How to Read 1 Corinthians 13

This video outlines our approach below:

If you’ve been asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 in a public setting, this guide shows you how to break it down and read it like a pro.

Overview
When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he was writing this in the form of a letter to a church in Corinth, Greece. The church was a church he started and it was struggling. It was trying to figure itself out and needed some guidelines. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to help set it straight.

For any big task, experts often suggest breaking it down. And that’s what we suggest for this reading. We break 1 Corinthians 13 into 5 sections.

The five sections are:

  1. The set-up
  2. The declaration of love
  3. Growing up
  4. Now vs. then
  5. Mic drop

1. The Set-up

The first section is The Set-up and has 87 words. It is the second biggest section of the five and takes about 35-40 seconds to read.

All great stories have a conflict. With no conflict, there can be no resolution. The greater the disparity between conflict and resolution makes the stakes higher and the story more dramatic and exciting. Paul wastes no words when at the beginning of this chapter. He sets the stage right away by defining the conflict and how big it is.

In this section Paul is trying to show how valuable having love is. It’s a series of hypothetical situations where Paul begins each with the word “IF” followed by the contrast of what each situation means if he does not have love.

This section is basically saying you are here. You are at the bottom of the mountain. If you want a rich and fulfilling life and community, well then – you got to climb the mountain to get to love.

2. The Declaration of Love
The second section is the Declaration of Love, verses 4-10. This section is the longest of the five sections at 104 words and takes about 55 seconds to read. Once you get through these first 2 sections, you are 70% through.

In this section Paul is stating the rules of love.

Its really 2 sections in one. First there are the love rules, then the second part gets into what happens when there is love and the results it brings.

The second part of this section are verses 8-10. In verse 8, you need to emphasize each area that is impacted by love and the result:

  • Prophecies –will cease
  • Tongues –will be stilled
  • Knowledge –will pass away

Then in verse 9 and 10, it needs to show the contrast of what it is like now compared to what it will be like in the future.

  • We know and prophecy in part
  • But once that completeness comes, all stuff in part, goes away
  • The opportunity for you as the reader is to emphasize completeness and express how what’s in part goes away.

3. Growing Up
The third section is “Growing Up”. It is only one verse, has 33 words and takes about 15 seconds to read.

For this section, Paul takes us on a flashback scene reminiscing about his childhood and his transformation into adulthood.

This verse is 2 sentences. The first sentence represents childhood. The second sentence represents adulthood.

For the first sentence – I read in alight in a fun, positive, reminiscing way. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”

For the second sentence – I bring a more serious tone to show the contrast between the fun and innocence of childhood and the seriousness of adulthood: “When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

4. Now vs. Then
The fourth section is “Now vs. Then”. It is verse 12 and has 34 words and takes about 18 seconds to read.

Paul gets deeper in this section. In this verse, Paul is saying that only when we are face to face with God will we see the whole big picture. Until then we will only know in part.

When reading this, try to highlight the contrast of the now’s vs. the then’s.

5. Mic Drop
Paul saved the best – and the easiest – for last. It takes a little more than ten seconds to read.

This verse identifies three important pillars in one’s life:

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Love

It then declares that of all these, love is the greatest. End of story. Mic drop.

Practice! Practice! Practice! Practice!

I recommend reading 1 Corinthians 13 at least 20 times to get familiar with it and so you can put your own style with it before your big day. I know it sounds like a lot, but that’s less than one hour of practice
It will give you more confidence, enable you to read 1 Corinthians 13 like a pro!