Yesterday we began to look at the gift of prophecy. Paul contrasts that gift with the gift of tongues in three areas. He says if prophecy is better for the church, if prophecy is better for the individual, and if prophecy is better for unbelievers than speaking in tongues, then you should desire prophecy. In the first place Paul says that prophecy, that is, communicating the Word of God in a clear way, is better than tongues because it helps the church to grow.

In the midst of these three chapters that lay down the principles we covered yesterday, we find 1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter on love. In times past when I looked at these chapters and tried to analyze them, I found the content of chapter 13 positioned between chapters 12 and 14 to be somewhat of a digression. I did not understand how it fit into the sequence of what he is talking about. I think I do understand that a little better now. What Paul says in chapter 13 is, most certainly, the prelude to what he says in chapter 14.

Every part of the Bible is relevant and helpful. But some parts speak to contemporary problems more than others. The fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is one of those. Someone once asked me a question to which this chapter speaks directly. This person had a friend in a charismatic fellowship who always insisted on speaking in tongues in a disruptive manner and when there was no one to interpret. He asked me what should be done, so I told him what 1 Corinthians 14 teaches.

Today we come to the last point in 1 Corinthians 13, which is where Paul has been leading us. He has talked about the importance and nature of love. What he is saying is that if you understand the importance of love and the nature of love, it follows that love never fails. All these other things are going to fail. Prophecies, tongues, knowledge - all these will pass away because these things are partial. But where there is love, love will not pass away. He puts faith, hope, and love together, and, he says, "These three remain." I suppose Paul means that they remain through life and through eternity.

1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of Christ. If you substitute the name of Christ for the word love, it gives us a perfect description of his character. That is why he is so lovely. Jesus Christ is patient. You know what we are like. We produce anything but patience in the reaction of other people, yet Jesus Christ is patient with us. He does not give up. When we sin again and again, when we’re so thick to learn a spiritual lesson, oh, how patient he is!