A More Excellent Way
1 Corinthians 13.1-7
August 22, 2015
Have as seat if you would do that and the, let’s take our bibles and open to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 beginning in Verse 1.
Alright, so Paul is writing to this church in Corinth and it’s a book of correction because there are so many immaturities in their church. The reason for that is because they’ve come from the city of Corinth and the, the city, the culture was so forgone in regards to its immorality that there’s a huge, huge amount of change that needs to happen from where they came to where God would have them be in maturity. So, these all the issues and, and one the issues of maturity had to do with an attitude of arrogance or superiority that’s some took on because they had more, you know spiritual gift so they were manifesting more spiritual things that they’ve thought they were all that because of it. By the way you say, “That doesn’t compute? That, that doesn’t make sense.” Exactly right. This is living proof that a person can receive the Holy Spirit and by the way, everyone who asked Christ into the heart is given the Holy Spirit but a person can have the Holy Spirit and that is spiritually mature leaving evidence right here in Corinth. A person can even manifest spiritual gifts and be spiritually mature because there’s a lack of love in them.
Now as I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen this myself personally. I know Christian’s, I know Christian Leaders even who pride themselves in how much the spirit, you know moves in their lives for their church and yet they demonstrate immaturity in their lack of love. So, spiritual maturity is real seen in character first and foremost. Paul corrects the used of spiritual gifts in Chapter 12 and then he finishes that chapter by saying, “Fine, earnestly desire the greater gifts but I’m going to show you a still more excellent way.”
I. Without Love I Am Nothing
There is a way that is far more excellent than spiritual gifts even and that way is love. See to have love, to give love, to be love is greater than all spiritual gifts because it’s the very nature and character of God himself but what is “love” that’s the question. Well, what is love then? And that’s the whole point of Chapter 13 that is what love for, it’s describing this in this chapter. One of the most famous chapters in all of the bible is this chapter on love. He describes it for us. He defines the very nature and character of love. So, this is really important because if you want to know what love is very important to us. You want to know what love is then you should look to the author of love. Look in the right place. Make sure you look to Him who is the author. Don’t look to the world by definition of love is far to be desired. Maybe you heard the phrase, this is a worldly phrase. “Love is a many splendored thing.” What is that mean? I don’t have no idea but perhaps you remember those of you who are old enough to remember that in apps there was a name of soap opera in the late 60’s and early 70’s and they took the name for that soap opera from a book that is very popular in the 50’s by that name and the book was about Annalisa the 3rd. I think we need a better definition of love than that and this where we have this chapter, describes love in a way we can understand and we can apply to our lives.
See, this chapter on love it’s red and almost every wedding, I mean, almost every wedding I’ve ever been at, this chapter is red which is for good reason because marriage is about love and this chapter is about love so it’s commonly red there but when Paul wrote this chapter to that church in Corinth, he didn’t only have courage in mind. He had every aspect life in mind. So in other words, love is something you applied to a particular relationship. It’s something that should become a greater part of your character. It should define who you are. You want spiritual maturity? It’s seen on this as Paul described it. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 13. We gonna read just the first seven verses, “Is it if I speak in tongues of men and angels” in other words all I’m throwing is spiritual gifts and I have, you know the gift of tongues. It’s says, “If you speak with the men, of men, on tongues of men and angels but do not have love, it’s just I become a noisy gong or clinging cymbal.” Here’s a bunch of noise. Verse 2, “If I have the gift of prophecy, I’m moving spiritual things” you see and I know all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith so as even to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” That’s a powerful verse. “If I gave all my possessions to feed the poor. If I deliver my body to be burned but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Then the famous verses starting Verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, love does not brag, it’s not arrogance. Love does not act unbecomingly. It is not seek its own, it’s not easily provoked. Love is not taken to account or wrong suffered. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoice with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. Right, great verses. Very, very important for us to understand and one of the principles write at the Verse 2 that we need to take whole of in the glass is that without love I am nothing. Without love I am nothing. You know, the word love is probably one of the most broadly used words in the English language. I mean, we use it to describe all men or things, you know like we might say for example as I would say, “I love a frozen Snickers bar chopped up and layered over vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. I love that” or so I might say, “I’m love fishing” or “I love golf” or you might say, you know you, you love your favorite football team, you know let’s say for example you got some, let’s say you got some rook class and you’re a Bieber fan let’s say. Ok, I have it just for fun but you know let’s just say that’s what people say, “I love the…” whatever thing, you know and then you say, “Oh and I love my wife.” Well, you better mean something different when you say, “I love golf” and then “I love my wife” you better mean something different. Amen.
A. Love is the quality most like God
You know the first service was way more into that answer. It’s broadly used. We have one word but in the Greek they have more clarity because they have many different words that are more clear. They have a word for family love, story got. They have a love of, of friendship. They have a, a, Erotic love is another different word. Then there’s Agape love. “Agape love” is the kind of love that gives itself away. It blesses others. It’s the word commonly used to describe God’s love but it’s not restricted to, to that of God’s love. It’s also applied to what we’re called to be. In fact, when you get to Chapter 13 every time you see the word “love” here, it Agape love. The God kind of giving itself away kind of love. See and here’s what we really need to see that is wanting to, to show us. Love is that quality which is most like God. Love is that quality most like God. See, God is love and because God is love it determines that course of His actions. See, very important. God is love. It determines the course of His actions. One of the most famous verses in the bible is John 3:16 – “God love the world so much that He gave his only begotten Son.” It determines the course of His actions. In fact, I would like to show you this in greater detail in depth. If you look 1 John, Chapter 4, oh someone is unhappy. 1 John, Chapter 4. If you go to the book of Revelation and turn left, you’ll see 1 John, Chapter 4 beginning in Verse 7. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love, and by this the love of God was manifested in us that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we love God but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another.” Very compelling. Very helpful to understand that it is the greatest evidence that God is moving among us. You want spiritual maturity? It’s seen on this in the character of love within us we are changed into His image. He is love and when you grow on spiritual things, you grow into His image. God is love.
