This chapter is the gem of the whole book. In amidst the carnality, disunity, and confusion of a young church, shines the true character of the head and Lord of that church. We noticed previously how chapter nine, concerning the paid ministry was pocketed between two chapters each dealing with idolatry, now we see this gloriously inspired passage, set in between the two passages concerning the gifts of the spirit. A fruit amongst the gifts. Considering the friction and divisions that have constantly plagued the christian church, and especially the influence of doctrinal beliefs concerning the gifts, one could be excused for thinking that this book never existed. Or if it did, then those who have seen fit to separate from fellow believers have obviously never digested this chapter. If you are by now familiar with the ubiquitous pattern of threes in scripture, then the first three verses will partition themselves into heart, mind and will. or word, thought and deed. The heart in verse one, revealed through the speech. Jesus himself confirmed that from the heart the mouth speaks. The ruthlessness with which this passage deals with those who exercise the gifts of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, discernment, or self denial, and good works, without love, is quite incredible. They are denounced as “SOUNDING BRASS. TINKLING SYMBOLS , NOTHING, and UNPROFITABLE (Waste of time) It behoves us to ponder how or why someone could do charity work without love. If a person gives all their goods to feed the poor, could there be another motive other than love for the hungry? Furthermore, confirms the fact that there is a great deal of difference between the “charity” referred to in the Authorised version and the charity we know today. The more up to date versions, quite rightly interpret charity to mean love, but how long will it be before our modern abuse of the word love makes it necessary for us to redefine the meaning of the word used in this passage NINE times. Obviously an appropriate number , as this is the same number as the parts of the Fruit of the Spirit and the number of Gifts of the spirit. . Furthermore on the numerical front we would find that this word (charity) is mentioned 27 times ( 3 x 9 ) in the New Testament. It is the “agape” love of John ch 21 . It is the love that Jesus had for Peter. The other word for love is “phileo” , as used when referring to the Pharisees “who love greetings in the market place” or when referring to brotherly love. Indeed Paul uses the word phileo when exhorting wives to “love” their husbands, or fathers to “love” their children. However, when referring to how Christ loves the church, ( in Ephesians) and exhorting men to love their wives in similar fashion, Paul uses the word “agape” No doubt there is a charitable love, which is as one human being may feel towards another who is in need. yet at the same time could be different from the true love of God, referred to here in ch 13. It could be said that “agape” love, is the love of God and “phileo” love is human love. Another interesting study of this chapter is to see if all the fruit of the spirit cannot be summed up in Agape love. Let’s see; Joy verse 6. rejoices in the truth Peace; v. 6 & 7. bears all things (not upset) Longsuffering v. 4 suffers long Gentleness v. 5 not easily provoked Goodness v 4. is kind. Faith v. 7 believe all things, Meekness v. 4 vaunts not itself, is not puffed up Temperance v. 5 does not behave itself unseemly.
Other phrases used are; thinks no evil (mind) envies not (heart), seeks not her own (will). In verse 8 we have the great hammer blow of eternal truth that Love never fails. While we might like to think that this verse is saying that love will always bring success, it is more truthfully interpreted as "never" to never lack or come up to the mark. As a commodity it is always complete. Knowledge as a commodity is never full. No-one knows it all, and no matter how dogmatic a man might be , it is simply impossible for one individual to have all knowledge and speak it all in any given situation. Nor is such a person able to comprehend all truth at once. For example, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, king & servant, grace and works, sovereign and free will salvation, are all subjects at opposite ends of the spectrum. Much emphasis is put on prophetic ministry, but we are told here very clearly that prophecy has its short comings, “it shall fail” . Much emphasis is placed upon tongues by some but we are told that such talk shall one day cease. It has its limitations. When we are in his presence in the land of the spirit we will need no longer this foreign language in our worship. Knowledge easily vanishes away. The state of the art technology of yesterday fills the rubbish tips of today. Such knowledge has ceased. Todays’ 12 year old schoolboy knows more than Newton, or Euclid or Pythagoras, and indeed any great scholar of the past. Their knowledge, though highly praised in their day, would hardly acquire an “o” level today. Likewise though we think we know a great deal today, yet compared to the knowledge we shall have in eternity, we could be classed as nincompoops today. We shall know as “ we are known”. We shall have our eyes of understanding fully opened, when faith is lost in heavenly sight. At best, while here on earth, we see through a dark glass. Yet we argue or disagree so easily. How can we be so sure that we are right, to the exclusion of the “ light” as given by another brother. In life we see some things we grow out of, though at the time, they seemed worth fighting over, such as the toys our sister broke or played with without permission. Now we see the same brothers and sisters and never even remember such silly quarrels. We have grown up into longer lasting things. (But our parents will might cause some slight dissention!) Most things in life will disappear. There is only one sure eternal currency, that is love. It is always a complete commodity in itself. It is always perfect. It is described as perfect when Paul says “perfect love casts out fear.” Perfectness in scripture really means fullness or maturity. We can truly regard ourselves as mature when we show true love. Our first love is to Jesus Christ. The way we express our love to Him, is through obedience. John wrote in his epistle that the love of God is perfected when we keep his word. In other words, God’s love has fulfilled it’s purpose. Jesus was made “perfect through suffering” He was made complete. His love for God remained despite his suffering. That was true, mature, perfect, agape love. His love for us remained perfect and true in spite of what we did to him in causing him to suffer. It is easy to love those who love us, but true agape love as described here, and is offered as the panacea of all the ills of the church, loves others without regard for how they treat us. We may, as seen in chap 8 and 10, see our brethren doing what we would not do. But love keeps us united, whereas if our knowledge produces pride, it will divide. John’s gospel reveals God living on this earth. Love is the great message of this book. Among the many examples of the love of God we have the story of the adulteress. The law, written by God, was being upheld by his so-called followers. One would have thought that Jesus would have commended them for their enthusiasm to see the law upheld. But the same God who wrote the law with his finger, wrote on the ground with the same finger. Her accusers were unable to even continue their accusations even with the cold stone law in their hands. Jesus, even more remarkably, seems to disannul the law himself. The law certainly condemned her, yet the giver of the law, when face to face with a law breaker, refused to condemn the adulteress. The law was not given as a stone to smash in our skulls. The law was an expression of agape love. God wanted men to live perfect lives. The Law is holy, just and good. The spirit behind the law was love. Sadly there seems little of that same spirit when we condemn our fellow brethren because they fail to reach a certain standard, which to us is “law”. There were many things “wrong” with this church, and the people in it. But getting things “right” was not the thing that would make them perfect, only LOVE could do that. This is my commandment, that you love one another. Let the same blood soaked finger write that law on the fleshy tables of our hearts. Thank the Lord we have chapter 13. Chs 1-2: Chs 7-8: Chs 3-4: Chs 5-6: Chs 9-11: chs 12-14 top of page: Chs 15-16