Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is one of the most famous chapters of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13. Let’s see what we can learn about love!


     A. Do you remember last time we discussed Paul’s advice to “eagerly desire the greater gifts?” (1 Corinthians 12:31) I didn’t ask you last week, so I ask you now, what spiritual gift would you like if you could choose any? If that is too personal, tell me what spiritual gifts you would like to see in our church? (List all of these. After you make the list, note to the class that if one Christian had all of these gifts together that person would be pretty awesome, right?)

     B. Now let’s slide into this week’s lesson. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. These three verses paint a picture of contrasts for us. Let’s start out by listing what this theoretical Christian can do or has accomplished. What is on that list of accomplishments?

          (1. Speak in tongues. (This coming week I want you to contemplate what Paul meant in v.1 when he said, “tongues of men AND angels.” This will help prepare you for next week’s discussion.);

           2. Have the gifts of wisdom, prophecy and faith; and,

           3. Be completely unselfish, giving up your money and even your life!)

     C. How does this list compare with our “awesome Christian” list? Pretty close?

     D. What does Paul say that these gifts, of themselves, mean? (Nothing.)

          1. Nothing!!?  How can these gifts be nothing?

          2. Let’s explore this nothing, because it seems that we have three kinds of “nothing” here. Verse 1 says the nothingness is a loud noise. What do you think Paul means when he says the gift of tongues, without love, is a loud noise?  Does that make any sense to you? (Noise gets your attention, but it means nothing, does nothing, communicates nothing. Noise is sound without substance, right?)

          3. In verse 2 we are told that prophecy, wisdom and faith are present in a person who “is nothing.” What does that mean? And how can that be? (These are important gifts, yet they confer no “status” on this recipient!)

          4. In verse 3 we are told that the person has given up everything. Paul says that person “gains nothing.” Right! In the world’s eyes this person just gave up everything, of course they gain nothing! Is this the way the Christian views things? (No. Matthew 19:21 finds Jesus telling the Rich Young Ruler that if he gives up “his stuff” here, he “will have treasure in heaven.” That is how the Christian looks at this. We might call our offerings here “seed money.”)

a. With the Christian perspective, how does it make any sense that this unselfish, generous person, “gain[s] nothing?”

  (In all three examples Paul wants to convince us that we get just the opposite of what we expected!  What a Christian would reasonably expect is not fulfilled.)

     E. Let’s go back just a minute and look at the second half of 1 Corinthians 12:31: “now I will show you the most excellent way.” The way to what? (Notice the first half of v.31 speaks of the “greater [spiritual] gifts.” We just found out (13:1-3) that these gifts alone mean nothing. So the “most excellent way” must mean that love is an essential component of spiritual gifts.)


     A.  Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We will have two lists: “Love is,” and “Love is not.”  Tell me what should be in each list?

Love Is                  Love is not

Patient                   Envious
Kind                        Boastful
Protection             Proud
Trust                       Rude
Hope                       Self-seeking
Perseveres             Easily angered
                                 Recording wrongs

     B. What are we looking at in these two lists? What, as a general matter, can you call the things on our lists? (They are generally attitudes.)

     C. Where do you see yourself as you look at these lists? The other day I was speaking to someone and they said something like, “Patience is not my thing.”  Do you like to wait in line at the store?  How did you react if you were running behind on the way to church and got behind a slow driver?

          1. I see myself in almost all of the “love is not” list except being easily angered and recording wrongs.  Even then I know I remember certain “wrongs.” How many of us make “an exception” for being easily angered when it comes to driving?

          2. Let me take a poll. Do you feel generally good or bad as you look at this list of what love is and is not? How does your life “stack up?”  Those who feel good, raise your hand? Those who feel bad raise your hand?

a. Let’s read on to find out what we can do about this.


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. What do you think Paul means (v.8) when he says “love never fails?”  Didn’t we just discover that “love fails” in our own lives pretty regularly?

          1. Notice that Paul says that the gifts that he mentioned in the first three verses (prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) will pass away.

a. When will they pass away? (v.10 “when perfection

(1) When does “perfection come?”

b. Why will they pass away? (When we “know it all,” knowing partially is no good. A blind man can retire his seeing eye dog if his eyes become perfect. No need for an “aid” to help him understand. Prophecy, tongues, knowledge are here to help us understand God and His will. When we see Him face to face, we do not need these aids!)

     B. Wait just a minute!  Paul says that our limited partial knowledge will “go away” in the face of perfect knowledge. Why doesn’t our limited partial love also “go away” in the face of the perfect love in heaven?

          1. Why does not the some logic and reasoning apply to love?

          2. Is not our present love imperfect?

     (As usual, we are looking in the wrong direction.  We are looking at ourselves and saying “our love and our knowledge are now imperfect.”  Why not look instead at God? God will give us the greater knowledge and understanding when we get to heaven. But you know what? Your understanding of love is now perfect because He already gave us His Son!  This is the “perfect” understanding of love!  The perfect demonstration of love!)

     C. We have the vision, we have a perfect picture
of perfect love.  How do we get from our imperfect love (remember our list) to this perfect love?  How do we get from where we are to where we should be in the love department? (If you compare Romans 5:5 (God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit….”) with Galatians 5:22 (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love….”) we see that our love is also a spiritual gift.  Therefore it is a gift that we need to pray about. A necessary component of all of the spiritual gifts that we need to request.  Next week we study 1 Corinthians 14 and it starts out (v.1) “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts….”  This shows that love is not only a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is a component of all of the gifts! Praise God for His gifts!)

IV. NEXT WEEK: “WORTHWHILE WORSHIP” — 1 Corinthians 14. Ask God to

help you to understand this difficult and important chapter. Think

about whether your church is missing one of the gifts of the Holy

Spirit as you study.
ts! Praise God for His gifts!)

IV. NEXT WEEK: “WORTHWHILE WORSHIP” — 1 Corinthians 14. Ask God to

help you to understand this difficult and important chapter. Think

about whether your church is missing one of the gifts of the Holy

Spirit as you study.