We’re concluding 40 Days of Increase with a focus on what Paul referred to as “a more excellent way”. Amidst his teaching on spiritual gifts with the zealous Corinthians, Paul took a “time out” of sorts to clarify what mattered even more than prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles and the like: Love.
Those other things are important for certain, as evidenced by Paul picking right back up with the topic of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 after his chapter 13 detour. But Paul makes it clear that they all pale in comparison to love. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
The Most Important Increase
In this study, we’ve taken a look at 12 areas of our lives I believe God is constantly working to increase within us. From fruit, to faith, to wisdom, to favor, and others, we’ve seen how growth and expansion is a core characteristic of His Kingdom. And that means something for us personally and impacts our everyday lives.
But just as Paul teaches in his famous chapter, it’s all meaningless if we aren’t increasing in love. Take 1 Corinthians 13:2: “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.” The topic of Increase of Wisdom & Understanding? Without love, it’s pointless. Increase of Faith? Who cares if you aren’t growing in love? Knowing the future and moving mountains don’t accomplish God’s desired end when they aren’t carried out in love.
Love: Heaven’s expression
Earlier I suggested that faith is heaven’s currency and hope is heaven’s perspective. In the same vein, love is heaven’s expression.
Everything God does is an expression of love. Healing? It’s love. Teaching? It’s love. Deliverance? It’s love. A rebuke? Though it might sting, it’s love. We don’t always see it in the moment. It might not always make sense to our limited human understanding. Sometimes His actions and behaviors might seem like anything but love. But that does not change the fact that love is from God (1 John 4:7) and God actually is love (1 John 4:8).
Jesus is Love in Action
The fact that God is love has a profound implication: whenever we observe Jesus, be it in the Gospels or in our day-to-day lives, we are always seeing love in action. The author of Hebrews says “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Heb. 1:3, NLT). Paul similarly writes “He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible] (Col 1:15, AMP).
Jesus Himself said it this way: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). And again in His great prayer captured in John 17, “I have revealed you to them and I will continue to do so.” (John 17:26, NLT). Jesus always and only did what He saw the Father doing. So we come to understand this God who is love through the Son, who was sent by God to reveal His love.
As Bill Johnson teaches, Jesus Christ is perfect theology. If we have a question about the character and nature of God, the answer is found in Jesus. While Paul provides a great understanding of Biblical love in 1 Corinthians 13, the most complete picture we have of love is the life of Jesus. Any increase in love we’ll experience will have its foundation in an increase of knowing Him.