Yesterday we kicked off the series on "The Supreme Excellence of Christ's Way of Love" and I pray this will study will change us in our families and in our church family.
I mentioned this book by Philip Graham Ryken that I'd like to recommend to you all further as a "book of the month" and as a great resource to read along in this series to get even more from this chapter and grow more in Christ's love together in 1 Corinthians 13.
Here are some highlights from his introduction on v. 1-3 and chapter entitled "nothing without love":
As Gordon Fee writes in his commentary, “The love affair with this love chapter has also allowed it to be read regularly apart from its context, which does not make it less true but causes one to miss too much.” One way to make sure we do not miss what God has for us in 1 Corinthians 13 is to remember who the Corinthians were and what God said to them in this letter. If there was one thing the Corinthians needed, it was more of the love of Jesus. The church was sharply divided over theology, practice, social class, and spiritual gifts. Some said they followed Paul. Others followed Peter or Apollos—“ my apostle is better than your apostle!” ... “ my ministry is more important than your ministry!” This was the issue in chapter 12, where the apostle reminded them that although the church is made of many parts, we all belong to one body (p. 18)
Instead of preparing people for marriage, then, the apostle was trying desperately to show a church full of self-centered Christians that there is a better way to live—not just on your wedding day but every day for the rest of your life. The Love Chapter is not for lovers, primarily, but for all the loveless people in the church who think that their way of talking about God, or worshiping God, or serving God, or giving to God is better than everyone else’s. (p. 19)
Unless we are motivated by genuine love for God, it all counts for nothing. His love is the only thing that matters ... shockingly, it is possible to use our gifts for ministry without having love in our hearts for anyone except ourselves. We are so selfish that it is even possible for us to do something that looks like it is for someone else when it is really for us—to enhance our own reputation or feed our satisfaction with ourselves. (p. 22)
The love in the Love Chapter is really [Christ's] love. So as we study each phrase in each verse of 1 Corinthians 13, we will turn again and again to the story of Jesus and his love. We will never learn how to love by working it up from our own hearts but only by having more of Jesus in our lives. The Scripture says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4: 19). Since this is true, the only way for us to become more loving is to have more of the love of Jesus, as we meet him in the gospel. (p. 23)
Most of the time, most of us tend to believe that we do a pretty good job of loving other people. So we rarely repent of our loveless hearts. We fail to make learning to love like Jesus one of our highest priorities. We forget to pray that the Holy Spirit would make us better lovers. (p. 25)
Jesus still looks at us with a heart of love. He helps us see that we are not the lovers that we think we are, either. But he does not stop there. By his death on the cross he offers forgiveness to our loveless hearts. Then he sends us the Holy Spirit so that we can start to love the way that he loves...
We are nothing without love—this is the message of 1 Corinthians 13: 1–3. But Jesus does nothing without love ... Jesus is everything that I am not. He alone has “love divine, all loves excelling.” This realization does not crush me; it liberates me, because the love of Jesus is so big that he loves even me. And because he loves me, he has promised to save me, to forgive me and change me. We are nothing without love. But when we know Jesus, who does nothing without love, he will help us love the way that he loves. (p. 28)
May the love of Christ compel us (2 Corinthians 5:14) in these things!
To read Ryken's compelling book, you can get it for $10 on Christianbook here