Power in the Pursuit of Love – 1 Corinthians 13 in Context

“I believe this book will dispel myths and people’s preconceived ideas about love. The insight and simplicity of the writing will allow the Word of God to speak directly to the reader.”

Pastor Bong Bugarin, Jesus the Good Shepherd International Church, Paris, France

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Love never fails.

In other words, love always works. This is a biblical truth. “Love never fails” is a quote from 1 Corinthians 13:8.

It’s always the right time to love. Love is always appropriate. In fact, one of its characteristics is that it does not behave inappropriately. According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, love isn’t rude.

1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter all about love, and it’s a chapter that, like love, always works.

Like love itself, 1 Corinthians 13 seems to work no matter where it shows up. It’s often read by itself. It can be read at weddings or funerals. It can be the source of a Christmas sermon or an evangelistic message.

1 Corinthians 13 has been taken out of its context and applied to diverse situations because it can be. It’s versatile that way.

Thomas Jefferson cut up the words of Jesus and made a collection of the sentences he liked. He wasn’t the first one to rearrange the words of the Bible. Almost since the four Gospels were written, people have been cutting them up and sticking them together to make one big Gospel.

You wouldn’t want to tamper with the words of the Bible in a deceptive way, but if you were in the mood to experiment, you could do a similar thing with 1 Corinthians 13. Cut it out and smooth out the edges, and you could put it anywhere in the New Testament.

You could stick it in the middle of Philippians or Ephesians. It would fit.

I think it would be great in 2 Timothy, as Paul’s last bit of advice to his spiritual son.

You could put it in the Sermon on the Mount, or make it a speech that Jesus gave at the Last Supper.

You could put it in the book of Revelation. You could have an mighty angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying, “Love is patient, love is kind…”

It would be beautiful.

But as versatile as that chapter of the Bible is, let’s consider where it has in fact been placed for us.

1 Corinthians 13 comes between 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14. If you didn’t know that, you could have guessed. Anyone could have guessed that. But perhaps not everyone could guess what these chapters are about. Perhaps some people are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 but don’t know anything about the chapters that come before and after it.

These chapters are about spiritual gifts. In them, Paul tells the Corinthians how to share their gifts with one another. He encourages them to continue to seek these things as eagerly as ever, but to let love govern all that they do.

So chapters 12 and 14 are about the pursuit of power, and chapter 13 is a safeguard. The Corinthians were pursuing spiritual power, but they needed to practice love in their pursuit.

That’s how it may appear at first, anyway.

If we look closer, we will see that these chapters are not about love in the pursuit of power. Not exactly. They’re about power in the pursuit of love.

Love is the main thing. It’s what the Corinthians needed to pursue. They were right to seek power, but power was to serve their pursuit of love, not the other way around.

“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts,” Paul said (1 Corinthians 14:1).

The Corinthians were called to the pursuit of love, and so are we. They were to desire the gifts. They needed them. They needed power in their pursuit of love, and so do we.

The pursuit of love is a great adventure. It’s exhilarating. It’s rewarding beyond measure.

It’s also hard work, but that work pays off in countless ways.

Love makes everything easier. If we work hard at love, everything else we do will be easier. If we neglect love, everything else will be harder.

Let’s not neglect love. Let’s pursue it. Let’s do the one hard thing that makes everything else easier.


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The gospel changes us by not changing, and not waiting for us to change. It helps us to live in this world by not conforming itself to this world—by giving us a message from outside of this world and insisting that this ever-changing world in which we live and grow has ended, and that our lives in it have ended as well.

As for the fact that we are clearly not dead, the gospel gives us a new world to live in, a world governed by—in fact, created by—God’s once-and-for-all decree that we are righteous in Christ. To live under that decree is to live in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit is to live the life of the new creation.

from A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness