Unquestionably, 1Corinthians 13 is the text that readily comes to mind when we think of love. There, Paul speaks of the preeminence of love as the greatest human character trait or virtue; greater than faith or hope. It should go without saying that for Paul faith, hope and love are understood in accordance with all of God’s written revelation. It is faith and hope in God, and the love of him of which Paul speaks. Along the way, he delineates what love is. It is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth, as well as bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. These affirmations, however, have to be understood within other texts that Paul also wrote in Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:22-23.
In Romans 13:8 we read, “Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” The law of which Paul wrote was the Ten Commandments and we know this because in the next verses Paul lists the commandments not to commit adultery, murder, theft and coveting. He concludes that section by writing, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” Neither the Old Testament nor the New teach that obedience to God’s law is unnecessary, as if all that matter was our sincerity, or what we thought was a good effort at obeying God. No, actual obedient behaviors and motives are required by God, which means conforming our life—our words, thoughts and actions—to God’s law. Anything less is sin of which we must repent. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize we fall dreadfully short of conforming to this standard. What a blessing to know that God is love and that His Spirit resides with those who trust in him for their salvation. Here is the key to understanding how we are able to obey God’s law.