The Pre-eminence of Love
1 Cor. 13: 1-7
Commonly called the “Love Chapter” and written by the “Apostle love”, chapter 13 is one of the
most popular chapter in the New Testament. The character of God is described by love. Love is the
essence of God’s nature. We as His follower should also be described by this premier teaching. The
Corinthian Christians have so much spiritual gifts. They have the best teacher next to Christ which is
the Apostle Paul, but they lacked one thing which is the most important. Love. Here Paul tells them
and us what truly love is.
Illustration 1: Love
1. The whole Old Testament Law is summed up by the one word, “love” (Lev. 19:17-18; Mat. 19:19).
2. Love sums up the Christian’s responsibilities in the New Testament (Rom. 13:9).
3. Love is the capstone, the crowning virtue, the consummation of all other virtues (Gal. 5:22-23; 2
Pet. 1:5-7; Col. 3:12-14).
4. Love is the goal of Paul’s instruction (1 Tim. 1:5).
5. Love is the distinguishing mark of the true Christian (Jn. 13:35).
6. Without love, the value of spiritual gifts is greatly diminished (1 Cor. 12:1-3).
7. Love is greater than any of the spiritual gifts and is even greater than faith and hope (1 Cor.
8. Love endures suffering under persecution, and Christians will be persecuted (Mat. 24:10; 2 Tim.
9. Love is easily lost; without one’s even being aware of it (Rev. 2:1-7).
10. Love is misunderstood and distorted by the unbelieving world
11. Love is vitally important to Christians, for it should govern our relationships with other
Christians, especially those with whom we strongly disagree. (Bob Deffinbaugh)
I. The Greek words for Love
1. The Greek word translated “charity” in the KJV is “agape.” Strong defines it as
“love, i.e. affection or benevolence.” It appears 106 times in the New Testament
and the King James Bible usually translates it “love” but also translates it
“charity” 27 times, “charitably” one time (Rom. 14:15), and “dear” one time
(Col. 1:13). Agape love is God’s love (1 Jn. 4:8).
2. Either word (whether “charity” or “love”) must be interpreted by its context and
by comparing Scripture with Scripture. The Bible is a self-interpreting book. If we
take the context of 1 Corinthians 13, we are given a clear definition of the Greek
3. “Charity” is an excellent translation of “agape” when it is not allowed to assume
it’s more narrow 20th century definition of benevolence to the poor and needy
(e.g., giving to social organizations such as the Red Cross). Webster’s 1828
dictionary defined “charity” thusly: “In a general sense, love, benevolence good
will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their
fellow men, and to do them good. … In a more particular sense, love, kindness,
affection, tenderness, springing from natural relations; as the charities of father,
son and brother.” That is the meaning of the Greek word “agape.”
4. The term “love” has changed even more in meaning since the 17th century
(when the King James Bible was first published) than “charity,” having assumed
a more emotional, sensual definition. In the 21st century rock & roll culture, love
means lust. It refers more often to “eros” love rather than “agape” love.
B. The Word Phileo
1. “Love” in the New Testament is translated from, number of Greek words.
“Philanthropia”: love for mankind. “Philadelphia” Love for brethren. “Phileo”:
Love for a friend.
C. The word Eros
1. The Greeks had another word for love: “eros,” love between the sexes, as love
for sweethearts, love of husband for wife, and vice versa This word is never used
in the New Testament. It was too capable of being misunderstood.
Illustration 2: Unconditional Love
There is nothing you can to do make God love you more!
There is nothing you can do to make God love you less!
His love is Unconditional, Impartial, Everlasting, Infinite, Perfect! Richard C. Halverson
II. The importance of love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
A. Without love the exercise of every spiritual gift and ministry is in vain.
1. The gift of tongues is nothing as the Word of God describes, “I am become as
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”
2. The gift of prophecy is useless or nothing.
3. Understanding all mysteries is nothing
4. Having all knowledge is nothing
5. Having great faith is nothing.
6. Giving yourself to be burned, it profits you nothing if you have no charity. This is
an amazing statement and shows how important love is before God.
III. What charity or Godly love is (1 Cor. 13:4- 7)
A. Charity suffereth long – W. E. Vine indicates that longsuffering is the most frequent
meaning of the term in the Bible, and he distinguishes ―longsuffering from
―patience in this way:
1. Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which
does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is
associated with mercy, and is used of God, Ex. 34:6 (Sept.); Rom. 2:4; 1 Pet. 3:20.
2. Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb
under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope, 1
Thess. 1:3; it is not used of God.
3. For the Christian, longsuffering is not optional. Longsuffering is named as one of
the ―fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). We are commanded to be ―patient or to
manifest ―longsuffering toward others:
B. Charity is kind. “The word here used denotes to be good natured, gentle, tender,
affectionate. Kindness was shown by the good Samaritan when he saw the man lying
in the road in need, he willingly did all in his means to help (Luke 10:30-37). Kindness
is characteristic of God and should thus characterize the Christian as well
C. Charity envieth not. Love is neither jealous nor envious of the gifts, goods or fortune
D. “Charity vaunteth not itself.” Vainglorious. Love never brags, exalts itself or its ability
as did Simon (Acts 8:9; Matt. 6:1; 11:29; 12:29, 38; 21:5). “Love does not parade her
E. “Charity… is not puffed up”: Humility. “Not inflated with pride for arrogance,
because of wealth, knowledge or power. Let us realize that all we have was given by
F. Charity doth not behave itself unseemly. It does not do anything that is sinful or
improper or unbecoming to the truth. It conducts itself in the most upstanding and
righteous and godly manner. It never veers from God’s standard of holiness.
G. Charity “seeketh not her own.” True love is never selfish and self centered, but is
interested in what will benefit others. Love is happy to help others. It lives and helps
other to live – for God (Rom. 12:10; 15:103; Phil. 2:4; Matt. 20:28).
H. Charity “is not easily provoked.” Good-natured. “Easily” has been an excuse for
many men getting into a bad temper. Irritation or sharpness of spirit is curbed by
love. Paul was provoked in Athens. He and Barnabas had a strife in Antioch (Acts
15:39). The secret of temper control is Christ control, not self-control. Christ was
provoked with hardened, deliberately sinful men (Mark 3:5; I Pet. 2:23).
I. Charity thinketh no evil. It does not think evil and sinful thoughts. It is not malicious
and vengeful. It does not think evil about people when there is no good reason to do
so. It is not quick to attribute evil motives to others.
J. Charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity…” (I Cor. 13:6): Sincerity. Love does not rejoice in
seeing sin committed (Rom. 1:32; John 8:3-11). This kind of love is “never glad when
others go wrong.” “There are people as low as that whose real joy is in the triumph
K. Charity “rejoiceth in the truth. The word truth here stands opposed to iniquity, and
means virtue, piety, goodness, hating all forms of evil. Rejoices when truth is
proclaimed and truth wins the victory.
L. Charity “beareth all things…” (I Cor. 13:7): Graciousness. Love covers, protects, and
forbears. “Love shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8). Love bears the faults of
others by putting a mantle of love over them. Whenever a fire breaks out in the
forest and leaves the black scar of a ruthless burning, nature soon hides its ugliness
with a mantle of green. Let the lesson of nature be the lesson of life. Let us put the
mantle of love over the scars of another’s life!
M. Charity “believeth all things.” Confidence. Love is full of trust. Love always expects
the best possible outcome Even when cause for trust may be gone, love remains
love. It may tearfully acknowledge defeat but it will cheerfully pursue its course.
N. Charity “hopeth all things.” Assurance. Love believes in its cause so deeply that it
knows a better day is coming, even as the father hoped and looked for the prodigal’s
return (Luke 15:20). A pessimist has been described as a person who blows out the
light to see how dark it is! Love is optimistic, hopeful, expectant and forward
looking! Love always holds out hope that things will work our right in the end.
O. Charity “endureth all things.” Endurance. Love perseveres. It is patient in trials and
endures suffering because it believes God’s Word and hopes in God’s Word. Jacob
endured seven years of labor because of his love for Rachel (Gen. 29:20). How much
more should the believer endure the trials of this present world because of his love
for the Saviour.
Illustration 3: Love is a Costly Thing
She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato
into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost
gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little—but it was all I
Taking a bite, she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced
the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire
potato to keep her baby alive.
Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few
minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but
her little girl lived.
Love is a costly thing.
God in His love for us (and for a lost world) “spared not His own Son” to tell the world of His love.
Love is costly, but we must tell the world at any cost. Such love is costly.
It costs parents and sons and daughters. It costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ the
missionary often must give up all to make the Savior known. If you will let your love for Christ, cost
you something, the great advance will be made together.
Love is a Costly Thing by Dick Hillis
When you want to describe God scripturally in one sentence, just say “God is love”. He
loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to save us
sinners. Will you love Him back? How are you going to show it?