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. 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. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Summary – Following on the heels of chapter 12’s final verse, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way,” chapter 13 unpacks the more excellent way. Commonly called the “Love Chapter,” the translation above uses the word “love” 9 times in only 13 verses! Three major sections of the chapter break up into (1) Action Without Love = Nothing, vss 1-3, (2) What Love Is, vss 4-7, and (3) Maturity in the Faith will be Accompanied by Greater Love, vss 8-13. Of note, section (2) is often read at weddings. Certainly, these characteristics apply to marital/spousal love; however Paul is really getting at love among Christians! That really changes the perspective. Finally, verse 8 comes with a classic debate: when do tongues cease (or do they at all, as Pentecostals would ask)? Some say the “perfect” that comes is the Bible, meaning the gift of tongues has been silent for nearly millennia. Others say, more rightly, that the “perfect” is the advent of Christ, or our going to Him. When in the presence of the Savior, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge which all deal with the knowledge of God, will be swept away for our knowledge of God will be complete and full in the consummation of our salvation. Nevertheless, as a Christian grows closer to Christ in maturity, the importance of the “revelatory” or “higher gifts” (12:31) shrinks to almost nothing. Beyond a ministry of spectacular ministry of tongues, healing, and prophecy, a life of consistent and self-sacrificial and patient love is the “greatest” and “more excellent” way.
Insight – Jesus tells the story of two sons, perhaps named Yolev and Elias. Their father, Abinadab, tells Yolev something like, “Go plow the field today, please.” Yolev says to his dad, “Ah sorry, I’m going fishing in the creek with Shemuel later. Not going to be able to plow.” So their father goes to Elias and asks him the same thing. “Sure Dad, I’ll do it this afternoon after I finish cleaning the horse barn.” A couple hours go by and their father sees Elias sleeping on the couch with a copy of ESPN the magazine on his chest! Abinadab goes out to the field to see what’s going on and finds Yolev, who was supposed to be fishing, happily plowing the field. “What happened to fishing?” Abinadab asked. “Well Dad, I decided that fishing could wait: helping you out was more important,” Yolev said. So which son actually pleased his father? Yolev did, even though he originally said he couldn’t do the work. You see, saying “I’m sorry” if you don’t mean it is like going fishing without tying a hook on your string. St. Paul tells us that we can do the greatest things, the nicest things, or believe things strongly, but if we don’t love those around us, those things are pointless! God calls us to be people who really love one another, rather than just pretending to.
Child Catechism – What is patient and kind? Love.
Discussion – What is the relationship between Paul’s analogy of the “child” and the role of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge in verses 8-13? Discuss the difference between looking at someone in a mirror versus seeing them face to face.
Prayer – Our Loving God, we know what love is because your Son laid down His life for us. We desire your love to be spread throughout the world through our service to those around us. Destroy in us, we beseech you, the pride which causes us to do good things for our own glory, and replace it with a spirit of rejoicing in the Truth, so that great things would be done for your glory. And prepare us for that moment when our dim knowledge of you is stripped away and we will be like you for we will see you as you are. Through your Grace, Amen.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
Summary – Jeremiah prophesied from the time of King Josiah to the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to tell Judah that she was going into exile into Babylon because of her sins. Jeremiah did not think he could speak the powerful words of a prophet because he was still a young man. A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word. He plucks up and pulls down, destroys and overthrows, builds and plants kingdoms and nations (Jer. 1:9-10). That is a very big job to do. No wonder Jeremiah thought he could not do it. But God gave Jeremiah the words to say, and promised to be with him.
Insight – Telling people bad news is never fun. Doctors have to tell people bad news, they tell people that they are sick or even worse, dying. But doctors also tell people how to get better. Jeremiah was much like a doctor in this way. He told Judah that they were so sick from their sins that they were going to die in exile in Babylon. But since Jeremiah was a good doctor, he also gave them good news. God was going to bring Judah back to life, by returning them back to their land (Ezek. 37)! God was rebuilding His kingdom. Judah’s story is much like our own. Because of our sins our spirits were dead in sin (Eph.2:1). But Jesus is the great doctor who brings us back from the dead, and builds us into a beautiful kingdom that will one day fill the whole earth (Matt. 13:31-33).
Catechism – What is a prophet? A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word.
Discussion – How is Jesus the greatest prophet of all? What does Jesus use to build His kingdom? How can we be like the prophets?
Prayer – Almighty God, you created Heaven and Earth with your powerful word. Please grant to your Church the wisdom to build your Kingdom though out the earth by the power of your word, the Bible. In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, Amen.
Submitted by Michael Shover