“The Greatest of These Is Love”
“Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 CORINTHIANS 13:13.
1. What has an anthropologist said about love?
ONE of the world’s foremost anthropologists once said: “We understand for the first time in the history of our species that the most important of all human basic psychological needs is the need for love. It stands at the center of all human needs just as our sun stands at the center of our solar system with the planets orbiting around it. . . . The child who has not been loved is biochemically, physiologically, and psychologically very different from the one who has been loved. The former even grows differently from the latter. What we now know is that the human being is born to live as if to live and love were one. This is not, of course, new. This is a validation of the Sermon on the Mount.”
2. (a) How did the apostle Paul show the importance of love? (b) What questions now merit consideration?
2 Yes, as this man of worldly learning granted, this truth about the importance of love to human well-being is not something new. It may only now have come to be appreciated by learned men of the world, but it appeared in God’s Word over 19 centuries ago. That is why the apostle Paul could write: “Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Do you know why love is greater than faith and hope? Why may it be said that love is the greatest of God’s attributes and of the fruits of his spirit?
7. What is the nature of a·gaʹpe, and how has this love been shown?
7 What Greek word did Paul use at 1 Corinthians 13:13, where he mentioned faith, hope, and love and said that “the greatest of these is love”? Here the word is a·gaʹpe, the same one that the apostle John used when he said: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) This is a love guided or governed by principle. It may or may not include affection and fondness, but it is an unselfish emotion or feeling concerned with doing good to others regardless of the merits of the recipient or of any benefits accruing to the giver. Love of this kind caused God to give the dearest treasure of his heart, his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, “in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) As Paul so well reminds us: “Hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7, 8) Yes, a·gaʹpe does good to others regardless of their status in life or the cost to the one expressing the love.
Why Greater Than Faith and Hope?
8. Why is a·gaʹpe greater than faith?
8 But why did Paul say that this kind of love (a·gaʹpe) was greater than faith? He wrote at 1 Corinthians 13:2: “If I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (Compare Matthew 17:20.) Yes, if our efforts to acquire knowledge and grow in faith were to be undertaken for a selfish purpose, this would bring us no benefit from God. Similarly, Jesus showed that some would ‘prophesy in his name, expel demons in his name, and perform many powerful works in his name’ but would not have his approval.—Matthew 7:22, 23.
9. Why is love greater than hope?
9 Why is the a·gaʹpe form of love also greater than hope? Because hope may be self-centered, a person being chiefly concerned with benefits to himself, whereas love “does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) Moreover, hope—such as that of living through the “great tribulation” into the new world—ceases when what is hoped for is realized. (Matthew 24:21) As Paul says: “We were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.” (Romans 8:24, 25) Love itself endures all things, and it never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8) Thus, unselfish love (a·gaʹpe) is greater than either faith or hope.