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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – The Love Chapter

Summary

Recognizing that the Corinthians are particularly attracted to the spiritual gifts of knowledge, prophecy, and speaking in tongues, Paul argues that any of these without love is worthless.

Analysis

Many people know this chapter as a reading from Scripture used at weddings. Yet the chapter is not written to a couple. It is written to members of a church. These church members have found many ways to imagine themselves as superior to others in the same community: some speak in tongues; some have prophetic powers; some have knowledge that baffles their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul asserts that even such gifts as these are nothing if those who possess them do not also have love.

The chapter returns to a theme of maturity in the faith that Paul first introduced in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. It is not merely the manifestation of spiritual gifts that identify a community or an individual as participating in the risen life of Christ. Rather, truly spiritual life has given up the childish activities of boasting about one's favorite leaders or one's superior talent and is instead characterized by patient, kind, enduring love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Gift of Love

13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,* but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

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