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1 Corinthians 13

Jerry Zhang
Jerry Zhang
·

3 min read

This is the ultimate chapter about love. In my opinion, it is worth memorizing this entire chapter (or at least verse 4-8), just like it is worthwhile to memorize Romans 12. It's a short chapter, but very impactful.

If I Have Not Love, I Am Nothing

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

If I have the ultimate power of communication but have not love, it is meaningless. The greatest challenge in today's world is not technological deficiency or a lack of resources–it's people misunderstanding each other. But, even if we understand each other but don't do so out of love, it ultimately doesn't matter.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthains 13:2

If I can predict the future, know all things, have incredibly strong faith, but have not love, then all the potential that I have won't be meaningful in any way.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:3

If I sacrifice everything that I have and everything that I am, but I don't do so in a loving manner, then what's the point?

Defining Love

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This is the golden nugget, the purest definition of love. Nothing in the world comes close. I will break down each section and make a comparison between how this pure spiritual definition of love contrasts with worldly behavior and even worldly love.

The Bible The World
Love is patient I want it now!
Love is kind Who cares about others
Love does not envy I wish I were like them
Love does not boast Check out how cool and awesome I am
Love is not arrogant I'm better than you
Love is not rude Get out of my way
Love does not insist on its own way My way or the wrong way
Love is not irritable Why are you so frustrating?!
Love is not resentful I hate you for what you did to me
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing Rebellion!
Love rejoices with the truth Denial
Love bears all things Not my problem
Love believes all things That's impossible
Love hopes all things Existential crisis
Love endures all things I give up

This is incredibly difficult to put into practice. In fact, I would say it's impossible to fully obey this without the Holy Spirit.

Love Never Ends

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. – 1 Corinthians 13:8

Everything in this world is temporary and will pass away. Only love truly outlasts everything.

What this really means is that since God is love, God never ends. Even though prophecies (future-telling), tongues (communication-ability), and knowledge are extremely valued in the church and even in the world, they are still but temporary when compared with love.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. – 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

Paul makes a distinction between the part and the perfect. Right now when we live in this world, we are only occupying a fraction of the timeline, a fraction of our life's purpose, a fraction of our potential. Only when we are re-united with God in heaven will the "perfect" come, and all the "partial" things we did in the world will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Paul extends the partial vs perfect with a comparison: child vs adult. When we were children, we behaved childishly and had a child's understanding; when we grew up, we discarded our previously childish ways. Similarly, right now we are only experiencing the partial; when we experience the perfect, we will discard our then previously partial ways.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Right now, we see our reflection in the mirror of light, meaning we can understand a glimpse of our own selves; when perfect comes, we will be able to fully understand our own selves.

Final Reiteration

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

While faith and hope are important, love is the one that adds meaning to them. God is love, after all.

Devotional1 Corinthians

Jerry Zhang

Programmer, YouTuber, and amateur musician. I like to write too!