THE SUPREMACY OF LOVE
There are a number of beautiful treatises on the topic of love and one of the most eloquent is 1 Corinthians 13. In the midst of the Apostle Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts, he emphasizes the necessity of love. Without love, our spiritual gifts lose their value. One of the greatest descriptions of love is presented in this chapter,
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The temporary nature of our spiritual gifts is juxtaposed with the permanency of faith, hope, and love. These three comprise a trinity of unity that will last for eternity,
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13
Faith, hope, and love are not only available to us in the present age, but they will be ours in the age to come. Paul proclaims the supremacy of love because it is foundational to faith and hope. Without love, there can be no faith because faith requires an object. Without love, there can be no hope because we can’t truly hope for something that we do not love. We also see that love is an essential aspect of God’s nature since God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
The love that Jesus proclaimed and that Paul described in this chapter is agape love. There are several characteristics to this type of love:
- Agape love is volitional. This is an act of the will. The Greek language has several words for love. The word eros describes an intense, passionate love that captures the meaning of our concept of physical love. Lust (eros) seeks to get whereas agape love chooses to give. The word philos describes an emotional love involving positive feelings toward others. Agape love chooses to love.
- Agape love is unconditional. It is not dependent upon the actions of the other person.
- Agape love sacrificial. This is the love that God demonstrated by sending His Son, and Jesus demonstrated by going to the cross. John 3:16 teaches us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . ”
Love is the basis of the greatest commandment when Jesus summarized the teaching of the law and the prophets in declaring that we are to love God and love others (Mark 12:29-31). Since love is part of God’s nature it has always existed and has no beginning and no end. We have God’s gracious invitation to be a partaker of God’s unending love because of His love for us. The degree to which we understand God’s love, enables us to demonstrate God’s love toward others,
We love, because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19