Love Is All That Lasts In Heaven
And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Why did Paul say the greatest of these three is love? Perhaps it’s because in heaven, we won’t need faith and hope. We’ll live in the presence of God, and all our faith and hopes will be realized. Love though, will remain in all its glory.
“Real love ain’t syrupy,” the gruff old believer related, “It’s tough as nails.” He’s right. Many people have a romantic view of love. We sing silly love songs and daydream about the perfect evening with our spouse or a date. Genuine love is, in fact, incredibly idealistic, but not distant. It summons the very best motives and noblest actions from the depths of our hearts, and it sometimes calls for the most heart-wrenching sacrifices we can imagine.
Love is the active pursuit of the best for another person. It involves our emotions, wills, and energy. It notices need with a clear-eyed perception and refuses to walk away. Paul’s multifaceted description of love is often read at weddings, and appropriately so, because, the stresses and conflicts inherent in two individuals becoming one require objectively, honesty, forgiveness, patience, and kindness- in other words, authentic love.
This kind of love, though, is also a necessity when a toddler asks the 39th question of the day, when a teenager turns her back on all she believed in, and when a friend disappoints us.
Genuine love can be praised in a beautiful song, but it comes to life in the cauldron of painful experiences. There, we find out what we’re made of. There, we discover how selfish we really are, and we choose to trust God to transform us. And there, as we make even feeble attempts to love others, we experience God’s love more deeply than ever before.
One reason I love the Lord so much is explained in Like 7:47. “To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” In my case much was forgiven, so I love much.
I think that love is the only spiritual power that can overcome the self-centeredness that is inherent in being alive. Love is the thing that makes life possible or, indeed tolerable.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he is providing them instructions of how to be used by the Holy Spirit for the work of God. It seems that in this church there was a lot of zeal and enthusiasm for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul actually says that they came behind in none of the gifts and it appears that most if not all of the church was open to being used by God. My confession is that I’ve never been in such an environment and I surely can’t imagine having to say what Paul say to this church. I find myself usually urging people to become open to the Holy Spirit working through them rather than having to say that we need to limit how many can speak for God in a given gathering. But the case in Corinth was an enthusiastic reception of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and manifestations. It appears they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit but needed instructions about order.
In the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In this letter He defines nine gifts. He says that all the gifts are given. Y the Holy Spirit as He wills to those whom He chooses in His time. Though there are distinguishable gifts, each of them work by the same Spirit in unity. These gifts aren’t to draw attention to the vessel but to glorify and exalt Christ and to edify-build up and unify the church.
In the thirteenth chapter, Paul defines the root motive and attitude that the gifts operate through. Most of us who have been at many weddings have heard 1 Corinthians 13, commonly called the love chapter. In it Paul says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit work through love and none of the gifts can be used to tear down, harm or hurt in any way. It’s a reflection of Jesus’ words when He said:
“If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”
Everything that comes from God is good says James.
It is in the thirteenth chapter that Paul makes a bold statement. He tells us that the day will come that all ministry will cease. No one will prophesy or proclaim the gospel or teach about Christ. No one will speak in tongues. None of the gifts will be manifested. Faith will be useless and hope will disappear. Of all the blessings we have now of faith and hope and love, only love will remain. He continues in the chapter by saying that the necessity of prophesy, tongues, ministry, and other gifts are necessary now because we only see partially and understand partially and get occasional glimpses of the glory and plans of God but the day will come when we will see fully and clearly all that God has for us and for eternity. We will no longer have to hope for we will be experiencing. We will no longer have to believe for we will be seeing. We will no longer need the Holy Spirit to miraculously intervene with words of wisdom or knowledge or miracles or healings or tongues and interpretation or discernment for we will have minds that have been fully renewed, bodies no longer subject to sickness, disease, or death, and spirits that can no longer be subjected to temptation. But since God is love and everything He is and does is by love, love continues into eternity.
So let’s apply this to us. Everything that we get from God comes through love. Salvation is offered by God through His great love for us for it was because God loved us that He gave up His Son. Salvation is received through love because as we repent of our sins and receive Christ, we are only returning His love back. That’s actually the secret to salvation. We love God for God has loved us and we live to please Him not out of fear but out of deep love for Him. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit because of love for the Father who loves us more than any earthly dad can love has chosen this best of gifts for us. We open our lives to the Holy Spirit and make ourselves His dwelling place because we accept the gift given by love with an acceptance motivated by love. We make ourselves available to be used by the Holy Spirit’s gifts not for selfish or self-centered reason but because we love the church just as Christ loves her and we desire to bless, uplift, and encourage fellow believers. Everything we do or say springs from the influence of love. Only love has the power to overcome hatred and evil and one day the power of God’s love will fully destroy the works of the devil and deliver the whole of creation from evil. In the world to come none of the base sin-cursed attitudes and actions will be found. The corruption of love such as envy and jealousy and hatred will vanish and only the love patterned after its Author will remain. Everything that waits us in heaven and eternity will be provided through the love of God and everyone who receives and experiences what God has in store will do so because of love.
The power of Paul’s words is to say to us that even with the most blessed and wonderful gifts that God has given us in this life, nothing will compare to the love and blessings that wait for us.
So open your heart fully to God, hold nothing back in fear, love God with all your being and receive from Him overwhelming, incredible, unsurpassing, unmerited, graciously given love that will keep you in this world and the one to come. The only constant we have is the unchanging love of God toward us, but that’s enough.
Dr. John Thompson