05-22-2022 “The Greatest of These Is Love”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                   Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                May 22, 2022

The Greatest of These Is Love”
1 Corinthians 13:8-13

This is the third week we’ve looked at love (Greek agape [agaph]) from the Bible’s love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. We saw, in previous weeks, that love is indispensable to healthy, growing Christian life and ministry. Without this love, we are but loud distractions—gaining nothing and being nothing. We also saw love described—we learned, or recalled, what love is and what is isn’t. Today, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, we see both the permanence of love and the surpassing value of love. May the Lord bless us as we hear His Word read and proclaimed once again in this place.


We need recall two things before we proceed to this day’s exposition. First, let us recall the Corinthian church’s penchant for spectacular spiritual gifts, such as those mentioned in today’s text—with their attendant relative disdain for love. This entire chapter—indeed, much of Paul’s first letter to Corinth, serves as correction to them. Second, let us remember what this love is of which we speak. It is characteristic of God: in Himself, to His people, and to His world. It is the love that is to prevail between Christian believers and households. It is high, self-denying, self-sacrificial, and other-centered, to name but four.

We come now, after the aforementioned recollections, to today’s text—and note, in our passage, a tension between now and then. We start by looking at now—as Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote to the Corinthian church ca. A. D. 55-57. In that time, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge existed and flourished. These gifts, and others like them, seemed unduly exalted—even standing as the main thing—in Corinthian corporate life. God intended these gifts to glorify Him and to edify the faithful in Corinth, yet much better is coming—of that we shall speak later. Compared to what comes later, the Corinthians of the sixth Christian decade (and we, in the year of grace 2022) find ourselves in the equivalent of small, or early, childhood.1 We see through a glass darkly—not as well as we could, and not as well as we shall. We are known, but know—even under the Spirit’s quickening of the Word of God to our souls—much less than we shall. Even in this imperfect state, love continues, and flourishes—or, at least, it should flourish.

We turn from the looking at now to the looking at then. Bible-believing scholars have offered various opinions on what the Holy Spirit means through Paul when he writes then. I think, with the majority of these scholars, that Paul refers to the consummation of history and God’s redemptive purpose at Jesus’ Second Coming. That is the point when the perfect (or complete, Greek teleios [teleioV]) comes. In that day prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will cease. In that day we shall be no longer in small childhood, but in full maturity, full completeness, full manhood and womanhood. In that day we shall see no longer through a glass darkly, but we shall see face to face our triune God. In that day, also, we shall know as we are known—even to the maximum degree possible for finite creatures like ourselves.2 Note, again, that when the perfect comes, the imperfect disappears—even those gifts over which the Corinthians prided themselves. Note, once again, that love, relatively disdained by the Corinthians, will continue—and it will continue eternally.

Paul sums the matter for us: not only for this week, but for all three weeks we have examined 1 Corinthians 13, with the final verse. In that verse we read that these three, alone, abide when the perfect comes: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love. After all, at our respective Home-goings, if Jesus’ return preempts them not, our faith will become sight. Our hope, at Home-going, will be realized in great measure, but it will be realized to the full at our Lord’s glorious return. Faith becomes sight, and gives way to the same. Hope is fulfilled, and no one hopes for what he has (cf. Romans 8:24). Love abides forever—and that is a blessed thing to contemplate and to enjoy.

I am glad that much of our current experience will not abide forever. Hardships, such as lacks, difficulties in heat and cold, as the case may apply, and the like, will not abide forever for those who are in Christ Jesus. Aggravations, such as preparing income tax returns (or having them prepared) and submitting them, will not abide forever for those who belong to God. Alienations and estrangements, which break our hearts and grieve our souls, will not abide forever in the place that our Lord prepares for His own. For those granted faith in Jesus, sin, and its collateral damage to ourselves and to others, will not abide forever. Love, this love we have examined for three weeks, will continue forever. It will continue forever within God: both with respect to His unity, and with respect to His trinity. It will continue forever from God to His redeemed in Christ Jesus. It will continue forever from redeemed soul to redeemed soul. All of this redounds to God’s glory—and even the eternal, blissful happiness we shall enjoy in this love redounds to His glory. Therefore, enjoy, and dispense, this love—now and forever.


1Greek nepios (nhpioV), which denotes, “a small child above the age of a helpless infant, but probably not more than three or four years of age.” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

2NIV Study Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 1752, note, 1 Corinthians 13:12.