- 1 Cor. 11:17-14:40
Beginning in 1 Cor. 12, Paul instructs the Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts. In the early church, the Christians didn't have complete Bibles like you and I have today. In order to accomplish His purpose, the Holy Spirit gave various special gifts and abilities to the Christians, such as the ability to speak in tongues (other known languages) and to prophesy concerning future events or to know the will of GOD on specific matters. Apparently, the Christians in Corinth at the time of Paul's letter had placed a higher value on speaking in tongues than other gifts, so he corrects their misunderstanding by explaining that the most important gift is love.
In the Greek language—the language in which the majority of the New Testament was written—there are multiple words which are translated "love" in English. The spiritual gift of love is the Greek word "agapé." Agapé love is the type of love that seeks the other's best interest. It isn't an emotional feeling of attraction; rather, it's a mental decision—a choice—to seek the other person's needs, wants, wishes and best interests. Consider what Paul says about this form of love in 1 Cor. 13:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Cor. 13:1-13 NIV)
Here are three lessons we can learn from these truths about agape love:
- It isn't enough to do the right thing if we aren't doing it out of love. Make sure your motivation for every action is love.
- Pure agapé love takes a lot of work, and we'll spend our entire lifetime working to perfect it in ourselves.
- Love is the most important and greatest gift. Ask GOD for Him to help you love like He loves. It's His will. He'll grant you that request if you are willing.