“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
~1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV).
Probably the most famous of all New Testament Scripture verses, these concluding verses of 1 Corinthians 13 stamp for us some of the pure marks of what true love is all about, for all the spiritual gifts in the world without love will be of no avail to the individual, the church or God.
But this is only part of the more complete story, for 1 Corinthians 12–14 are undeniably linked; and the gist is this:
“Without Love the Gifts are willful (sic) and wayward. Without the Gifts Love is unoccupied.”
Both love and the spiritual gifts are needed but love certainly underpins any Christian action. Perhaps another way of looking at this is love is the motivation of faith and the spiritual gifts are the outworking of love i.e. good works. James 2:17 says that faith without works is dead. Could he be saying that love which finds no expression (via spiritual gifting in this context) is useless?
But there’s more I think. A lot more.
Additionally this part of Paul’s letter is perhaps about contrast.
He uses a literary romance here as he dreams in imagery through words for the Corinthians to ‘just imagine’ what life with or without love would be about.
Paul is, I believe, making a contrast surrounding love for good reason. We can imagine several contrasts but it pays to focus on one or two more fully to appreciate the depth of meaning Paul’s getting to here.
Love’s perfection is not known typically in this life, but it shall be known in an eternity with God. And just as love more fully completes the discharge of any spiritual gift it completes any story, certainly with regard to eternity with God.
We but imagine how roughly perfect things can be here (on earth); a wonderful interaction with a loved one that promises but a glimpse of what ‘could be’ all the time, yet we realistically can’t expect it all the time. We are or they are affected by mood, situation and transaction—a thousand barriers or more. In life these things are far from perfect.
Could it be then that love is elevated to the Eternal (i.e. with God) here? That we see but a glimpse of it here; enough to be encouraged to forever chase it and strive for it.
For love is perfection. Perfection is Eternity.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 Jack Hayford & Gary Curtis, Pathways to Pure Power: Learning the Depths of Love’s Power – A Study of First Corinthians (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1994, 1997), Ch. 10 – The Need for Love.