8th March 2013

Excel In Love

“If I have…all knowledge…”
1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV UK)

Quiz programmes are built around how much we know. The more we know, the more likely we could win that longed for holiday or that large lump sum of cash. Knowledge is seen as a key to a happier future.

The Corinthian church was full of people who knew a lot, and who sought to increase their knowledge. What if, Paul told them, someone knew all languages fluently and could even converse with angels? How fantastic would that be? Or imagine being a powerful speaker who stirs up an audience with the richness of his or her words and can predict the future with astonishing accuracy. Would you not like to “fathom all mysteries and all knowledge” (13:2)? To the Corinthians, how much you knew was an expression of how close you were to God. Today, if someone knows a lot, he or she is thought to have wisdom and understanding.

Paul, although appreciating knowledge, separated it from spirituality. What’s more, he wrote, what if someone were a public evangelist whose faith could move mountains of resistance to the gospel? Someone who could put on a show of miracles and thus impress unbelievers? What about a missionary who gives up everything to help the poor? Have you heard of those who are willing to die for a cause, to let their body be burned in defence of what they believe?

All those things are well and good, but, Paul points out, without love, they are empty of everlasting value. Let’s face it, he argues, the time for tongues, prophecy, miracles and martyrdom will come to an end. “Where there is knowledge, it will pass away” (13:8). Love, however, will go on forever. If I “have not love, I am nothing” (13:2).

Perhaps we might acquire wealth or achieve celebrity through what we know and through the things that we do. In contrast, Paul emphasizes, if we don’t have love, we “gain nothing” (13:3).

We might desire knowledge and giftedness, but such things are spiritually empty without love. If we want to excel in anything, excel in love above all things. Read for yourself how love is described in verses 4 through 8. That’s what counts.

Therefore “follow the way of love” (14:1).

“Help me, Father, through Jesus, to excel in love.”

Study by James Henderson

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