A general introduction to the relationship of faith and love before proceeding to 1 Cor 13 proper

1 Corinthians chapter 13

Where should I start? God is love and being created in his image should love not be the goal of faith? So, we need to start to open up this glorious chapter.   The chapter is full of beautiful language it seems a long way away from earlier book in which there are all these factions vying for who’s preacher or teacher is the greatest.  Paul pushes in the opposite direction and his love for the Corinthians is to bring them to maturity as Christians. 

31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
   And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:31

At the end of chapter 12 and halfway through the discussion on gifts we have this excellent verse.   Without this ‘way’ the gifts are no different to the Pagan use of their gifts of the ‘spirit/spirits’.

The way of love! As Bavinck says, ‘the fruit of faith is love’. (Pages 68- 69 of his ethics). 

  1. I think there are different strands we need to look at as a general introduction to the relationship of faith and love and we will do this through Herman Bavinck the great Dutch theologian (What Bavinck says).
  2. Our second stage will be to go through 1 Corinthians 13 and look at especially how he speaks in the negative and those key words.  Perhaps these words will give us a deeper understanding and goal found in Corinthians (What the Greek says).
  3. Our third stage will be to ask the questions; Why this chapter on love bang smack in the middle of the gifts and prophecies; There is a reason (The order and topic of love).
  4. Any other findings (any other Business)
  5. Conclusions

Stage 1

What Herman Bavinck Says

The following quotation is taken from;

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, created and fallen and converted Humanity, edited by John Bolt.

I hope John Bolt doesn’t mind me using this quote but I seriously would urge anyone to read it who is interested in the relationship of faith and love. 

Page 68

The fruit of faith is love:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good Conscience

and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:5)

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar

and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love

of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he

abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:44

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,

but only faith working through love. (Gal. 5:6)

So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say,

“You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works,

and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:17-18)

Page 69

Similarly, “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  

A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good

Fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the

fire” (Matt. 7:17=195 cf. 12:33; Luke 3:9; 6:43- 45). A tree is known by its fruit.

The examples of people given in Scripture also demonstrate the same connection

between faith and deeds: Lydia (Acts 16:14-15); Tabitha (Acts 9:36);

Cornelius (Acts 10:2, 48); Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8); the church at Colossae

(Col. 1:4); the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:3). New birth brings about

changed lives: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were

sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the

Spirit of our God™ (1 Cor. 6:11). Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); faith

in Christ Jesus results in love for the saints (Eph. 1:15). Paul’s prayer for the

Ephesians is that their new faith may bring forth love, “that according to the

riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through

his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through

faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to

comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height

and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that

you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16—19; cf. Col. 1:4).

Love is the highest virtue, the bond of perfection: “And above all these put

on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

So, Scripture teaches that also subjectively religion and morality cohere

intimately and inseparably. The one demonstrates itself and is authenticated

in the other. The one is the fruit of the other.

5. The church of all ages has taught this, including Gregory the Great,

Bernard of Clairvaux, Lactantius, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.” Zwingli

showed the relation more psychologically and ethically. For Zwingli, even

the good works of the unbelievers were the fruit of faith. In answer to the

question “What are good works?” the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 91) gives

this answer: “Only those which are done out of true faith, conform to God’s

law, and are done for God’s glory; and not those based on our own opinion or

human tradition.” And this is what all the Reformed teach. There is no morality

except what proceeds from faith, but also there is no faith without morality.”

The problem is in a lot of theologies is that we get lots about faith but it seems to be disjointed on how we live this life in God’s way.  This is why Bavincks ethics advice is so important because we have a deeper understanding of this faith love rationale.  Galatians 5 6,another book of Paul’s, he says, ‘faith working through love’.  He then gives examples of people who after conversion lives ‘new lives.’  We are not any different!  Then he quotes;

15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15

Then Bavinck quotes;

14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:14

‘put on’ is not in the Greek here but is implied by context.  I think you can see the link between faith and love.  There can be no sacred love without true faith and the outworking of faith is works and love in that order.  Faith is a gift and it comes from A God who is described by John as ‘Love’.  At the end Bavinck says;

There is no morality except what proceeds from faith, but also there is no faith without morality.”

So now we have a deeper understanding of the relationship of faith and love and how it works.  This was important because as we go through this chapter, we have an inkling into Pauls use of faith and love in his other writings.   This is where higher criticism fails: It tries to dissect each text individually and think of the books and letters as separate entities. How Many St Paul’s were there?  There is only one Paul, there are not five or six Pauls. I am stating the obvious, but this needs to be stressed.  The man Paul directed by the Holy Spirit will come to a sanctified understanding of love.

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