There is a a lot of people trying to do good things. The standard of good though is based on God’s love. In light of that nothing is good outside of Him. When we operate outside of God’s love, mercy, and compassion we are doing anything but good. The foundational motive in everything we do is the love of God.
LOVE IS THE MOTIVE BEHIND SPIRITUAL GIFTS (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
Paul had been trained and received a formal education for that of a Pharisee. Even though he had extensive knowledge of foreign languages and able to powerfully defend the faith it was truly only that of one “tinkling cymbal” (vs. 1). His gifting and abilities by the Spirit were numerous and powerful. Yet he considered himself as “nothing” (vs. 2).
Everything that Paul gave found its way to others who stood in need. He suffered beatings, shipwrecks, and a snakebite all in the name of the Lord. Even though he offered all that if he did nothing without love is worth nothing.” “Charity” is interchangeable with love as they both come from the same Greek word, “agape”. A word that the scripture uses solely for the self-giving and steadfast love of God.
THE QUALITIES OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
The agape love of is different than the love one shares for a friend or a spouse. It is greater in every quality. The first quality is centered around it’s lack of pride. It does not “puff up” (vs. 4) itself. No one that is filled with the love of God would draw attention to their accomplishment to boast or think “evil” (vs. 5) towards others.
The second quality of agape love is patience and endurance. God’s love is demonstrated time and again in the Old Testament by his patience with Israel. It does not pat “iniquity” (vs. 6) on the back but continues in truth regardless of person. Israel continually tested God’s patience by their continual rebellion and sin. Through it all God demonstrated powerfully on the cross that His love endures “all things” (vs. 7).
THE ENDURANCE OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
The patience and endurance of agape love is developed further into passing even the end of time. While all other gifts will cease in their use love will “never” fail. The agape love “never is to be out of use; it always holds its place” (Fausset & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1997).
“Prophecy” (vs. 9) is normally understood as the foretelling of near future events. It is also understood to be forthtelling. Forthtelling takes the already revealed Word of God and seeks to give explanation and further instruction. Preaching and teaching are both equivalents for this second understanding of prophecy. They are only in “part” meaning lacking in complete understanding and imperfect.
When heaven is fully come into realization that which is imperfect is “done away” (vs. 10). All the gifts mentioned in chapter 12 are for the edification of the church and advancement of the gospel. In heaven there will not be need for these gifts and all that will remain is love.
As we endure in love to the end we will notice that it is all that lasts while things such as imperfect understanding will end. Paul likens the change in understanding to that of a “child” (vs. 11) into an adult. The youthful child is incomplete in their understanding compared to the adult. Love that is already perfected in this life (cf. 1 John 4:17-18) will not change.
Paul’s second comparison of the transformation we experience in our understanding is to that of clearing vision. Now our understanding is obscured as we look towards heaven through a dark “glass” (1 Cor. 13:12). Once we are in heaven all will be made clear and as the hymn sings we shall “understand it by and by.”
Along with love Paul adds the characteristics of faith and hope. These powerful traits of the believer also have a powerful effect in this life. By faith we are saved and endure. By hope of heaven eternal we endure. Through love our compassion for others and commitment to God creates endurance through attack and oppression from others. Once we are in heaven our faith will be made sight and our hope has become a reality. At that point we realize that the community of heaven still has love. Love truly is the “greatest” of all qualities.