In this post we resume my meditations on 1 Corinthians 13 (see pt I here), Paul’s famous ‘love chapter’, and we do so by going to the next verse:
And if I have prophecy,
and know all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can remove mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
We started out with a rather radical verse, and now we continue in the same vein, maybe even more radical. What Paul says here is that even with all prophecy, mysteries, knowledge and faith we are still nothing if we don’t have love. The love mentioned here is still the NT idea of loving God above all and fellow humans as ourselves, which includes our enemies. The full characteristics of this love will be summed up in the second part of the chapter so we’ll arrive at that later. Paul is very clear hear. In the first verse he used metaphor and said that all languages of the world and beyond without love are just a noisy cymbal, but here he is very clear.
If I have no love I am nothing.
Let that sink in again.
If you have no love, you are nothing…
The things Paul sums up are what a lot of people are searching for. Prophecies are divine revelations, mysteries are hidden things we cannot know until we are initiated. Knowledge is something we all still search for. All our modern science and technology comes out of that search for knowledge.
All these things will not benefit us in the end if we don’t have love…
Interestingly Paul does add one more thing here: faith. His wording hereis a direct allusion to Jesus, who said that if you have faith like a mustard seed you can move a mountain with it. But without this love for God and fellow humans all faith is just psychology and magic. Faith is relational, and comes down to trust, and trust goes together with love here. We are to have faith in God, to trust God.
(The more I let this sink in the more I wonder about certain things I’ve seen in certain corners of the charismatic world. But I am not the one to judge)
I do not at all think Paul means that those things are unimportant, but he is quite clear that, for a Christian, love is important in such a way that we can have all the rest and still be nothing without it. Love is not just the law, it is both the way and the goal, though it will never be complete on this side of the New Heaven and Earth.
Without it we’re indeed nothing.
(Note also here that stuff like money and power are NOT even mentioned here. I do think Paul mentions things that do have worth for Christians here, and omits things we should not give too much attention to )