Love, A More Excellent Way!
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul concludes chapter twelve of his first letter to the Corinthians, by exhorting them to desire earnestly “the greater gifts” and how he will show them a more “excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31). Paul, then proceeds into what is perhaps the most definitive chapter on “love” in the entire Bible; it is definitely the most known by Christians. He urges the Corinthians earnestly to pursue love. Interestingly, love is not even a spiritual gift, but rather a “fruit” of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). In John MacArthur’s Commentary on 1 Cor. 13 he states: “The truly spiritual life is the only life in which the gifts of the Spirit operate. The health of spiritual living is not reflected in spiritual gifts but in spiritual fruit, the first and chief of which is love. (Gal. 5:22). Without the fruit of the Spirit the gifts of the Spirit cannot operate except in the flesh, in which they become counterfeit and counterproductive. Through the fruit of the Spirit God gives the motivation and power to minister the gifts of the Spirit…Walking by the Spirit is Paul’s way of defining day-to-day obedience to the Word of God and submission to the Lord. (Col. 3:16).”
To possess love is tantamount to faith in Jesus Christ; examples of this are taught with inculcation throughout the New Testament. Peter exhorts Christians to love one another fervently and states how “agape” love (sacrificial; selfless) covers a multitude of sins. Only two verses prior, he wrote instructing believers to use their spiritual gifts for the edification of one another. (1 Pet. 4:8-10). But perhaps the greatest exhibition of love recorded in Scripture, occurred in the Upper Room, where Jesus washed His disciples’ feet on the eve of His crucifixion. (John 13:3-12). Here was God, Creator of the universe; condescending to the level of an insignificant galley slave and washing the feet of sinful men. Who, He omnisciently knew, very shortly, would all abandon Him at the time when His arrest and crucifixion had arrived! Incidentally, Jesus even washed Judas Iscariot’s feet, the disciple who would betray Him. This was the ultimate act of “loving your enemies”, as He had commanded during the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:44). When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He commanded His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). This was a new commandment Jesus had given them. Of all the instructions our Lord could have conveyed to His disciples mere moments before His departure, He emphasized the need to possess love. Love must be an integral part of their ministry.
Furthermore, love is also known as the “Royal Law”. When Jesus was asked by a Pharisee, what was the greatest commandment, He answered; ” ‘…You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40). According to Jesus, if you have love, all the other commandments would be upheld. As indicated previously, according to the Lord, exhibiting love is not simply an option one can choose to incorporate, it is a commandment by which one must live (John 13:34-35). With that in mind, I believe Paul was instructing the Corinthians to exude “love” for one another and to stop being selfish in pursuit or possession of spiritual gifts.
By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul ingeniously inserted the discussion of “Love” into the middle of his teaching on spiritual gifts, as a lesson to the Corinthians and all Christians thereafter, of what all should desire and quest after. I believe it is obvious that “Love” was the “greater gift(s)” and “more excellent way” to which Paul was referring. Amen!