The Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

But the Greatest of These Is Love

How unlike a church the church in Corinth was.  They had exalted wisdom and knowledge, though falsely so-called, praised sexual sin while denigrating marriage because of sex (how twisted is that?), eaten at pagan temples at the expense of the tender consciences of their brethren, divided the church over leading personalities, and even allowed God’s gifts to them to become a means of strife.  Still, we smirk at our peril.

So Paul now interrupts his teaching on spiritual gifts to offer the remedy to all of these problems—only it’s not really an interruption.  Love is at the very foundation of the Christian life out of which everything must proceed if it is to be considered authentic Christianity and genuine faith.  And let us understand at the very beginning, love as God sees it is not first and foremost a feeling or sentiment, though these are not excluded; love is action out of willing obedience to Christ, for our Lord said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). 

So Paul begins stating the utter worthlessness of those things we think so important when unaccompanied by love: tongues (listed first since that was the gift they so admired), but even prophecy, faith, generosity to the point of impoverishment, and even martyrdom by flames.  Without love, none of this matters in the Kingdom.  And then Paul proceeds to list the many characteristics of love which require a lifetime to learn: It is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude (rudeness is so ubiquitous in our day), does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful (keeping a record of wrongs), rejoices not at wrongdoing but in the truth.  How far we all fall short of this!  And if this weren’t enough, he adds: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  There’s a quality about love that never gives up.  Nothing builds character like love.  Ultimately, it isn’t stamina or hard work that makes one endure suffering and hardship or even the flames; it’s love, as our Savior showed on the cross.

Paul closes this passage showing how it is love that makes us mature people of God.  Maturity requires the humility to understand that until our Savior returns, our knowledge, wisdom, or whatever spiritual gift we have is so temporary and so partial.  Love fills our hearts with longing for completion when we finally find our rest in Him.  In the meantime, we content ourselves with faith, hope and love—the best gifts out of which the others must work.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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