“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)
I welcome you to the third month of the year of our “Time to Fly.” Three is significant number in the Bible; it means completion, perfection, resurrection, renewal. Jesus arose on the third day, and Satan, hell and the power of the enemy were disgraced. I decree into your life this month that every dead dream, idea, and hope shall be resurrected. There is a Sunday morning laughter and joy ahead of you, and no power in hell can stop it, in Jesus’ Name. Welcome to the month of the ultimate – LOVE!
First Corinthians 13 is commonly quoted in wedding ceremonies, recounting how love is not puffed up, not envious, endures all things, and never fails. What is the meaning behind this verse of “the greatest of these is love”? Why would love be greater than faith and hope?
1 Corinthians’ Teachings on Love
The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians could be considered the ultimate definition of what love means, shared as a letter by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. The letter was to instruct the congregation on many key principles of faith: sanctity of the marriage vows, believing in Christ and His resurrection, the importance of spiritual gifts, and the examining of oneself considering Jesus.
The chapter begins by stating what love is not and how actions done to promote oneself instead of love for others (or God) are wasted efforts. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And thought I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
The next section of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, follows with what love is and lists several examples. As the chapter progresses, Paul gives some profound insight into what love does to a person, stating that: “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:9-11).
What Does It Mean That Love Is “the Greatest”?
As readers get to the verse of focus, found in 1 Corinthians 13:13, they will have learned in this chapter what is and is not considered love in the eyes of God. Verse 13 shares the truth that concludes the chapter overall: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Love is greater than faith and hope in that both faith and hope depend on love for their existence. Without love, there can be no true faith; a loveless faith is nothing but an empty religious exercise. As Paul says, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2)). Without love, there can be no genuine faith; a loveless hope is an oxymoron, because we cannot truly hope for something that we do not love. Faith and hope are dead, sterile things if not accompanied by love.
But Paul states that the greatest of the three is love, so how is love greater than hope and faith? If we were to truly look at what has been learned so far from 1 Corinthians, we can see that everything stems from love; most importantly God’s love for us and our reciprocal love towards Him and His children. If we did not have love, it would not build our faith, as faith’s foundation is that of love (love of the Father and others). If we did not have love, we would not have hope, as hope is also only found in the love of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused, among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift. So, love is the greatest of the three. For without love, faith and hope would not be possible.
How Can Our Lives Reflect 1 Corinthians 13:13?
We are created in the image of God, and as His image-bearers, that means we have been blessed with the capability to love Him, others, and ourselves in the same way. We may not reach the agape love God regularly offers us, but we can try each day to love more and hate/judge less.
TWO WORD PICTURES
- When landscapers transplant a large tree, they dig the ground, and wrap the ball of roots tightly in a burlap bag before covering over with the dirt. For trees to survive, the roots must immediately begin to absorb water and nutrients (sucking life into itself) from the soil in which it is placed.
- Paul uses that same image to describes us. Our spiritual life and vitality depend on our roots drawing life from Christ’s love.
- Where are your roots? Have your roots been planted in fear? Performance? Duty? This passage offers us the freedom from those life-controlling idols.
- May God give us the strength to draw every drop of spiritual life from the well of Christ’s love for us, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
- The second word picture is equally powerful: we are to “be grounded” in the love of Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:24-27 contrasts the house built upon sand with the house built upon a rock. In putting up building structures at the Redemption campground in Dallas, due to the nature of the soil, one must dig deep enough to find the bedrock to lay the foundation. Without such a precaution, the building will collapse due to the forces of nature and its high center of gravity.
- One must have enough self-awareness to identify the “shifting sands” which control one’s emotions, moods, and attitudes. One must ensure that the piles of one’s life are driven into the rock of Christ’s love. Then, circumstances cannot move and sway us so, we are happy and a blessing to friends and family.
