1 Corinthians 12:31-14:1 by Pastor Dan Walker
A new look at biblical parenting with God's agape love based on 1 Corinthians 13. Parents need to both experience and show God's love in order to raise children who walk with God.
Duration:29 mins 44 secs

This morning my message is entitled “Showing God’s Love.” As we’ll see this morning, love is an essential ingredient in biblical parenting. Our ability to show God’s love to our children begins with experiencing God’s love for ourselves.

1 John 3:1a (ESV)  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

Because of father in heavens great love for us, all those who believe in Jesus have become the children of God. God loves His children with a special kind of love. Although in English, we only have one word for love, in the Greek language of the New Testament there were multiple words for love. The word for love used in the above verse and the verses we will be studying today is agape in the Greek. The Greek word agape is used to describe God’s love in the New Testament.

1 John 4:8 (ESV)  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is agape. The only way that we as human beings can show the God-kind of love is through receiving it from Him. How does agape love differ from other kinds of love? The other major Greek word for love in the New Testament is phileo. It is where the city of Philadelphia got its name, the city of brotherly love. Phileo love is a conditional type of love. If you love me, then I will love you. 

Agape love, God’s love is an unconditional kind of love. God loved us while we were his enemies, when we didn’t love us. As God our Father loves us as His children with agape love, so we should love our children with the same kind of agape love. 

Today, we’re going to look at the most famous chapter of love in the Bible, 1 Cor. 13. Before we begin, I want to comment on the context of this chapter, for it is commonly misinterpreted. 1 Corinthians 12, the previous chapter, is about spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV)  But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Some have interpreted this verse to mean that the love described in 1 Cor. 13 makes spiritual gifts obsolete or unnecessary. But this is not what this verse is saying.

1 Corinthians 14:1a (ESV)  Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts …

What God’s Word is saying is that everything we do, including desiring spiritual gifts, including parenting our children, must be done with love to be effective. So, let’s take an in-depth look at the agape love that God calls us to have for our children, as well as for one another.

Love is the best way to parent

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV)  But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.  

God our father is our example of how to parent. God parents His children in the most excellent way, in the perfect way. God shows great love for each and everyone of His children all the time. Yet, in His love, He disciplines His children because He loves them so much. God as our father, shows the ultimate tough love in action. He knows what’s best for us and He guides us into His perfect plan. As parents we must parent with that same tough love. Our goal as parents is the same goal that God our father and our children’s father has.

Principles without love won’t work

1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (ESV)  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with all the things mentioned in this verse: tongues, prophetic powers, understanding and faith. In fact, these are the very things that the previous verse just told us to earnestly desire. The point is that without love, none of these things will accomplish anything. The same is true of parenting. We can learn all kind of parenting principles from God’s Word, but if they are not implemented with love, it’s of no use. Again, learning God’s principles is good, but we need to use them with love. In the same way …  

Sacrifice without love gains nothing

1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV)  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Sacrificial giving of money or life is of no value if not motivated by love. The motive of our hearts is what gives value to our actions with God. The only worthy motive is agape love which comes from God. Parents often sacrifice for their children in money, time and effort. Yet, these sacrifices could be motivated by things other than love. Parents may desire their children to excel so they will look good to others. Parents may desire their children to do good so that they will not be burdened by them in the future. Yet, the only motive that God honors and will bring blessing to both parent and child is the motive of agape love. Showing God’s love to our children with no conditions attached. Love is the best way to parent.


So, how can parents raise their children with agape love? The only way is for the parents to have experienced the agape love of their heavenly father as believers. Then we as parents must daily ask God to help us show our children that love in everything that we do and say. We must look to guide our children in God’s plan for their lives, that is true love. Next, let’s study what agape love looks like in practice according to the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient and kind

1 Corinthians 13:4a (ESV)  Love is patient and kind;

When you’re a parent, you need lots of patience. Why? Because children are children. They come into our lives as infants who need round the clock care and feeding. As they grow they need to learn all kinds of things in life from us as their parents. Our job is to teach them to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The things that seem obvious to us, as we’ve learned them over the years, often take time for our children to grasp.

Patience is demonstrated in the kindness that we show to children who are struggling to learn a new concept or skill. If we become impatient, then we begin to display some unloving characteristics.

