Paul's Passing Thoughts

What is Love?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 11, 2016

“Love (agape) suffereth long, and is kind; love (agape) envieth not; love (agape) vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love (agape) never faileth:”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This passage of scripture is one of the most well-know sections of the Bible. It is most often referred to as the great love chapter, and often the chapter is used in the context of marriage. And while it certainly has application to married couples, the apostle Paul had a much larger context in mind when he began his treatise.

The context actually begins in chapter 12 and extends through chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. Paul was addressing a specific problem in the assemblies in Corinth and the province of Achaia. The issue was with regard to spiritual gifts among believers, and there were those who regarded certain gifts as more important or of higher esteem than others. More specifically, the Corinthians viewed tongues as the most important gift, and so if you didn’t speak in tongues, then you were considered a lower-class of believer. As a result, everyone wanted to speak in tongues. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 he said you earnestly covet the best gifts (or what they thought were the best). But Paul rebuked them by showing them that this was not loving behavior. This is what prompts the apostle to launch into his in-depth dissertation on the definition and characteristics of love. Let’s consider each one of these characteristics in detail.

“Suffereth long”
μακροθυμει (mak-roth-oo-my) – To be long-spirited. Forbearing or patient. Love hangs in there for the long run.

“Is kind”
χρηστευνεται (chray-styoo-neh-tie) – Derived from the word χρηομαι (chray-oh-my), having to do with the hand in a sense where one is furnishing that which is needed. “Lending a hand”. To show oneself useful. Acting useful. Benevolent. Love does what is needed for another’s benefit.

“Envieth not”
ου ζηλοι (oo dzay-loy) – “oo” being the negative particle meaning “no” or “not”. “Dzay-loy” is derived from the word which means “heat”. To be boiling with heat. Zeal in an unfavorable sense. “Hot headed”; petulant. Love does not behave like a petulant child who doesn’t get his way.

“Vaunteth not itself”
ου περπερευεται (per-per-you-eh-tie) – The prefix “peri” has the meaning of going beyond or further. The double use of “per” in this word gives emphasis of going farther beyond what is necessary, which is what a braggart does. Giving oneself more honor than one should; elevating oneself. Love does not boast, brag, or elevate itself.

“Is not puffed up”
ου φυσιουται (foo-see-oo-tie) – From the root word φυω (foo-oh) meaning to swell up or grow. To inflate or puff up. Used figuratively, to become proud. Love is not proud.

“Doth not behave itself unseemly”
ουκ ασχημονει (ah-schay-mo-nie) – A compound word with the negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without” and a derivative of two closely related words; εχω (ech-oh) which means to possess some ability, and σχημα (schay-ma) which is some figure, form, or pattern. Literally, it means not being able to possess its form. If someone is behaving in a manner that is considered indecent, he is not behaving the way one would expect him to. Love behaves in a way that would be congruent with what one should expect of love.

“Seeketh not her own”
ου ζητει τα εαυτης (“oo dzay-tie ta heh-ow-tays) – Literally, “not seek of herself”. The key word in this expression is ζητει (dzay-tie), and it has the idea of plotting or making a plan. But it is also used as a “Hebraism” (a Jewish idiom or figure of speech) to indicate worship to God. Either meaning has application. Love does not plan for its own self-interest. Love does not worship itself.

“Is not easily provoked”
ου παροξυνεται (par-ox-oo-na-tie) – A compound word from the prefix παρα (para), meaning along or beside, and οξυς (ox-zoos) meaning keen or sharp or swift. Literally, to sharpen beside. To make “on edge”. If someone is “on edge” they are irritated or frustrated. Love does not become frustrated quickly. Think about how this is related to the first quality of “suffering long”.

“Thinketh no evil”
ου λογιζεται το κακον (oo log-idz-eh-tie to ka-kon). The key word in this expression is λογιζεται (log-id-zeh-tie), and it means to take an inventory. Love does not take an inventory of evil. Or as Paul Dohse says, “don’t keep a sin list.”

Rejoiceth not in iniquity
ου χαιρει επι τη αδικια (oo chai-rie epi tay ah-di-kee-ah) – The word αδικια (ah-di-kee-ah) is a compound word from the negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without”, and the word δικη (dee-kay) meaning right or just. So this expression literally means “not cheerful about unjustness.” Love does not show joy over unrighteousness.

“Rejoiceth in the truth”
συγχαιρει δε τη αληθεια (soon-chai-rie deh tay a-lay-thie-ah) – The word for truth is interesting. It is a compound word from a negative particle “a” meaning “no” or “without”, and the word “lathano” which means “to lie hidden” or “to be ignorant”. Truth in this sense is literally that which is no longer hidden, or something revealed. Truth is the opposite of ignorance. But notice now that the word “rejoice” translated here has the prefix “soon” before it. The prefix “soon” means “together”. In this one statement, we are to understand that two things are joyful; love AND truth. Each are dependent upon the other. Love shares a joyful symbiotic relationship with truth.

Paul sums up his dissertation on love with four concluding statements.

“Beareth all things”
παντα στεγει (pan-ta steh-geh-ee) – Literally, “to roof over”, that is, “to cover with silence”. In other words, to keep quiet about something. Think about how this relates to “suffering long” and “not taking an inventory of evil”. Love does not bring up past wrongs. It is all-enduring.

“Believeth all things”
παντα πιστευει (pan-ta pis-tyoo-eh-ee) – To have faith in someone or something. To have faith in someone means that you assume the best about them. Love does not automatically think the worst about others. It is all-believing.

“Hopeth all things”
παντα ελπιζει (pan-ta el-pid-zie) – To anticipate with joyful expectation. The Greek word for “hope” does not describe a wishful sort of thinking. It is a looking forward to with absolute certainty, like a child anticipates Christmas morning. He knows it’s going to happen. Love anticipates with certainty the best from others. It is all-expecting.

