Theme: The Way of Love
In this week’s lessons we learn how Jesus perfectly carries out the biblical understanding of love, and how we, as his disciples, are called to show that same kind of love to others.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13
It would not take a great spiritual genius or even a great literary genius to pick 1 Corinthians 13 as one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. It deals with love, and according to the very teaching of the chapter love is the greatest of all the things one could be considering (v. 13). Love is greater than hope. It is even greater than faith, without which it is impossible to please God.
This is interesting in view of other key chapters. Romans 8 speaks of our deliverance from sin and looks forward in hope to our ultimate glorification. It asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (v. 35)? The answer is no one. Nothing can separate us from him. That is the Christian’s hope. It is glorious. Yet according to 1 Corinthians 13, love is greater than hope.
In Hebrews 11 the author of that book brings forward example after example of people whose lives were characterized by faith. They believed God and acted upon their belief. They grew strong. They conquered kingdoms. They endured persecutions. This was all by faith. Yet in 1 Corinthians 13 we read that love is greater even than faith.
When I come to this chapter I think of a sermon preached by Emil Brunner, the Swiss theologian. It was on 1 Corinthians 13:13, which speaks of “faith, hope and love.” Brunner said, “We are people who have problems. We have a problem in our past, a problem in our present and a problem in our future. The problem in our past is sin. We are sinful men and women. The problem in our present is alienation. We cannot get along with other people. The problem in our future is death. We are going to die. What are we going to do about these problems?”
Then he came to “faith, hope and love.” He said, “These words are God’s answer. Faith is the answer to the problem in our past. We are sinners, yes, but sinners who have been justified by faith. Hope is the answer to the problem in our future. We are going to die, but God’s answer is the hope of the resurrection. Love is the answer to the problem in our present. We are alienated from God and one another, but love overcomes alienation.”
I suppose this chapter speaks to us in such a forceful way because it deals with this present problem. We have a problem in the past, but it is easy not to be bothered by things in the past. We have a problem in the future, but we tend not to be bothered by the future. How different is the present! Every day of our lives and in many ways it is evident that we have a great problem now. When we get up in the morning and greet the other members of our family, we have problems communicating. We have problems at work. We have problems at lunchtime and in the afternoon. Our days are just filled with problems. And here is the apostle Paul speaking about a way of relating to other people which is the way of love.
The first section of 1 Corinthians 13 (vv. 1-3) deals with the importance of love. The second section (vv. 4-7) deals with the nature of love. The third section (vv. 8-12) deals with the permanence of love. At the very end we have the verse with which I began, pointing out that love is supreme.
Explain how, according to Emil Brunner, faith, hope, and love relate to our past, present, and future.
Dr. Boice divides the chapter up into three parts: the importance of love, the nature of love, and the permanence of love. If you were going to teach a Bible study on this chapter, how else might you choose to outline it?
Why do you think the Bible considers love to be even greater than faith or hope?