The Love Life
I Corinthians 13
W. Graham Scroggie
- The Pre-eminence and Value of Love
- The Prerogatives and Virtues of Love
- The Permanence and Victory of Love
- A Climax is Reached (8a)
- A Contrast is Presented (8b-12)
- The Permanence and Victory of Love
- A Comparison is Instituted (13)
- A Course is Enjoined (14:1a)
“Beloved, let us love: love is of God;
In God alone hath love its true abode.
Beloved, let us love: for they who love,
They only, are His sons, born from above.
Beloved, let us love: for love is rest,
And he who loveth not abides unblest.
Beloved, let us love: for love is light,
And he who loveth not dwelleth in night.
Beloved let us love: for only thus
Shall we behold that God loveth us.”
I CORINTHIANS 13
(a) The Setting of this Chapter.
(b) The Signification of “Love.”
- THE PRE-EMINENCE AND VALUE OF LOVE (verses 1-3).
- Love should be sovereign in the human heart (verse 1). Controlling our emotional powers.
- Love should be sovereign in the human mind (verse 2). Controlling our intellectual powers.
- Love should be sovereign in the human will (verse 3). Controlling our volitional powers.
- THE PREROGATIVES AND VIRTUE OF LOVE (vv. 4-7).
- Love is not Hasty, but Patient.
- Love is not Inconsiderate, but Benevolent.
- Love is not Envious, but Content.
- Love is not Boastful, but Unostentatious.
- Love is not Arrogant, but Humble.
- Love is not Rude, but Courteous.
- Love is not Selfish, but Self-forgetful.
- Love is not Irritable, but Good-tempered.
- Love is not Vindictive, but Generous.
- Love is not Malevolent, but High-principled.
- Love is not Rebellious, but Brave.
- Love is not Suspicious, but Confident.
- Love is not Despondent, but Undiscourageable.
- Love is not Conquerable, but Indomitable.
III. THE PERMANENCE AND VICTORY OF LOVE
- A Climax is Reached (verse 8a).
- A Contrast is Presented (verses 8b-12).
(i) An Affirmation (verse 8b).
(а) The Fact Affirmed.
(b) The Limits of the Fact.
(ii). An Explanation (verses 9, 10).
(a) The Reason why the “gifts” must pass away (verse 9).
(b) The Time at which the “gifts” shall pass away (verse 10).
(iii) An Illustration (verse 11).
(а) The Illustration Itself.
(b) The Thing Illustrated.
(iv) A Confirmation (verse 12).
(a) Our Present and Future Seeing (verse 12a).
(b) Our Present and Future Knowing (verse 12b).
- A Comparison is Instituted (verse 13).
(i) The Excellence of the Three Virtues.
(ii) The Permanence of the Three Virtues.
(iii) The Greatest of the Three Virtues.
- A Course is Enjoined (chap. 14., verse 1a).
(i) Why? The Reason.
(ii) How? The Method.
(a) The Setting of this Chapter.
(b) The Signification of “LOVE”
Before considering in detail the contents of this wonderful passage, there are two preliminary matters of importance which claim our attention, namely, the setting of this chapter and the signification of love.
(a) The Setting of this Chapter
Chapters 12, 13, and 14 of this Epistle form a distinct division of it, and treat of the subject of Spiritual Gifts; chapter 12 tells of the rich endowment of the gifts; chapter 13 tells of their vital energy; and chapter 14 tells of their worthy exercise. Thus between the endowment in chapter xii and the exercise in chapter xiv is placed this sublime Song, revealing that love alone can safeguard the use (chapter 14) of that which is bestowed (chapter 12).
It has been pointed out that “on each side of this chapter the tumult of argument and remonstrance still rages. But within the chapter all is calm; the sentences move in almost rhythmical melody; the imagery unfolds itself in almost dramatic propriety; the language arranges itself with almost rhetorical accuracy. We can imagine how the apostle’s amanuensis must have paused to look up into his master’s face at the sudden change in the style of his dictation, and see his countenance lighted up as it had been the face of an angel, as this vision of divine perfection passed before him. This is the earliest detailed description of this element of goodness, and we cannot help wondering that it was Paul, and not John, who gives it to us. To the minds of both these great apostles, amidst all their other diversities, Love represented the chief fact and the chief doctrine of Christianity, and we cannot doubt that both derived it from a common source – the character and example of Christ.”
The Church at Corinth “came behind in no gift” but it was sadly lacking in love, as a reading of this Epistle will show. But the Spirit of Cod here declares that, if one has not love, he has nothing; and that if one has love, whatever else he may lack, he has what matters most.
(b) The Signification of Love.
