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"The Greatest of These Is Love "
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Wednesday AM Bible Study
December 12, 2007
Theme: In dealing with problems of the use of spiritual gifts, Paul calls the Corinthians to pursue love as "the more excellent way".
This chapter is, without question, among the most beautiful and poetic portions of Scripture. It's appeal—and application—has been wide. But we should never forget that it comes to us in the context of Paul's effort to deal with the problem of the misuse of spiritual gifts in the church. What it has to teach us, in that respect, is strategic.
Paul has been dealing with this problem, thus far, by showing how the church is a "body" with many "members" (12:12-26). He has called the Corinthian church to see itself faithfully in those terms, and to recognize the diversity that has been designed into the body (vv. 27-31). But now, he purposes to show the Corinthians a "better" or "more excellent" way—that is, through pursuing love.
I. LOVE EMPHASIZED (vv. 1-3).
A. Here, love is shown to be the necessary element—without which the exercise of even the greatest of gifts becomes fruitless. He shows this to be the case with the gifts of "speaking" (v. 1), the gifts of "knowledge" or "faith" (v. 2), or even the acts of great personal sacrifice (v. 3).
B. Without love, these things become null and void. Thus, Paul shows that love takes the top place as the thing to be pursued most of all. He probably, though, is not meaning for us to understand "love" as that thing by which we pursue the gifts; but that thing which we should pursue as an end in and of itself that gives true value to the gifts.
II. LOVE DEFINED (vv. 4-7).
A. Paul, here, gives a vivid description of love in action. If we were to apply this to the use of our gifts, we would see that it gives us a powerful description of how we are to conduct ourselves toward one another.
B. The pursuit of the gifts, if it does not look like the picture given to us here, is harmful and outside of God's will.
III. LOVE EXALTED (vv. 8-13).
A. Love—as the primary dynamic that supersedes the gifts—is said to never fail (or "fall"), though the gifts themselves will be made "null" or "useless" in time (v. 8). This is because they only provide what they provide in part. Paul looks ahead to the fulfillment of love when we stand before God in full glory (vv. 9-10).
B. The gifts themselves are not the fulfillment of maturity in Christ; but are only the means by which that maturity is pursued (vv. 11). Looking ahead to the fulfillment of maturity in heavenly glory, we see that those gifts were temporary and will no longer—at that point—be needed (v. 12).
C. "Now" probably speaks of a logical conclusion. When full glory in Christ is accomplished, only three things will remain. But the greatest of these three is love.
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