The “These Three Abide” posts were based off 1 Corinthians 13:13. Paul wrote of three characteristics of Christian life that will abide. Faith, the first characteristic, is the evidence of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer. The second characteristic, hope, is the assurance of Christ’s return and the coming of His Kingdom. Now the third, and final, characteristic is considered to be the greatest of the three. Paul writes on faith, hope, and love generously and thoroughly in his epistles, but Paul recognized that love was the most important of the Christian faith.
It is out of love that Christ came into the world, to save what was created by Him and for Him. In 1 John 4:19 (ESV), apostle John makes it very clear about our walk with Christ originating out of love, and for the purpose to love, saying, “We love because He first loved us.” In the same chapter of the epistle, God is described as being the personification of love. Love is the ultimate characteristic that perfectly culminates the true religion of Christianity, and separates all other philosophies and religions from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes, love is great, but what is love? The answer to this question lies in the very passage where this series began: 1 Corinthians 13. Beginning from verses 1-3 it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
In this passage, Paul begins with an urgent message as to why love is so important. Notice Paul’s rhetoric when declaring things such as, “If I speak the tongues of men and of angels…understand all mysteries and all knowledge.” Does Paul truly understand all mysteries, have ultimate knowledge, and speak in the tongues of angels? No! Paul is making a point that even if he was the greatest being that ever lived, but left without love, then everything he would ever achieve would be vain. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve achieved, for love is the only thing that gives validity to anything accomplished and gives true purpose to any kind of ambition.
In verses 4-7, Paul then begins to paint a picture of what love is and really define its power saying, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” As clearly seen, love is a very serious word. Love obliges us to put away our own comfort and pride for the sake of a purpose that is unique: selfless sacrifice.
It was out of selfless sacrifice that Christ came into a dark world, so that He might shed light. It was out of selfless sacrifice that Christ showed compassion on those He passed who were diseased and ill. It was out of selfless sacrifice that Christ laid down His life to reconcile mankind into a restored relationship. It was out of selfless sacrifice Christ lived out His life for the sake of His true love: the holy bride, which is the Church. By Christ’s own words in John 15:13 (ESV), “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is Christ at the core! Jesus showed true love when He became the sacrifice for us, His friends.
As Christ’s example of love now extends to us, we are responsible to live according to the same love Christ had for His bride. In John 13:34-35 (ESV), Jesus gives a message on what we are to do: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The gospel is not only about loving people, for there must be the preaching of the word, but love is at the bedrock of everything that Christ was, and if we claim to be followers of Christ it becomes a duty to love just as Christ loved. As brothers and sisters in Christ, our love for one another is vital for the glorification of God to the world and the spread of the message of grace. Faith and hope lives within our hearts, but now we must have love.
As Christians, we must be willing to lay down everything for one another. We are not to take advantage of this love, but instead repay it to one another for the sake of the Kingdom. If someone is in need, fulfill that need accordingly. If someone lacks, then give accordingly. God wants to see love manifested through us because he has entrusted us with faith and a hopeful assurance. It is because of those things that we love, and because Christ expects us to do so. May we act upon the greatest of the three characteristic that abide in our relationship with Christ, and may love be our message.
Soli Deo Gloria.