1 One of the most beloved set of verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.
It is known and quoted by many people.
It is widely read in wedding ceremonies.
It is used in many sermons.
Yet most people do not know the context of this set of verses.
Let’s take a look at the context.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul writes to the Corinthian church concerning spiritual gifts, especially tongues.
The Corinthian church became consumed with the gift of tongues, which was the ability to speak in the earthly languages of other people for the purpose of sharing the good news about Jesus with unbelievers.
Paul had this gift and used it widely as he encountered people who spoke different languages on his missionary journeys.
The Corinthians church was fascinated with this gift and eagerly desired to have the gift of tongues, but not for the purpose it was intended.
They abused the gift of tongues in their church gatherings.
In correcting this abuse, Paul told them only two or three should speak in tongues (foreign languages) at their church gatherings, and only if there was someone who could interpret the language being spoken.
They saw those who spoke in tongues, or foreign languages, as greater than those who did not speak in these languages.
Paul wrote to them to tell them that no one is greater than anyone else, regardless of the gift a person had.
All people were equal in the body of Christ, the church.
Even though all people were equal in the church, not all gifts where equal.
In 1 Corinthians 13-14, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, telling them to desire the greater gifts, gifts which build up the church, such as prophecy, rather than desire the lesser gift of tongues, which does not build up the church.
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 and 14 to correct their misconceived fascination with tongues.
He told them tongues would eventually cease.
Yet what would never cease were faith, hope, and love, with love being the greatest. Paul defined love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.
He exhorted the Corinthians to put away their childish, immature ways of being fascinated with tongues and using the gift improperly, and instead to focus on loving one another...because love builds up.
So the context of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 is Paul writing to the Corinthian church to correct their misguided view of tongues, which would cease, and compel them to love one another because love would never cease.
NOTE: I know many, many of us disagree on the interpretation of tongues. Some will disagree with my interpretation of tongues in this blog. My encouragement to each of us is this: Whatever your interpretation, let’s not argue about it. Instead, let’s excel in love. Let others have their view of tongues as each of us hold out love to those who have a different view.