One of the most oft-quoted verses (actually a partial verse) in God’s Word is 1 Corinthians 13:8a, “Charity never faileth.” (KJV) In encouraging someone the other day, I suddenly realized that I had twisted the meaning of this verse into an untruth, that is not say, not an intentional lie, but a seriously incorrect interpretation. I had presented this truth as saying “If you love someone in the Lord, your desires for them will ultimately be realized.” I had allowed my great desire that God bless the individuals involved to pervert my view of this wonderful trutrh, and, as a result, had presented my friend a false hope. In fact, upon proper reflection, it is obvious from both history and personal experience that love, even true godly love, doesn’t always result in temporal blessing or the full attainment of personal desires.
My error in misinterpreting this truth parallels to some degree the error many have regarding the equally glorious truth of Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We would like to make this say that “in the end” everything that comes into our life will be good. However, everything that is truly good for us is not always “good” or pleasant to the flesh. God’s eyes are always on His glory and our eternal good, not, necessarily, our temporal comfort.
Well, is it true that “Love never fails” or isn’t it? Of course it’s true. My error resulted from forgetting the full context of the truth as given in verses 4-7, and the meaning of the word “faileth.”
First the full context:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
This description is not about mere human love at all. This is speaking of the immeasurable and infinite love of Christ, i.e., the love of God that is given to, placed into the heart of every born again believer by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), the love which can only be manifested towards others as one walks obediently under submission to the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
Now, the meaning of the word “faileth:”
The English word comes from the Greek kpipto (ek-pip'-to) which, according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary, means “to drop away; specially, be driven out of one's course; figuratively, to lose, become inefficient.”
In other words, true love never dies; it never ends. Regardless of whether it is received or rejected, true love lives on, continuing to love and seek what's best for them who are loved. Love never fails because God is love (1 John 4:8), and the only eternal God never fails, no matter what. Even His approaching crucifixtion could not quench Christ's love for the very people that would scream "Crucify him. Crucify him."
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13:34)
But human love can, and often does, fail. Who does not know of someone who has been forsaken by someone he deeply loves? Who does not know of some faithful servant of Christ who has been abandoned by those he faithfully and lovingly served? Absalom became his father’s enemy. Many of David’s once faithful confidants forsook him in the time of his greatest need. Christ’s disciples fled when His adversaries gained the advantage in the garden. “All” in Asia forsook the apostle Paul, as did his friend and former co-laborer, Demas (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:10). So, “Yes, love, that is, human love, does fail.” But not “charity,” not Christ’s love!
You see, God’s love for us, as manifested by and in Christ, was never dependent on our love for Him:
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Nor is it an earned love. Rather it is a gift of God’s grace, His unmerited favor, that will never be taken back:
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Nor is our faithfulness the determinate of His:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
God is love. He can do nothing else but love. Even His holy judgments are based on His love, designed to draw men to His mercy and see their great need for His grace that they might be saved. So though we stumble, fall and fail Him a million times, His love for us will never fail; it will never stop; He will never turn away from us. Because of this, our hope is sure and everlasting.
And His love is perfected in Jesus Christ, who is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” (Hebrews 1:3) Surely Christ’s disciples with their demonstrated weak faith and faltering spirits, and their lack of discernment of His true worth and glory, are a picture of we saints today. Yet listen to the Spirit’s encouragement to us:
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1)
Christ’s love for His own is perfect, complete; it never fails. Though Peter would deny Him, “he loved [him] unto the end.” Though Thomas would doubt Him, “he loved [him] unto the end.” And though we may come far short of our high calling in Him, His love still “never faileth.”
Praise God for such love. But God wants more from us than simply an acknowledgment of His great love. He wants us to "show forth" this same love that He has "shed abroad" in our hearts. Listen to His quiet, but authoritative pleas:
Do you desire to be able to live a truly loved-filled life as the Lord commands, to reflect in your life the very character of God? In your own strength this is impossible. But in Christ, all things are possible. God never asks to do anything that we can't accomplish. The secret to being a believer who consistently manifests the love of Christ in your life is to be "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). In other words, you must give over to your Savior and Lord full control of your life and allow His Spirit to lead, guide and direct your thoughts and actions.
May you find your joy in resting in His infinite and unfailing love. But even more than this, may you be the light in your world that the Lord desires you to be. Obey His voice today, and determine in your heart that, by His matchless grace, your life will be the proof to others that “Charity never faileth.”
To a child of God whose heart and life is completely yielded to Him the words "Thy will be done" are not simply a vague hope, but the sincere confession of a truly submissive spirit. The saint who has truly submitted to the lordship of Christ in his or her life has only one twofold goal: to glorify God and bless mankind.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34).
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