1 Corinthians 13

The American Standard Version

13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

13:3 And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

13:4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

13:5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

13:6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

13:7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

13:8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;

13:10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

13:12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

13:13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Pathways Notes

1 Corinthians 13, often heralded as the "Love Chapter," is one of the most profound texts within the New Testament, detailing the essential nature and unparalleled significance of love. Paul articulates that without love, all spiritual gifts, acts of sacrifice, and profound knowledge are utterly meaningless. This chapter is invaluable for anyone engaged in self-help and personal development, as it frames love not merely as an emotion but as a vital principle that should guide all actions and interactions. For those looking to cultivate self-control and enhance personal relationships, 1 Corinthians 13 provides a clear benchmark for assessing the quality of one's actions and the purity of one's intentions, emphasizing love as the highest virtue that surpasses all others and binds them together in perfect harmony.

Study Instructions for Each Echelon

  • Echelon 1: Enthusiast - Understanding the Primacy of Love

    • Read: Focus on the entire chapter to grasp the comprehensive and foundational nature of love as described by Paul.

    • Consider: How does Paul’s description of love alter your understanding of how you should interact with others? Reflect on how love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, and keeps no record of wrongs.

    • Reflect: Integrate this understanding of love into your daily interactions. Begin to monitor how you express emotions in light of the characteristics of love, aiming to align more closely with these ideals.

  • Echelon 2: Explorer - The Supremacy of Love Over All Emotions

    • Read: Examine how Paul contrasts love with other spiritual qualities and actions, suggesting its superiority.

    • Understand: Analyze how each characteristic of love (patient, kind, not easily angered, etc.) can regulate your emotional responses. Consider scenarios where the presence or absence of these aspects of love has influenced your emotional outcomes.

    • Consider: Reflect on your relationships and identify moments where embodying these aspects of love could transform conflicts or strengthen bonds.

  • Echelon 3: Expert - Love as the Greatest Emotional Virtue

    • Read: Delve deeper into the text, considering love as the highest standard for behavior and emotional response.

    • Examine: Assess how integrating love can elevate your handling of emotions in professional and personal settings. How does aspiring to this high standard of love challenge and refine your emotional intelligence?

    • Apply: Implement strategies in your daily life that focus on exhibiting love as described in this chapter, evaluating the effectiveness of these actions in resolving conflicts and fostering positive interactions.

  • Echelon 4: Emissary - Understanding Spiritual Gifts and Love

    • Read: Focus on the context of spiritual gifts as discussed in chapters 12 and 14, understanding their relation to love in chapter 13.

    • Study: Consider how spiritual gifts should be exercised in love—without love, they are worthless. Prepare to teach this crucial balance to others.

    • Reflect: Develop educational materials or discussion guides that help others understand and apply love in exercising their spiritual gifts, ensuring their actions benefit the broader community.

  • Echelon 5: Master - Perfecting Love in Self and in Teaching Others

    • Read: Revisit 1 Corinthians 13 with an emphasis on mastering the text for teaching and exemplification.

    • Explore: Deeply consider how the principles of love outlined by Paul can serve as the pinnacle of Christian ethical teaching. How can you model this love to those you lead?

    • Lead: Develop advanced workshops or mentorship programs that focus on embedding the qualities of love in leadership and daily practice. Facilitate sessions that allow leaders to practice and reflect on these principles, enhancing their ability to guide others effectively.

By following these study instructions, participants at each echelon can deepen their understanding of love’s central role in Christian doctrine and personal development, applying this supreme virtue in increasingly sophisticated and impactful ways throughout their journey in faith and leadership.

1 Corinthians Notes:
1 Corinthians 13, often hailed as the "Love Chapter," stands as a profound centerpiece in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. This chapter delves into the quintessence of Christian love, which Paul elevates above all other virtues, spiritual gifts, and accomplishments. Written in the context of addressing issues related to spiritual gifts and the conduct of the church, Paul shifts focus to what he considers the most essential element of a believer’s life: love.

The chapter begins with Paul emphasizing that without love, even the most spectacular spiritual gifts are void of value. He uses hyperbolic language to illustrate this point, stating that if one speaks with the tongues of men and of angels but lacks love, they are merely a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Similarly, profound understanding, prophetic powers, and faith strong enough to move mountains amount to nothing if they are devoid of love.

Paul then paints a vivid portrait of love, describing it not merely as a feeling but as an active virtue exemplified by what it does and does not do. Love is patient, love is kind; it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. This series of affirmations and denials highlights love’s selfless and enduring nature. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Transitioning from these attributes, Paul reflects on the permanence of love compared to spiritual gifts, which are temporary. Prophetic powers will cease, tongues will be stilled, knowledge will pass away, for they are all partial and incomplete. The arrival of what is perfect—interpreted by many as the full revelation of God’s kingdom—will render them obsolete. In the interim, believers see only a reflection as in a mirror; then they shall see face to face. Now they know in part; then they shall know fully, even as they are fully known.

Paul concludes the chapter by reaffirming the supremacy of love over all other virtues and spiritual gifts. Faith, hope, and love remain, he asserts, but the greatest of these is love. This assertion underscores love’s foundational role in the life of a Christian. It transcends the present and points towards a future where love is the eternal constant.

In essence, 1 Corinthians 13 calls believers to prioritize love as the highest ideal, urging them to embody this divine love in all relationships and actions. It teaches that love is the most effective testimony of one’s faith and the true mark of spiritual maturity.