- Sermon Notes
Pursuing Practical Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
August 20-21, 2022
Last week we looked at the greatest command that Jesus gave us. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.
God is love, and as such His heart for His children is to love.
But what does this love look like? Love is not just the feeling, it requires action. Love is a verb, especially godly love, because the godly love Jesus showed cost Him something. His love was not just based on empty words but was showed by His actions.
A tree is known by its fruit, and you can say that you are loving but your fruit will testify if it is the truth or not.
In this well-known scripture of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes the defining passage on love and what love looks like. The Scripture becomes a mirror to our souls in which we are confronted with what our own love looks like.
In 1 Corinthians 12, 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.
We should not be deceived to think that because the gifts of the Spirit are working through us, it is a sign of Spiritual maturity. The gifts have been given so the church could be edified. It has nothing to do with your maturity. God can even use a donkey to fulfill His purpose!
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 the Bible. Here, Paul defines love for us. He describes the nature and character of love in a way we can understand and apply to our own lives. Love is something that should be the greater part of your character. It should define you.
I. Without Love I Am Nothing
- In English, the word ‘love’ is often used too broadly. We use it to describe our affection for chocolate, food, the weather, and anything else we intensely like. However, the love we are called to and is described here is the godly supernatural “agape” love.
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…”
- God’s love is a sacrificing and self-denying love. It is not the watered-down definition of love selfishly describing what I ‘like’ intensely, but a love that is less focused on the self and more on the other.
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. They have turned into the embodiment of selfishness.
- 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.
Illus. a child can be obedient in two ways. He can be outwardly obedient but rebellious in his heart looking forward to the time when he doesn’t have to be obedient anymore. Or, because he loves his father and knows his father loves him, he can choose to be obedient from a loving heart.
- God doesn’t want to force us to do anything. He wants us to have a heart after God and the things of God.
- My actions are driven by love, and will show in much fruit, which also includes obedience.
- 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.
Illus. – Do you sometimes feel that you are pushed past your human capacity to love? I believe God sometimes allow this to show us that we cannot be self-righteous about being loving. We need His godly love.
- It is not natural for the sinful nature of man to have a self-sacrificing love. Godly love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. He cultivates it in us as we surrender to 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.
- Even the gifts should flow from love. I do not pray for healing for someone so I can be seen as a powerful instrument of God, but because I am moved with compassion for the hurt of the person.
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; start with anger, grows to resentment, after a while solidifies into bitterness. They don’t have to choose it anymore; 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.
- If you want to reap love from others, you need to sow love towards others.
- And even if you don’t reap love, you receive all the love from God needed to sustain you.
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, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love 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
- 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.”
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? Or, do you value your stuff? Your retirement account?
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.”
- The question is: Are you willing to die to self so the Holy Spirit can change you into the loving person you wish to be?
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. It transforms people around us.
I Corinthians 8:1 “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.
- All else will fade away: prophesy, tongues, and knowledge. The message Paul is making clear is that all the other things people chase after and see as a treasure will fade away. Love and what we do from a godly ‘agape’ love will stand for eternity.
- We need to surrender to God’s Spirit to work in us His godly agape love.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 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 [a]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 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of [c]prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I [d]became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror [e]dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the [f]greatest of these is love.