“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3 ESV)
What Paul says here is profound and deep. I am no theologian, so my attempt to grasp and share some of my thoughts will be weak, but bearing with me for a moment, see here how Paul illustrates his point with important and good and necessary things in the Christian life. In the very next chapter he proceeds to encourage the Believers by saying, “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1b) And we know that it is by grace through faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). Without faith, no one can please God (Hebrews 11:6). And over and over again, we are encouraged to walk in faith (Colossians 2:6-7). I could go on, but I’m sure you follow: all these traits Paul lists here are very good and we are right to pursue them, but without (agape) love, we are nothing and they are of no value to us.
Jesus Himself said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23 ESV)
The greatest commandment we have been given is to love the LORD our God with our whole being, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Should we do away with prophecies, faith, wisdom, knowledge, generosity and sacrifice? By no means! But let genuine, Christ-centered love be what compels and motivates us to live in obedience to God’s Word. The “proof is in the pudding” you might say. Wisdom is hearing the words of Jesus and doing them (Matthew 7:24). John also says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (1 John 5:3 ESV). If God’s love is within us, our lives will bear fruit and our actions will show it.
“Let love be genuine.” (Romans 12:9a ESV)