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The Necessity and Definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13:1


Yesterday, Ben Purves, pastor for student ministries at our church, preached a tremendous message on 1 Corinthians 13. Let me encourage you to listen to his message, “The Necessity and Definition of Love,” as he unpacks Paul’s explanation of love in the context of spiritual gifts. Even more, Ben also showed us how Christ fulfilled the qualities of love and how we can look to Christ to find his love, and then how we can love one another more effectively.

Below you will also find discussion questions on 1 Corinthians 13 and a few resources on 1 Corinthians 13, including a five-part series on 1 Corinthians 13 that I preached a number of years ago.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends.

Discussion Questions


  1. 1 Corinthians 13 is the centerpiece to Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14). How should this placement shape our understanding of the text?
  2. What situations within the church of Corinth as observed in chapters 1-12 would provoke Paul to teach on love?

The Necessity of Love and Poverty of Lovelessness (vv. 1–3)

  1. How does the structure of verses 1-3 help us to understand the necessity of love?
  2. What are examples of noisy words?
  3. What does it look like to have love in our words?
  4. How should our knowledge translate into love?
  5. Can you think of examples where knowledge has failed to demonstrate love?
  6. How might we avoid this error and both know and love?
  7. How can we guard against loveless sacrifices?
  8. What does it look like to give and sacrifice in love?
  9. What is gained as we give and sacrifice with love?

Love Positively and Negatively Defined (vv. 4–8a)

  1. What is the structure of Paul’s definition of love? How does this help us understand love?
  2. How does this definition respond to the sins of the church in Corinth?
  3. How does Jesus perfectly display love as defined by these verses?
  4. Where does this text confront your heart?
  5. How might we together as a church seek to love one another according to this definition?

For Further Study

Articles and Sermons


  • Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards — Edwards classic work is a theological and devotional exposition of 1 Corinthians 13
  • Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Graham Ryken – Ryken, former pastor and current president of Wheaton College, looks at Jesus’ love through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13

Soli Deo Gloria, ds