CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT: Certainly this passage is beautiful even when it's read on its own, as it often is at weddings and similar occasions. Remember, though, how important context is in helping us truly understand what God is saying in His Word. Page back through your Bible and just look over the main topics of the first twelve chapters of this book. Most of them are about resolving conflict of some sort. The last verse of ch. 12 really sets the tone for today's passage: and yet I will show you the most excellent way. In other words, all of the previous advice is really good and helpful, but love is the glue that holds it all together.
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH THIS? You've likely read somewhere before of all the different words the Greek language (the original language of the New Testament) has for 'love.' A brief review will help:
xenía - friendship, hospitality
storgē - the love between parents & children
philía - affectionate regard, friendship
érōs - sexual passion
agápē - The word Paul uses in this chapter. It most often refers to the love God has for His children: an unconditional, never failing love.
Although the Bible uses all of these words (storge is only used in the apocrypha) at one time or another, which are mostly translated as 'love' in our English Bibles, agape is the only type of love we are commanded to emulate. If you had to boil this beautiful chapter down to a few words, it would simply read, "Be like God."
We look forward to celebrating the Lord's Supper this coming Sunday at Worthington Christian Reformed Church. We will be preparing for this by following the guide given in the Westminster Larger Catechism, #171:
Those that come to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, are, before they come, to prepare themselves by:
Examining yourself to see that they are in Christ, and remembering that on their own, they are sinful and lacking the holiness God requires;
Examining the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance;
Examine your love to God and fellow church members, charity to all men, and forgiveness for those that have done you wrong;
Examine your desire for Christ, and of your new obedience;
Renew often these exercises of graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God is agápē (1 John 4:8, and the basis for everything written in today's chapter)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Follow this most excellent way (12:31b)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: