Summary: What is the “more excellent way” that Paul was inspired to show? Let's find out in 1 Corinthians 13.

What is the “more excellent way” that Paul was inspired to show?

The Greek word agapé does not always mean divine love as is commonly believed. It can even refer to the wrong kind of love. Men loved darkness (John 3:19), the praise of men more than God (John 12:43), or this world (2 Timothy 4:10). Here we see three cases where the word agapé was not godly love. Just like our English word love, the meaning depends on the context, and that is what this chapter is all about.

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Angels speak with men in a human language, but probably use a different form of communication between each other. This is therefore likely hyperbolic. Tongues when used to show off, or for other unloving purposes, are just a noise.

1 Corinthians 13:2 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, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Great preaching, deep insight into God’s revelation, knowledge of the Bible and miracle-working faith are all empty without love.

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Giving with unloving motives and loveless martyrdom are both worthless.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Long suffering is a great description of patience. Kindness is always called for. Charity is love in action. Envy is the opposite of love. Instead of self-promotion, love would call us to promote others.

1 Corinthians 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Again love seeks what benefits others.

1 Corinthians 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Reveling in sinful movies or dirty jokes is the opposite of love. The truth may hurt, but it is what’s needed for positive change.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

The NLT renders this, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Prophecies, languages and knowledge will pass their use-by date, but love will not.

1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

None of us has all the knowledge, not even about the future.

1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Knowledge of past generations fades, and will pale into insignificance when the perfect world comes.

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Growing up spiritually is something that we deal with all the time, either in ourselves, or in newer Christians.

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Not much detail is given about the good eternity that we commonly call heaven. We do know that, in contrast to what is said about hell, it will be wonderful.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Paul’s definition of love in verses 4-8 is one of those memorable passages of the Bible. Most things in life are temporary. Of the things that last, love is the most important.

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