1 Corinthians 13:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1) Why does “the love chapter” begin by talking about tongues and prophecy?
2) What exactly does the word “love” mean in this passage?
3) What does it mean to “have not love”?
A trip to www.studylight.org is in order here.
We will get super cozy with this site as we study Scripture together!
Just type in the verse you’re looking at and Boom!
It’s right in front of you in English and Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament), which are the original languages the Bible was written in.
Want to know more about a specific word in a verse?
Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Find super awesome stuff like “origin”, “definition”, and even all the different ways that single word has been translated into English! If you want to be geeky, you can even click the word and hear its original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!
Want to get more background on a word or phrasing or passage?
Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))
The Findings for Original Intent
1) Context answers this question! If you look back to Chapter 12, and look ahead to Chapter 14, you see that this “love chapter” comes right in the middle of a discussion about spiritual gifts. It seems that there was division in the Corinthian church, based on certain people thinking their spiritual gifts (prophesying and speaking in tongues) made them better than other people. Paul addresses that division, and takes a moment to teach about the importance of love when dealing with others.
2) The word “love” in English can have a variety of meanings. “I love my husband” and “I love jelly beans” carry two different types of love! When studying the Bible, there are a few Greek words that are translated “love.” The Greek word agápē is used throughout this passage, which refers to the kind of love that God has for us—unconditional, benevolent, affection, good-will. This is the kind of love we are also are to have for one another.
3) Just going by the definition of agape, to “have not love” means to lack affection, to lack good-will, to lack benevolence. It means to lack care or concern for others.
Some Applications for Our Everyday Lives
1) This passage is popular to read at weddings, but we see that the original intent was not to tell us how to love our spouses, but how to love one another (which, of course, also applies to how we love our spouses). Furthermore, Paul is describing how we are to treat one another, even in the midst of disagreement. Think about how you behave toward someone with whom you disagree. Is your behavior truly motivated by love? And does it communicate love to the other person?
2) The point of these verses is to tell us that even the best spiritual gifts gain us nothing when not used in love. Therefore, it is very important to understand how to live out this agape love! Read through the rest of 1 Corinthians 13 to deepen your understanding.
3) Are there any areas of my life (or any people with whom I interact) where I find myself lacking good-will, affection, and benevolence? Lord, give me the power through your Spirit to truly love, and let my actions reflect that love.
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