The first three verses in 1 Corinthians 13 point to the importance of love in Christian living. Verses 4 to 7 provide a description of love. Some will say these are beautiful words. In fact even the idea that such qualities of love might exist can be encouraging and lifting. On the other hand many might find these aspects of love challenging when they think of putting into practice what Paul is speaking about here.
How can we succeed in coming up to some of these standards of Christian living presented in the bible? Studying the bible and thinking about God’s commandments is one aspect of the solution. Believers encouraging each other may be helpful too.
Even as you think about the commandment of love you may find it burdensome at times when it comes to practical living. You may discover that occasionally you just do not behave in the way as you would feel you ought to, having studied God’s commandment. (cf. Romans 7:22+23). You may end up with a set of rules and feel condemned because you severally fail to keep these.
Martin Luther has specially reminded us that we are not saved by our works. It is not by our works that God accepts us or forgives us our sins. Our works would never be sufficient. We are forgiven if we humbly trust in God’s grace and readiness to forgive. We are justified by faith not by works.
Faith in God’s love and forgiveness of individual sins has set free a new potential to loving activity in many a believer They feel: “God loves me. I have given my life to him. He forgives me and accepts me. The experience of this divine love helps me to love others too.”
Often in church history Christian believers have been instrumental in caring for the needy und underprivileged. Christians have established homes for orphans and for disabled individuals.
John Wesley did call many to trust in God. He taught that God would forgive sins. He also taught that God would enable believers to learn how to live according to God’s standards.
Believers learning to live according to God’s commandment can be summarised in one word: Sanctification. Sanctification is the process of being made holy in actual living. To John Wesley ‘perfect sanctification’ was synonymous to ‘perfect love’. John Wesley taught God would enable believers to live as they ought to.
The Wesleyan church has become known as Methodism. In the wake of Wesley’s teaching William Wilberforce has been fighting for the abolishment of slavery in Britain. One Methodist, William Booth became the founder of the Salvation Army to care for poor and needy people who had been without help until then.
There have been many other church movements emphasising holiness in practical living. God would enable the believer to do so.
St. Paul said: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30). So Paul also taught that through Christ we would be enabled to learn to live holy lives. Christ is our sanctification. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Paul is describing the kind of love by which God loves us This is the love that God would like to see reflected in our lives.