Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13 is so full of truth that in studying it I have found it helpful to divide the chapter into three parts. Love is essential [verses 1-3], love is expressive [verses 4-7], and love is eternal [verses 8-13].

Paul makes it clear that without love spiritual gifts or disciplines are without value. Love is essential. In the first two verses, Paul specifically mentions four of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues, prophecy, knowledge and faith.

Paul uses the phrase “the tongues of men and of angels” [verse 1] to define the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. These are both earthly and heavenly languages that the Holy Spirit gives to people supernaturally, by-passing the normal mental faculties. My revered former tutor, a highly esteemed man in both Christian and secular circles and who had achieved a great deal of success in his life, one day began to speak in tongues. He was shocked, but quickly took hold of a tape recorder [that gives an idea of how long ago it was!], and continued speaking this strange new language. He sent the recording to an expert in languages who confirmed that it had all the hallmarks of a genuine language. Paul says, “I wish you all spoke in tongues” [1 Corinthians 14:5], but he also says, “If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” [v1 Amplified Bible]. Tongues without love is just loud, empty noise!

In the second verse, Paul goes even further and says that although we may have the gift of prophecy, knowledge and faith to remove mountains but do not have love we are nothing! Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5] and without love we are nothing!

To emphasize the essentiality of love even more emphatically Paul says in verse 3 that without love giving all we have to feed the poor, or even being prepared to die as a martyr for our faith, we gain nothing. The Message Bible concludes these three verses with the words, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love”. Remember the definition of agape love – it is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional.


What do you think of this sentence, “What we do is important, but the motive behind doing what we do is even more important”?

Why do you think that action without love is an indication of spiritual bankruptcy?

What do you think are the reasons the people can use spiritual gifts, give to the poor and even die as a martyr if it is not motivated by love?