Love is the more excellent way, superior to spiritual gifts, as Paul wrote in his teaching on spiritual gifts. “But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you” ( 1 Cor 12:31). He is teaching in the context of an agape feast. The Lord’s Supper was a love feast early Christians ate together in the fellowship of followers of Jesus they personally knew and loved in thought, word and deed. They gathered in the face-to-face communion of the community of Christ.
The absence of Love
The absence of love made an individuals use of gifts of the Spirit discordant and made that person nothing. Paul even included giving all possessions to the poor and martyrdom without love of no profit to that one. Without love, what is done may look or sound good but it is an exercise of the flesh.
If I can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but am destitute of Love, I have but become a loud-sounding trumpet or a clanging cymbal. If I possess the gift of prophecy and am versed in all mysteries and all knowledge, and have such absolute faith that I can remove mountains, but am destitute of Love, I am nothing. And if I distribute all my possessions to the poor, and give up my body to be burned, but am destitute of Love, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor 13:1-3
Love is the more excellent way.
God pours His love into our hearts by His Spirit (Ro 5:5). That love is the most important attribute of our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Love is vital for the flow of the Spirit.
Love is patient and kind. 1 Cor 13:4a WNT
Love is our gentle, tender, affectionate, good-natured, personal care we share with one another in face-to-face communion in the community of Christ.
We need love, patience and kindness to relate in harmony with people we eat with before the Lord. Can we love someone not present in that way? Do we need patience with someone we have never met, who doesn’t know us from Adam or Eve? Can we be kind to someone we can’t touch, to the one we don’t know who sits in a pew 50 rows in front of us and who we may never see again? Do we miss them if we don’t see them for awhile? Are we prompted to call and see how they are? If they are hurting love prompts us to be kind, to offer to come help, to offer to carry a nice meal to their house and visit and pray.
We learn love from God, for God is love. We love one another for we are born of God. He has shown us His love by sending His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him, our sins forgiven. God dwells in us and His love is perfected in us. We know we dwell in God because He has given us of His Spirit. See 1 John 4:7-21
Our heart to heart interaction is facilitated by our love.
…Love knows neither envy nor jealousy. Love is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and conceited. She does not behave unbecomingly, nor seek to aggrandize herself, nor blaze out in passionate anger, nor brood over wrongs. She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth. She knows how to be silent. She is full of trust, full of hope, full of patient endurance. 1 Cor 13:4b-7 WNT
Such love builds us together and creates the environment needed for unhindered flow of the Spirit. It is a taste of heaven on earth.
Paul holds love up in perspective of eternity.
Life in the world to come will be completely harmonious. We look forward to being changed or resurrected (1 Cor 15:50-58) living in our regenerated (Mt 19:28) glorified bodies (Php 3:20-21), God with us in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21-2).
Though we can’t yet see Jesus, we love Him (1 Peter 1:1-8). When we see God face-to-face, we will know as we have been known. In our natural bodies, that is impossible because God dwells in a light no one can come near (1 Tim 6:13-16). God’s presence is so radiantly glorious it will light up the regenerated earth (Rev 21:22-23; Rev 22:3-5; Habakkuk 2:14. Right now our human body would instantly die if we saw God face-to-face (Ex 33:20). But, our glorified body will thrive in His presence.
In the new heaven and new earth, we will know as we have been known. So, what we know through the gifts of the Spirit will no longer be needed. How we reason will not be needed. “And so there remain Faith, Hope, Love—these three; and of these the greatest is Love.”
Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if there are languages, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be brought to an end. For our knowledge is imperfect, and so is our prophesying; but when the perfect state of things is come, all that is imperfect will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I talked like a child, felt like a child, reasoned like a child: when I became a man, I put from me childish ways. For the present we see things as if in a mirror, and are puzzled; but then we shall see them face to face. For the present the knowledge I gain is imperfect; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And so there remain Faith, Hope, Love—these three; and of these the greatest is Love. 1 Cor 13:8-13 WNT
Since the perfect has not yet come and we still don’t know God as we have been known, Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 14 urging us to flow in the Spirit and be built together in love.