A Study of 1 Corinthians 13
Courtesy of Be In Health
If someone comes into a marriage with neediness or looking to the other to satisfy their deep need and longing for love, the relationship will seem like a black hole that can never be filled or fulfilled. Every person needs to take responsibility for their own lives to line themselves up in relationship with God and His love and then to freely share that love with each other. Understanding God’s love is the first step to learning how to heal a marriage.
Every human was designed to give and receive love freely. The Bible says that we were made in the image of God and God is love so what should we be? We should be love too. As sons and daughters of God, we have access through the Holy Spirit to a resource that is far more powerful than anything the world can offer. It is God’s love – agape. His love is not fickle, it is not unclean, or self-serving; it is perfect, enduring, and sustaining.
Do you ever feel like you’re doing all the right things but still have an unfulfilling marriage relationship?
1 Corinthians 13 is an essential chapter to understand not only God’s love towards us but also what He wants us to grow up into as His children.
It starts out in the first few verses by saying that if we do every manner of good works but don’t have love, our works are useless and we have nothing. So many people “know” all the A, B, Cs of marriage. They think they are doing everything “correct” yet still something is missing – one or both partners are dissatisfied and frustrated. That is a good indication that perhaps God’s unconditional love is not flowing the way it should be in the home.
Good works are useless without love, just as words of love are useless without corresponding actions. It all comes down to what is in a person’s heart. Are we just going through the motions or is there something deeper there that is motivating us.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV
But how do we grow God’s kind of love?
Let’s start by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and drawing out some definitions from the original Greek translation:
4 Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 KJV
Charity – Strong’s # G26 – Agape:
Love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast:—(feast of) charity(-ably), dear, love.
That word love-feast is profound; it’s a love that keeps on giving. It does not hold back and only give the bare minimum for survival but it is free-flowing and satisfying. That’s what God’s love is like towards us!
Suffereth – Strong’s #G3114 – makrothymeo:
To be long-spirited, i.e. (objectively) forbearing or (subjectively) patient:—bear (suffer) long, be longsuffering, have (long) patience, be patient, patiently endure.
Immediately we see that God’s kind of love is not conditional on circumstances or even on another person’s actions. His love patiently endures with us and for us even when we are struggling. It is a compassionate understanding that change, growth, and maturity take time and He’s willing to walk in that journey of overcoming patiently with us.
Love is kind
All the while, through this journey and even the struggles, it says that love remains kind. It doesn’t endure for so long and then blow up. God’s patience towards us never runs out, and He wants us to have the same heart towards others.As we will see through the course of this scripture we can still love the person but hate the sin – this is what we call separation.
It doesn’t smear ones face in their failures and demand repentance and change. The Word says that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. If we begin to feel fear, guilt, or shame, we can be assured that is not from our loving Heavenly Father.
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4 KJV
Love is not about self-serving
Does not envy
Envy would be trying to keep something or someone all to ourselves for fear of losing them. This is a selfish motive and will inevitably drain the flow of love and mutual respect from a relationship. In fact, envy and jealousy will destroy the very thing that it is trying to hold together. Why? Because it is an evil spirit from the enemy’s kingdom. As such, no good thing can possibly come from it. It is a counterfeit to love. It essentially turns the other person into an object to be guarded rather than a fellow heir of Christ with their own mind, will, and emotions worthy of being treasured and respected.
Does not vaunt itself
To vaunt one’s self means to boast. This can be likened to the dancing display of a tropical bird trying to attract a mate by fluffing up their feathers and putting on a show. We cannot prove our love for someone by promoting ourselves. We may be attractive at first but in the end, it’s all frills and fluff and there is nothing left to sustain a lasting, enduring relationship. Love cannot just be about attraction. Neither can it be about ourselves. There is something deeper yet that God has prepared for us.
Is not puffed up
To be puffed up runs along similar lines to vaunting one’s self. It is pride; believing that we are important or valuable above another. Pride is an evil spirit that cannot be given place in any sort of relationship because it will place more value on its carrier at the expense of the other. It cannot properly love, care for, or nurture another because it belongs to the kingdom of self. “It’s all about me.” Pride may even cause one person to resent the weakness in another. Or cause them to struggle with taking personal responsibility for their actions if they make a mistake. It is counterproductive to God’s Kingdom, the Bible even says that God resists the proud.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:6-7 KJV
Does not behave its self unseemly
The root of the word “unseemly” is indecently or unbecoming. This could include being disrespectful or harassment of another. It is acting out in a way that would be degrading to another person or even just inappropriate. It takes maturity to develop an awareness of times and circumstances and what the needs of a person may be at any given moment.
