Love is the Answer
Harry Bell, Jarrow
Love is the solution of all such difficulties as those at Corinth. In the 1st Epistle to Corinthians we can trace:
(A) A twelve-fold might of love
If love ruled, there would be:
- no division, as in chapters 1-3, for love seeks not her own, and is not quickly roused to anger, nor does love impute evil, v. 5;
- no worldly ease, as in chapter 4, since love endures all things, even as the apostles endured buffeting and hunger, 4. 11;
- no lustfulness, as in chapter 5, for love does not covet or lust;
- no legal strife, as in chapter 6, for, again, love seeks not her own, v. 5, but ‘beareth all things’, v. 7;
- no domestic disorder, as in chapter 7, for love is the bond of perfectness, Col. 3. 14, and so the bond of peace;
- no bad testimony, as in chapter 8, for love tenderly considers the conscientious views of weak ones lest they be stumbled, 8. 10-13, and sacrifices its own liberty to serve this end;
- no denying Paul’s apostleship, as in chapter 9, for love rejoices in the truth, v. 6, and would rejoice in the great truth of Paul’s gospel and church ministry;
- no defiling of the Lord’s Table, as in chapter 10, for love does not behave itself unseemly, v. 5, and is, indeed, the fulfilment of the whole law, Rom. 13. 10;
- no disregard of fellow saints, as in chapter 11, for love ‘vaunteth not itself’ as the unworthy eaters were doing, 11. 27;
- no misuse of gift, as in chapters 12-14, for love edifieth not itself, but the church of God;
- no erroneous doctrine, as in chapter 15, for love rejoices in the truth, v. 6, the declared truth of the gospel, 15. 1;
- no withholding of money, as in chapter 16, for love is kind, v. 4, and unselfish, v. 5.
Accordingly, so vital is love in assembly life and activity that we have in chapter 12 verse 31 the exhortation to love, in chapter 13 the explanation of love, and in chapter 14 verse 1 the emulation of love.
(B) The explanation of love
If now we take up the explanation of love, as given in this precious chapter, we have there clearly brought to view five three-fold glories of love:
- A three-fold assertion of its effects, vv. 1-3:
- Though I speak, I accomplish nothing, v. 1;
- Though I have everything, I am nothing, v. 2;
- Though I give love, I gain nothing, v. 3.
- A three-fold description of its energies, vv. 4-8:
- What love does not do, vv. 4-6. It does not envy, is not insolent or rash, is not puffed up, does not behave in an unseemly manner, does not seek its own place or prominence or self-importance, is not quickly provoked, does not impute evil, and does not rejoice at iniquity;
- What love does do, vv. 6, 7. It rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things;
- What love will never do, v. 8. It will never be done away, will never give place to a better thing; it will never cease.
- A three-fold contrast as to its endurance, vv. 8, 9:
- Prophecies fail;
- Tongues cease;
- Knowledge vanishes away, but love remains; it endures for ever and ever; it is an abiding thing.
- A three-fold figure of its enlightening effect, vv. 11, 12:
- The child, v. 11 – Perception. Our understanding of divine truth is partial now because of the limitations of our nature, but then understanding will be complete;
- The mirror, v. 12 – Reflection. Our contact with the Lord now is through the medium of the Spirit and the word, but then it will be immediate and direct;
- The enigma, v. 12, Greek, translated ‘darkly’ – Initiation. Truth at present is conveyed to us by parable, metaphor, symbol, etc., but then all will be clear and explicit. But when we reach that blissful state of completeness, love will ever remain as the prevailing element in which we move, act, and live.
- A three-fold comparison of its excellence, v. 13:
- Faith – Apprehension. The depth of faith. Faith apprehends Christ, and its roots go deeply down into solid earth;
- Hope – Anticipation. The height of hope. Hope anticipates glory, and carries us to sublime heights of expectancy;
- Love – Affection. The breadth of love. Love takes in all, excluding none.