Earnestly desire the greater gifts; the greatest gift.
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
13 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.
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.
8 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 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. 12 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. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The world tries to define what love is. Our culture and our society will even use portions of scripture to try to tell Christians how they should love. Today’s text 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most of quoted and reprinted portions of scripture. What is critical though for us to understand is that the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 is not natural human love. Chapter 13 where Paul speaks of love is in between chapters 12 and 14, where Paul is discussing gifts of the Spirit. The text says: But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. The love Paul speaks of is a gift of the Spirit. In John 14:16-17 Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” The world then cannot know the fullness of this love because they do not have the Holy Spirit and love is a spiritual gift.
The text lists the characteristics of Holy Spirit, Godly love saying: 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. The world, our culture and society, as with many things, prefers to only quote and select the portions of things which line up with their agenda. They are quite content to tell us that love should be patient and kind, that it and so we should not seek its/our own. They would prefer though not to include the part that says love does not act unbecomingly, that it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rather rejoices in truth. The world promotes an ideology that both righteousness and truth are relative, defined and redefined by the changing whims of the culture; not absolute defined by God. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth. In John 16:13 Jesus says: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” God is sovereign. He determines what truth is and the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit given to us, guides us into all truth, just as He also guides us in true love.
While Godly love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, the world will say that to love means that we accept, tolerate and embrace not only all people, but also their unrighteous actions. Contrary to what loves is and does, the world says we must rejoice in unrighteousness. True love though is a spiritual gift, not an emotion, a feeling or even a decision. It comes from God and those who do not have God’s Spirit cannot comprehend the depth or the meaning of true love. The text says love: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. I can say for certain that the love the world describes and promotes does not meet that criteria. Who can say they have never been failed by human love? Jesus says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The love that endures is the love of God which leads to eternal life. The love that believes all things, first must believe in the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. The love that bears all things first and foremost bore our sins on the cross. While the world says love is tolerance and acceptance of all things, true love, God’s love is as Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. True love did not accept, tolerate or rejoice in our unrighteousness, but rather bore it on the cross.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for loving me and that through the Holy Spirit, I too can love. Help me to be: patient, kind, not jealous; not to brag or be arrogant. Help me not act unbecomingly; not seek my own, may I not be provoked nor take into account a wrong suffered. May Inot rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoice with the truth. Now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. Thank You for love, the greatest gift. Amen.