God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
“Love . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8). You probably have heard those words recited at a wedding ceremony. Many people–even some non-Christians–have signs and plaques in their homes with quotations from this famous chapter of the Bible.
But sometimes we become so immersed in the literary style and beauty of 1 Corinthians 13 that we ignore the substance of this passage. Paul did not get up one day and say, “You know what? It is a beautiful spring day. I think I will sit under a tree and write an ode to love.” No, Paul was not trying to create beautiful poetry here. He was addressing a problem in the church at Corinth. They were being torn apart, so in this chapter, he provided real answers to the Corinthians’ problems–and to all our problems today.
Remember, the church at Corinth was a growing church in an influential city. Yet in the church at Corinth there was no love. Love is not a spiritual gift; it is a command. And the reason God commands us as Christians to make love preeminent in our lives and in the church is that we are the visible representation of Jesus Christ on earth. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples.” By what? Not by your orthodoxy, your doctrinal purity, or your knowledge of Scripture, Jesus said, but “if you have love for one another.” Love is the way we keep the body of Christ functioning as a good representation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Greek language, there were three primary words that are translated as “love.” The word “eros” refers to sexual love. The word “phileo” refers to the warm emotion you have for another person in your family. Then there is the word “agape.” It is a self-sacrificing love, a love that is more interested in what it can give than what it can receive. Sometimes when I am counseling a young couple that is about to get married, the young man will say, “I just cannot wait to get married. I love her so much!” That may be true, but a lot of times people confuse love and lust. I have heard the difference described this way: “Lust can never wait to get, but love can never wait to give.”
This sacrificial, agape love is the kind of love God demonstrated for us. As John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” God gave up His only Son for us. That is the kind of love Paul was describing in 1 Corinthians 13. He said self-sacrificing love is the answer to the conflicts in our lives and in the church.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “What the Church Needs Now” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.