Question: "What does it mean that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)?"
Answer: The best-known chapter in the Bible on love is 1 Corinthians 13. Among its many quoted phrases is a portion of verse 8, “Love never fails.”
The English Standard Version adds to our understanding of these words, translating them as “Love never ends.” The next sentence contrasts love with other spiritual gifts: “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Prophecies, tongues, and knowledge are all temporary. Not so love. Because love is a basic attribute of God (1 John 4:8) and because God is eternal, love will also be eternal.
Scripture repeatedly reveals God’s eternal love for us. He chose us (John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4-5), died for us (Romans 5:8), and will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, nothing at all can separate us from God’s eternal love: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
The Greek word translated “fails” in the NIV is related to a verb meaning “to fall.” The idea is that God’s type of love will not fall or falter. It is constant forever. As God says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
During the famous balcony scene of the play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo begins to pledge his love for Juliet with these words: “Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear / That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops.” However, Juliet cuts him off: “O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb, / Lest that thy love prove likewise variable” (II:ii). Juliet had it right. Love should not wax and wane; it should be steady and constant, a perpetual light in a dark world.
There is nothing mercurial about love. It is not based on whims, feelings, or passing fancies. Love is rock-solid, intent on benefitting the one loved, regardless of the cost. God’s love never fails, and it never ends.