1 Cor 12:31-13:13 chiastic structure:
1a) 1 Cor 12:31, But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you;
1b) 1 Cor 13:1-3, Prophecy + gifts + knowledge + faith + works are nothing without love;
central axis) 1 Cor 13:4-8a, Love is patient + kind/ bears, believes, hopes, endures/ never fails;
4 Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, 5 doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 6 doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails;
2b) 1 Cor 13:8b-12, Prophecy + gifts + knowledge are in part and not eternal;
1a) 1 Cor 13:8b-10, Prophecy, tongues, knowledge in part and will be done away with when the complete comes;
1b) 1 Cor 13:11a, When I was a child, I spoke + felt + thought as a child;
central axis) 1 Cor 13:11b, Now that I have become a man;
2b) 1 Cor 13:11c, I have put away childish things;
2a) 1 Cor 13:12, For now we see + know in part, but then fully;
2a) 1 Cor 13:13, But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.
The Greek word translated “love” here is Strong’s G26, agape – a strictly biblical word which is not found in Greek outside the Scriptures. The Septuagint translators translated the Hebrew root Strong’s H157, ahab, to agape when translating the Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek several centuries before the advent of Jesus. The two letter root of ahab from the ancient Hebrew pictographs is the hey bet – the man with his arms upraised as if in wonder or astonishment or worship; and the house or family. The mountain top meaning of the hey bet, then, is the sense of wonder, even astonishment, and appreciation the man feels when beholding his family. We do not choose which family we are born into. And even the man’s wife, in those days, was not chosen by him, but was chosen for him by his father. So in the Hebraic way of thinking, the family – parents, siblings, wife, children, extended family and tribal clan – is a gift chosen for him and given to him by God. Thus the verbal form of the hey bet means to give. The concrete form means a gift. The abstract form means the love and protectiveness which is inspired in the heart for one’s cherished gifts; i.e., one’s family.
The addition of the aleph, the ox head (meaning strength, power, or leadership) onto the front of the hey bet root, then, intensifies, not only the emotion of love and protectiveness which is felt in the heart, but also the action one takes as a result of feeling that love. (Hebrew is a language based on verbs, not nouns. It is all about the doing.) Ahab is strong love.
Now ahab as a primitive root, has a double meaning. Ahab also contains the two letter root, ab, aleph bet, which means father, the strong one of the family. The additional letter is the hey, the man with his arms upraised in wonder, astonishment, or worship, who is beholding that which has been revealed to him. While he beholds it, his breath quickens or deepens into sighing. In ahab, the hey is in the center, or heart, of the father (ab), meaning that love is the picture of the heart of the father breathing or sighing after his children. Another nuance is that love reveals the heart of the father.
That is what Paul means when he says, agape suffers long and is kind. Agape does not envy or parade itself. Because it is not weak love, like acquaintances might have for one another. It is strong love, like the strong love that beats in the heart of the father for his children. Familial love is the strongest of all the different kinds of love, and of familial love, parental love for a child is the strongest form of love of all. A parent will reject mother and father, husband or wife, for the sake of their child. (Love has to be very cold in the heart for a parent to prefer others over their children.) Parental love is the strongest love in the universe, and that is the kind of love which is painted by ahab, thus agape.
So the lesson is not only that this is the way we Christians ought to be loving others. The first lesson is, that this is the way the Heavenly Father loves us, His children! God is love (1 Joh 4:8) – YHVH is agape! YHVH suffers long and is kind (Exo 34:5-7); YHVH does not envy! YHVH does not parade Himself nor is He puffed up (Mat 11:28-30)! YHVH does not behave rudely or seek His own! YHVH is not provoked – this is why He is so slow to anger (Psa 135:8)! YHVH does not think evil of us – He is not the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10)! YHVH does not rejoice when we sin or when bad things happen to us, but He rejoices in truth, righteousness, and in our good! YHVH bears all things for the sake of His beloved! YHVH believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things for the sake of His beloved (Rom 5:6-11, Phi 2:5-8)!
Write that down on a 3×5 card and carry it with you for a month, dwelling on the truth about YHVH that 1 Cor 13:4-7 reveals – it will absolutely change your life forever!