This naturally leads us to the consideration of the other preliminary point, the Signification of Love. The Revised Version has done well to substitute the word “love” for the word “charity” of the Authorised Version and the Vulgate, because this latter expression has changed its meaning. It usually means one or other of two things: either almsgiving, as in the phrases “an act of charity,” “an object of charity,” or “a charitable institution”; and love is contrasted with this idea in verse 3. Or it means toleration, as when we speak of “a charitable construction,” or “charity with our neighbours.” But there may be both almsgiving and toleration without love, so that the word “charity,” as we now understand it, is a wholly inadequate rendering of the word in this chapter, and wherever else it occurs in the New Testament.
It will be well for us at once to observe that love is not here defined, but just displayed. “There are times when definition is destruction. Whoever questioned the beauty of the sunset? But who can define it? The astronomer can give us the mathematics of it, and I doubt not there is mathematics in the sunset, but there is no sunset glory in the mathematics. There is a chemistry of colours, but there is no wistful healing light in that chemistry. Beauty defined is beauty destroyed.” But though love cannot be defined, it may (be described and displayed, and by giving careful attention to these expressions of it we shall come to apprehend and appreciate its true nature.
Let it be said then, first of all, that
(i) Love is Spiritual.
There are three words in the Greek language which are translated “love.” One of these tells of the love of passion, of lust, of sensual desire. The word occurs in the Old Testament in Esther, Ezekiel, Hosea, and in Proverbs, but never in the New Testament. So base were its associations that Christianity could find no use for it. The second of these words tells of the love of impulse, of affection, of, natural inclination. We find it in such words as “philosophy” and “Philadelphia.” It occurs in both Testaments, and speaks chiefly of our love for one another, of affection among relations and friends. But the third word, that which occurs in this chapter and so often in the New Testament, is expressive of character determined by will, and not of spontaneous natural emotion. It denotes the love which it becomes self-denying, or compassionate devotion to and for the same. The word is used in all places where the direction of the will is the point to be considered. Thus “love,” and not “affection,” is used of the Christian attitude toward enemies. Christianity took up this word and infused into it an entirely new meaning, which distinguishes it from all that is lustful or merely emotional. This word is absolutely unstained by any evil association. So the first thing to apprehend is the spiritual quality of love.
Now let it be said, in the second place, that
(ii) Love is Divine.
This third word has the unique honour of being the only substantive noting a moral attribute which is predicated simply and without explanation or limitation of God Himself. “God is Love.’’ Therefore, we are not singing to an abstraction when we sing George Matheson’s moving hymn:
“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee!”
or Charles Wesley’s:
“O Love Divine, how sweet Thou art!
When shall I find my willing heart
All taken up by Thee?”
or Horatius Bonar’s:
“Eternal Love, in Thee we rest,
For ever safe, for ever blest,”
but we are worshipping Him Who not only does love, but is Love whose character is holy Love.
It is this fact, that “God is Love,” which gives the word “love,” as it is used in the New Testament, its heavenly quality. From these Writings we learn that this love is discoverable essentially only in God, is displayed perfectly only by God, and is derived mediately only from God.
And because it is spiritual and divine, it must be added, in the third place, that
(iii) Love is Indestructible.
The apostle here says that while other things pass away, love lasts, it never fails. It is not dependent upon, nor is it affected by anything outside of itself. It is content to bestow itself upon the worthy and unworthy alike, and in the human heart it moves upward and outward: upward to God, and outward to men. In the chapter before us it is the latter of these actions which is presented.
Kagawa has gone to the root of the matter when he says that Love is the Law of Life. It is the basal principle of spiritual health; the supreme constructive force of life; the maker of character, the revealer of truth, the secret of development, and the pledge of fulfilment. The distinction between natural and supernatural love, between human affection and the love which is spiritual, divine, and indestructible, is well brought out in the risen Christ’s conversation with Peter on the shore of the Galilean lake early one morning. This is the substance of the conversation. Jesus asked Peter: “Lovest thou Me more than these?” Peter replied: “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I have an affection for Thee.” Jesus a second time asked: “Lovest thou Me?” and Peter replied: “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I have an affection for Thee.” The third time Jesus asked: “Hast thou an affection for Me?” and “Peter was grieved because the third time Jesus said unto him, Hast thou an affection for Me?” He was not grieved because Jesus asked him three times, but because the third time Jesus came down to his word, as he had not risen to Christ’s word. “And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou snowest that I have an affection for Thee.” This remarkable passage shows that Peter’s faith in himself had been so severely shaken by his denials of his Lord that he dare not now profess this spiritual and indestructible love for Him, but he can confess his human affection. But after Pentecost the apostle rose to the higher level, and proved his love by his death.