Understanding Love - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1.      When you hear the word “love” what thoughts come to your mind? (It depends on the context the word “love” is used. Perhaps our spouse, children, best friends, a favorite food, etc.)

2.      How many different emotions do we use the word “love” to describe our feelings toward someone or something? (We certainly don’t have the same feelings for a spouse and a friend, or our children and a favorite food, etc.)

I love God. I love Linda, my wife. I love my best friend. I love my children and grandchildren. I love shrimp. I love my neighbor.

Love is a choice we make and is expressed through our actions.

Every believer has received love. It is a wonderful gift from God and helps us to grow in our relationship with Him. But God wants us not only to love Him; He wants us to love one another.

There are several Greek words for love, depending on the object of our love. “Eros” is the passionate love one has for their mate! “Philio” is affectionate regard, or close friendship. “Storge” is affection between parents and children. “Ludus” is playful love, affection between children and casual friends. “Pragma” is mature love that develops between long-married couples.

While love is a common human experience, the uniquely Christian love is “Agape”! It describes the love God has for us. Agape is sacrificial giving of oneself to others, whether they deserve it or not. In this week’s study, we’ll seek to understand Paul’s view of agape as he challenged the Corinthians (and us) regarding the necessity for this kind of love!

Last week we studied “spiritual gifts” in chapter 12. Paul closes chapter by saying in verse 31 “But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way.” Paul wanted to show the Corinthians the way of love. Believers who use their gifts motivated by love will make the greatest impact! In fact, as we will see, if we do not use our gifts motivated by love they are of no impact!



Necessity of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3


(Consider having an annoying sound in the background.)

1.      Of what importance did Paul say love is in regard to the use of spiritual gifts?

Note: from here on the use of the word “love” is the Greek word “agape.”

If a person does not have love, the exercise of his or her spiritual gift is useless.

2.      How should believers communicate love? (Love is more than a feeling, it’s also a willful action. Paul wanted us to know that love is more powerful than our spiritual gifts. In fact, without love our spiritual gifts are useless.)

Love should demonstrate God’s character in our lives. Many in the Corinthian church felt that speaking another language or speaking the language of angels was prestigious, so they desired these gifts above others. Paul said a person who speaks a language that is meant to edify the body of Christ is doing nothing but loud talk if that person is not motivated by love.

3.      How can our ministry impact the lives of believers?

4.      How can our ministry impact the lives of unbelievers?

If the goal of ministry is to impact others for Christ, then love must be the motivator!

5.      What would it look like for spiritual gifts to be used without love? (It would simply be self-serving. The impact of the gifts used without love would exalt the individual not God!)

Notice that Paul positioned love as a necessity before describing what love is! Now Paul presents a series of descriptors to illustrate the nature of love and what love in action looks like.


Nature of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7


1.      What other characteristics of love can you think of that isn’t listed in these verses? (Generous, Truth telling, Sacrificial, Not Irritable, Does not keep a record of wrongs, Does not enjoy seeing others embarrassed, Expects the best outcome, endures all things or puts us with other’s faults and insults.)

Some of these may seem the same but have a slightly different nuance.

(Create teams of three or four people. Give each group a list of Love’s characteristics and have them brainstorm what would be the opposite of each assigned characteristic. After about 3-4 minutes bring them back together and have each group share what they came up with. The list of Love’s characteristics can be found at the end of this outline.)

We have a list of characteristics others should see demonstrated through the life of a Christian and the list of those negative characteristics that should NOT be seen in our lives.

2.      Which of these positive characteristics give you the greatest trouble?

3.      What action stands out as most significant in your life?

4.      How do you see the positive and negative demonstrated around you every day?

God is characterized as love, and those of us who follow Him should exhibit that same kind of love.

5.      How is the description of love given by Paul seen in God’s character? (Everything positive about God is directed to us!)

6.      How does substituting the word “love” with “God” give you a better understanding of the relationship between the love defined by Paul and the character of God?

7.      What do others see in my life?


Permanence of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13


Paul contrasted love with other things valued by the Corinthians, emphasizing that of all the things valued on earth, only love is eternal.

1.      Based on the fact that Paul taught that love will outlast every spiritual gift, how can believers make love their priority? (Place love at the top of our priorities and demonstrate love in everything we do. Love alone will endure.)

2.      How do you interpret what Paul has to say about “faith, hope and love”? (Our “faith” will become sight! Our “hope” will be realized! We will live in the presence of God’s “love” forever.)


Summarize and Challenge!


·         When we serve motivated by love we will make the greatest impact for Christ!

·         We should be characterized by actions that demonstrate godly love for others.

·         We should base our lives on things that have an eternal duration, with love leading the way!


1.      If my actions this past week were to be evaluated by this chapter, what did others see in me? Self? Or God?

2.      What actions can I take to ensure I make improvements this week so that God is seen in all I do?


Love seeks reconciliation and will even suffer an unfair loss if doing so brings glory to Christ before a lost world!

We are never more like Christ than when we graciously limit our freedoms to help others!


Reflect on ministry priorities. If showing genuine love is not a motivating factor in your life, commit to let others feel love and see love in you as you minister to them!


Characteristics of Love!


1.      Giving/Generous

2.      Truth Telling

3.      Humble

4.      Sacrificial

5.      Patient

6.      Kind

7.      Does not envy

8.      Does not boast

9.      Is not arrogant/conceited

10.  Is not self-seeking

11.  Is not rude

12.  Is not irritable

13.  Does not keep a record of wrongs

14.  Forgiving

15.  Doesn’t delight in unrighteousness

16.  Rejoices in the truth

17.  Does not want others embarrassed

18.  Gives others the benefit of the doubt

19.  Expects the best outcome

20.  Puts up with others


Opposite Characteristics of Love!


1.      Stingy

2.      Lying

3.      Boastful/proud

4.      Selfish

5.      Self-aggrandizing

6.      Impatient/short fused

7.      Harsh

8.      Envy/Jealousy/resentment

9.      Conceited

10.  Only looks out for self

11.  Rude/Contentious

12.  Irritable/Touchy/Easily offended

13.  Keeps a record of wrongs

14.  Unforgiving/Resentful

15.  Gloats over other’s misfortunes

16.  Loves lies

17.   Loves seeing others hurt.

18.  Jumps to evil conclusions

19.  Is sure of the worst outcome

20.  Not patient while others mature