The Love Of Jesus Christ Is Greater Than We Would Have Dare Hope (Ephesians 3:18b-19)
What is the breadth of the love of Jesus? It is a wideness of love that embraces the entire world! Not only is it broad, but it is also a long love. What is the length of the love of Jesus? A love which stretches into eternity. The love of Christ does not save you today so that you can earn His favor and kindness tomorrow. Not only is it broad and long, but it is also high. What is the height of the love of Jesus? It is a love which reaches all the way to heaven. A love which carries sinners into the very presence of God! Not only is it broad and long and high, but it is also deep. What is the depth of the love of Jesus? It is a depth which loves all the way into the darkest recesses of your soul (from gutter-most to uttermost).
Instead of living in fear of those things you would rather not see the light of day, surrender them to Jesus, repent of your sins, make Him LORD of your life. Christ’s love is deep enough to cover the sins, attitudes and motives which embarrass you and make you fearful of ever knowing God’s favor. His love is broad, long, high and deep—this is the love of Jesus!
Type of Love Displayed
Love is something that we all desire. No matter how much money we have, how many possessions we own, how much prestige we have, or how much power we wield, we still desire to be loved. Agape is a gentle, caring, giving type of love; brotherly love that is not concerned with the self. It is relatively rare. Mother Theresa showed this kind of love for impoverished people. More importantly, this is the God-kind of love; it is all-forgiving, never condemning, and never ending.
This is the love Jesus shows for us continuously without fail. I will conclude with one of the love stories in the Bible; it is found in John 8:4-8. A woman was caught in the very act of adultery and was to be stoned to death. Consequently, she was brought before He Who Is the Word and the Truth – Jesus Christ. Many have asked what He was writing on the ground whilst men sought to execute her. It is my firm belief that He was rewriting her destiny. Our God, Who Is love, wrote down mercy for this adulterous woman.
Having talked about the kind of love Jesus demonstrates towards us, it is important to note that there are six kinds of love, of which the New Testament Greek utilizes only four. They are:
- Philos/Phileo: — brotherly love
- Eros: — romantic love or passion
- Storge: — family love
- Agape/Agapao: — love unique in that it is not based on what you receive out of a relationship but is based on what you give; it exists for its own sake.
Only Agape provides us with what it takes to bridge the gap between man and God. Jesus is here right now, and He is ready to write down mercy, ready to rewrite your destiny. He is ready to write down healing in your story, write financial breakthrough in your situation. All you need is to come to Him as you are. Ephesians 3:14-21 is where the Apostle Paul, when praying for the believers in Ephesus, asks the Father that they might, (v. 18-19) “… comprehend the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth, and know the love of Jesus Christ.”
- This love changes lives.
- This love overcomes fear.
- This love overwhelms uncertainty.
- This love compels us to witness.
God wants each of us to know that love, so we can be filled with the fullness of God. God’s fullness comes to us, not by church membership, officer ordination or preaching of sermons, but by the love of Jesus. God provides, and we receive this by faith. Just as we do the LORD’s Supper. “Keep company with God and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He did not love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
- Thank You for a new day, new week, new month and new season of Resurrection programmed for us from the foundation of the world.
- Thank You for Your love – love so full, so deep, so wonderful, so pure. Thank You! 1 John 3:1 says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.”
- Thank You for the blood of Jesus that was shed 2000 years ago on good Friday, the Blood of Jesus that speaks of Grace and mercy. Thank You!
- Thank You, LORD, for saving me and my household from seen and unseen enemies and from the hands of all that are stronger than us in Jesus’ Name.
- Father, as we celebrate this unforgettable Easter of new beginning, we receive a new beginning of open heavens, church revivals, healing for nations and the re-opening of our schools, businesses, churches, etc., in Jesus’ Name.
- Job 42:10 says, “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” – Turn our captivity, O LORD, in Jesus’ Name. We pray for health workers and providers – Father, keep them safe and secure, in Jesus’ Name.
- Every siege of the enemy to rob me of ultimate joy at any time this year, scatter in the name of Jesus.
- Let the Blood of Jesus fill the water pots of my life and change them to better and sweeter wine in Jesus name.
- Based on Numbers 16:48-50, as the redeemed of the LORD, we stand between the living and dead through the power that raised Jesus from the dead – we say COVID-19 is dead in Jesus Christ.
- Lord, as You made Your goodness to pass before Moses because of Your love, do so for me too in the name of Jesus.
- Thank You, LORD, for answered prayers, in Jesus’ Name!