And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (
Several years ago, Tina Turner, belted out a pop song that rose to number one. It cynically asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” The song calls love, “a second hand emotion” and “a sweet old fashioned notion,” but really the relationship is only about sex—nothing more than hormones and physiology. Considering the abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-husband Ike, we may have some sympathy with her choice of lyrics. Despite the misuse and abuse of the word, “love,” as far as God is concerned, there is nothing more important! Jesus taught that the fulfillment of all our duty to God and man is summarized in the expression of love (
Matt.22:36-40). Paul amplifies on that theme in 1 Corinthians 13.
There is THE PRIMACY OF LOVE (v.1-3). Out of the holy trinity of Christian virtues—faith, hope and love—it is love that reigns supernal and eternal. Love is transcendent. You can talk about love with great eloquence and not exhibit it; you can be correct in your belief and cruel in your behavior; you can have a head full of knowledge, but a heart empty of love; you can have supernatural power, but its origin be Satan the hater and not the God of love; you can be generous, so others praise you, and not because you care; and you can even die for your cause—not out of love, but hate (suicide bombers, for example). Love is the foundation and motivation for all that is good. It has devotion to God and compassion for others as the source, substance, and sum of it.
Then, there is THE PRACTICE OF LOVE (v.4-7). Love is more than an emotion—it is an action. The Apostle does not try to define love by what it is, so much as to describe what it does. In the Greek text, each term is a verb, and is in the present, continuous sense, showing aptitudes and actions that are to become our nature through repeated practice. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, produced as we yield to Him in faith and obedience. The personification of these is Jesus. Each of these qualities was embodied in His example. Following Christ demands that I seek to do likewise. Paul presents the positive direction of what love is and the prohibited dimension of what love is not.
Finally, there is THE PERMANENCE OF LOVE (v.8-13). Life may end, but love lives on. Love never fails; it is victorious. People may fail to receive our love, but love never fails, for even when spurned makes us better for offering it. Love is not only powerful in victory, but priceless in value. All that is of this material world is fading away—even good things like speaking with prophecies and in tongues will end someday, having served their purpose—but love is of enduring worth. Love is powerful in victory, priceless in value, and preeminent in virtue—said by the Apostle to be the greatest gift of God, even lasting beyond faith and hope, as significant as they are. There is a time faith will become sight and hope will be fulfilled—no more needed—but, love will be the environment of eternity!
What’s love got to do with it? Absolutely everything!