If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-3)
Conversational topics among professing Christians flow from the entanglement of word strivings and political mires to sound orthodoxy. There is one topic that seems to pervade all discussions. This topic is “love”. Usually “love” is mentioned in relationship to what is wrong with modern Christianity. Whether it is relationships among believers or an atmosphere within the corporate body of the church, “love” is generally expressed as the answer to all problems.
In these discussions, all would agree that “love” is not only essential but is an evidence of divine rebirth (I John 4:7-12). Therefore the source and character of this love must be divine, not of human origin or nature. This would exempt mere romanticism or sentimentalism as being genuine expressions of divine love. What is at stake in these conversations is the definition of divine love and how it is manifested (13:4-7).
In our text, the Lord instructs believers that certain activities are not necessarily manifestations of divine love. Divine love is not necessarily expressed linguistically; that is, in speech and language (13:1). People are artists in utilizing the gift of language for their own purposes, even if it is religious self-gain. Whether a person is versed in multiple languages or possesses the sound of eloquence, the uses of these gifts are not necessary indicators that they love divinely. A cunning tongue has misled many a person. Divine love is not necessarily the motivation behind biblical understanding or a successful prayer life (13:2). Scriptural truths can be used for personal gain, pride, or advantage over another person, among others. Prayer can flow out of a heart desiring self-exaltation instead a loving concern of the salvation and edification of others. Sacrifice, material provisions for the poor or needy, and even martyrdom is not necessarily evidences of divine love (13:3). How deep is the depravity of man when all these religious deeds can be just noise, profitless, and show that I am a nothing?
Divine love is saving, even unto death; that is, the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Divine love’s motivation is the glory of God in the church. Yes, “love” is the answer to our problems. However, let that love be divine. God’s glory will advance. Salvation will rest upon His people.