And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
Today’s big question: why is love the greatest?
We’ve been examining the “big three” characteristics in this passage and seen the crucial importance of both faith and hope for Christian living. But why did Paul state that love is greater than these? The context of this verse makes it clear that without love we are nothing. As faith without works is dead (James 2:26), so “Christianity” without love is dead:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 1:1–3)
In the next few verses, Paul described what true love is. Love is not defined according human standards but by God, who is love. When someone is transformed by God’s love, then he or she will reflect this love to others. God’s Word commands, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8).
Jesus taught that all of the Old Testament commandments can be summed up in love—first love for God, and then love for mankind (Matthew 22:34–40; Romans 13:8–10). Love is the essence of Christianity, and as we read in 1 Corinthians 13:8, love never fails. Actually, the Greek word is ekpiptei, which means to fall away or perish. This is another reason why love is greater—it never ends!
As we have seen in the previous two devotionals, one day faith will become sight and hope will be realized. These two attributes will be unnecessary in the eternal state, but love will never cease. If anything, it will grow greater still when we behold our Lord face to face. Then we will love God and each other with a perfect love for all eternity.
Therefore, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Take some time to compare your life with 1 Corinthians 13. It’s easy to talk like a Christian, but do you love like Christ?
Today’s big idea: love is the essence of Christianity; it never fails.
What to pray: ask God to help you love others today in word and deed.