The Greatest of These

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 28, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

I have a confession to make. As I have written this series, I have taken notice of how poor of a job I have done in unpacking this bottomless chapter on what love is. Paul was able to describe love with 15 descriptors, many of which are just one-word terms and yet as I wrote this series, I hardly scratched the surface. There are not enough books that can unpackage what this short chapter entails. I wrote this series mostly for me because I knew I needed to hear this message.

This post marks the completion of five years of writing for Worldview Warriors. The only regret I have had during these five years is in my inability to get out what has been festering in me for years fast enough. I cannot thank Jason DeZurik enough for giving me the opportunity to write for this ministry and to giving me the freedom to write on what God has led me to write. That freedom is what has made this series possible. As I finish this series and my 5th year, I am excited to see what God has in store for my 6th year and beyond.

Paul opened up 1 Corinthians 13 with three verses explaining that all the spiritual gifts he described in chapter 12 are void and useless without love. So many in the Corinthian church were struggling to properly apply the gifts they had been given so Paul gave some order and structure to what they were and what they were to be used for. Then instead of showing them how to pursue all these different gifts, he said he would show them an even better way, and that better way is “love.” You could preach like no other preachers, sing like no other singer, speak with perfect diction and eloquence, perform, do miracles, show hospitality, even die as a martyr, but if you have no love, you completely miss the point and ultimately are nothing and accomplish nothing.

Paul then gives 15 descriptors of love. Love is patient and kind. Love is not rude nor self-seeking, nor easily angered. Love does not envy, nor boast, nor keep record of wrongs, nor delights in evil. Love instead rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers, and never, ever fails. Notice I put those in a different order, because as I wrote this series, I noted four ways love is described: love is, love is not, love does, and love does not.

Each of these are to be taken holistically. They all work together. While you can study one part at a time, you actually cannot separate any of these descriptors from love and still have love. I gave only brief hints of how these descriptors overlap and if one were to write a book on this chapter, there could be a chapter on each descriptor just in how they overlap with the other 14, let alone in the description of each one. If I learned anything in writing this series, it is just how deep this chapter Paul wrote is.

But when Paul finishes his descriptors, he then ties it all back to chapter 12. He describes how so many of the gifts we see are not always manifested nor explained clearly. Instead he says we see through a glass darkly. In all the spiritual matters we discuss, we do not have a clear lens to see or explain it all. Some may say that contradicts my constant stance that the Bible is clear and straightforward; that’s not actually what this is talking about. Paul is not talking about the clarity of Scripture being clouded, though he does talk about mysteries being revealed in other passages. In this verse, he is talking about the manifestation of the spiritual gifts and the clarity about what God is doing in our midst. We simply cannot see the whole picture. That is all he is saying.

So Paul suggests we lay aside childish things which feed our flesh, and that we grow up to mature Christianity where we can little by little better understand the spiritual things. We are to grow in our faith and not stay as infants. That is one of the things that has disturbed me for a while, but I’ve not been able to place until I started breaking free of it myself: mediocrity in the church. Paul grieved in his first letter to Corinth that he had to keep giving them milk when he should have been giving them meat. So many people just want to be saved from hell and never actually grow in their spiritual walk. It makes me question their motive for calling themselves “Christians.” And I speak to myself too, because I had to do an honest evaluation of myself to see if my proclamation of faith was indeed a legitimate born again conversion where I became a new Christian or if I was just riding a faith my parents lived out. We must grow as Christians.

Yet despite any lack of clarity or growth periods we must go through, three things remain absolutely clear: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. How? The answer is actually found a few verses earlier. Love always trusts and love always hopes. If you seek love, you will get faith and hope. But you can have faith and hope without love. It is very difficult to have Biblical love and not have faith and hope at least as fruits of that love.

The better way to handle all these issues is love. Love knows when to push for truth and sound doctrine and knows when the battle is not worth fighting at that point. Love knows to go and speak to the nations independently of our talents as speakers. Paul did not go to Europe as an orator. He did not speak well, but he spoke with power and authority. He spoke with love, purposing to do everything he could to not create an offense to those he was around. He refused to take a salary from the Corinthians because he did not want them to think that they or he owed each other anything. That is why Paul made tents, so he could provide for himself.

Love goes out of the way to see the other person’s needs are met, no matter the cost to self. As I wrap up this series on the Love Chapter and 2018, let us start 2019 with the love that Paul describes. It is not a love this world knows or understands but it is a love many will receive. I understand this millennial generation desires genuineness and authenticity. Biblical love is genuine and authentic. Let us ask Jesus to fill us with his Spirit so that his love cannot help but flow out of us. If that happens, no matter what is thrown at us, anyone who attempts to squeeze us will only get the love of Jesus pouring out over them.

The greatest of these is love. Jason DeZurik often says, “If we get the love part wrong, what’s the point?” But what if we got the love part right? How much would our world and our circles change because of it? Have a great New Year and I’ll see you again in 2019 for a sixth year with Worldview Warriors and more from the heart of God that he wishes to share through me.

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