The “Love” Chapter
The thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth is popularly known as the “love” chapter. It is often used at weddings to stress the importance of love in a marriage. Many other interpretations are given for the chapter as well, but an examination of the context clearly reveals that God’s teaching here has to do with spiritual gifts.
In the preceding chapter, Paul gives a lengthy explanation of some of the spiritual gifts and how they fit together in the body of Christ. He wants the church in Corinth to understand that no one gift is more important than any other. He moves on in chapter 13 to show that love trumps all the other gifts.
The Importance of Love
Paul gives a series of contrasts in chapter 13 to help us understand that without love the spiritual gifts we have are useless. A gift that is useless might be correlated to another passage Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:12-15. He gives an example there about the work a believer does after salvation.
The work that has value will withstand judgment and receive its due reward, but the work that is useless will burn up and receive no reward in heaven. The gifts we have enable us to do the good work that receives reward; but according to I Corinthians 13, if not accompanied by love, these gifts are useless. Paul says that without love, spiritual gifts are like a clanging cymbal—nothing—and that we gain nothing by using them.
A Description Of Love
Love is patient, kind, not jealous, boastful or proud. It does not demand its own way, is not irritable and keeps no record of wrong. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Without love, the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit are worthless.
As Paul closes the chapter, he says that when he was a child he spoke, thought and reasoned like a child, but when he grew up he put away childish things. The mature believer knows that these gifts are temporary and that love is eternal. The gifts are given for us to build up the body of Christ. But love trumps all. There is nothing greater than love.