The Bible teaches us that love is a fruit of the Spirit and it has supremacy over the gifts of the Spirit. In fact Saint Paul argues that the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit is useless if devoid of love. Being devoid of love is a state of existence which can be very well described as "being nothing” (1 Cor 13:2) and such lives "gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:3).
The love mentioned in this passage is a entirely different type of love, very different from what we usually mean by it. The Greek word AGAPE is consistently used throughout the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest poem on love.
It was a common word for love which found a new meaning in the New Testament because of the experience of love that the writers had. Their experience was different from those who lived before their era, before Christ came in to this world to put up a magnifcient show of this special love. The translators of the Old Testament into Greek who lived about 200 years before Christ had many Greek words to choose from to translate the word, "love.” So, they chose as they thought fitting for the context of each occurance in the Hebrew bible. The word AGAPE is used for love only 20 times in the entire Old Testament in Greek though the word love comes more 500 than times! However, the New Testament writers use the word AGAPE 116 times (75 times by Paul alone) though the New Testament is only one third the size of the Old Testament! The resaon for this use is their experience of God’s love through his Son, Jesus Christ which the Hellenistic Jews missed.
This love is not a convenient love or a congenial love but a love for the most unlovable. Most of the time we love whom it is convenient to love. Inconvenience hinders such love. Haven’t you seen people break up when one of the lovers change universities or move away from the other. The distance and new circumstances becomes inconveniet for love and love ends there. AGAPE love is is not congenial. Congenial love is the love for the things that we like or for those of the same kind. Crows peck away the alien birds who enter their tree because they cannot love birds of other kind. Their love is congenial. Human beings also have the same mentality. It is easy to love people of our family, our country, of our skin colour and the like. Though, we may not hate people who are different from others, loving them demands effort.
However, the love that God displayed through his son is qualitatively quiet different from this. It is the love for the most unlovable, when they were most unlovable. In Romans 5:8 we see the nature of this love: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First of all Christ loved for the sinners whom God really doesn’t like at all. The Bible says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). However, God is willing to love us though we donot deserve his love. The New Testament writers reserved this word for that sort of love. Secondly, God loved us with his AGAPE love when we did not deserve us. God’s love for the sinners was not after their conversion to God’s children. He loves them even before that, when they "were still sinners.” Thank God that he did not say, "if you stop sinning I will try to love you.”
John, who is known as the Apostle of Love says that God was so liberal in loving us, his love was unlimited. He uses the word "lavish” to express the manner of God’s love! "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NIV). The most unworthy of all are the ones who are loved by this type of love.
Moreover, this love is transformative. It transforms the persons who are loved so that they look at the world and all around them with AGAPE love. This transformative power is expressed in 1 John. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14 ESV). "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16 ESV).
The reason for the AGAPE love is not in the object of love, but proceeds from the character of the lover. God is able to love us with the AGAPE love because he is love. We cannot love others with AGAPE love unless we are transformed by this love. That love transforms our world-views, the quality of service, and all that we do and think. That is why this love has the supremacy over all the magnificent gifts of the Spirit and display of spiritual power.