An example could be a husband teasing his wife when she is already clearly distraught. It will just add fuel to the flame. Its motivation is not to provide a safe place for the other person in the relationship but rather it will be a driving force within the person who is acting out to cause trouble. In which case, there may be an unloving, attention-getting spirit present that is blocking the flow of God’s love by His Holy Spirit.
Seeks not its own
Love does not seek its own. What does that mean? Love is not trying to fulfill its own self-interests or needs through another person. It’s not about ourselves but learning how to grow together as a team; a single unit working in harmony. It’s not even dividing roles 50-50 it’s both people putting in their 100% best effort. Love does not set expectations on our spouse that they need to fulfill in order for us to feel satisfied or complete. Love is not needy of the other person’s affection in order to be complete in themselves. God’s love working in our hearts is already complete and can flow out in abundance towards others regardless of where they are at spiritually.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 KJV
Is not easily provoked
Love does not get easily angry, does not take offense at something that was said a little bit off. Another part of the definition of this word says “exasperated” or “irritated”. This is where bitterness and accusation can have a foothold in a relationship to get in the way of love flowing correctly. We need to learn how to recognize that those yucky feelings we get when someone does something wrong are not us! Bitterness and accusation will blow a wrong or perceived wrong up out of proportion. It will seem so big that we cannot see past it. Or in the case of irritation, it will take a small misstep and create an issue about it when the other person really didn’t do anything wrong. It will make a person one with their sin so that we hate them and their sin.
This is where separation is so profoundly important. First, we need to remove the bitterness and the accusation in our own hearts so that we can discern what is really going on with the other person. We can ask Father God to help us to love the person and hate the sin. He can even develop compassion towards them in our hearts as we understand the iniquity they may be struggling with.
The root cause of a misunderstanding
Sometimes though, a perceived offense is just the result of a misunderstanding. In which case the whole problem is that someone just didn’t understand! Pretty simple huh?
This is where communication is so essential so that we can get back on the same page again and operate in love and unity. As soon as we make our spouse the enemy in our hearts, we will not be able to do this. For the most part, a spouse is not out to hurt the other (if they are, that is abuse click here to learn more). Sometimes they just don’t express themselves in a correct manner. This is where we can have grace and mercy for each other and even ourselves in order to make room to get it right. You are on the same team!
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 KJV
Thinks no evil
This part of the verse is actually more profound than we may realize.
Thinketh – Strong’s #G3049 –logizomai
To take an inventory, i.e. estimate (literally or figuratively):—conclude, (ac-)count (of), despise, esteem, impute, lay, number, reason, reckon, suppose, think (on).
This is keeping a record of wrongs. It ties into a spirit of bitterness and accusation again. As long as a person holds this record in place, no relationship can heal. It is unforgiveness which God takes very seriously in His Word.
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 KJV
It is okay to take a step back and ask God for His heart and His perspective towards a person or a situation. This is the place that we can truly be overcomers and not victims of the enemy’s devices that are working in us and in others.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Luke 6:36-37 KJV
Does not rejoice in iniquity
This is a fancy way of saying that love is not codependent – it does not call evil good in the name of love. The word “iniquity” means:
Iniquity – Strong’s #G93 – adikia
Injustice (properly, the quality, by implication, the act); morally, wrongfulness (of character, life or act):—iniquity, unjust, unrighteousness, wrong.
So love does not support another person’s sin or come into agreement with it just so that they can maintain a relationship. Dr. Henry Wright often says, “Follow me as I follow God.” This is especially true with love in a marriage relationship. If we see our spouse following unrighteousness, we don’t participate in it with them but we take it to God and trust Him that He can recover them and redirect their path.
This takes a lot of courage but if we rely on God’s strength and trust Him through it we can come out the other side of whatever adversity stronger in Him and established in love.
Rejoices in the truth
Love delights in God’s ways no matter what because that is the only place that love can thrive. If we want to walk in love we have to give up our need to know or have it all figured out. Rather, we should yearn to mature in walking step by step with our eyes on our Father asking Him and trusting Him to lead us His way. This is where we will find surety and stability in our own hearts and subsequently in our marriage and other relationships.
