One: 1Corinthians 13.1-13
July 7, 2013 Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13:13
Intro: Love ***READ 1CORINTHIANS 13.1-13***
In the middle of Paul’s opus on the body of Christ and its various parts, 13 verses on love. These13 verses exist as some of the most well known in the entire Bible. Unlike some of Paul’s writings, these verses are not only simple to understand but, due to their poetic nature, they are memorable and the most frequently read verses at weddings or similar occasions with a love theme. They are cherished by believer and non-believer alike—but they have been misread by both. The apostle might be disappointed to know that this passage is usually taken out of its original context and, therefore, loses some of its original meaning. This passage does provide a comprehensive definition of love like no other in the Bible. But we don’t find it as part of a wedding ceremony or even a passage about marriage, rather, we find it in the middle of a letter written to the most divided, immoral,, and spiritually arrogant church in the New Testament. These verses are about love within the church—between brothers and sisters.
In John 13, on the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and sentenced to die, one of the last things he told his disciples was: 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.34-35). Jesus not only commanded his disciples to love one another, He said that love would be THE identifying mark of discipleship and a witness to the world. What did Jesus mean by love? Affection? Friendship? Attraction? Depending on the culture, context, and even tone, the word “love” can mean very different things in our language.[EXAMPLE] The Greek language uses several different words for love. Depending on the word, sometimes love meant friendship. Sometimes it meant family affection. Sometimes it spoke of erotic passion. The term that is used here, is the same one that Paul employs AGAPE. Agape love is an other-centered concern expressed at great cost. The meaning of this word Greek changed as a result of the kind of love that Jesus Christ exhibited. In other words, the radical love of Jesus redefined this word for love. Paul uses the same term in: 2Corinthians 5. 14-15. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
The assembly of disciples who confess Jesus Christ as their LORD and MASTER, the church, is supposed to be the place where AGAPE love is most clearly seen, but it is completely absent from “spirit-filled” Corinth. They have every kind of gift imaginable—but they do not have Christ-like love and, therefore, they are not truly led by the Spirit. What comes from the Holy Spirit is not primarily characterized by what is individually loud, strange, and colorful but by what is mutually loving. The “more excellent path” to “higher spirituality” is unexpectedly unspiritual but most don’t pursue it because it is costly. Agape love is different than all other kinds. Friendship, family, even sexual love is naturally drawn out of us by another person. That kind of love is easy because we like the person, we’re related to the person, or we are attracted to the person—we are compelled to love. AGAPE love is different. It is not drawn out by anything loveable in the person, but because love has been set on us.
V.1-3 NECESSITY OF LOVE: NOTHING WITHOUT
The brokenness in Corinth is not caused by a lack of zeal, a lack of truth, a lack of volunteers, or a lack of giving; it is caused by an absence of love for people different than me (rich & poor). Whenever there is division or a lack of joy in our marriages, our families, or our churches, we often look to more tangible causes. In truth, we can perform many tasks required of relationship but do so in a way that is loveless. Relative to the church, you can on the surface, have an appearance of health, growth, and success but be empty and weak if there is no love. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Emotionally-charged services, “spiritual experiences”, great preaching, mountain-moving faith, even sacrificial giving IS NOT proof that people are obeying God. According to Paul, you can do all of those things without love. Someone can speak in every conceivable tongue (even angels)…but without love…they will sound no better than bronze Corinthian gong that is loud and annoying. Someone can preach great sermons, share deep understanding, and even demonstrate faith in impossible circumstances. Without love, it is all worthless. Members can give everything away, serve the poor, bless the orphans—even go so far as to be martyred for Jesus! But without love, all of is worthless. Absolutely nothing is gained if the motive for such sacrifice is pride or self-display. A big church, a young church, a popular church, a growing church, a gifted church, a great church isn’t utterly nothing without love. No matter how much you’re right, if you don’t have love, you’re wrong.
V.4-6 DEFINITION OF LOVE: IS AND IS NOT
God’s 3 verse definition of love tests all other definitions the world might provide, but, more importantly, it tests our own. You’ll notice that Paul does not say this is how love OUGHT BE…he says this is how LOVE IS or IS NOT. How does Paul know that this is what love is? Paul knows God—as all Christians do. In writing this definition, Paul is not simply chastising the Corinthians—he is challenging their conversion. The kind love Paul will describe is produced from within through faith in Jesus. 1John 4.7-12 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. God is love. And, according to Hebrews 1, God has revealed himself most clearly through Jesus Christ. This 14 characteristic definition is, therefore, a description of how Jesus of how Jesus loved us. And those who know Christ’s love, love like Him because the SPIRIT of the GOD WHO IS LOVE abides in us. In other words, evidence of the Spirit of God in us BEGINS with love. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God 1John 4.7-13-15
1. Love is Patient: Genuine love is patient with people. This kind of love listens, observes, and endures injury without retaliation. This kind of love is slow to speak, exercises restraint, and waits for people who are not ready to move, understand, or listen. This kind of love is not quick to rebuke a wrong done, but holds back wrath and, like Jesus, trusts God for the right moment to encourage or admonish.
2. Love is Kind: Genuine love is not only passively patient, it is actively empathetic. Kindness is more than affection or warmth—it is entering into others suffering in order to help them with their burdens. Loving-kindness is the tenderness toward others that Christ showed me an ugly hostile rebellious sinner. To those who don’t like me, I give mercy. To those who I don’t like, I give grace. True kindness moves one beyond sentiment to action and, if it is truly Christ-like, it costs us something.
