1 Corinthians 13 - Love is the Greatest

This chapter is divided into three sections: the Importance of Love (verses 1-3), the Definition of Love (vs 4-8a), and the Permanency of Love (vs 8b-13).

1. What do the verses 1-3 say about the value of spiritual gifts? Paraphrase what Paul might have said to communicate the same truth with regard to your own spiritual gift(s).

A: For a spiritual gift to be of value, it must be accompanied by love. About my gift for teaching, Paul might have said, “If I had the gift of teaching and had studied all the books in the library and read all of the commentaries on the Internet, but did not love others, I would be of no more value than a cartoon guru on an inaccessible mountain in Tibet.”

2. What do each of verses 1-3 say about motivation? What are some false motivations that could lead a person to take the actions described in verse 3? How can we tell whether one’s motivation is really love?

A: The most obvious false motivation to giving to the poor is that some people might think they are earning a position (or a better position) in heaven. Some people make contributions in order to get an income tax deduction. Others contribute for the recognition. Some people give so they can tell a friend that they support such-and-such a cause or organization. Some people give because they see other people giving and they are ashamed not to give.

3. Take the statements of verses 4 and 5 and describe how they would apply in one of the important relationships of your life.
        Love is:         Love is not:
Forgets being wronged
Jealous         Boastful
Proud           Rude
Irritable         Self-seeking

4. Take the statements of verses 6 and 7 and describe how they would apply in one of the important relationships of your life.
        Love:         Not Love:
Rejoices in the truth
Never gives up, endures
Never loses faith
Always hopeful
Rejoices in injustice
Gives up, does not endure
Loses faith
Selfish, expects something in return

5. What is the difference between lust and love?

A: Lust is any intense desire or craving for self gratification. Lust can mean strictly sexual lust, although it is also common to speak of a "lust for life", "lust for blood (bloodlust for short)", or a "lust for power" or other goals. As a moral term, lust implies a sexual desire for its own sake, an erotic arousal and wish, or intense physical or sexual attraction or craving. In contrast, Love, as Paul is speaking of here is, in the Greek, known as agape, which does not refer to emotional love, but to seeking the best for the other person without regard to the closeness of relationship with that person. If we are honest with ourselves, this kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this kind of love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. The more we become like Christ, the more love we will show others.

6. Who has come the closest to living out these verses toward you personally? What factor(s) enabled that person to demonstrate such love for you? What changes do you need to experience to demonstrate this kind of love for others?

7. What is taught about spiritual gifts and eternity in verses 8-10?

A: Love never fails, but spiritual gifts will cease and in eternity be unnecessary and useless. Paul take of three of the greatest spiritual gifts: prophecy, speaking in tongues, and knowledge, all of which will are partial and incomplete, and will all be unnecessary when complete understanding comes. When will this be? Verse 12 implies that a Christian will understand everything completely and will know the Lord just as God now knows me—and this will happen when at Christ’s second coming.

8. On the basis of verse 11 and your own experience, what role does maturity have in one’s ability to love? Describe how mature love differs from childish love.

A: Clearly, agape love is not something that comes naturally to a child or even a young adult. It is something that grows in you as you turn over more and more of your life to the Holy Spirit. Childish love has elements of lust, of being thankful for protection, warmth, or a gift, and of showing love for what you get in return.

9. What does verse 12 teach you about Christian hope? (Hebrews 11:1) What are some things you “see in a mirror dimly” now that you someday hope to see more clearly?

A: Side note: mirrors in Paul’s day were polished pieces of bronze and even the best mirror was dull compared to seeing the real thing. Christian hope is an absolute certainty if you have faith. Heb 11:1 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

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