- Sermon Notes
The Greatest is Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
This week we continue with one of the most famous chapters in all of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. Most people will recognize it as the chapter that teaches about love. And as I mentioned last week, these verses are read at almost every modern wedding because of its powerful message.
But when Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, it wasn’t just marriage he had on his heart. Love isn’t just something you apply to a specific relationship, love is something that should be the greater part of your character. In fact, love is what defines spiritual maturity.
This entire letter to the church at Corinth is written to encourage their spiritual maturity. In an earlier chapter Paul wrote that he wanted to speak to them as spiritual men, those who were mature in Christ, but he could not, he had to write to them as those who were immature in their faith, babes in Christ.
But what is maturity? Let’s first define immaturity; favoring one’s self at the expense of others. All you have to do is look at a young child to see immaturity. They want what they want and they want it now, regardless of who it belongs to. Maturity then, would be the opposite; favoring others at the expense of yourself. Verse 5 – “Love does not seek its own.”
I mentioned on Wednesday that there was a beautiful example of that in one of the gals in our church who has since passed away. She was in a Bible study and someone asked for prayer because their car had broken down and they couldn’t afford the repairs. “Use my car,” she said. Two weeks later when they returned the keys they said, “Thank you so much, I’m so glad you had an extra vehicle.” “Oh, I didn’t,” she said, “I took the bus.” That is love; that is maturity.
In Romans 5:8 it says, “God demonstrated His love toward us in this; Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.” That is love. It was because of love for us that Christ died. He took our burden on Himself. In other words, He favored us at His expense.
The problem in the church of Corinth is that some of them thought they were superior, or better than others, because they had more evidence of spiritual manifestation in their lives. “Wait a minute,” Paul is saying, “the greater evidence of spiritual manifestation is maturity of character; which is love.”
By the way, this is spiritual maturity he is speaking of. This is not just some self-help principle at work; this is a God – help principle at work. In other words, you don’t just grow in the maturity of love by simply trying harder, it’s the result of the Holy Spirit moving in your life. That is spiritual maturity.
Maturity, however, is something that grows in a person’s life. A child is born completely immature, but when love is poured into a child and directed in the way of maturity they can grow in it. In the same way, we may examine our own hearts and realize that we are lacking in love, but when we open our hearts to receive God’s love and ask Him to direct our way, we can grow in our capacity to love and be spiritually mature.
I. Love Does Not Act Unbecomingly
- In other words, love is not rude. It’s a great summary of several of these qualities of love.
- Notice that love is defined both in what it does and what it doesn’t do.
- Notice also that love is not defined by emotions, but by actions. Love is something we choose over and over until we no longer have to choose it and it becomes part of our character.
A. Love is patient
- What a beautiful quality of love. You could also say, love waits. It’s like a farmer preparing the soil, planting the seed, and waiting patiently without irritation.
Galatians 6:9, Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
- Love is patient because God is patient.
2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
- Patience in us is steady and unwavering commitment that is not easily moved by the storms of life.
Matthew 18:21-22, Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
- Patience has to do with being steadfast in your love and commitment in spite of the imperfections and immaturity of the other person. We are surrounded by imperfect people if we become irritated at imperfections we are the ones who are immature.
Colossians 3:12-13, So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
- Love is patient could also go along well with verse 5; love is not provoked (the word easily is not in the Greek); and love does not take into account a wrong suffered.
2 Timothy 2:24, The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged…
B. Love is kind
- Love does kind things, it takes action; there is a joy and delight in doing kind things. It’s the opposite of being an irritable old cuss.
Romans 2:4-5, Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
- God has won our hearts by demonstrating kindness toward us who don’t deserve it. It’s an aspect of grace.
- It’s interesting that in the Old Testament kindness is often combined with love to form the word ‘lovingkindness.’ How beautiful.
Genesis 24:10-14 The kindness and character of Rebekah
- One of the things young people should really take to heart when it comes to finding someone to marry is that godly character should stand higher than all other qualities, and especially kindness.
1 Peter 3:8-10, To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead;
C. Love is not jealous
- There are good and bad types of jealousy.
- If someone had in their mind to woo my wife they would discover that Papa Bear can be quite strong and will defend that relationship. And in fact, God is the same way toward us. It’s a good quality.
Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an idol… You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”
- The word here in these verses, however, is a jealousy born out of pride, selfishness, or fear and insecurity. This type of jealousy desires to have what somebody else has and personalizes it when they don’t have it.
Illus - Who doesn’t remember squabbling with a brother or sister or who got the larger piece of pie?
- There are many biblical examples of jealousy.
Illus - Cain was jealous of Able and killed him. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and sold him into slavery. The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus and then later, the disciples.
- We could use an entire message about jealousy, but the main point is that love is not jealous. This is true in marriage, but also in many applications.
II. Love Believes All Things
- This is a beautiful aspect of love. When you hear something bad about a person, do you automatically believe it? Believing all things means to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, to believe in the other person’s heart and that their intentions were good.
- It’s an aspect of love. God is for us; and if God is for us, who can be against us?
A. Love bears all things
- To bear all things means to carry another person’s burdens. Again, it’s loving the way Christ loves.
- It carries the idea of saying, “Let me help you with that.” It comes from having a heart to serve.
Illus - One time I was helping my brother move and he said, “Sorry that’s so heavy.” “It ain’t heavy,” I responded, “you’re my brother.”
Illus - When I was a server in college I let it be known that I was studying to be a pastor and they spurned me. “Serve them and love them,” I felt God saying.
Galatians 6:2-3, Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
- Notice that love is not only carrying the burden of others, it’s also not being a burden yourself. In other words, are you difficult to live with? Maybe another way of saying it would be, “Are you high maintenance?” Follow Christ and be an easy burden.
- This is part of believing in those we love. It goes along with not taking into account a wrong suffered.
- In other words, we don’t hold on to the wrong things a person has done, but we have hope in our heart. We believe in the person with expectation.
- One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to not hold their failures against them, but to love them by having hope in your heart for them.
Illus - When we adopted our two boys from Russia, I quickly learned how important it is to love someone by having hope in your heart for them.
- One of the best biblical examples is when Jesus brought hope to a man by the name of Zacchaeus.
Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus is given hope
C. Love never fails
- Love is eternal and therefore of the greatest importance.
- There is something you can take with you to heaven; your relationships. And the foundation of those relationships is love.
- Other things will be done away with; and by that he means spiritual gifts.
- When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. By this he means that for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see Him face-to-face. He’s speaking of the return of Jesus Christ Himself.
- This is a beautiful picture of the nearness of God. Moses wanted to see the face of God, but was only allowed to see His glory as it passed by.
- The disciples said to Jesus, “Show us the Father and it’s enough for us.” But here is this great promise that love will only increase and we will see Him face-to-face and then I shall know fully just as I have been fully known.
- Unfortunately, some teachers suggest that the phrase, ‘when the perfect comes,’ refers to the completion of the New Testament. But that’s a prime example of trying to cram theology into a verse.
- But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. This is because love is what gives significance to the others.
- Love is greater than any spiritual gift because it is the greatest quality of character that transforms us into the image of God.
- Verse 11 – when I was a child, used to speak as a child… When I became a man, I did away with childish things. In other words, God is using Paul to call us to spiritual maturity.
- Will you be lacking in love in heaven? No, you will have put away all childish things, all worldly things and will know Him even as you are fully known.
- Why not grow in your capacity to love and be transformed into the image of God even now?
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.