There’s so much in this chapter!
No wonder it’s a favourite to read at weddings, for indeed it does describe a sort of love that is far removed from the sugary candy floss that popular culture usually presents as “romantic”. Though of course Paul is not writing about marriage, but about the greatest gift given by God’s Holy Spirit.
So now’s our chance (if we are not “Charismatic” with a capital C) to beat those benighted speakers of tongues over the head with a powerful Scriptural sword! Of course if we do so we’ll just prove their point that we have NOT received the gifts of the Spirit, because if we do we are obviously lacking love 😉
Better by far to notice that Paul describes all sorts of spiritual gifts, not least in ch.12 where he stressed both the variety of gifts, and their common goal:
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
These bewilderingly varied gifts all have the purpose of building up the whole body. If your gift does not build up – then it does not come from the Holy Spirit. If I look down on those claiming the gift of tongues or prophecy, then I have not received the best gift, let alone those “lesser” gifts!
That’s why “love” as described in this chapter is the greatest gift because love builds up!
You see as Paul notes towards the end of ch.13, even with all these spiritual gifts:
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 speaking wisdom, or knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.
And all the varied sorts of leaders God raises up:
1 Corinthians 12:28-30 apostles, prophets, teachers; miracle workers, healers, helpers, various other forms of leadership, or kinds of tongues.
All of these risk leaving us blind, like the prophets of old (about whom Jewish writers used Paul’s picture of “through a glass darkly”) like those prophets of old, despite all these spiritual gifts we would see what God is like and what God is doing through a glass dimly. Whether the “glass” was a mirror or a primitive magnifying glass it was dim and obscure, as prophecy always is! But love shows us a glimpse of the clear view of God we will get one day in heaven
no wonder Paul calls it the best gift!