The Heart of 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13 defines real love. But what does perfect love look like?

We all yearn for the perfect love, but first, what is the perfect love? The definition of love we know is only a reflection of what the world thinks love is. The world says that we have to gain something before we give love. But what does Christlike love look like? What does the Bible say about love? How are we to differentiate it from the kind of love that other people offer us? Let’s examine the following verse numbers of 1 Corinthians 13 to see love in the eyes of God. 

What is the Meaning of 1 Corinthians 13

Apostle Paul teaches us through 1 Corinthians 13 that God’s love is patient, kind, and unselfish. His love doesn’t boast nor keep a record of any wrongdoing. His love doesn’t rejoice in the downfall of others but delights in the truth. His love is entirely different from how the world views love. This chapter not only teaches us God’s love but also reminds us of its perfect example, Jesus’ gift of salvation to us all.

What is Agape Love?

Agape (which is agapē in Greek) in the Bible is depicted as God’s fatherly love for humanity and our love reciprocated towards Him. The Scripture describes agape love as the highest form and it surpasses other kinds of love, such as eros or romantic love, and philia or friendship love. John 3:16 perfectly describes God’s agape love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

What is the Main Idea of 1 Corinthians 13

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul teaches us about the true meaning of love. He also tells us that love should be the driving force of everything we do and say. We are to care for others the way Jesus shows His love and compassion for us.

The Way of Love

Apostle Paul denotes 1 Corinthians 13 as the way of love. In Chapter 12, he admonishes that spiritual gifts should not cause division but hopes to edify the church. Going into Chapter 13, Paul urges us to do everything out of our love for the Lord. This kind of sacrificial, unselfish love Paul is speaking of should be our motivation to do what we do to glorify Him and not get our own way. 

Characteristics of Love and Its Supremacy

1 Corinthians 13 shows us what unconditional love looks like. In verses 1-3, it won’t matter if we speak in tongues of men and angels, can fathom all mysteries, and see prophecies if we don’t do it out of love. Even if we give everything we have to the poor or boast of our hardship, without love it is futile. All our actions and knowledge are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Our childish ways will not speak of Jesus to others, and we will only cease glory thus defeating our purpose of doing work on Earth for Him. 

Without love, our ministry would be useless. Its teachings are just a noisy gong clanging or a clanging cymbal that only speaks of prophecy and mysteries and all knowledge that benefits them. As Mark 8:36 reminds us, we lose ourselves when we only talk and glorify ourselves. To love like Christ is to forget our own way so we can boast and glorify Him and lead others to Jesus.

Loving like Jesus is long-suffering but it’s always worth it (1 Corinthians 13:4). His love is a form of action; it’s patient and emulates kindness. Love shows mercy, forgiveness, and grace to those who hurt us, it shows God’s love is working in us. Love is a great testimony that can lead people to Jesus. For it is only by His power and works in us that loving the unlovable can be possible. 

What Love is Not

As the Scriptures state, selfless love contradicts what this world teaches us. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, “Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in the wrong but rejoices with the truth.

But love is patient and kind. In the world we live in, it may seem impossible to choose love. But we know firsthand His love despite our brokenness. Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus gave His life for us though we live in sin. It’s also His commandment in John 13:34 to love as He loved us.

Four Sweet Companions of Love

1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love protects, hopes, trusts, and endures all things. Charles Spurgeon cross-references this in one of his sermons, four sweet things accompany love where his manuscripts deliver the same message. Simply put, love covers everything. Just like what 1 Peter 4:8 tells us, this deep kind of love covers all shortcomings.

And what best example do we have than Christ? His life here on earth and the depth of His love for us are enough of an example. He endured imaginable pain and suffering, even death to save us. Jesus taught us in John 15:13 that there’s no greater love than laying down one’s life for His friends. We keep hoping, believing, bearing, and enduring because He loves us. We can love because He loved us first.

The Permanence of Love

When love abides in Jesus, that love is eternal; that’s what 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 tells us. Verse 8 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Paul also addressed how believers speak of and put so much importance on divine gifts and prophetic powers. However, love should be our priority because it’s eternal. When we come face to face with Jesus, everything fades but His love will still be there. It will remain forever.

