Paul ended the previous chapter with “and I will show you a still more excellent way” (12:31). These words take us directly to the topic of the current chapter: love. In between two chapters that teach the proper attitude and use of spiritual gifts stands this sublime poetry on the greatness of love. Love must underlie all ministries in the body of Christ, and it is love that binds all the various gifts to serve the common good.
Did You Know...?
- Rude (5): The Greek word for “is rude” is a verb, meaning “behave disgracefully, dishonorably, indecently.” [ref]
- Resentful (5): A more literal translation of this sentence would be “it does not reckon (or consider, calculate) the bad.”
Identify the superlative words and hyperboles Paul uses in this chapter.Hide Answer
All (2, 3, 7); “remove mountains” (2); “give away all” (3); “deliver up my body to be burned” (4); nothing (2, 3); never (8); greatest (13).
Share an experience in which you were profoundly touched by the love of another person(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
How is eloquence without love like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal?Hide Answer
A person who is gifted in speaking but is without love can certainly impress people with his eloquence. Yet he cannot touch the heart of others or actually meet people’s needs. Even if he can speak the tongues of angels, an expression that probably means that his words are beautiful to the ear, he can at most offer people a great performance. Without love, even the most awe-inspiring oration is but noise. It does not do anyone any good.
Why is love the most important possession, without which we are nothing (v. 2)?Hide Answer
We may have the gift of prophecy to deliver the message of God to others, or have the ability to understand all things, or have great faith to do mighty acts. But if we do not possess love, which is the basis of all of God’s commandments, we are worth nothing in God’s eyes. As we have seen in the previous chapter on spiritual gifts, love is what binds the members of the body of Christ together. Without love, even if we can do great things with the gifts we have received, the church would only be filled with division, envy, and competition.
How is it possible for a person to give away all he has and deliver up his body to be burned but have no love?Hide Answer
From verse 3 we can see that love does not only consist of outward sacrificial acts. Our actions of love must also originate from our hearts. Without true compassion for others, even the most noble altruistic acts may be done for selfish reasons. While men may not be able to discern our ulterior motive, we cannot please God, who looks at our hearts. That’s why such superficial acts of giving ultimately do not benefit us at all.
How is love as described here different from popular notions of love?Hide Answer
Love is often portrayed in the media or literature as a feeling of attraction. But the love as described in this passage far surpasses merely being fond of another person. True love is expressed in concrete actions. It is often not spontaneous but involves continuous effort on our part. It does not expect the other person to be lovable, but only demands the one who loves to deny himself for that person.
What does this teach you about how to truly have love for others?(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
Explain why rejoicing with the truth is a manifestation of love.Hide Answer
True love is not blind love. When a person is in the wrong, the way to love him is not to encourage him to continue in the wrong, but to help steer him to the truth. Although our efforts may not be well received, if we truly love the other person, we want what is best for them. As James teaches us in his letter, bringing back someone who has wandered from the truth is to save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (Jas 5:19–20).
What does the repeated word “all” in verse 7 suggest about love?Hide Answer
Nothing can hinder love. Because of His love, God sent His only Son to die for unworthy sinners. This is the love we ought to pursue, to love no matter how undeserving the other person may be and no matter how great the hardship. Even when the other person treats us as an enemy, love enables us to bear and to endure. Even when the situation seems irreparable, love enables us to believe and to hope.
What can we learn here about how to love others with their weaknesses and shortcomings?Hide Answer
It is much easier to be kind, gentle, and generous toward those that we can get along with or those who are good to us (cf. Mt 5:46–47). But such type of love is hardly commendable. It is when the other person has hurt us or disappointed us that we need to put into practice the love of our heavenly Father. It is certainly no easy task, but calls for relentless patience and endurance.
Why will love endure forever?Hide Answer
While verse 7 reveals the greatness of love in terms of its breadth, verses 8 to 12 teach us the greatness of love in terms of its permanence. God is love (
1 Jn 4:16). Because God is eternal, his love is everlasting. So even though all things will one day pass away, love, being an attribute of God, will not pass away. In the Bible God has often demonstrated His unfailing love toward His chosen people (cf. Jer 31:3). He has loved us the same way in our own lives. If we have the love of God, our love will not wane over time.
What does each of these analogies have to do with love;
Growing up from childhood into manhood (v. 11) ?Hide Answer
Paul uses the analogy of childhood and manhood to illustrate the things that are transient. Like the speech and thoughts of a child that pass away when a person grows into manhood, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will pass away someday. These spiritual gifts are given to believers in this life to build up our faith in the Lord. But when this life ends and we are with the Lord in His glory, these gifts will not be necessary anymore. Love, on the contrary, never ends because God Himself is love.
From seeing in a mirror to seeing face to face (v. 12)?Hide Answer
The analogy of seeing in a mirror versus seeing face to face explains our relationship with the Lord in this present life and in eternity. In this life, we can only know the Lord in part because of the limitations of our physical existence. But one day we shall see the Lord as He is (
1 Jn 3:2). Then we will know fully even as we have been fully known.
The expression of seeing face to face also implies closeness and intimacy (cf. Ex 33:11; Deut 34:10;
1 Thess 2:17, 3:10; 2 Jn 1:12; 3 Jn 14). Now that we are in this body, we are away from the Lord in the sense that there is still a distance between Him and us. But when we leave this body, we will be at home with the Lord ( 2 Cor 5:6). We will be united to Him fully in love forever.
Compared with faith and hope, what is it about love that makes it the greatest of the three enduring qualities?Hide Answer
As mentioned previously, love is the very quality of God, whereas the Bible does not call God faith or hope. When we love, we are emanating this divine quality. Furthermore, faith and hope has to do with our personal relationship with God. They do not benefit others directly. In fact, faith and hope without love are empty (cf. Jas 1:27, 2:14–17). It is when we express our faith and hope in concrete actions of love that we can edify others (cf. Gal 5:6).