What is Real Love?

Key Verse: “Now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].”
—I Corinthians 13:13

Selected Scripture:
I Corinthians
12:31 – 13:13

AFTER ENUMERATING some of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the Early Church, such as speaking with tongues and working miracles, the Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 12:31, said, “Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” He shows that some of these gifts, being no longer necessary to the church, would pass away, but he was going to tell them of better things that would never pass away. He proceeds to explain that he was speaking of love.

No matter how well they might be able to speak with tongues, or to interpret, or to work miracles, love was a far more important thing for them to have. He names the various qualities of love: joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The sum of them all is love. This, then, is the ‘more excellent’ thing.

Yet the question naturally arises, What is love? The Bible answers, “God is love.” (I John 4:16) It is impossible, however, to fully describe God in his greatness, so it seems impossible to describe all that would be comprehended in the word ‘love.’ Love is the most powerful thing in the world; therefore love most nearly represents God, because he is the Supreme, Almighty One.

The Apostle says, in describing love, that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.” (I Cor. 13:4-6, New International Version) Regardless of our accomplishments—whether being able to speak eloquently, having knowledge, faith, bestowing all our goods to feed the poor, or sacrificing ourselves—these, without love as a motivating force, make us as nothing.

This love does not stop with those who are appreciative of it, but also goes out to those who are ungrateful, knowing that something is hindering them from attaching any value to such love. Love, then, is so much a part of God’s likeness, the thing to be most appreciated, the thing without which all else in life is useless. To be devoid of love is to be wanting in godlikeness.

Whoever would come to a full knowledge of God must first come to an appreciation of his Word and must follow a line of obedience such as would enable him to love the Lord and to appreciate his plan. All things working together—love, appreciation, and a desire to be obedient—lead onward and upward to the goal which the Lord has set before us. Thus it will be with the world in the future, when they will be brought, in God’s providence, to a full knowledge and full opportunity, when they shall come to understand God and his righteousness.

As the Apostle says, “Love never ends; as for prophecy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. … For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—I Cor. 13:8-13, Revised Standard Version

Dawn Bible Students Association
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