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The Greatest of These is Love


1 Corinthians 13 - Love is the Greatest
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

Though Jesus identifies love as the Greatest Commandment, love is also the greatest characteristic as seen in 1 Corinthians 13.  Effectiveness in ministry hinges on love, not honed skills, the latest technology, excellence in programming, and the like.

This chapter is sandwiched between a teaching on body life and the use of spiritual gifts.  Consequently, if we keep it in that context we must conclude that love is critical to body life and must govern how we do ministry through the use of spiritual gifts.

Personalization of love  (vs. 1-3)

The clanging noise, insignificance, and ineffectiveness described in these verses do not refer to ministry being done without love.  Rather, they depict the person doing the ministry.

“I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” – If you want plausibility in ministry, you need to love.

“I am nothing.” – If you want purpose in ministry, you need to love.

“I gain nothing.” If you want a productive ministry, you need to love.

Bottom line: Be the kind of person who makes a difference by being a person motivated and characterized by love.

Potential of love  (vs. 4-8a)

No matter how you serve, you will find many situations calling for patience and kindness.  You will be tempted to boast about what you are doing right or envy others in their successes.  You will tend to think your agenda is the one to follow.  Your gut reaction to those who do you wrong or stand in your way could easily be rudeness, anger, or revenge.  You might find it hard to forgive.  As much as you try not to say “I told you so,” you might not be able to help but think people got what they had coming to them.  You will sometimes find it very hard to see the potential in people.  And, there will be times you just feel like giving up.

What’s the solution?  — Love.  Only God’s love will enable you to keep the best interests of others at heart.

Bottom line: Measure your ministry against the right standard, the love of God as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

If you serve as a Bible teacher, the worksheet, “Does your heart beat with the love of God for your students?” will help you do that.

Perspective of love  (vs. 8-13)

How quick we can be in ministry to focus on certain doctrines or practices to the neglect of that which can be agreed upon and profit everyone.  We can get mixed up on that which is negotiable and that which is not.  We can settle for the temporal, imperfect, and incomplete when God wants our attention on that which is lasting, perfect, and complete.  In the end only faith, hope, and love will remain with love being the greatest.

How interesting that though this chapter has elevated love, the last verse throws in some “runner ups” — faith and hope — without expounding on them.  Even though faith and hope are essential to the Christian life and community, the greatest is love.  The next two posts will look at how faith and hope stand next to love.  You can subscribe to be notified by e-mail of new posts.

Bottom line: Focus on what really matters.


10 Replies to “The Greatest of These is Love”

  1. This is the utmost important point in ministry–oh that the people of God would grasp it!!! When we do, true revival is eminent–we want Pentecost productivity, but we don’t plant Pentecost seed. Love planted grows and gives a mighty harvest–love one to another, doesn’t only produce more love between us, but it is how men will know that “ye are My disciples”.

    • Hi, Lisa! I like how you brought in the principle of sowing and reaping. Too often that truth is kept in the context of giving to which it definitely applies as seen in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. But, that principle is so applicable to love as well. Galatians 6:1-10, where we also find this principle, is all about loving relationships. Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul prayed this prayer for the Ephesians? —

      “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

      This is the love we sow …. HIS love!

      • Amen! The love we sow, will be the Fruit that we bear–the more we sow, the greater the harvest. We focus so much time and attention on “milk” issues and very little on “meat” issues that teach people how to live life abundantly–spiritually. We teach them abundant-living in the natural; that teaching OVER-abounds, but spiritual abundant-living is far lacking!

        • You said, “We teach them abundant-living in the natural.” How sad and sadly too often too true. Because of that, we miss so much and give so little to others! May God awaken us!

  2. AMEN!!!
    I often say charity (love) and giving are more than the offering plate at church on Sunday morning–we have failed the least of these, miserably. God has promised to supply all of their needs, too–but it is through us that it is supposed to happen. The fact that it isn’t, is our failure, not God’s.

    • Totally not God’s failure. He put the principle of sowing and reaping in place. Somehow we think we can work outside of His design????? Yes, the condition of the church, and society too, reflects on us, not Him. We have EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). The problem isn’t that He hasn’t given us what we need but that we don’t take it and use it. Unfortunately then “the least of these” do not receive our expressions of love, as you wrote, and the testimony to the world around us, not seeing sincere love inside and outside the walls of a church building, don’t want anything to do with the church and even our Lord.

  3. …Amen, sadly. But, I believe God is raising up a generation who will take Him at His Word–it will be the youth, who will dare to believe Him. They aren’t focused on maintaining the status quo–they don’t want masks, or unnecessary protocol; they want the Face of God.

    • To be sure, we must not despair. The Church is still God’s plan till Jesus comes again. He will indeed use those whose hearts are pliable and desirous of Him above all else. This has motivated me to stop and pray for today’s young people as well as the Church as a whole.

  4. It is all about love. For God is love! We know what you have said, it is true. We know you are experienced in ministry and have a real relationship and fellowship with the Father, God. When we come into the consciousness of Oneness, the mind of Christ it brings us into the real spiritual understanding of God’s love for us. Then we will be able to love our selves and our brother. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.

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