“Endureth all things”
παντα υπομενει (pan-ta hoo-poh-meh-nie) – A compound word from the prefix “hupo”, meaning “under” and the word “meno”, meaning “to stay or remain”. Literally, “to remain under”. The implications here are both one of submission but also one of support. Love remains supporting even when it has been wronged. It is all-supporting

Something you should notice about chapter 13 is that there is a distinct change in the literary style. To this point, Paul’s style has been logical and conversational. But Paul’s Hebrew cultural influence becomes apparent in chapter 13 as he switches to a very poetic style. One of the most defining characteristics of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. This can be seen in Psalms, where the writer expresses a thought and then restates that same though another way in the next line. The thoughts can either be comparative or contrasting. Paul uses a more complex form of parallelism called inverse parallelism, and you can see it here in 1 Corinthians 13:7. The relationship between these four aspects of love looks like this:inverse parallel 1
If you go back and consider the commentary we just discussed on each expression, you should notice how closely the inner two characteristics are related and how closely the outer two are related. Another way to see this inverse parallelism is like this:

inverse parallel 2
Paul uses parallelism as a poetic way to express his thoughts by restating the same idea in a different way in order to make his point understood. If you look closely at the definitions you will see that the ideas of “bearing” and “enduring” are very much the same thought. Love does not bring up past wrongs (all-bearing/enduring); it remains supporting even when it has been wronged (all-enduring/supporting). It endures those wrongs. Likewise, the ideas of “believing” and “hoping” are also very much the same thought. Love does not automatically think the worst (all-believing), but it anticipates the best with certainty (all-hoping/expecting).

In fact, if you go back and consider the first 8 characteristics of love in verses 4 through 6, they are also arranged in a much larger and even more complex inverse parallelism construct, where one is related to eight, two is related to seven, three is related to six, and four is related to five. Here is a summary of all the characteristics of love just discussed. To help you better see the parallelism just described, I have grouped them accordingly.

Love hangs in there for the long run.
        Love does what is needed for another’s benefit.
                Love does not behave like a petulant child who doesn’t get his way.
                        Love does not boast, brag, or elevate itself.
                        Love is not proud.
                Love behaves in a way that would be congruent with what one should expect of love.
        Love does not plan for its own self-interest; it does not worship itself
Love does not become frustrated quickly.

 

Love does not take an inventory of evil.
        Love does not show joy over unrighteousness.
        Love shares a joyful symbiotic relationship with truth.

 

Love does not bring up past wrongs. It is all-enduring.
        Love does not automatically think the worst about others. It is all-believing.
        Love anticipates with certainty the best from others. It is all-expecting.
Love remains supporting even when it has been wronged. It is all-supporting.

 

Love will never let another down!

Paul’s final statement on love in verse 8 has no parallel line of though with it, but rather it becomes the opening statement to a series of contrasts which we won’t discuss here. Nevertheless, it is still a characteristic of love worth considering.

“Never faileth”
ουδεποτε εκπιπτει (oo-deh-poh-teh ek-pip-tie) – The word for “faileth” is a compound word from the prefix “ek”, meaning “out of” and the word “pipto”, meaning “to fall”, literally or figuratively. In this sense, it does not describe something that comes to an end, but rather something that no longer measures up to a perceived standard of excellence. Love will never let another down.

Think about how these characteristics apply to the use of spiritual gifts among believers. The purpose of gifts is for the mutual edification of the Body of Christ so that each of us may be properly equipped to tell others the good news of the Kingdom. If we are distracted being envious or jealous over each others’ gift or preoccupied over petty disputes or offences toward each other, then we have disqualified ourselves from serving our Father in the mandate He has given us as ambassadors.

Furthermore, think about how love is the antithesis of control. Love does not change behavior by controlling another. It persuades. If we are preoccupied trying to control others, we are not loving them. I am reminded again of the second greatest commandment; love thy neighbor as thyself. Have you ever noticed that it doesn’t say love your neighbor MORE than yourself? No man hates himself. In fact, we are pretty good at loving ourselves. God’s word says to love others JUST AS MUCH AS you love yourself! This means, treat another the same way you want to be treated. That is the definition of love.

Andy

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4 Responses

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  1. Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on February 14, 2016 at 7:42 PM

    Andy, I appreciate this lesson on love. Reading and researching for our next conference in the area of marriage, communication, and relationships you have given me so much truth to expand upon. Thank you for this post. It fits so well with the law of love Paul writes about in the Book of Romans. These last few days have been tough for us and I am even tentative about using the word ministry because of false accusations flying throughout cyberspace. But you shared truth on our blog and only truth sanctifies.
    Thank you for your hard work. Susan Dohse

    Like

  2. Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on February 14, 2016 at 8:50 PM

    Susan,

    Thank you for your kind comment. I’m so glad it was a blessing. That was all I had ever intended.

    Andy

    Like

  3. Abram Serrell said, on March 11, 2016 at 6:39 PM

    It’s only when something is lacking that we begin to analyze and contemplate what that thing actually is So, if we’re even asking the question, “What is love?” it probably means that we don’t feel completely loved, or that someone doesn’t feel completely loved by us.

    Like

    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 11, 2016 at 9:34 PM

      Love certainly is lacking in the institutional church. Jesus said that because of anomia the love of many would wax cold. And this is what we see happening as a result of hundreds of years of authentic Protestant orthodoxy. The progressive justification replaces love with fear because people are taught that anything they do in the Christian life might be a work rather than allowing Christ to do the works through them. Rather than aggressively pursuing obedience and thus fulfilling the law of the spirit of life, they live in constant fear of condemnation.

      Like


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