Faith, love, and the promise of seeing Jesus in all his glory. There is something to be found here for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, even if it is all from one reading.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Verses 2, 3, and 13 are cited in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification around a similar argument--the relationship between love and faith.
Taken in confessional order, verse 3 (AP 4.123) notes the relationship between faith and love within Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians. The justifying faith brings love. "Therefore, later we have been justified and reborn by faith, we begin to fear and love God, to pray for and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to obey him in our afflictions. We also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses" (AP 4.125).
This is an issue because as we learn from the citations of verse 2 this passage is used in the Confutation to say that faith alone does not justify. The Confutation argument, according to Melanchthon (AP 4.218), is that love forgives sins, conquers death, holds back God's wrath, and satisfies the law. Melanchthon argues (AP.224 quatro), however, that love is a fruit of the justifying faith, which is directed toward our neighbor, but such love cannot reconcile us to God. Although love is important because, "when love is lost, the Holy Spirit is lost, and when the Holy Spirit is lost, faith is driven away" (AP 4.224).
Melanchthon uses verse 13 to explain this claim (AP 4.225). It is conceded that the love of God is the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37), but even this commandment cannot not justify us to God because, "if love is the perfect fulfillment of the law and satisfies the law, then there is no need for Christ" (AP 4.231 octavo).
On a different topic, verse 12 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.65) reminding us of a word of promise in this passage. The promise waiting for us in the next life is that we will see Jesus in his full glory face to face.
As we ponder Christian unity this week, it's probably worth reflecting on this 1 Corinthians 13 passage as an expression for responding to the gospel.
- How do we proclaim the gospel so that those who hear us respond with love?
- How does the gospel call us into unity today?
- Probably a question we don't think about much, but for whom is our love?