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Bible Study: We are nothing without love

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Black Church Ministries and Leadership and Adult Publishing teams, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the YOU curriculum.

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Discussion Questions:

  • Which comparison in 1 Corinthians 13 do you find most fascinating?
  • Which aspect of love in 1 Corinthians 13 do you find most challenging to live out?
  • Why is love more powerful than our ministry or our service to others?

Food for Thought:

Of all the skills bank tellers need to have, one is eminently important: the ability to identify a counterfeit dollar bill. Bank tellers must look at a bill and, in a matter of seconds, observe minute details that signal whether it’s real or a forgery.

If we are to be people who live in the love of God, we must know what His love truly is. And since God Himself is love, we must know His character. But counterfeits abound: people who may look and sound genuine, but they neither come from nor represent God. A genuine believer is one who has been transformed by the love of God and loves as He loves. God takes the real thing seriously, and so should we.

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Paul was writing a letter that originally contained no chapters or verses. Inspired by God’s Spirit, he was connecting one point to the next. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about the spiritual gifts and ministries God gives us for the sake of building up the church. Paul explained how the Holy Spirit gives us diverse gifts.

Then Paul directed the Corinthian Christians toward what he called “an even better way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Paul was about to point to something better than focusing on our spiritual gifts. He was connecting his teaching on spiritual gifts with the need for love in all we do. Verses 1-3 introduce this beloved passage with a sobering reality. Paul said it’s possible to be theologically right, spiritually gifted, morally immovable and impressively sacrificial, yet completely miss the point. Look at the actions and spiritual gifts he described.

  • Speaking in tongues. This was a supernatural spiritual gift God gave only to some. Those who spoke in tongues (an unknown language) weren’t infallible, and the gift was to be used in specific ways. Talking in an unknown language is only empty noise without a spirit of love.
  • Paul wrote, “The person who prophesies is greater than the person who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets” (1 Corinthians 14:5). Prophecy, which is always in total conformity to the Word, influences others to action. Yet even this meant nothing if the one speaking lacked love.
  • Knowledge and understanding the deep things of God. To have such knowledge and understanding requires the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christians with this gift have deep understanding of God’s Word, continually plumbing its depths in study and drawing out insights and application for others in the church. Yet, apart from love, their intellect is irrelevant.
  • The one who has faith has a spiritual power from God that is greater than even the laws of nature. He is certain of God’s Word and His promises. Those with the gift of faith are bold in action and mighty in Spirit. But they too, are nothing without love.
  • Paul’s last example is the person who gives away everything he owns, even giving up his life for the sake of Christ. Yet, if even this person only acted in order to boast of his deeds and lacked a spirit of love, he is none the better for his sacrifice. Without love, he might as well have kept everything he owned and his life along with it.

Love is essential to every aspect of the Christian life. Without it, everything else is empty. The only way your life and mine will truly matter is choosing the way of God’s love.


YOU is committed to providing a complete Bible study experience for small groups and classes. Every session is written through an urban and multiethnic lens that provides relevant, engaging and applicable studies that not only encourage and equip people, but also motivate them to mission. This flexible, non-dated, all-in-one quarterly resource offers weekly Bible study for leaders and learners, devotionals and teaching plans, as well as articles on hot topics and missions. For additional downloadable online teaching resources, visit You.Lifeway.com.

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  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources