1St Corinthians: Is Love All We Need?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1St Corinthians 13:4
In 1st Corinthians 13:4 it says, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, written by the Apostle Paul. This is a familiar verse used in many marriage ceremonies. We have all heard it and perhaps used it at our weddings. But there is a deeper story and purpose behind this phrase and 1st Corinthians, not written for just weddings, but a statement of our Christian attitude to each other.
Paul wrote this letter to the church that he helped found in Corinth.
The letter is dated around 55AD, a few years after the church had started. Like many new things that arise, the church in Corinth had gotten a little off track and Paul specifically wrote this letter to help them get back on course.
The church had gotten a little confused.
We find this in one of Paul’s early statements, where he writes; Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. The reason Paul wrote this is that he had heard that some people were following a fellow named Apollo, others followed Paul or even Peter. A few did get it right that and said they followed Christ. This was causing quarreling in the church. Threatening the unity of the church in Corinth. Paul, as usual, wanted to nip things in the bud. He makes it clear that they follow only Christ, by saying; Is Christ divided?
Beyond getting confused by who they follow, they started ignoring obvious immoral issues and some had welcomed pagan practices in the church. And still, some even started to feel superior to other believers. And to add to all of this drinking was getting a little out of hand at the Lord’s supper. Lastly, sexual immorality had also reared its ugly head.
Things were getting out of hand!
Typical of Paul he knew that this had to be resolved and not swept under the rug. Paul, in one of the most fundamental statements of 1st Corinthians states, So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. In other words, let’s get back to working for the Lord and not turn the church into a social club. I am probably being a little harsh here, but the church certainly was headed in that direction.
Paul also noticed some gender practices were creating issues in the church. For instance, was it okay for women to pray without their head covered? Paul’s reply was; Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? In other words, what is the societal norm? Paul, in making this statement, didn’t want this issue to be disruptive to the church. While Paul believed women to be equal with men, he didn’t want the outside world to have any reason to complain about church practices. The church did decide that woman should cover their heads, a practice that extended itself well into modern times. Today, it is unusual for women to cover their heads, and if it does occur it is viewed as an act of piety.
Paul and Women’s Rights
Another issue that appears in 1st Corinthians, is should women be able to talk in church? It says; Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission, as the law says. (1st Cor [14:34].) Here is an unusual position claimed to be stated by Paul. However, we find Paul strongly supportive of women and their rights in other parts of the New Testament. Some scholars and clergy would strongly disagree with me, because of this verse. But many of Paul’s assistants were women and in Galatians [3:28] he assigns women equal status with men. Also, this is another one of those verses with parentheses in your Bible. Not only does the verse seem out of place when you read it, but the fact it has parentheses, suggests this was a later addition and is not Paul’s words. I think this is more about how husbands and wives handle themselves in church;
Paul’s final point in this letter is the way to resolve church disagreements and what the church’s general attitude should be to resolving all issues. His statement is found in Chapter 13, verse 4, where it says; Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. While this verse, because of its universal message is very adaptable to things like wedding vows. It’s intent in this letter state that the best way to run a church or heck resolve issues of life is with an attitude of love. That the solution to all problems is the Christian attitude of love. He further points this out later in Chapter 13 by saying; Love never fails. So here it is, love conquers and solves all issues.
So once again we have Paul addressing very localized issues, but explains it so elegantly that it emerges as a major Christian thought that transcends time, place and purpose. Even today, we can apply these thoughts to marriages, friendships, disputes and yes, even church policies.
Simply, 1st Corinthians was written to reinforce that we keep our eyes on Jesus and not place church leaders above Jesus. That churches should be run orderly. And churches should immediately address all forms of immorality. All this tied together with the compelling and universal attitude of love.
Try reading 1st Corinthians with this background and this wonderfully crafted letter will come alive. Giving you a ringside seat to Paul’s organizational skills and foresight in building the church.
And always remember LOVE!
Listen to the Full Podcast – 1St Corinthians: Is Love All We Need?
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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