Love doesn’t stop


Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 by Chris Meigh

The meaning of love

1 Corinthians 13 is often used as the reading at a wedding service, but in the Authorised Version (also known as the King James Version) of the Bible, the word ‘charity’ is used (instead of the word ‘love’ used in so many modern translations).

Because of the way the meaning of both of these words has changed over time, people hearing the word ‘love’ in the reading might not understand it the way St. Paul did when writing it. The ‘love’ of which St. Paul writes covers our relationships with all people, not just that between a husband and wife.

‘Love’ nowadays covers a wide range of positive feelings from “I love chocolate” upwards…

The dominant meaning of the word ‘charity’ nowadays relates to collecting money to be used towards

‘organising and administering relief for those in need’ 1

(though ‘charitable’ as a word can also be used in a way that echoes the original meaning, e.g. “that was a charitable thing to do”).

Incidentally, those of us who do make charitable donations or fundraise for good causes need to be mindful of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1-4 and be careful that we’re not simply doing charity to be seen by others.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book, ‘The Four Loves’ about the four Greek words used for various kinds of love (affection, friendship, eros and charity).

The ‘charity’, or ‘love’, we find in the New Testament is the Greek word ‘agape’, a word not in common use before the New Testament, that was…

‘taken up by Christians as a new word for a new idea’ 2

The Latin version of the Bible uses the word, ‘caritas’, leading to the Authorised Version use of ‘charity’.

Sandwich fillings

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians doesn’t stand on its own; it’s the ‘filling in the sandwich’ of chapters 12, 13 and 14, and itself is a ‘mini-sandwich’ of verses 1-3, 4-7 and 8-13.

These past two months, we have looked in detail at the mini-sandwich filling of chapter 13, verses 4-7 ’what is love?’. Now, I want to look at this in the wide-view of chapters 12-14.

Some people will remember the ‘charismatic movement’ in the 1960s and later. (In this context, the word ‘charismatic’ refers to various spiritual gifts that are given to Christians by the Holy Spirit for building up the church).

‘The Charismatic Movement is the international trend of historically mainstream congregations adopting beliefs and practices similar to Pentecostals. Fundamental to the movement is the use of spiritual gifts.’ 3

There have been good points and bad points of this, as St. Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 12. Gifts of the Holy Spirit build up the church, but it is possible for people to think they are using a gift of the Spirit but be wrong (e.g. verse 3).

As a church of people with varied gifts, we are a body made up of many parts, working together for the common good. The Corinthians are encouraged by St. Paul to want more / higher gifts of the Spirit, but, in the context of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, he tells them that without love, they are nothing.

In verses 8-12, he also tells them that these gifts are temporary, only for this life, to be used for building up the body of believers, (and he explores this theme further in 1 Corinthians 14.)

The gifts of the Spirit are different for different people, and only for this life. Faith, hope and love are for all Christians, and point to the future life.

A new kind of love

St. Luke’s is described as charismatic and evangelical. We believe the Holy Spirit can blow through us when He wills, as He wills and we believe in spreading the Good News (the evangel) of Jesus. Jesus demonstrated a new kind of love in dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and told the apostles to,

“go and make disciples of all nations”

As we come to the end of a season exploring 1 Cornithians 13, reviewing ourselves against verses 4-7, it’s good to remember that we read in John 13:34-35 that Jesus commanded his disciples to love each other. We can’t (directly) command our feelings, but we are commanded to command those things that are in our control; our actions and words.

St. Jerome used to tell this story about St. John.

When he tarried at Ephesus to extreme old age, and could only with difficulty be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples, and was unable to give utterance to many words, he used to say no more at their several meetings than this, “Little children, love one another.”
At length, the disciples and fathers who were there, wearied with hearing always the same words, said, “Master, why do you always say this?”
“It is the Lord’s command”, was his worthy reply, “And if this alone be done, it is enough.” 4


  1. N.T Wright in ‘Paul for everyone – 1 Corinthians’
  2. Leon Morris in ‘Tyndale NT Commentary – I Corinthians’
  3. From Wikipedia
  4. From St Jerome’s commentary on Galatians, quoted in Westcott’s translation, in page 18 of R.V.G Tasker’s ‘Tyndale New Testament Commentary’ on John’s Gospel.
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