- Sermon Notes
A More Excellent Way
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Paul has been correcting the church in Corinth because there were so many areas of immaturity. One of those areas of immaturity had to do with an attitude of superiority or arrogance that some had because they had greater manifestation of spiritual gifts.
There is something very wrong with that picture. This is living proof that a person can receive the Holy Spirit and still be quite immature. And according to what we are seeing in chapter 12, a person can also manifest spiritual gifts and still be quite immature.
As I mentioned last week, I’ve seen this myself personally. I know Christians, even Christian leaders, who pride themselves in how the Holy Spirit moves in their lives and churches and yet demonstrate immaturity by their lack of love.
Spiritual maturity is seen in godly character first and foremost. After Paul corrects their use of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, he finishes that chapter by saying, “Earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.”
Love is that more excellent way. To have love, to give love, to be love is greater that all the spiritual gifts because it is the very nature and character of God Himself.
But what is love? That’s the point of chapter 13, one of the most famous chapters in all of the Bible. Here, Paul defines love for us. He describes the nature and character of love.
If you want to know what love is, you should look to the author of love. Don’t look to the world for their definition. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Love is a many splendored thing,” whatever that means. Appropriately enough, that was actually the name of a soap opera in the late 60s and early 70s. That soap opera actually took its name from a 1955 book that described an illicit affair. We need a much better definition of love than that.
Here, Paul describes love in a way we can understand and apply to our own lives. This chapter on love is read at almost every modern wedding, but its application goes far beyond marriage. While it’s true that love most certainly should be seen in marriage, it should also be seen in every other relationship as well. In other words, love is not just something you apply in a particular relationship, it’s something that should be the greater part of your character. It should define you.
I. Without Love I Am Nothing
- The word love is probably one of the most broadly used words in our language.
- In English, the word ‘love’ is often used too broadly. We say we love a whole gamut of things, and use the same word, but here the word is “agape.”
A. Love is the quality most like God
- God is love and it determines the course of His actions. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”
1 John 4:7-11 God is love, so let us also love…
- It is the greatest evidence that God is within us; that we have been changed into His image.
- This is what we need most, to be filled up with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19, … and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
B. We were made to be loved
- God made us with the capacity to love and be loved. We were made in His image.
Illus - This is why it’s shocking and disturbing to see someone who has such disregard for another human life. It’s offensive to our soul because we were made in the image of God. How does a person turn into a monster? Typically, it’s because they have become disconnected to others and cannot love. One of the most important things you can give to a child is love.
- By the way, love is more important than the sacrifice of obedience.
Hosea 6:6, I delight in faithful love rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- God is love and He has poured out love within our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5:5, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
- This is the work of God. It is because God is changing us that we become like Him.
- When you read the list of the qualities of love, it is easy to see that we can’t do it.
Illus – If we were to put our name in place of the word love in chapter 13, we could see how much we fall short. But if Jesus’ name is placed there, it fits perfectly.
C. Love makes us something
- Paul says that without love, I am nothing.
- I could even do amazing, incredible, wonderful things, but if I do not have love, I am nothing.
- Why is this so? Because love is something that I give away and I become greater because of it. The more love I give away, the greater I become in spiritual things.
2 Corinthians 12:15, I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.
- There are degrees of love, there is a maturity in love as we grow in the capacity to love. Imagine someone who has no love in his heart whatsoever. That person is a monster. Love is what makes us something.
II. We Love because…
- When we hear these words that describe love, we have to ask, “Why would I choose to love the way God asks me to love?”
- Love is a choice. It’s not an emotion, although emotion may come as a result of love. That’s why Paul tells them to ‘pursue’ love.
- So why should we choose to love? Because…
A. Otherwise we’ll become an irritable old cuss
- I thought about saying that in a softer way, but it just didn’t have the punch. That’s the truth, if we don’t love; we turn into a bitter, angry person.
- Many people think the goal of life is to be loved, this is not quite right. We are already loved beyond all we could ask or even imagine. The goal of life should be to love, to choose to love.
Illus – Some people choose to be bitter; after a while, they don’t have to choose it any more, they have become it – they have become bitter. It now defines them.
This is a choice that each of us has to make. I can’t always choose my circumstances, but I can choose my reaction. I can choose my own character.
Galatians 6:7, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for that which a man sows, he will also reap.
2 Corinthians 9:6, Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
B. God told us to love
- God has made it abundantly clear that the quality of love is the most important quality He desires in our lives.
- It is the greatest of all commandments and the sum of the entire Old and New Testaments.
Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
- Jesus also said that He gives a new commandment - to love…
John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
C. Love profits me greatly
- Paul wrote in verse 3, that if I do all these things without love it profits me nothing, therefore to do these things with love, it profits me greatly.
- If I love others it is a great blessing to me. When we give love to others, we are loved in return.
Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
- Don’t wait for others to love you; love simply because God asked you to love and know that He is the One who will bless you in return.
- When you have great love in your heart, it is great blessing to others and also to you yourself.
III. Love is a Transforming Power
Illus – A.W. Tozer once wrote that we are becoming what we love. We are all in a process of becoming, of changing, and the objects of our affection determine the person we will become. Therefore, we must be very careful about choosing what, and who, we love.
Luke 6:44-45, “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
A. Love out of the treasure of your heart
- A good man has good treasure in his heart. Treasure has to do with the value of something. In other words, what is that worth to you?
- Do you value your relationships? Your relationship to God? Your spouse? Your kids? Your stuff? Your retirement account? Your character?
- We protect the relationships we value. Sometimes people do hurtful things to those they love most, but this is within their power to change.
Illus – My wife met with Joyce Mehl and one of the things she said was that she and Pastor Ron had never had a fight because both of them cared more about the relationship than being right.
Matthew 13:44-46, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
B. Love always edifies
- That’s the point of what Paul wanted them to understand. We are called to love and that means that we edify or build up those around us.
I Corinthians 8:1-3, We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
- It means watching every word that comes from our mouths to be certain that it does not tear down the one for whom Christ died.
Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it may give grace to those who hear.
- The most excellent way is love. It is that which makes us something, because without it, we are nothing. And the greatest way to grow in love is to grow in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Illus – A.W. Tozer; “We are all in the process of becoming. We have already moved from what we were to what we are, and we are now moving toward what we will be. Not only are we in the process of becoming, we are becoming what we love. We are to a large degree, the sum of our loves; and we will of moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things, a creative affinity. It changes and molds and shapes and transforms.
What we love is therefore not a small matter; it is of critical and everlasting importance. It is prophetic of our future. It tells us what we shall be, and so predicts our eternal destiny. Loving wrong things is fatal to spiritual growth; it twists and deforms the life and makes impossible the appearing of the image of Christ in the soul. Love is within our power of choice, true spiritual love begins in the will. We should set our hearts to love God supremely and joy is sure to follow.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NASB
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy,
and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all
my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind
and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into
account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.