Love never Fails!
When God tells us that love never fails, He means that real love has no limits and no end; it is forever-now and for eternity! Thus, we do not have to base our self image on faulty things or what people say and think, because we can place that focus on our unfailing God who will always love and accept us when we are His Child. Because God loves us so much, He will always hold us and enfold us-even when we hit the end of our rope or see no hope, even when all we have is despair; He will bear with us and cover our hurts and fears. We can take hold of His grace and empowerment and really believe and trust that God loves us. We no longer need to fear rejection or loss or hopelessness because of Christ's work of reconciliation, His True love for us. We are, as individuals, accepted and deeply loved and this love will never leave or forsake us. Real love will never give up or give in; it's staying power is unmatched. This is the love we need when we have lost our way and this is the love we can and must give to others who see no hope, because God does not give up on us. He lifts us up, empowers us for the here and now, and gives us an eternal home.
Authentic Love Will Last Forever!
Contexts and Background:
This passage is about the primacy, permanence, and perfection of love over all else, which showcases Christ's redemption and reconciliation and His Justification, His real love for us. Paul uses these extreme rhetoric devices to illustrate the significance and importance of love over what both this Corinthian church and we think is important, like pride, position, status, charismatic signs, prophecy, and utterances-even good works. This also means that God's purpose cannot be thwarted by our actions; we may experience dire consequences, but His plan will prevail.
Commentary-Word and Phrase Meanings:
· Love. Here, real love is showing an aspect of God's love for us that never quits; it never gives up on anyone and thus is far superior to all the gifts or positions one can ever hope to attain. Jesus has no end, and His love for us will never come to an end. This is referring to fruit, which is what we are given when we grow in Him, that we add to, and what He then multiplies. Love shows us that we must have more in our spiritual arsenal than just belief. We must have more in order to grow in Christ and make our faith and relationships work. Real, impacting, effectual faith will have results! We must be willing to learn about our Lord, to grow by example of our obedience, and be willing to go through times of waiting, uncertainty, discouragement, and even suffering, and see it all as opportunities of personal growth, faith building, and strengthening (Job. 13:15; John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 5:1-5; 8:16; 1 Cor. 13:1-7; Eph. 1:6; 5:1-2; 1 John 4:8-16).
· Never / has no end / never comes to an end / will last forever. Meaning, absolutely not, by no means, at any time, never at all, neither here nor there, signifying that Jesus and His love for us will not end. The application that Paul was seeking is that the primacy and performance of love must be lived out in the believer's life, thinking, words, and actions. Love comes from our faith and will create initiatives and connections from the recognition of who we are in Christ, and then we will live out our lives in Him, through His power and because of our gratitude, trust, and obedience. This was also meant to create a better concord among the Believers for the worship of God, the chief reason to be a church, serving Him with the conviction that who we are in Christ must be demonstrated by our relating to others (Matt. 7:23; 9:33; 26:33; John 7:46; 1 Cor. chaps. 12, 14; Heb. 10:11; 12:14-29; 1 Pet 3:7-12).
· Fails / vanish away / faileth. Meaning to fall away, running out, or going into ruin. The case for love is clear; if it is real, if it is from God, then it is greater than all else, greater than all virtues, characters, or circumstances. Because He is eternal and everlasting, we can trust in God and His love for us. When all else-things, people, thoughts, and happenings-is merely temporary and will fail, He will never fail or leave us.
· Prophecies. Means God's Revelation, which contains His precepts as well as visions of future events meant to help fortify our faith and remain faithful and how He uses us for His means. This refers to the prophecies and metaphors in the Old Testament pertaining to the coming of Christ (2 Cor. 2:10-16). Prophetic words from Divine inspiration were never from the prophet's own mind, nor should any teaching in the Church be so, as the leadership in the Corinthian church were doing. This, as a term, was sometimes referred to as being clear by hindsight what was unclear with foresight (Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1; 42:5; Joel 2; Hosea 1:1; 1 Cor. 5:13; 7:40; 12:4; 14; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1: 12-21; 2:1; Rev. 1: 1-8; 3:14; 19:10; 22:7-19).
