Student Bible - Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Love Chapter: Paul describes the highest spiritual gift of all

1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

During one of the most stressful times of his career, Paul makes his first visit to the Greek city of Corinth (see Acts 17—18 for the details). Lynch mobs chased him out of Thessalonica and Berea. The next stop, Athens, brought on a different kind of confrontation, with intellectual scoffers. Paul arrives at Corinth in a fragile emotional state.

Soon opposition springs up in Corinth too. Jewish leaders become abusive and haul Paul into court. It seems the harassed apostle will have no rest from his enemies. But in the midst of this crisis, God visits Paul with a special message of comfort: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9–10).

Different Kind of Love

These last words must have startled Paul, for Corinth is known mainly for its lewdness and drunken brawling. The Corinthians revere the goddess of love, and their “worship” practices resemble orgies. Corinth seems the last place on Earth to expect a church to take root.

Yet, exactly that happens. A Jewish couple opens their home to Paul, and for the next 18 months he stays there to nurture an eager band of converts.

In his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul must deal with the many controversies that arise in such a diverse congregation. His intimate concern for them produces some of his most memorable writing. This chapter, “the love chapter,” endures as one of his most famous. Often quoted at weddings and funerals, it was memorably read by the British prime minister at Princess Diana’s funeral. The vision of love Paul describes contrasts sharply with that familiar to most Corinthians.

Life Questions

First Corinthians 13 describes ideal love. Which of love’s characteristics do you need to work on?

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