"THE GREATEST OF ALL IS LOVE"
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13)
INTRO.: A song that reminds us that of faith, hope, and love, "The Greatest Of All Is Love" (#233 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by M. Roy Stevens and Lanier Stevens. The tune was composed by Roy Joseph (R. J.) Stevens, who was born at Rosenberg, TX, on Aug. 5, 1927. His wife Pauline and he have two sons, Roy Joseph and Timothy Paul; one daughter, Paula Sue Ladd; and seven grandchildren. Having attended Abilene Christian College (now University), the University of Houston, and Oklahoma A & M College, he began preaching at Clute, TX, in 1947, and has since served as local preacher with churches of Christ in Texas, Oklahoma, and California. In 1983, he moved to Kemp, TX, to do full-time meeting and singing school work. With Dane K. Shepard, he co-edited Hymns for Worship, which was first published in 1987. The Revised Edition came out in 1995. Also, he has published a workbook for the training of song leaders and improvement of singing in congregational worship, Rudiments of Sight Singing and Song Directing, in 1992. A member of the Favorite Hymns Quartet for twenty years, he is the director of the annual Oklahoma Singing School in Wilburton, OK. In addition, beginning in 1983, he regularly directed the singing for the evening lectures at Florida
College in Temple Terrace, FL, for many years.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the original version of "The Greatest of All Is Love" appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 published by the Gospel Advocate Co. and edited by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). Sanderson is said to have arranged the song. A modified arrangement, copyrighted 1986, appeared in the original edition of Hymns for Worship. Both versions began "Walking by faith and not by sight." A completely new arrangement was made in 1991 and first published in New Songs of Faith, compiled jointly by J. Nelson Slater, R. J. Taylor Jr., Max Wheeler, and Tommy Wheeler for The Slater Company, Taylor Publications, and Wheeler Music. There are some minor changes in the stanzas, but the basic thought of each is the same. The most notable alteration is in the first part of the chorus. It was found in the sixth edition of Hymns for Worship, 1994, but was still marked "Copyright 1986." It begins, "We are walking by faith and not by sight." In the Revised Edition it is identified as "Copyright 1991."
The theme is the supremacy of love, and this study is based on the original version.
I. Stanza 1 speaks about the importance of faith
"Walking by faith and not by sight, Serving the Lord by solemn right,
Knowing this wisdom from above: That the greatest of all is love."
A. Faith is important because we must walk by faith and not by sight: 2 Cor. 5:7
B. Our faith will motivate us to serve the Lord by solemn right: Col. 3.24
C. Also, by faith we accept the wisdom that is from above: Jas. 3.17
II. Stanza 2 speaks about the importance of hope
"Filled with a hope of heaven’s grace, Longing to see the Savior’s face,
Ardently waiting Christ to come, Yet the greatest of all is love."
A. The hope of the Christian is reserved in heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5
B. One aspect of this hope is seeing the Savior as He is: 1 Jn. 3.2-3
C. Therefore, this hope motivates us to wait for Christ to return from heaven: 1 Thess. 1.9-10
III. Stanza 3 speaks about the importance of love
"Learning to love with all the heart, Trying each day to do our part,
Loving our neighbors and our Lord, For the greatest of all is love."
A. We must love the Lord with all our heart: Matt. 22:37
B. This love will motivate us to do our part because loving God means keeping His commandments: 1 Jn. 5.3
C. Also, wil love our neighbors as ourselves: Matt. 22.39
CONCL.: The chorus continues to emphasize the supremacy that love should have in our lives:
"Love never fails, but ever avails;
Abiding are faith and hope and love–But the greatest of all is love."
Love is not just a syrupy emotion. Rather, it is an active good will that always does what is in the best interest of others as revealed by God in His word. However, when love is properly understood, we are forced to agree with the inspired apostle Paul who says, "The Greatest Of All Is Love."
(Note: These words are reprinted by permission.)