Uniform 05.31.2015: The Greatest Gift Is Love

1 Corinthians 13


The church can and should be a community in which its members experience a taste of heaven right here on Earth. That is so because God is present in the church and where God is, God’s love is.

The love of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 13 is God’s love, love that is presented fully and lived out completely in the life and death of God’s Son Jesus Christ. So if we want to see what the kind of love about which Paul speaks looks like, we should look at Jesus. If we want to practice God’s love as fully as we can, we should follow Jesus. If we want to know God’s love as completely as we can, we should cultivate our awareness of the presence of Jesus in our individual lives and in our church’s life.

In coming to know God through God’s Son Jesus we grow in our experience of the eternal and thus in our experience of love which, Paul says, never ends. It will be beneficial as we study 1 Corinthians 13, and especially verses 8-13, to reflect on the words we find there alongside these words that Jesus spoke to his Father in the prayer presented in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” As we grow in our knowledge of God through Jesus we will grow in our experience of eternal life and thus in our experience of, participation in, and practice of God’s love.

What is God’s love like as we see and experience it in Jesus? C. S. Lewis calls this agape God’s “Gift-love”; he says that it is completely “disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved” [C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1960), 177]. Lewis also says of this Gift-love, “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give” (p. 175). As such love grows in us, then, we will become less concerned with self and more concerned for others. Our lives will become less about us and more about others. We will become less interested in what we can get and more interested in what we can give. We will freely give out of the abundance of love that we have.

What did such love look like in Jesus? Paul states it clearly as he encourages the Philippian Christians to practice the kind of love that he describes in 1 Corinthians 13:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).


1. What would God’s love as seen and experienced in Jesus look like if practiced within your congregation?
2. What would God’s love as seen and experienced in Jesus look like if practiced by your congregation in your community?
3. Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is so beautiful that some regard it as idealistic. Can such love be lived out practically in real life? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. Paul says that love never ends but that faith and hope do. Why is love eternal while faith and hope are not?
5. How can we progress in our experience of God in Christ so that we can progress in our practice of God’s love?

Reference Shelf

(13:8-13) The Superiority of Love. Verses 8-13 resume the theme of the superiority of love, emphasizing its permanence (“Love never ends,” v. 8a; “so faith, hope, love abide,” v. 13a) over against the transience of prophecy (“as for prophecies, they will pass away,” v. 8b), of tongues (“as for tongues, they will cease,” v. 8c), and of knowledge (“as for knowledge, it will pass away,” v. 8d). Our gifted prophecy is like the speech of a child; our gifted knowledge is like seeing in a mirror dimly (Philo Decalogue 105; Migration 190; Flight 213).The time for the passing of the gifts is “when the perfect comes” (v. 10), that is, at the parousia. Love, then, stands supreme as the more excellent motivation for the manifestation of spiritual gifts.

Charles H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2002), p. 109.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Uniform Series Curriculum Editor.


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