Some people attempt to follow Christ without having love. But here is what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” For you to have the ability to speak to people of other languages, perhaps without having studied those languages, would indeed be a special gift. But to go beyond that and even speak the language of the angels would be a very special gift. To be skilled in the use of language is a gift from God. But if you do not use this gift with love, you are but a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. This indicates that you are just a noise. There is nothing of real value in your words for the saving of souls or true edification of fellow Christians.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge”. The gift of prophesy indicates that you have the ability to proclaim the will of God and also have the gift from God to foretell future events. To understand all mysteries and all knowledge might imply that you understand the meaning of the types and figures in the Old Testament. You also might understand the figurative language and meaning of the book of Revelation. You might be a Biblical scholar. You might understand the secrets of nature, science and the arts.
“And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Jesus said in Matthew 17:20b “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” Abraham was a man of great faith when time and again he believed what God told him. For you to have great faith is an outstanding characteristic. For you to have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and to have faith to remove mountains but you don’t have love, you are nothing. All your gifts and faith by themselves are of no real eternal value. Without love, you will not be a real help to the lost or to fellow Christians.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor.” Material things may be of little value to you. You are willing to give it all up and let others have your possessions. “And though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” You might have a reason for boasting that you were a martyr and gave up your very life for God. You may do many great works, but without love, it profits you nothing.
Perhaps the apostle Paul could lay claim to most, if not all of these attributes and accomplishments. He had the gift of tongues. He had the gift of prophesy and had great knowledge and understanding of the mysteries from God. He demonstrated great faith. He lived a life of poverty and was willing to die for Christ. Certainly, these are attributes, characteristics and works to be admired and desired. So what if you were like the apostle Paul – one of the greatest apostles? If you do not have love, the answer is that it profits you nothing.
The apostle Paul wrote this passage of scripture to demonstrate the importance of love in your life. Why is love so important? Love is the greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” God is love; you are to be like Him. Jesus demonstrated great love for you; as a follower of Christ, you must be like Him in love. Love binds Christians together. Love motivates the lost to accept the salvation of God. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Colossians 3:14 “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
My encouragement to you is to seek to cultivate love in all areas of your life – for God and for Jesus, for your family members, for fellow Christians, for your neighbors, for you enemies, and for the lost. Without love, you are nothing.