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We launch today’s study of 1 Corinthians by examining 1 Corinthians 13 and 14. 1 Corinthians 13 is known to many as the “Love” chapter. 1 Corinthians 14 is especially instructive on the subject of Spiritual Gifts, with a majority of its focus on the Gift of Languages (tongues), and the Gift of Prophecy. This devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 13.
What is love?
The world has many ideas and definitions for love. The Greek philosopher Plato, suggested, “Love is a serious mental disease.” Robert Frost, the celebrated American poet wrote, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” Eli Joseph Cossman, inventor, entrepreneur, and author defined love as “a friendship set to music.” American television producer and writer, Pauline Thomason, wrote, “Love is blind — marriage is the eye-opener.”
We find three forms of love in the Greek language: “Eros,” the word for sexual desire from which our English word “erotic” is derived. “Phileo,” defines the affection between friends, that might be described as a “give and take” love. Phileo is based upon a relationship that is mutually beneficial. The third word for love is “Agape.” Agape love, often referred to as “divine love,” is a sacrificial love, and is not based upon what one can get, but upon that which one can give to a relationship.
When we read of God’s love in the Scriptures, it is Agape, divine, self-sacrificing love. For instance, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Christ’s sacrificial death being the expression of God’s love for sinners; Romans 5:8). We read in John 3:16, “16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Agape love moves “a man [to] lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and a husband to sacrificially love his wife, “even as Christ also loved [agapao] the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
With the preceding explanation as our background, consider the word “Charity” in 1 Corinthians 13, which is our English translation for Agape, the Greek word for love.
The Essence of Agape Love: A life lived without love is empty. (13:1-3)
Words spoken without love are nothing more than empty noise (13:1). A man may speak with extraordinary eloquence and grace; he may capture the attention of a vast audience with his oratory skills; however, without love his words are like the clanging noise of cymbals. Knowledge and faith, in the absence of love is nothing (13:2). One might earn a great following by knowledge, discernment, and extraordinary faith, but if his motivation is anything other than love, it is worthless. Anyone can give goods in an act of self-sacrificing love; yet, to do so without love profits nothing (13:3).
We have considered the divine nature of Agape love, but what are the qualities or characteristics of Agape love? (13:4-8)
The Character of Agape Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 present us a portrait of love that is foreign to the world, for charity is a divine, active love. (The words in brackets are the amplification of this author.)
1 Corinthians 13:4–8 – “4Charity suffereth long [patient], and is kind [willing to help]; charity envieth not [not jealous]; charity vaunteth not itself [not boastful], is not puffed up [proud; haughty], 5Doth not behave itself unseemly [rude; disgraceful], seeketh not her own [self-seeking], is not easily provoked [or angered], thinketh no evil [does not keep accounts of another’s wrongdoing]; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity [unhappy with injustices], but rejoiceth in the truth [rejoices in God’s Truth, or when truth prevails]; 7Beareth all things [suffers patiently], believeth all things [trusts; believes the best], hopeth all things [never stops hoping], endureth all things [never gives up]. 8Charity never faileth [never stops loving].”
Closing thoughts – The goal of every believer should be to develop life relationships based on the lasting qualities of Agape love. Such love is practical, and attainable, but it requires sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that reaches into the will of man to make a deliberate choice to love, even if it comes at his own expense. Simply put, love is an act of one’s own will—it has no equal and no substitute.
Agape love is not something we earn, but it is something we give. Biblically speaking, love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and is the foundation of the Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). Lastly, love is the greatest, most enduring (13:8a), and indispensable quality a believer can express (13:13).
With the love and heart of a shepherd…
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