I Corinthians 13:1-13
There is a second answer to the question, What does love do? It is:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
We have two affirmative descriptions here. Then we have eight negative attributes and five positive attributes.
Love is patient. Love suffers long and is kind. Patience means to endure hardship. Patience means not easily aroused, being steadfast under burdens.
Love is kind. Kind has a meaning of gentleness, not easily aroused, not easily perturbed. Patient and kind.
Now there are eight negative attributes. We peel away the negatives to see the core of love.
Love envieth not. Love is without jealousy. So tempting, isn’t it? To look at neighbor so and so, or friend or relative so and so, who has more than we do and wish that we had more. That is rank jealousy.
Vaunteth not itself. Love does not brag, does not talk all the time. We all know people who seem to run off at the mouth all the time. Love does not brag and knows when to keep quiet.
Is not puffed up. Love is not arrogant, or proud. It does not say, “I am number one.”
Does not behave indecently. The Scripture here says “unseemly.” It means indecently. We are all impacted by the world in which we live. Some of the indecency we see around us is quite distressing, to be sure.
Seeketh not her own. That means love is not selfish. We have been told, “Toot your own horn. If you don’t toot it, nobody else will toot it for you.” Of course, love doesn’t do that. Love is not selfish.
Is not easily provoked. That means love is not easily agitated or irritated. Some people wear their feelings on their elbows and are getting hurt all the time. Love is not easily provoked.
Thinketh no evil. I understand that means keeps no records. Some people are like elephants; they never forget. In some places feuds have carried on for generations. The people never forgot. There was record keeping. Love doesn’t do that.
Rejoiceth not in iniquity. Iniquity means crookedness. We have our ideas. Love takes notice of iniquity but does not gloat over it. It rejoiceth not in iniquity. There we have the eight negative attributes peeled away.
Now let’s look at the five positive attributes.
Rejoiceth in the truth. That’s a wonderful statement. Love and truth are joined in God and should be joined in His people. We ought to have love and truth joined in our hearts and lives.
Love beareth all things. Love does not chafe under conditions that are difficult. It faces conditions that are difficult and hard to bear and bears all things.
Believeth all things. Now that does not mean being gullible or not discerning. Love sees the truth as it is in God. And that’s how and why love believes all things because the vision is directed through the Word of God.
Hopeth all things. You know hope is more than just wishful thinking. “Oh, I hope so.” The hope Paul is speaking of is grounded in God. Our hope in God is not instable or unstable. Our hope in God is securely grounded.
And then endureth all things. Love bears up under trial. There we have the second answer to our question, What does love do? Love sympathizes.
We have these eight negatives that we peeled off and we have these five positives we have focused on. This is the more excellent way.
The third answer to our question, What does love do? is:
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.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
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.
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.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Love endures. It has an abiding character. Of the three faith, hope, and love, only love is an attribute of God. To Him, faith is unnecessary because of His sovereign will. For Him hope is unnecessary because of His full knowledge. With Him, love is a basic attribute. United with holiness, His love is undefiled. Because God never fails, His love never fails. It is never diminished. Oh, praise God! It is just as true today as it was when it happened that God so loved the world that He was moved to give His only Son. Amen!
Prophecies fail. Some prophecies fail because they are not true. True prophecies fail or are set aside because they are fulfilled. Here prophecies means foretellings. There are scores of prophecies that have been fulfilled. For example, Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Pay close attention to when the fulness of time was come. In other words, the prophecy was in God’s hand. And when it was right, it came to pass. Prophecy, therefore, was fulfilled and passed off, so to speak.
I am very interested in the phrase “and it came to pass.” I didn’t take time to count them all in the Old Testament, but I found there were 110 of them in Genesis and Exodus. And there are 36 in Isaiah. Well, after it came to pass, of course, then it was no longer of any great value. It passed away.
Tongues shall cease. We are not sure exactly what that means. It is difficult to clarify. Does this mean that once again there will be one language? That sometime in God’s economy will we go back to the pre-Babel time, when everyone spoke the same language? I believe certainly in eternity we won’t have any difficulty understanding one another.
Knowledge shall vanish away. Full knowledge will overshadow what we know now. Our knowledge now is partial, as the apostle goes on to describe for us. We only know in part. And we prophesy in part because we are not God. Only God has full knowledge, and only God will be able to tell us everything. And He has chosen not to do so at this time.
Perfection is anticipated. “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Perfection will come because God embodies all perfection.
Now pay close attention to verse 11. The apostle describes himself. Maturation is illustrated. Love is scrutinizing. “When I was a child,” he said, “I spoke like a child, I understood like a child, I thought like a child,” which is different from adulthood. He said, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” An adult should shed childishness.
Yet even in adulthood growth is possible. Don’t ever think you can’t grow in your perception and understanding, because you can. But certainly, we ought to emerge out of childish thinking and childish actions. Love does that. Love scrutinizes that.
And then there is partial vision. Now we see in a mirror, darkly. Partial vision and partial knowledge will be replaced with clear vision and perfect knowledge. We will know as we are known.
Paul says these three abide: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Faith becomes sight, hope becomes reality, and love never changes. Love continues. Therefore love is the greatest and is The More Excellent Way because
It brings true values into focus.
It bears up under trial.
It moves beyond childishness.
That is the love God has expressed toward us. We express faith and hope toward Him, and love, I trust. But love is the greatest because that is what God expresses toward us. He loved us before we could possibly love Him.