Week 5: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Spiritual Gifts and Love

Engaging the Text:

  1. First Reading:

    Find a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Read 1 Corinthians 1-2:5 slowly and deliberately. What “jump out at you”? What stand out? What do you have a hard time with or what resonates with you?

    ~consider reading the passage aloud

  2. Second reading

    Read the passage again. Either after the first time, later the same day or on a different day. What questions arise from this reading? What did you notice in this reading that you didn’t earlier? What is happening? Is the reading one consistent section or can be broken up into different parts? Note the people and places named - have you heard of them before?

  3. Questions

    • What difference does it make for you to locate 1 Corinthians 13 in the larger context of the church at Corinth and its challenges (and to take it out of the context of, say, a wedding service)?

    • Paul uses many powerful images in this chapter, (ex: a noisy gong). List all of the images you find here. Is there one that you find particularly provocative or memorable? Why?

    • The previous chapter was about Spiritual gifts and this chapter is about love. What is the relationship between spiritual gifts and love?

    • The term “love” may be used in many ways. We may “love” our job or a great book or chocolate. How should we define love? How does Paul define love?

    • Kenneth Bailey, New Testament Scholar, suggests that 1 Corinthians 11-14 is a series of six homilies organized chiastically (A, B, C, D, C’, B’, A’). These are laid out below- what do you think of them? Do you find this structure compelling? Why?

In the Church, Love is Central

1. Men and Women Leading in Worship: Prophets and How They Dress (11:2-16)

2. Order in Worship: Sacrament—The Lord’s Supper (12:1-30)

3. Gifts and the Nature of the Body (12:1-30)

4. The Hymn of Love (12:31-14:1)

5. Spiritual Gifts and the Upbuilding of the Body (14:1-25)

6. Order in Worship: Word—Prophets and Speakers in Tongues (14:26-33a)

7. Women and Men Worshiping: No Chatting in Church (14:33b-36)

What Love Is: Love is Greater Than Spiritual Gifts

1. The Spiritual Gifts (12:-21)

2. Love and the Spiritual Gifts (13:1-3)

3. Love defined (13:4-7)

4. Love and the Spiritual Gifts (13:8-13)

5. The Spiritual Gifts (14:1-25)

What Love Isn’t: Christian Love Does Not Boast in Its Gifts But in Its Giver

1. Continue in zeal for the higher gifts and I will show the way (12:31)

2. Love and the spiritual gifts (13:1-3)

3. Love defined positively (13:4a)

4. Loved defined negatively (13:4b-6)

5. Love defined positively (13:7)

6. Love and the spiritual gifts (13:8-13)

7. Purse love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (14:1)


[Original: “Continue in zeal for the gifts and run after love.”
KB overlooks the reversed ordering of love and spiritual gifts; the reversal mirrors the earlier combination (12:31) and stitches the two (love and spiritual gifts) together]


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org