Faith, Hope, and Love (v.13)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.“

The three most remarkable things that we should pursue are faith, hope, and love. But among the three, love is the most essential and permanent one.

Our hope reassures our hearts that Jesus is with us. Our faith allows us to put our trust in Jesus. We are able to love because we know that God loved us first. We endure the noisy gong of temptation and the immovable mountains in our temporary life here on earth with the promise of heaven with God. Our lives mirror dimly now, but our love and faith in Him give us hope that it will be worth it. We gain so much from denying the desires of the body because we have faith and confidence that God will always provide for us. We rejoice because love will continue. After all, love is who He is.

What is the Heart of 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13 centers on the idea of the importance, supremacy, and permanence of love. The Apostle Paul reminds us not to emphasize things that would take people’s gaze off Jesus. We should speak the truth and fuel our ministry and work with the knowledge of the kind of love that Jesus shows us. After all, this is the greatest commandment that He instructs us in Luke 10:27.

When Was 1 Corinthians 13 Written

The Apostle Paul was on his third journey as a missionary, and he was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter for the church in Corinth. Scholars suggest that this is dated somewhere in the range of AD 53 to 57. The disturbing news of rivalry, jealousy, and immoral and rude behaviors propelled him to write this epistle to them.

How to Pray 1 Corinthians 13

Loving is never easy, especially when it comes to loving difficult people, but this is what God had called us to do. We have to remember that we are all sinners and have done childish things, and we cannot look down on others just because of our faith in Christ. Remember that Matthew 5:45 tells us that God is just. The sun rises both on good and evil, and the rain pours both on the just and unjust. 

So what do we do when it is hard to love? We pray and ask for help from the Lord. It is beyond our knowledge and ability, and it can only be possible through faith in Him. Here is a simple prayer that can help get us started in praying this prayer of love. 

Simple Prayer

Dear God, 

Thank you for you are loving, abounding in grace, and rich in mercy. Thank you for offering us the gift of salvation and new life and for your perfect love that is patient and never fails. We pray that You fill us with Your love so that we can share it with others.

Thank You for constantly reminding us that in everything we do, we need to do it out of love. Our lives are not about getting our own way or our achievements or gifts and skills but to love. 

Thank you, Jesus, for being patient and kind to us. Please help us be patient and kind to others as well.

Thank you for reminding us that love doesn’t bear grudges and that it doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing. Please help us choose love over jealousy, envy, rudeness, and embitterment.

Help us to love and see others in Your eyes, Jesus. May we fulfill the work that you had set before us, and that is to love. Be glorified in all that we do. In Your sweetest name, we pray. Amen.

How to Apply 1 Corinthians 13 Today

If we want to love like Christ, just as the Apostle Paul taught us, we must think like Him. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the childish ways of this world. We have to tune out the noisy gong of the knowledge this world is feeding us and seek His kingdom and knowledge to love like Him.

Loving Others Like Christ

This world teaches us to love only those who care for us; Jesus teaches us differently. We are to love even the unlovable and those who oppress us (Matthew 5:44). His perfect example is when He prayed for the same people who hurt Him while suffering on the cross. Instead of revenge, He prayed to the Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). What a powerful expression of love!

Why is Love So Important?

Love is important because everything we do, if not for love, is meaningless. The sacrificial and unconditional love in 1 Corinthians 13 should be our priority. Remember that God’s attribute is love; it is His character and His whole being (1 John 4:8). How are we to remove mountains that separate us and share the good news when we cannot even make others feel a fraction of God’s love through our actions?

In Summary

1 Corinthians 13 tells us exactly what perfect love is. Love isn’t merely a feeling or a concept as the world depicts it. God’s love is love in action. As believers, we know that we are able to demonstrate this perfect love to others because Jesus gifted us salvation. However, we cannot do it alone we have to rely on Jesus for us to love others. Only by abiding in Him and anchoring ourselves to Him will we be able to love like Him. And as we take in the knowledge and experience His love, we can share the overflow with others so they, too, may know Him. In this way, we fulfill the purpose of love, which is to glorify God.

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Alex Shute
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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