LOVE NEVER FAILS
Loving Lord, thank you for the hope that sustains me, your Spirit who empowers me, and your love that endures forever.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 13:8-13
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘… the greatest of these is love’ (v 13). Praise God that he loves us and created us with the capacity to love others.
We shouldn’t forget that this chapter in context relates to the practice of spiritual gifts. In its original setting, it comes between two passages which deal in detail with the use and abuse of such gifts. More broadly, it is set in a letter addressed to a church whose members were struggling to show love for one another.
One of the ways Paul exalts love is by pointing out that spiritual gifts will cease (v 8) at the coming of ‘completeness’ (v 10). This is not a reference to the completion of the canon of Scripture, as some have argued, for this does not fit with verse 12. Rather it is a reference to the return of Christ. All the gifts of the Spirit continue today. However, they will cease, for a time is coming when they will no longer be necessary. Love, by contrast, will never fail – either now or in eternity. It is at the heart of God’s very nature and the hallmark of authentic Christian discipleship.
This is the crescendo of Paul’s overarching argument. What’s the answer to the misuse of spiritual gifts? It’s love. The abuse of freedom? It’s the same answer. The problems with worship, the issues with Communion? Once again, the answer’s love. This is not to reduce the gospel so it just becomes about loving people in some vague way. There is content, there is truth (who could read Paul and think otherwise?), but love must be shot through everything we do, from the doctrine we teach to the ways we practice evangelism. Love is over all and will characterize our future when debates about charismata have become redundant. Let’s allow that future to break into our present and do everything, without exception, in the name of the greatest virtue. Let’s do everything in the name of love.
Pause and reflect on one dimension of your discipleship (e.g. church, home or work). How can love better shape the way you follow Jesus there?
Heavenly Father, teach me to love as I ought, and to demonstrate that love each day.
Book and Author Intros
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.