1 Cor 12:31 And now I will show you the most excellent way. NIV
The most excellent way? Way for what? Was that your first question when you read this verse? It is the proper question to ask. The second question would then be, what is this way?
Paul has just concluded a major treatise on how believers in Christ form one “body.” Just like a physical body, all the parts are dependent on one another in order to function properly. It is an extremely important doctrine for the church. But, as important as this teaching is, Paul will now show these believers that there is something even more important to the body. An even more excellent way, to make sure that the body of Christ works together.
What is it? It is the way of love. In order to understand this, you must first have a working definition of the word love. In English, we use the word “love” in many ways, which do not always have the same meaning. I might say, “I love ice cream,” but a few minutes later say, “I love my wife.” Hopefully that doesn’t have the same meaning.
In the Greek language there were several different words used for love. Eros was used to speak of romantic, physical love. Phileo was used to convey friendship. But one word for love that was quite different from the others, was the word Paul uses throughout this teaching. It is the word agape. Volumes could be written about this word, but I think we can accurately describe it this way; it is an attitude of the heart, which is demonstrated in affection, benevolence and desire to give and serve without expectation of anything in return.
It is the type of love that we are to have toward God and other people. When Paul says a more excellent way, He is speaking of a way of life. It is the way that Jesus lived. It is a mindset that says, “I will place others interests above my own” (Php 2:3-4). It is a desire to be a servant to others (Mt 23:11). It is the way of humility (Mt 18:4).
It is so important, that Paul says no matter what gifts you might display or works you might do, if it is not done from a heart of agape, it is worthless (13:1-3). Jesus used this word almost exclusively when he spoke of His love for us and how we should love each other. He said in John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
This is the most excellent way of life anyone can possibly live. It is a way that brings freedom from the bondage of selfishness that can so permeate our lives. It is a way of tremendous joy. And Paul tells us in verse 8, that agape never fails!
So how do we get this agape into our lives? It certainly cannot be manufactured. It is a work of God’s Spirit in our lives. Gal 5:22 says, ”But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” When you have put your trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit enters into your life. What you need to do is to let Him have the reigns. Pray each day to be led by the Spirit in agape. Study God’s word so you know how to determine His leading and He will direct you. Then, just be obedient to His leading and guiding.
Paul not only shows us what the more excellent way is, he gives us a checklist of what agape looks like. If you want to know whether or not you are demonstrating that type of love, just look at verses 4-7 of 1 Cor 13. If you are submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit, this is what your life will demonstrate. Look at the list.
Patience, kindness, forgiveness should permeate your life. Protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering, as well as being even tempered, not rude, not self seeking, jealous or arrogant should be your self description. You should be rejoicing in truth, and not delighting in any form of evil. Of course, no one person ever looks like this all the time, but it should be the normal pattern of your life. Your “way.”
I pray that it is your desire to live the more excellent way. It is certainly God’s desire for you and you can be sure that as you commit your life daily to Him, He will accomplish that work in you!
God bless you