1 Corinthians 13: The Way of Love

(13 verses, 2:00 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • This is a popular selection for weddings. Although this is a beautiful chapter of Scripture, it is not talking about the love between husbands and wives!
  • The strong emphasis on love is often ripped from the context of the rest of Paul’s letter. To properly understand chapter 13, go back and review what has come before. The Corinthian congregation facing a deep doctrinal divide–a division from the truth of God’s Word and a division from one another.


  • There is a twofold aspect of love for the Christian: love toward God and love toward neighbor (Matthew 22). Love for God is created by the love He has shown to us in sending Christ to bear our sins and be our Savior. It is directed by the commandments, which act as a guide for regenerated Christians who have been set free to begin to do, in great weakness, God’s will in this life. Love for neighbor is also created by the love God has shown us in Christ Jesus and directed by the second table of the Law (Commandments 4-10).
  • Notice Paul’s emphasis on speaking in the first few verses of chapter 13. Without love, speaking in tongues or prophesying (we ought to think of this as preaching) is meaningless and useless. Even the acts of service toward the neighbor are useless to the one doing them without love.
  • The love of which Paul here speaks is described in vv. 4-7. Love isn’t something that consists in acts of kindness or is some sort of emotion. Love is rooted and grounded in the truth–that is, THE Truth. This Truth is found in Christ Jesus, who comes to us through His Word. Love that doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing does rejoice in the truth. This means that we cannot divorce our love of God and neighbor from doctrine. The doctrine or teaching of God’s Word tells us what true love is and directs it in appropriate ways–namely, how God has called us into our various vocations.
  • Verse 8 shows us that prophecy and speaking tongues will cease. The history of the Church seems to indicate that this cessation happens after the time of the apostles. This makes sense, because it follows the pattern already laid down in the Scriptures. God’s action or impartation of saving knowledge is accompanied and confirmed by miraculous signs. Since God has made His final revelation through His Son, it makes sense that the time of these things has passed.
  • Here Paul reminds us that love is the fulfillment of all things, including the Law (Romans 13:10). We no longer need the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, because they have been fulfilled in love for us by Christ–the very manifestation of God’s love for the world. We no longer need Passover seders or dietary law or circumcision. Those things have passed away. We now have the fullness or completion of these things in Christ, and we have them through His Truth–through His doctrine!
  • We are also reminded that we live in a “now but not yet” kind of time. Not all things are clear to us in this life, but the Word illuminates things for us, pointing us to the time when we shall see all things clearly–when Christ returns in judgment and brings us to be with Him in His kingdom. When this happens, we will no longer need faith and hope, for we will no longer be living by those things, but by sight (cf. Hebrews 11).


  • Prayer: Heavenly Father, direct us away from our self-chosen works to those good works that You have prepared for us advance. By Your Holy Word, reveal to us how to truly love You and our neighbor. Amen.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailybiblemeditation/

-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN

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