Love is not irritable or resentful

1 Corinthians 13:4b-5 (ESV)  love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

When we lose our patience with our children, we become irritable. The little things that children do begin to annoy us. The disobedience of children tends to make us angry, rather than seeing it as an opportunity for more learning. Being a parent is not just about enforcing our ways on our children. It is about teaching our children to walk in God’s ways. Some parents may become resentful of all the demands that parenting brings into the family and marriage. Yet, children are a blessing in every way. Having children will help you as a parent grow in God, as you learn to love more and more with agape love.

Love rejoices in truth

1 Corinthians 13:6 (ESV)  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.        

When children make mistakes or have problems in learning in some area of life, we as parents must never make fun of them or rejoice in their mistakes. Rather, we should determine to always rejoice and celebrate our children’s achievements. If we are training them in God’s ways, each new milestone is a further step in our children learning to walk in God’s truth. We rejoice with them as they continue to grow and develop to ultimately become men and women of God.


Love that is patient and kind is not love that doesn’t discipline or correct for wrongdoing. Again, if you are struggling as to how to parent in a particular situation, think of how God deals or parents us. God, our heavenly father, is our perfect example of how we should parent. We will talk about the aspect of discipline in parenting in a future message in this series. Yet, even discipline should be delivered with love, showing patience and kindness. Every stage of a child’s growth requires you as a parent to grow in patience and kindness. The challenges of an infant are quite different then the challenges of a toddler or a teenager. But God’s love is a sufficient guide for us at every stage of our children’s growth.

Love never quits

1 Corinthians 13:8a (ESV)  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

If we continue on with the chapter, we see that spiritual gifts will pass away when Jesus returns again. Until then they are essential for every believer, not just in the church, but in the home as well. Yet, agape love will never end. We will experience God’s love in the life to come, as well as continue to show our love for Him and one another. The actions that we do in this life that are motivated by agape love will be rewarded in eternity. The love that we show to our children should never quit. Agape love …

Love keeps believing and hoping

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Notice that the word all is repeated four times in this verse. I believe that God’s Word is emphasizing a point here. The point is that agape love never gives up on a person. A parent should keep on believing in their children for their whole lives. So, what does it mean to believe all things for your children? It means to believe that God has a plan for their lives and as long as you are praying for them and influencing them as you are able, you believe that that plan will be fulfilled.

You must believe in and hope for your children all through their lives, even as you endure and bear with some things that happen which may test your faith and hope. In a future message in this series, we will talk about dealing with a child who wanders away from God. The reason that we can continue believing and hoping in our children, is that our faith and hope is in God, who loves our children with a great, unending agape love.

Love plus God’s power is our goal

1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1a (ESV)  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,

The greatest of faith, hope and love is love because faith and hope are born from love. If you have great love for God and people, you will have faith and hope in God. As we mentioned at the beginning of this message, the conclusion to the chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 is that we must both pursue love and earnestly desire God’s power to work in our lives.

To successfully parent our children, we need God’s love and God’s power in spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are not just meant for use in the church, they are for everyone in all of life. As a parent, you will need gifts of healing, words of knowledge and wisdom, discernment, faith, miracles and so on.


My wife Carol and I got a rough start to parenting when our first child Joel was born. We needed God’s power from day one. On the day Joel was born, Carol was feeding him in the darkened room. When the feeding time was over, she was preparing to hand him over to the nurse. Suddenly, she screamed, “What’s wrong with my baby?” Joel had turned a pale shade of blue. The nurse grabbed him and ran down the hall to where the doctors were. We didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. So, we began to pray for God to heal him. We prayed loudly, both in English and in tongues. When we looked into the windowed room where he lay, we saw a team of doctors and nurses working frantically to revive him. Finally, after some time, the report came back that Joel was alive, but they didn’t know whether there would be any long-term damage. To make a much longer story short, God miraculously saved Joel’s life, saved and protected him from all long-term damage. Last spring Joel graduated from college and continues to walk with the Lord.

You never know when you will need to draw on God’s power as a parent.


If you’re a parent this morning, you need agape love and God’s power to accomplish your ministry as a parent. If you’re not a parent, you also need agape love and God’s power to fulfill God’s plan for your life. Agape love is the kind of love that God has and is. Agape love is an unconditional love that does what is best for the other person no matter how they respond.

Love is patient and kind, it rejoices in the truth. Agape love never quits or gives up, it keeps on believing, hoping and of course praying for God’s plan to be fulfilled. May God help all of us to continue to grow in showing God’s agape love in all of our lives.