“I show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).
Biblical love is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice.
In our society, love is a common word but an uncommon experience. Often those who use the word most understand it least. Many who think they’ve found love have really settled for something far less than God intended for them.
For many, love means a romantic or sexual relationship. While Scripture has much to say about intimacy within marriage, the word love takes on a different meaning in the New Testament. Even Ephesians 5:25 (“Husbands, love your wives”) doesn’t refer to romantic love.
Other common errors include equating love with emotionalism or sentimentality, or confusing it with a friendly spirit of tolerance and brotherhood toward others—often apart from any consideration for doctrinal purity or biblical convictions. But biblical love is none of those.
The “more excellent way” Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:31 is love that comes from God Himself and conforms to His holy attributes. We have no capacity to generate it on our own. The Greek word for that kind of love is agape, and it is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice. John 13:1 says of Christ’s love for His disciples, “He loved them to the end.” That literally means He loved them to perfection—to the limits of love. In verses 4-5 He demonstrates His love by washing their feet. Love is humble. It focuses on meeting needs.
In addition, love is obedient and willing to make sacrifices for others. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). God made the supreme sacrifice for us in that He “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
First Corinthians 13 applies to Christians of every generation because we all face the danger of misusing our spiritual gifts. As we study it and other passages about love, ask yourself if your love is all that God wants it to be. If not, take note of what changes you need to make in light of what you’re learning.