The rest of this letter from the apostle Paul shows that some Corinthian church members sought certain spiritual gifts with a wrong motive—to gain superior status. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 1 Corinthians 12:31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I to you a more excellent way.
American King James Version×(NIV), Paul said, “And now I will show you the most excellent way”— the right motive and approach for exercising all spiritual gifts—the way of love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×, Paul mentions several impressive gifts. No matter which gift we have, if we are lacking love, then in God’s sight we are nothing! Without love, the gift is tarnished, the results are ineffectual and God is displeased. 1 Corinthians 13:3 1 Corinthians 13:3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×shows that even self-sacrificing, charitable works can be done with motives other than true love.
1 Corinthians 13:4 1 Corinthians 13:4Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,
American King James Version×through 1 Corinthians 13:7 1 Corinthians 13:7Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
American King James Version×tell us some of the characteristics of true love: Love is not selfish or self-centered. It is kind, humble, forgiving, courteous, not easily angered, respectful, trusting, positive and hopeful. It also gives us spiritual resilience and patience so that it willingly “endures all things” to obey and serve God.
Envy and competition create division, as was the case in the Corinthian church. Love is the great unifier.
1 Corinthians 13:11 1 Corinthians 13:11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
American King James Version×points out that emotional and spiritual maturity is best summed up by love.
We may tend to rank faith and hope alongside love, “but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 1 Corinthians 13:13And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
American King James Version×).
As the New Living Translation says in 1 Corinthians 14:1 1 Corinthians 14:1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy.
American King James Version×, “Let love be your highest goal”!