Valentines day is over and are wallets are lighter having spent all our disposable income on chocolate (either as gifts or to console ourselves) it is time think about what love really is. No, not that sentimental saccharine sort of love we just got marketed at us. Not Romance with all its ‘happily ever after’ promise but the sacrificial, lay down your life sort of love.
If you want to know what love is, look at the so-called love chapter has to say:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a 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, NIV)
Phil Ryken says that despite the frequency that this chapter is read at weddings, it is talking about a much deeper and more sacrificial love than mere Eros. It is describing Agape–God’s love!
Ryken, who is the current president of Wheaton College and the former president of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church (Presbyterians love ‘order’ so like to name their churches after numbers) wrote this book to examine and explicate the sort of love Corinthians describes. The Contents of this book stem from Ryken’s last sermon series at Tenth. He preached on 1 Cor. 13 in ways that were both sensitive to its context within Paul’s letter to Corinth and with an eye to the ways that Jesus Christ embodies the sort of love described. Paul wrote this chapter in the context of urging the Corinthians on to mutual care and consideration (and yes, Presbyterians, order as well). But the sort of love that they were being exhorted to had been exemplified in Christ. Thus each chapter of this book explores one of the descriptive phrases in 1 Cor. 13, illustrates how Jesus’ love embodies it par excellence and challenges us to live out this sort of love in our lives.
This is an impassioned plea for Christians to grow in our love for each other and our world; this is a book which honors Christ for the love that he poured out on our behalf. I found Ryken’s writing engaging and his exegesis sound. He writes from a firmly Reformed perspective (PCA) and so often quotes fellow Reformed authors, but also engaged with patristic sources like John Chrysostom and consulted the best Corinthian commentaries through out (Fee and Thistleton). The Christological lens helps me understand and properly apply this passage to my life. If I just read about the quality of love I am supposed to have, I feel easily discouraged because I know I don’t measure up. By reading the love chapter Christologically, Ryken shows that we are called to love in sacrificial and compelling ways because that is how we have been loved by Jesus. This puts things in perspective, and growing in love is growing in our understanding of Grace.
The book is divided into 12 chapters (each focusing on Corinthians and an accompanying passage) and ‘a study guide’ which provides questions on each chapter. The study guide makes this an ideal book to read as a small group because the questions do not just focus on content, but on how we can live out this sort of love. This book will enlarge your vision of Christ’s love and challenge you to live fruitful lives.
Thank you to Crossway for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review. This is my fair and honest review.