1 Corinthians 13

This paper on 1 Corinthians 13 is the last written work by our esteemed brother Mr. Walter Gustafson, who went to be with the Lord in 2020. It is a privilege to publish his final series of articles.

The Permanence of Love

Paul has shown in verses 1-3 that gifts without love are valueless. In verses 4-7, love, even without gift, is sufficient and valuable. In verses 8-13, we learn that believers’ gifts are transient, but faith, hope and love abide. And the greatest of these is love. Some gifts are greater than others, but love is greater than the greatest gift. Why?

Love is an end in itself. Faith and hope are means of attainment, but love is attained. Faith and hope belong to the race, but love is the prize. We cannot rest in faith or hope without their being diminished, because our eyes would be on the means instead of the end. But we can rest in love, because God Himself does (Zep 3:17).

Love is sacrificial. We do not and cannot exercise faith and hope for others, but only for ourselves. No doubt, by faith and hope we exercise an influence beyond ourselves individually, but they are chiefly for ourselves. Our faith and hope bring us gain, but love is for others. We cannot bestow on others our faith and hope, but we can bestow our love.

Love is of divine essence. Faith and hope are human, but love is divine. You cannot describe God in terms of faith and hope. God, being all knowing and all powerful, does not believe or trust. (The Lord Jesus had to become a man in order to experience trust and dependence on God.) God, possessing all things, does not hope. But you can describe God in terms of love for God is love (1Jn 4:8,16). Faith and hope are things to have, but love is something to be. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (v7).[1] “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (v12). “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (v16). What a privilege we have of manifesting divine action.

“Follow after love” (1Co 14:1). Considering chapter 13 we realize that we have all come short. But we can be thankful for the measure that we know the preciousness of love, the practice of love and the permanence of love. Realizing human failure, the apostle writes, “Follow after love.” The word “follow” denotes a passionate devotion and a determined effort that possibly not many of us have. We have not yet attained unto the love-mastered life, but we may and we must follow after love; for in following love, we follow God, and in following God, we must follow love.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.