THE GREATEST DOCTRINE
I Cor. 13:13, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
I Cor. 13:1-3 says that regardless of what we do, if we don't have love when we do it, it is all in vain. We might speak with the tongues of angels, but without love it is counted as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. If we understand the entire Bible, and are able to preach it so others can understand, it is nothing without love. If we give everything we own to feed the poor, and even give our body to be burned at the stake, without love it is nothing.
The Importance of the Doctrine of Love
Love is the most important doctrine in the Bible. Notice the following scriptures:
John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." This is a very amazing scripture, especially since most of us believe that the world will see us as the disciples of Christ if we all believe the same thing about the Bible. But people on the outside of the church will not see our agreement on the scriptures because they don't study what we believe. They must first be convinced that our doctrine is worth the time and effort it takes to learn. They don't want to learn false doctrine, or be led astray. That is why they examine very closely the love we say we have for God. If we truly let our light shine in the midst of the darkness of this world, they will know it is the true light, and we won't have to tell them.
Gal. 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith." The Charismatics believe the fruit of the Spirit is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and giving words of prophecy. Others might believe that having total doctrinal agreement or being happy all the time is a fruit of the Spirit, but this is not what the Bible says. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit. Without love as a foundation there is no common ground.
Eph.3:17-19, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," It is very easy to see that God inspired Paul to write that love was the foundation of every doctrine and the basis for living a Christian life.
In Colossians 3:1-13, Paul urged the Colossians to mortify (to deaden or subdue) their members (a limb or part of the body) on this earth, to stop all kinds of filthy sinning and put on the new man after the image of Jesus Christ. He urged them to be kind, full of mercy, and meekness, forbearing one another because Christ also forgave them. Then he says in Col. 3:14, "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." We normally think that we have lived a Christian life when we stop sinning and begin to live like Christ, but Paul says this is just the beginning. To have the true love of God is more important than anything else.
I Peter 4:8, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins." This scripture does not mean that God will let us by with sin because He loves us. It means that when we love our brothers and sisters like we ought to, we will overlook their sins because we understand they are sinners just like we are.
Rev. 2:4, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." The church at Ephesus had stood for God, against false teachers, and tried them which said they were apostles, but were not. They had faithfully labored with patience to teach the truth of God's Holy Word to anybody who would listen. But in spite of all these things, Jesus said they were about to lose their candlestick because they had left their first love.
What is the candlestick? According to Rev. 1:20, the candlestick is what makes a church a church. It is the God given authority to be a light in the world. God was going to remove His authority from this church because they had left their first love.
What is the first love? In Mark 12:28-31, a scribe asked Jesus, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus replied that the first commandment was to "…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." Therefore, the church at Ephesus was about to lose its authority to preach because they left their first love, the love for God. Please notice that this church is doctrinally sound. They understand the doctrine of God, of salvation, of baptism, of the church, of right living, and of eternity. The only doctrine missing is the doctrine of love. And because of the lack of this doctrine, they lose all.