· Will cease…will pass away. Meaning to be put out of action. Here, this is meant to show that the Old Testament prophets predicted a final outpouring of the Holy Spirit where He would become the illuminating force to bring people to God. This will last only a limited time, then God will take it away and end Spiritual Gifts and the Holy Spirit's intervention, which could happen at anytime between Jesus' first and second comings, in His perfect timing. Some have taken this to mean all charismatic gifts and signs will end with the Bible being completed, but the context and word meanings do not make this case. The point is that the gifts are not as important as love and will one day end anyway, while love and relationships remain forever (Jer. 31:33-34; Joel 2:28; 1 Cor. 14:1-25).
· Tongues. Meaning no language barrier in heaven. This phrase here primarily refers to the ability to speak many languages like in Acts 2, which was a great trait of value to have in the multi-ethnic Roman Empire like the way it is in Europe today. And, at some point, the curse of Babel will end and all people will be able to understand one another without interpretation. This also refers to the spiritual gift to speak and understand different languages (Gen. 11:1-10; Mark 16:17; Acts 2:1-13; Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-7; See 1 Corinthians, 13-1-3 study for more).
· Be stilled. We are to be pursuing God, not status-seeking, immature love. Paul is directing them to the Old Testament and challenging the current philosophy that sought any wisdom and/or knowledge. In Christ, we are to seek His wisdom and knowledge through prayer and the Word (Ex. 28:30; 1 Sam. 12:23; Psalm 119; Prov. 1:2-7; Col. 1:9-14).
· Knowledge. This means the apprehension of truth and prudence regarding our choices and actions. Having the knowledge to build our faith must come before we apply our faith. But, real faith and spiritual growth must never rest on knowledge alone or be used to put others down as the Corinthians were doing, for then it is empty and of no use. We must seek intimacy with God and His love to fill and flow through us (Luke 11:42; 18:10-14; John 14:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 2:1-5; James 2:14).
· Perfection comes. Refers to the Second Coming of Christ. Although some have stated this is the completion of the cannon, the Bible, word meanings and context say otherwise. Although a case can be made for this as an application because the Bible contains the plan of God, it is primarily the crescendo of God's redemptive plan. Thus, all that we have now is temporary-a type and shadow, an imperfection to what still awaits us; Christ's work is finished. The Law was not able to give people an intimate relationship with or access to God. Thus, the law and sacrificial system were only temporary and would be replaced with a permanent solution-Christ the Redeemer, which will culminate with His return. God's redemptive plan is geared to make us perfect too, as Christ's work gives substance to faith and love. This was a philosophical term used by Philo, meaning the perfect priest, who Philo saw as Levi (I guess he did not read Genesis). What is perfect does not need to change; the old way was flawed and only useful to point to the One who is Perfect, and now His New Order is here (Matt. 24:4-36; 25:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Titus 2:1;3 Heb. 1:2; 4:8; 8:7; 7:11-28; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Rev. 19:11-12).
· Imperfect. Means all that there is will someday waste away and be meaningless, even present blessings and happenings. This also refers to the Levitical and Mosaic Law versus Christ the perfect Sacrifice and Redeemer who fulfills this Law. The old system could not give us access to God or allow us to be in Him, whereas Christ does both. The Law was "perpetual;" it merely pointed to Christ who is "eternal" and "perfect." The point is that the old system is obsolete and has been superseded by Christ's role as Priest and Sacrifice (Gen. 14:17-24, Ex. 32:10; 40:15; Psalm 110; Heb. 5:6; 7:11-28).
· Disappears. Prophecy, revelation, churches, our work, all that we think is important will become obsolete! What is really important, relationships and love, will remain for eternity!
· A child…man. Not referring to offspring versus adults, rather an illustration on the ability to reason and be mature.
· Childish ways / things. Meaning to throw a fit when one does not get his/her way, referring to immaturity and self-importance and self-centeredness, traits OK in a child but not in an adult. This was also a retort to the prideful, immature, and pious fraudulent nature, shown by the Corinthian church leadership as a lack of love. They were supposed to showcase Christ and seek maturity and be dependent upon Christ, not pride and position (Gal. 4:9; 1 Cor. 8:1-3; 14:38).
