If Bible chapters were months of the year, 1 Corinthians chapter 13 would be February. It’s often called the “love” chapter, and for good reason, as you see here.
In the middle of the chapter is the apostle Paul’s elegant description of true love, where he writes the familiar words, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Countless weddings make use of these words, which is a little ironic considering Paul never married. But the “love” chapter is not about romantic love anyway, or even the ideal committed selfless love between a husband and wife, as wonderful as that is. When you read all 13 verses, you realize that Paul is going much deeper.
It’s all for nothing without love
The first few verses challenge people of faith to examine ourselves, asking, “do we have a genuine love for others?” Paul says that we can be very religious, even have great faith, but if we lack love, then we are nothing. Something tells me those verses might not make it onto a Valentine’s Day cross stitch.
Jesus delivered an even weightier version on that message in John 13:34-35, saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not only are we commanded to love others, but our expressions of love will be evidence that we are following Christ.
Love will be the last thing standing
In the last verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Paul seems to explain that some aspects of what we know or practice as part of our expressions of faith today will one day pass away. And on that day, we’ll be face to face with our Creator, who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us so that we wouldn’t have to bear the blame and the punishment for rebelling against Him.
That’s the simple, yet powerful expression of a loving God to His creation. And like a child, we understand just a little bit of it now, in this world. But if we’ll accept His gift of love by trusting in Christ, on the day we meet Him, He’ll welcome us with open arms and in that amazing moment, we’ll finally understand complete love.
Famous last words
Paul concludes the chapter with these famous words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Faith and hope are absolutely important, especially in this life, but there’s nothing greater than love. Not romantic love, but the love that comes from God through Jesus Christ. That’s the greatest love—the greatest power—in all creation.
New work from the studio for Valentine’s Day
As I was thinking about this passage and looking toward Valentine’s Day in a couple of weeks (helpful hint: it’s Friday the 14th this year!), I decided to create new version of a sculpture I designed a few years ago.
Called One Heart, it’s a picture of what God does with a man and a woman when they join in marriage. “Faith” and “Hope,” an integral part of any marriage, are hand-stamped onto the salvaged wood sculpture, but on the heart, higher and lifted up is “Love,” as God unites their hearts as one together and with Himself. See more of One Heart in the shop.