I Corinthians 13:1-7
A wife is frying eggs for her husband in the morning.
Suddenly the husband appears behind the wife’s back and
says: “Careful, CAREFUL, put more fat in the pan! You’re frying too
many at a time. TOO MANY! Flip them! FLIP THEM! Come on!
Put more fat in there. Oh dear lord. How are you gonna make
space for the fat now, look, they’re sticking to the pan!
Careful now! You never listen to me when I cook! NEVER!
Flip them over already. HURRY! ARE YOU CRAZY? Take it
easy! EASY! Nooo, don’t forget the salt. Put salt on them,
The wife stares at her husband: “What’s wrong with you?!
You think I can’t fry a few eggs?!”
The husband answers calmly: “I just wanted to show you what it
feels like when I’m driving.”
We could easily miss the main point of this 13th chapter of Paul’s
letter to Corinth if we fail to remember the context.
The Corinthians church has strayed from what Paul originally
taught them. They were falling back into their pagan ways.
Chapters 11-14 deal with issues in worship.
Some were failing to remember the headship of Christ in worship,
others were observing the Lord’s Supper improperly, while still
others were acting as their gifts were more important than others
in the church.
I Corinthians 13:1-3
The point Paul is making in chapter 13 is that:
Spiritual gifts, ministry and sacrifice are all worthless when
done without love.
The Corinthians were very proud of their knowledge and their
ability to speak eloquently.
Some in the church had decided that their gifts were more
valuable than those without speaking gifts.
Paul says it doesn’t matter how nicely you can say things, if you
say them without love then no one can even hear them.
Everything you say is like a noisy gong or clanging cymbals.
Paul then mentions those with the gifts of prophecy, knowledge
Again, his point is that it doesn’t matter how well you understand
the Scripture, how well you can speak or how great your faith is, if
you don’t minister from a heart of love, no one will care.
People can tell if you truly care about them or if you are doing
something to feel better about yourself.
Even being generous doesn’t matter if it isn’t cloaked in love.
Paul goes so far as to say even giving up your life if done outside
of love is of no benefit to the believer.
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing
your righteousness before other people in order to be seen
by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father
who is in heaven.”
Then He gave 3 examples,
Giving – when you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing.
Praying – don’t pray to be seen by others and don’t heap up
empty phrases because God knows what we need before we ask
Fasting – don’t look gloomy or disguise your faces, but don’t let
others see because your Father in heaven will see and reward
you in heaven.
The point Jesus and Paul both make is:
Our motivation for ministry, using our spiritual gifts and
sacrifices should be nothing other than for the love of God
I Corinthians 13:4-7
Definition of Love
In Greek there are 4 words that we translate love in English.
Eros – romantic love
Storge – familial love
Philia – brotherly love
Agape – unconditional love
This is the type of love Paul is describing in these verses.
William Barclay says this about agape love…
If we regard a person with agape, it means that no matter
what that person does to us, no matter how he treats us, no
matter if he insults us or injures us or grieves us, we will
never allow any bitterness against him to invade our hearts,
but will regard him with that unconquerable benevolence and
goodwill which will seek nothing but his highest good.”
Paul lists several attributes of this agape love.
Attributes of Agape Love
Patient – this is also one of the fruit of the spirit that all believers
receive at the moment of their salvation.
Love is long suffering. Love has a long fuse.
When we love with agape love we are loving like God.
Exodus 34:6 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,
‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to
anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Kind – also one of the fruit of the spirit.
Mark Twain says kindness is “a language that the deaf can hear
and the blind can read.”
Kindness is when we help others not because they deserve it, but
because we love them and want the best for them.
In the year 1647, during England’s Civil War, a deserter in
Cromwell’s army was captured and brought before him.
“When the curfew bell sounds tonight, you shall be
executed, ”said the general.
But that night, the curfew bell was not heard. Upon
investigation, it was discovered that, receiving news of her
fiancé’s sentence, his betrothed made her way quickly to the
camp and hid in the bell tower. As curfew neared, she
positioned herself within the bell in such a way that when the
rope was pulled, the clapper hit her body rather than the
inside of the bell. Seeing the bruised and battered lady
standing before him, Cromwell was so deeply touched by her
love that the soldier’s life was spared.
Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1075.
What Love is NOT
Love does not envy or boast.
When you (agape) love someone you want what is best for them.
You don’t get jealous of God’s blessings in their life.
Boasting is the opposite of love.
The believers at Corinth had taken to boasting about their gifts
and putting down those who didn’t have speaking gifts.
Paul says this is not love. Love would never put someone down.
Love builds up.
Remember I Corinthians 8:1 knowledge puffs up, but love builds
Love is not arrogant – arrogance is the root of boasting.
Those who have too high an opinion of themselves are prone to
Jesus modeled humility by being obedient to the Father, even to
the point of death on a cross. He humbled Himself so that we
could be reconciled to God through Him.
Love is not rude.
I read of a man who was generally lacking in manners. He
never opened the car door for his wife. “She doesn’t have
two broken arms, ”he would say. After many years of
marriage, his wife died. At the funeral, as the pallbearers
brought her casket out to the hearse, the husband was
standing by the car door. The funeral director, who knew the
husband by name, called out to him and said, “Open the door
for her, will you?” He reached for the car door and then, for
one second, froze. He realized that he had never opened the
door for her in life; now, in her death, it would be the first,
last, and only time. A lifetime of regret came crashing down
around him. Love is not rude.
Love doesn’t insist on its own way.
Agape love is unselfish.
None of this “my way or the highway” business.
Love seeks to put the needs of others before your own.
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28
Love is not provoked.
The Greek word here is paroxuno and it means to exasperate, to
irritate. Love doesn’t get upset when it doesn’t get its way.
Remember love is patient.
Love doesn’t keep a record of wrong.
The Greek word is an accounting term for keeping an accounting
or an itemized list of what has been received or spent.
Paul says love doesn’t keep a journal of wrongs.
Love forgives just like Jesus forgives.
Love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing,
But rejoices with the truth.
Human nature is to cheer for people to fail.
Misery loves company.
Love rejoices with truth not with the downfall of others.
Love wants the best for others because that is what God wants
More Attributes of Agape Love
Love bears all things.
The Greek word means to protect by covering.
Love covers a multitude of sins.
Love doesn’t gossip, it builds up, it doesn’t tear down.
Love believes all things.
This is about seeing people through God’s eyes.
Love sees the best in people, not the worst.
The world is a cynical place, God wants us to love others by
believing in them.
Love hopes all things.
This is the confidence that God will work things together for the
good of those who love Him. believers must never give up hope
because God has promised that He will send His Son back for us
Love endures all things.
Agape love is able to withstand the attacks of the enemy.
The Holy Spirit enables believers to endure persecution and
maintain love despite circumstances.
God is love and He demonstrated it by sending His one and only
Son to earth to die on the cross to save us from our sin and to
give us eternal life with Him in heaven.
The world cannot know agape love.
Agape love is only possible when powered by the Holy Spirit.
Since unbelievers don’t have the Holy Spirit living in them, they
can’t experience agape love.
But thanks be to God believers have the Holy Spirit who can and
does help us love like God does.
Let Love Motivate our Ministry and Worship
Doing anything for God without love is contrary to everything
Jesus’ motivation for His entire ministry was love.
He healed the sick because He felt compassion for them.
He wept for the city because they were like sheep without a
He prayed for His disciples because He wanted God’s best for
We are to use our gifts in a way that honors God and brings Him
glory. Doing ministry should be spurred on by love for God and
We should also come to worship with love for God prepared to
hear from Him.