1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3 KJV
Love bears all things
Part of the definition for the word “beareth” is to cover like a roof. The definition also includes endurance. God’s love towards us covers and protects us in the midst of hardships and struggles; it can weather any storm. Many people promise each other in their wedding vows that they will stay together for better or for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health. God is the one that has set that example for us in the way that He works with us daily and throughout our lifetime. When hardships come, love buckles down, digs in its heels, and holds on, it does not give up or look for an easy way out. If we ever struggle in this area, God can give us what we need by His Word and His Holy Spirit in order to thrive in His love, even through hardships.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. Psalm 27:5 KJV
Love believes all things
Believeth – Strong’s #G4100 – pisteuo
To have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
Love believes the best about and for a person. It can find the good in them and hold onto that even when things are not going so well. There may be times that trust is breached in a relationship because one or both members of that relationship have not been trustworthy.
But there is something deeper and more profound that we can pull out of this definition. “to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ).” This runs deeper than merely trusting another human being who is just that, human, who will make mistakes from time to time.
It is about trusting God with our loved one for their protection, guidance, recovery, wisdom, whatever the case may be. We may need to take our fingers out of the pie, so to speak, to let God intervene. It is still absolutely important to restore, grow, and maintain trust within a relationship as well.
Love never loses hope. This is only possible if we are plugged into the right source. The Bible says that we are to hope for things that are not yet seen. This can be dreams or hope for our future. We could say it is believing for good in our future whereas fear will project negativity and hopelessness into our future. If a couple develops hopes and dreams together it gives them something to work towards in their marriage and relationship. It can be a vision for what they would like to grow up into, a common goal or prize. This will also reinforce a sense of teamwork.
Love endures all things
Endureth – Strongs #G5278 – hypomeno
To stay under (behind), i.e. remain; figuratively, to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere:—abide, endure, (take) patient(-ly), suffer, tarry behind.
“If love ever stops loving, love never loved at all.” ~Dr. Henry Wright
God’s kind of love is not fickle, it cannot be switched on or off. It is a conscious choice regardless of where the person on the receiving end is at. This is the kind of love that can conquer every form of obstacle, this quality is peculiar only to God’s kind of love. Human love, even brotherly love may not be strong enough to endure forever. But God’s love towards us never fails.
Is there any area you see in your life that you would like God to restore in love?
God never promised following His ways and being changed into His image would be easy. But He did promise that He would give us a helper, His Holy Spirit, that could lead us and grow us up in all things.
Based on these definitions, can you see any areas in your own life that you’d like to grow up in? You can ask God to help you, He would love to come alongside you and help you overcome whatever is in your life spiritually that is getting in the way of love. He would also love to teach you His ways and help you grow up into love.
A prayer of repentance
If you have recognized a specific spiritual issue or issues in your life that are blocking God’s love from flowing in you, you can pray this simple prayer of repentance and deliverance to remove the enemy’s working in your life and get yourself back onto the path of recovery and overcoming as your retrain your mind in God’s ways, and create new, healthy, loving pathways of thought.
Father God, I recognize the spirit(s) of __________ (i.e. unloving, pride, bitterness, accusation, envy and jealousy, fear, guilt, and shame) that is/are operating in my life and blocking the flow of your love in me and through me. I repent for agreeing with the enemy’s way of thinking in this area and I renounce it. I am no longer in agreement with it and I ask for your forgiveness. Thank you for and receive your forgiveness. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
That’s it! That is a first step towards your healing and recovery towards God’s image in love. You remove the old ways and replace them with God’s ways as you come into agreement with Him in your life.
Encouragement for your journey
The apostle Peter encourages us with this scripture that helps us understand the process of growing up into God’s love. We can all find ourselves in some part of this journey. This process requires patience with ourselves, others and God. It does not just happen by itself. It is a daily conscious decision to choose to seek God, His heart, His will, and His ways.
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall] neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:4-8 KJV
You will find that as you begin to grow up into and mature in God’s ways not only will your marriage be more fulfilling and overflowing with love but other relationships will begin to thrive as well. You may even find that as your heart is healed and recovered in this area your health will spring forth too!
The Be in Health® Team
The Married Couples Retreat
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If you want to learn more about how to grow and develop a healthy, rock-solid marriage according to God’s ways and have fun doing it, our Married Couples Retreat is for you! Dr. Henry Wright and his wife, Pastor Donna, along with the Be in Health® Team come alongside you to share profound insights from the Bible as well as wisdom from their own personal experience. It is sure to be a life-changing, marriage altering, hope restoring week. You won’t want to miss it!