Love does not envy: In Jesus, I have everything I truly want and exactly what I need. His love removes all jealousy and helps me rejoice with what others have great or small. True love removes all rivalry, all competition, and all comparisons and makes us grateful one another as part of one family. Like Jesus, who was equal with God, true love finds joy becoming less so others can be more.
Love does not boast: Love does not brag about what it has done. It is unloving to be a talkative windbag who needs to call attention to oneself or otherwise promote themselves. A loving person his humble and makes every effort to avoid self-praise (Prov. 27.2) This is because true love is always be far more impressed with its own unworthiness than its own excellence. Like Jesus, we boast in God.
Love is not arrogant. Love does not view themselves as superior to others. Love is more than an action, obligation, or duty—it is a heart attitude toward people. Love is not puffed up with pride over who they are, what they know, of what they have done. Love does not care about building their resume in order to set themselves above others. Like Jesus, they care only for building up the church.
Love is not rude/act unbecomingly: Love always speaks with grace and acts with purity. There is a kind of Christian which takes delight in being blunt or brutally honest. True love considers how their tones, actions, and words will impact another. More than that, love does not act indecently (esp. sexually) but, like Jesus, considers whether every action will bring more or less glory to God.
Love does not insist on its own way: True Love remembers its duties more than its rights. There are two kinds of people—those who insist upon their own rights or entitlements and those who always remember their responsibilities; those who are always thinking about what is owed them, and those who think about what they owe others. Like Jesus, love always seeks the advantage of others.
Love is not irritable: Love does not have a short temper with those who disobey, disrupt, or disappoint. True love never becomes exasperated with sinful people, young and old. Perpetual irritation with others’ sin is a denial how your sin irritated God. Though sin makes us rightfully angry, the love of Christ drives us toward the cross where God satisfied his anger with us.
Love is not resentful: Love does not store up a record of wrongs. Love is not bitter, maintaining a ledger of wrongs that cannot be forgotten. True love forgives and also works to forget, just as Jesus forgave and buried our sin. Like Christ, true love willingly “suffers wrong” and trusts God will judge.
10. Love does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth: Love finds no pleasure in injustice (lawsuits) or the misfortune of others. Instead, love rejoices in truth even if it results in my disadvantage. There are times when we are tempted to hide truth. Jesus said the truth sets us free. True love has no wish to veil truth, it wants to know and make known the truth—even if it costs us the love of the world.
11.-14 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. The last statement reads like one poetic stanza. This final verse summarizes the very nature of Christ’s relationship with us and, therefore, the model for our relationship with others. WE BEAR ALL THINGS, meaning, true love endures every insult or injury. WE BELIEVE ALL THINGS. We bear every pain from people because we believe and trust in God’s loving promises. We believe that God who He says He is, did what He said He did, and will do what He promises to do. WE ALSO HOPE ALL THINGS. Because we believe in the power of God’s love, we never see anyone or any situation as hopeless. We know that there is more to this life, but we also know there is more to each person. We believe and hope the best for them. Finally, we also ENDURE ALL THINGS. True love wins. In Christ’s crucifixion, we see that love does endure. But, in his resurrection, we see that all suffering has a purpose, and that in the end love also triumphs.
CONCLUSION V.8-12 NATURE OF LOVE: ETERNAL, COMPLETE, AND SUPREME.
Paul ends his address to the Corinthian’s present situation by pointing them to the future. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away… 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Paul puts everything in perspective, reminding the Corinthians that spiritual gifts will pass away. One day, all spiritual gifts will become useless. When Christ returns, there will be no need for prophesy, tongues, or any of the spiritual gifts. The gifts are given to help us live as God’s people now as well as draw others into God’s family. But even now, they are insufficient, incomplete, and in some ways infected by sin. They are designed by God to be temporary. That which is not important has become TOO important to the Corinthian church. They have begun to worship imperfect gifts over and above the perfect gift giver.
The best songs, the greatest sermons, the most faithful service will only ever give us a partial reflection of God. We will not fully comprehend God in this life, and though we see our God in Jesus Christ, we will never fully grasp this revelation of himself. We see in a mirror dimly. We understand and, thus act like spiritual children our whole lives. But when Jesus returns, we will grow up in the twinkling of an eye and see all. A pursuit of love, not spiritual gifts, will lead us to greater maturity because it is the only thing that we will take with us into eternity. Faith and hope are important now, but in eternity faith and hope will be unnecessary. All of God’s promises will have been fulfilled. I will not have to listen to sermons, or read books, or even study God’s Word to build my faith—I will know fully and be fully known. And, I will no longer have to hope for his return, hope to be free from sin, hope to endure suffering, or even hope for eternal life, because I will have it. Hope will have been realized.
But love will never end! God’s love for us will never stop. God’s love for us will continue into eternity. And more than that, our love for one another will continue. All spiritual gifts will pass away and become meaningless in the eternal kingdom—they will have done their job to build us into a temple for God. As God dwells with us, in love, our relationships will have meaning forever. We will be in loving relationship into eternity and we will, at that time, love one another perfectly.
How do we become loving?
What if I don’t loving? What if I am failing to love as I ought? How do I change? There is only one things that can cause you to be loving starting now, or lead you to be more loving tomorrow than you are today—the gospel. 2Corinthians 5. 14-15. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Our energies should not be spent on reforming our behavior to make it more loving. We should seek to remember the love of Christ as seen on the cross. That truth, on the forefront of our minds, is what will make us more loving.