Now we come to the final part of our series my friends and readers. Paul now wraps up his exposition, starting his conclusion this way:
“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." (1Co 13:8)
“Love never faileth.” The Greek word here is ἐκπίπτω (G1601). The verb is in the present active indicative. So in modern English that would be “Love doesn’t fail.” Thayers Lexicon states it to signify in this verse the thought of “to fall from a place from which one cannot keep”. However, one other occurrence of this word my shed more light on what Paul means here since it comes from another one of his writings. That would be his use of it at Romans 9:6, where we read:
“But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel” (Rom 9:6)
Here Paul uses the word to express the thought that God’s word never goes forth without result, in other words what God wills always takes place. As a studious Jew Paul was well aware of God’s pronouncement on the matter in Isaiah:
“For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa 55:10-11)
This is precisely the thought expressed in Romans and it is our belief that Paul was expressing something much like it in 1 Corinthians. God is love (1 John 4:8) therefore everything he does is an expression of his love, even his justice. So our love cannot fail to have results if we cultivate and use it to the fullest extent possible. Love is powerful. And this is most appropriate considering where Paul goes next.
Paul tells us that the gifts of the Spirit the brethren were so proud of there in Ancient Corinth would end. The brethren had a problem back then in the way they saw things because of the nature of the gifts given back then. They were miracles and some more spectacular than others. The problem was that those with the more spectacular gifts seemed to have more prestige than those with others. This chapter is part of an exposition refuting their thinking which started back in chapter twelve and continues to chapter fourteen, where Paul tells them to adjust their thinking and seek out the more important gifts while they could. That was because a time would come when those gifts would cease, but when?
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 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. 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.”
Simply put the day would come when the Church would grow up in the knowledge of God and his plan. At the time the Church had an incomplete knowledge of divine things. Scrolls of the scriptures were expensive and not easy to come by. And the word of God wasn’t complete as Paul and several others were in the process of writing down what God intended. Even after the biblical canon was established it wouldn’t become widely available to the world, and the members of the Church until the invention of the printing press made cheap publication of it, and knowledge gleaned from it, possible.
So at the time Paul wrote the Church needed a little something extra to give them what they needed to make their calling sure, and some of the gifts provided that extra boost, which was why Paul counsels to seek those particular gifts out in the next chapter of his letter. But after that, and especially in the “last days,” when knowledge would increase, including in matters of truth, those gifts would not be needed (Dan. 12:4; 1 Cor. 13:10). So God would no longer give them out. That leads us to the question of what we’re left with if we don’t have those gifts. Paul answers that question for us in one of his most famous verses:
“But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
We are left with faith, hope and love. These are not only the things which will carry us over the finish line successfully, but will also identify us as God’s true Church. But the most important of those is love, the love we discussed in this series on First Corinthians chapter thirteen.
We hope that you, my readers, received not one, but several blessings from this study on genuine Christian love. We not only examined why it is important, but what it is and is not. We now know how that love acts and can see why both our lives and the lives of those around us would benefit from our cultivating this most important quality and acting on it.
I hope you have a blessed day my dear readers.