1 Corinthians 13:8-13 RSV
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Paul tells us that three things abide (endure, remain, continue): faith, hope, and love. The thing is, the only one that will exist forever is love. We know that the need for faith will fade. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 RSV). Now, we don’t see God. We must have faith to believe: “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 RSV). Once we see Him face to face, faith will be unnecessary.
Peter tells us that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3b-4 RSV). But that hope will be realized when we receive our inheritance, when we reach heaven. Thus, the only one of the three which will be necessary eternally is love.
Do we focus on that which is eternal? For many charismatics, for many Pentecostals, the focus of worship, the focus of Christianity is the gifts: prophecies, tongues, words of knowledge. Paul tells us that, while all of this is necessary for the edification of the Body, it hasn’t the eternal value that love has. All of this will pass away. The focus then, for us as Christians, should be the practice, the obedience to, the choice of love. “Love never ends.”
Paul also tells us that the practice of the gifts is the practice of childish things. The writer of Hebrews agrees:
“Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:9-10 RSV).
What are the “better things?” Our work and the love we show in serving the saints. And what work do we do? Obedience to His word, ministry to each other and to those around us, walking love, being not childish, but mature in the faith. Loving each other as Christ commanded that we do. Choosing love rather than choosing self.
I know that, for myself, I want to learn to practice those things which have eternal value. Prophesy, tongues, words of knowledge—all the gifts of the Spirit—have value for this life, but only if they are practiced in love. But the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—has eternal value. If we are in a situation—in a church, in a nation—where we cannot freely practice the gifts of the Spirit, we can always exercise the fruit of the Spirit. No one will ever write a law that says we cannot be loving, joyful, at peace with God, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, or self-controlled. As Christians, we should spend our time, our efforts, and apply our thoughts to that which has eternal value.
That’s what I want. How about you?