Paul says this famous premise in 1 Corinthians 13. This love chapter is sandwich between the chapters on Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. I remember Vincent Cheung saying something to the effect of, (as I paraphrase from memory) “if this chapter is read at a wedding, it is only proper to have a healing and miracle service afterwards, because that is the context of Paul’s teaching on love.” I agree.
It is odd that pastors and theologians who scream the loudest for “context” only do it on their few pet doctrines, but ignore it on everything else. The context for this doctrine of love is about God’s people having overwhelming spiritual power. Paul’s instruction is for God’s people, who have great power, is to use this great power in love, toward each other.
This next statement might be a shock for some, but it needs to be said. For those who do not have great heavenly powers of the baptism of the Spirit, Spiritual Gifts, Faith to move mountains, and are practiced in manifesting the Anointing Presence of God, this chapter of love is not applicable to them, or at the very least, it is mostly not applicable to them.
Paul starts the chapter by presupposing the audience does have faith to move mountains, give prophecies, speak in tongues, give to the poor and sacrifice themselves for each other. Those who do not fit the above presuppositions are those Paul is not addressing. He is addressing those who have spiritual power. This does not mean if you do not have spiritual power you are free from obeying God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. What it does mean, is that for the Christian, love (like with the Sermon on the Mount) is elevated to a higher standard. There is no such thing as Christian love, that is not favoring others as yourself with healing, miracles and prophecies. A love that is without spiritual power is not a Christian love, by definition. Such a definition of love might the standards of non-Christians, but we are not non-Christians.
Jesus showed compassion and love over and over and over in the gospels, and it was always with the power of healing and miracles. Love without miraculous power is an anti-love, it is a love that Jesus does not know or lived. It is a love the apostles did not know or live. It is a love the New Testament church did not know or lived. Non-Christians live this type of love, but we are not non-Christians, unless you really are.
Love is to favor. Loving your neighbor is to favor them, the way you want to be favored. Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit for ministry, had power. When He saw a sick person, He favored them by using power to heal them and remove their suffering. This means, if I was sick and in pain, and I had power, I would favor myself by removing the sickness and pain from me. This is how Jesus favored those around them. This is how the apostle favored those around them. This is how the New Testament favored those around them.
Jesus commanded we pray in His name and get whatever we wish so that God is glorified, and we are filled with joy (John 14-16). Love others by praying for others to receive whatever you want for them, so that by Jesus giving this to them, God makes their joy full. Jesus was filled with the Sprit for ministry, and so commanded His followers to be baptized in the Spirit for power.
The gospels take the time to repeatedly show that Jesus demonstrated love and compassion by healing and using heavenly power to help people. Jesus then commands us to do the same. Then for extra measure Paul used the chapter on “love” in context of using spiritual power in church to help people. This is how the Bible defines Christian love. God’s love is not a powerless love. Before creation and after creation God’s love is not a powerless love. The Godman Jesus Christ, who the saints are imaged after, did not and does not love with a powerless love. The love that Jesus commanded the saints to use was not a command to have a powerless love.
God’s love is using power to favor others with help and salvation. Jesus’ love is using power to favor others with help and salvation. God commands us to love in the same way. We are to love the way God loves, which is to use heavenly power to favor others.
Remember when the Israelites went in to take the Promise Land? Do you remember that “they failed” to completely eradicate all the inhabitants? Did they fail or did God fail? God in the ultimate sense decrees everything; therefore, even their failure to obey His command to completely eradicate all inhabitants, was by God power and decree. However, the “failure” was theirs not God’s. “God’s command,” which is what “He wants for them,” is to completely take the Land and enjoy it. Both the moral accountability, and the failure to bring God’s desire for their good, was their failure and accountability. God is not the objects He creates, thus, God’s command to man, does not categorically apply to Him, just as blue does not apply to the number 7. They failed to fully enjoy all the goodness of the Promise Land, because they failed to obey God. That failure is their accountability and responsibility, not God’s. That is, their failure is not God’s failure. The public failure of God’s people to fully enjoy what Almighty God promised, was on them.
The same with this phrase “love never fails.” If the saints are truly empowered and full of faith, the way “God commanded” them to be, then indeed “love never fails.” Love will see the need for a revelation, miracles, healing, truth or resurrection and because it has power to support all this favor surging in their hearts, then the blind see, the lame walk, the prisoner is set free, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. However, if the saints are not in obedience to God’s command to have mountain moving faith and crowned with Spiritual power, so that they fail to love each other in miraculous power, then that accountability and responsibly is on them and not God’s definition of what love is. In such cases, God’s definition of love did not fail; rather, a person failed to obey God commandments, just like with the Israelites.
The Corinthians were prideful, however despite this, at least people were being healed and miracles were performed so that God’s people were favored with help and deliverances. If I were sick and in pain, I would pick a prideful Corinthian who has power to heal me, 1 million times over a so-called saint who was humble but lacked God’s power, and thus, lacked the ablity to love me by removing the pain. Neither, is a true definition of love, but the Corinthians were at least able to relieve suffering saints with the Spirit of God. That is, the Spirit of God did not leave the Corinthians, even though they had some selfish intentions. Paul corrected them and told them to seek even more power. The finger of God, was still moving to help those around them with power, despite some of their faults. However, without this power, then the finger of God does not break in with power, because the power is not there to begin with.
Let God’s people not repeat the mistakes that Israel committed in desert and Promise Land. Let us be filled with faith and the Spirit for heavenly power. Let us love like Jesus. Let us love by the definition revealed in the Scripture. Let us love like God. Let our favor be with power, so that “love never fails.” Let us favor our fellow saints as much or more than ourselves, and with this desire, let us be filled with faith and power. Let us fulfill our desire to help by wielding the power of God as our own, which is our rightful inheritance. Let our actions be the Finger of God that expands His Kingdom with love that never fails.