The past few weeks I’ve been walking through 1 Corinthians 13 and discussing my interpretation and personal application of the scriptures. This week is the third and final discussion and involves verses eight through thirteen. If you missed week one or two, you can check them out as well.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
In our world, we may be led to believe that love can fail. That all the love in the world cannot change specific situations. However, perhaps it is from a belief that love is only one thing – continual unconditional approval of all things. As we’ve seen in the previous sections of this chapter, there are many facets to love – patience, kindness, hope, perseverance, not delighting in evil, and rejoicing with the truth to name a few. God’s love does not change based on our behavior. But his love does involve discipline. His love for us causes him to reveal our sin so that we can repent and choose a better, more life-giving path. His love compels him to encourage us to live for more than our own pleasure. He knows that life is fuller when we love and serve others. And that’s what he wants for us – not a self-indulgent life, but an abundant life.
The second half of verse eight echoes the first three verses, saying that the gifts and abilities we have are temporary. They will not last. The things we do for others will probably not be remembered after our death. But love will. The things we do in love will have an eternal impact. People are better at remembering how you made them feel than what you actually did for them. They may not remember how you loved them, but they will likely remember that you did.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
We are human. All we know is in this short span of time we have on earth. We are finite. We cannot comprehend all that God has planned. We can only share the wisdom and insight he gives to us. We will not know the reason behind everything that happens in this world, to us, or to others. We can only trust that God is good and all will be revealed in his timing.
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
I am not confident about what this means. I am assuming it is talking about Jesus’ return to complete the full work of God. When Jesus returns to earth, we will all be ushered into the kingdom of God. There will no longer be brokenness, pain, or hurt. God’s plan will be complete and we will have the full understanding of his plans. Our fragile earthly bodies will be no more and we will be healed and made whole.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
As children, we know very little. Our focus is on ourselves and our lives. We don’t consider the greater worldview or think about what things might be like for others. We know only our experiences and make decisions based on our limited knowledge. When we get older, we realize just how little we know. We understand a little better how we fit into the world and our obligations. We can no longer pretend that life is all about us. We understand that our experience is not the only one and others have wisdom and knowledge we can benefit from. We must become part of the greater community and contribute meaningfully.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Similarly, right now we only see a tiny bit of creation and humanity. We only know of this present age and our experience. We don’t truly know the extent of history that led us to where we are now. We can only guess at what the future holds. When heaven comes, the whole scope of things will be known to us and we can better understand the full picture.
I like this little reminder that God knows everything about me. Of course he does, he created me. He knows my weaknesses and my strengths. He knew that what I could offer would be best utilized right now in this period of time. I don’t know all of why I am here and what impact I have had and will have throughout my lifetime, but one day perhaps I will. I can trust God’s purposes, plans, and timing.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Faith and hope are manifestations of love, but they aren’t as complete as love. Love encompasses a great number of attributes (as noted in the earlier verses). If we are not to be known by anything else, God (through Paul) wants it to be love. It shifts priorities when I think that how I love is more important than what I believe and/or hope for. The focus is not on me but on others and how I can show love in meaningful ways.
This concludes my study of 1 Corinthians 13. I have a lot to think about. I don’t want this to just be something I did, but to actually change the way I act, think, speak, and live. What is one way I can apply the study to my everyday life? I can trust that God is able to provide what I need and grow my capacity and ability to love others better. I can spend meaningful time in prayer and reading the Bible, asking him to work in me to manifest the attributes of love in my heart and life.
What are your thoughts after this study? How can you apply these verses to your life? What other scriptures on love encourages or inspires you?