· Poor reflection as in a mirror / glass. Meaning an illusion or partial vision. Mirror was a handheld piece of polished Corinthian bronze, made in the city to which this letter was addressed. They were very expensive and sought after and only a rich person would have one, yet they produced a poor image quality. The image is that the Bible and God's Law is a mirror to our souls-who we really are in motivations, desires, outcomes, and character which is perfected in and by love (Ex. 3:11; Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10; 2 Cor. 3:18; James 1:21-27)!
· Face to face / through a glass. Meaning a delusion or an imitation of a reflection referring to a riddle. Greek Philosophers used mirrors as an illustration to show humanity's faulty obsessions and God's enigma, while searching for something they could see anyway. So be careful what you think and say (2 Cor. 3:18).
· Know fully. A Christian must never, ever be so filled with pride that he is arrogant and callous toward others! The mature Believer should be able to give up his/her selfish desires and inclinations for the good of others, so to be an example of Christ.
Devotional Thoughts and Applications:
The nature of Christian love comes from our gratitude, joy, and excitement of being in Christ, so nothing else matters. Thus, Christ's love for us should be our biggest motivation so our excitement of what He has done for us urges us to grow in Him and His principles and we become contagious to those around us. The influence of love heals and nourishes us and others around us as they see it at work in us. Being in Christ means receiving, knowing, and applying Christ's love so we are living our lives for Him with the attitude of "how do I please Him," not "how can I please myself in all times and all places." This is the influence of real love!
It is all about having and living out the attitude and manner of Christ and comes from our partnership with God through Faith that we demonstrate by substance and connection. It is confirmed by how we choose to live our lives and touch others for Christ. It shows how our character is applied from our spiritual formation. If we ignore our brothers and sisters in the Lord or the world that is in need, while we boast we are in Him, what good is our faith? Our pious demonstrations would be ineffectual, and even detrimental to others. Faith is not a substance that is to stand and be unused; rather, it is to be employed and infused by Christ (Luke 3:21; John 1:32-34; 3:34; Acts 1-21 John 3:16-20)!
The Essential Inductive Questions (for more Inductive questions see Inductive Bible Study):
1. What does this passage say?
2. What does this passage mean?
3. What is God telling me?
4. How am I encouraged and strengthened?
5. Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
6. How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?
7. What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of my listening to God?
8. How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?
9. What can I model and teach?
10. What does God want me to share with someone?
Read these two passages again in different translations (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 John 4: 7-12)
1. Discuss your thoughts on this aspect of love.
2. Give a positive example.
3. Give a negative example.
4. How is this type of love working in you?
5. Why is this love not working in you?
6. What blocks this love from being exhibited in you?
7. What would it take to get this love working in you?
8. What are you willing to do about it?
1. Why does real love never fail? Why is this important? How can Christ's love for us be our biggest motivation?
2. What does it mean to you that real love has no limits or end? How does it inspire you to be more caring when Christ's love for you is forever, both now and for eternity?
3. Why do you need this kind of love? What about when you see no hope or no way out of your situation?
4. Why is it important that we understand that love is far superior to all the gifts or positions or ideas or works that we can ever hope to attain? How would this mindset improve your church?
5. What does it mean to you that God goes not give up on you, that He will lift you up, empower you for daily life, and give you an eternal home?
6. Have you ever based your self image on faulty things or what people say and think? How did that work for you? How does understanding God's redemption and love help you more?
7. What does it mean to you that when you are His Child, our trustworthy God will always love and accept you?
8. How does love help you when you see no hope or only have despair? Do you fear rejection or loss or hopelessness?
9. What can you do to better understand that real love never gives up or gives in? How can you exercise love's staying power (without abuse or its misuse)?
10. How is love demonstrated by substance and connection? How does love heal and nourish? How can these help you and your church become contagious to those around you?
11. What does it mean to you that you are deeply accepted and dearly loved by Jesus and this love will never leave or forsake you? How can you exhibit and share this love? What would it do for your relationships and church?
12. What can you do better to take hold of His grace and empowerment and really believe and trust that God loves you? How must your church engage this?
© 2010, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org/