PHILIA OR PHILEO
This Greek word describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships. Philia is the most common love displayed in scripture among believers. This word encompasses love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need. This type of love is unique to Christianity. Jesus said to His disciples in John 13:35 " 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. Jesus was saying by how you Philia each other people would know you are my disciples.
Finally, we have the word Agape
This word Agape defines God's immeasurable, incomparable love for mankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure. Agape Love is the love God wants us to have for one another and for others. In John 13:34 Jesus says this to us, 34 A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. Jesus Christ demonstrated this kind of divine love to and to all humanity when he died and rose again. In John 15 Jesus said this to his disciples
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Believers are called to love unconditionally just as we have been loved by Jesus who laid down His life for us, whilst we were still sinners. He did not wait for us to change before laying His life down for us.
Hence when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13, he was introducing us to a gift of the highest level and that is Agape Love.
Agape Love from 1 Corinthians 13
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
Paul tells us that AGAPE love never fails, every other gift will come to an end but AGAPE love will never end.
It is only Agape love that enables us to preach the Gospel with conviction.
When Jesus met with His disciples after His resurrection, He asked Peter “Do you love (agape) me more than this”. Three times Peter replied that he loved the Lord, but the word he used was Philia or brotherly love.
Why was Peter responding with Philia? He did because he had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. When Peter received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; Peter was so full of God's love that he spoke from his heart and 3,000 people were converted. Romans 5:5 ……. because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
It is amazing how many of us profess to love the Lord but we treat our fellow humans with contempt. Many of us speak in tongues more than Paul but we lack Agape love. Today God is calling us to allow His love to be expressed through us. Paul goes on to say 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.