See, this is what we need most. We need to be filled up with all the fullness of God. When you filled up with all the fullness of God, you love. Notice in Ephesians, Chapter 3, Verses 17 to 19. Paul is writing here a prayer and he says, “I’m praying that you be rooted and grounded in love.” Notice that it’s the foundation on which everything is built. Being rooted and grounded in love. “I’m praying that you may be able to comprehend.” Oh, if you only comprehend. “With all the saints, what is the breadth, the length, or the height, or the depths 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
If you filled up with the fullness of God, you’re character is being transformed and you’re becoming like Him. He made you, He made you this way. In other words, you were made to be loved. We were created with the capacity to love and to be love. Why? ‘Cause we were made in His image.
If you made in image of God then the capacity of love is given to you to receive and to give. This is why it is so shocking, it so disturbing to see someone who has such disregard for human life. As we know in our own family, how shocking, how is it possible that someone can have such complete disregard for another human soul? How is that possible? It’s offensive to our soul because we’re made in the image of God. We comprehended it. We, we understand. We’ve been made in the image of God. We’ve been given the capacity to love. How is it possible that someone could be such a monster? I suggest to you typically it’s because they become disconnected from others. There’s a disconnect, they don’t received love, they cannot give love. This complete disconnect to others. This is why one of the most important thing you can give a child is love. Like I suggest to you that perhaps it’s the most important thing that you could ever give a child to love.
They’re like an open cup, an open heart and your, your parent, your grandma, grandpa, you just pour love. You show them the capacity of love. Some, some differ with me on this, this, they’re differ with me, all, know, I tell those important things when it comes to a child. The most important thing is obedience. I’m going to extract that obedience no matter what. Really? Where is love? Love is more important than obedience. In fact, Jesus booked this very thing. At one point, he was a, Jesus’ disciples were actually confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus gave the answer to it but they challenge then said, “Why is it that your teacher eats with sinners and tax collectors?” That is offensive. Why does you teacher eat the sinners? And I love Jesus’ answer. Jesus turn to the, to the Pharisees “Go and learn what this means” and then He spoke further but I love that phrase right there, “Go and learn what this means.” See, the reason why that’s so compelling is because they used to, love to used that phrase these Pharisees did. They, you know prided themselves on their grasped of the law and so they would say to the under students on those of their ignorance, “You go and learn what this means?” I love how Jesus just turns right back on them, “Go and learn what this means?” and then He culture Hosea six. He says, “I delight in faithful love rather that sacrifice and then the knowledge of God rather than burned offerings. I want to see love first. Why do I eat with sinners? Why do I eat with tax collectors? ‘Cause I’ve come to call sinners because I love the sinners of this world. My heart goes after them. My compassion is for them. It’s the sick who need a position. I love them. I love that heart.” See, God is love and he pours out love. There’s this picture of God pouring love. Our hearts are open. Our spirits are, are being poured into.
Notice in Romans 5:5, he says, “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts to the Holy Spirit it was given to us. See, God gives the Holy Spirit to every person who will open their heart to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and that Holy Spirit is pouring the love of God into your soul. God’s wants to ignite love inside of everyone. God is calling his church to revival.
C. Love makes us something
God is calling his church to be in love with the Savior. We are the bride, He is the bridegroom and He speaks of love that’s why the Holy Spirit is sent to ignite love in the church that’s when the church is the church that God is called it to be. Be in love drawn near, be filled. See, this is the work that God does. It’s because God is changing us. God is transforming us ‘cause He is pouring love out. When you read this list of qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13, you can see right away it’s a very high list. It’s very God-like list. You can see right away, I got long way to go, I got long way to go. In fact, it’s easy to see. All you got to do is put your name in the list. Well, let’s try it. I’ll just use my name for example: Rich is patient, Rich is kind. Rich is not jealous, Rich does not brag, he is not arrogant. He does not act unbecomingly. He does not seek his own. Ah, the further you read down the list, you more uncomfortable you grow. Now, wait a minute, I got, got a, I got a long way to go. I’m not, let’s just be fair. Let’s put in there too, shall we? So there’s a sort means of personal. Oh yeah, he, he, he is patient. She is kind. She’s not jealous. He does not brag and is not arrogant. He does not act unbecomingly. She does not seek her own. He is not easily provoked. Right away you said, “Oh, I got so far to go. I got so far to go” but then you put the name of Jesus in there and it just range true. Jesus is patient. That was true. Jesus is kind. Jesus is not jealous. He does not brag, he’s not arrogant. He does not act unbecomingly. He does not seek her own. He is not easily provoked. So it’s God kind of love and we have so far to go but he has the answer. Oh, I know, I know, I know you have so far to go and that’s why I put my Holy Spirit. That’s why I’m gonna pour God’s love into you.
Brothers, if we have been so loved ought we not loved for one another. See, in many makes His point to us, to show us very important. It’s love that makes us something. Paul says, “Without love, I am nothing. I can do amazing, incredible, wonderful things but if I don’t have love, I am nothing.” Why is that so? Why is this true? Because there is a spiritual principle at work here. When I give myself away. When I give love, I become greater spiritually because of that. There’s a spiritual principle at work. The more I love, the more I give away, the greater I become in spiritual things this is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:15, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. I’m like a drink offering to be poured out and I wanna do it for you.” Picture its love. When you agree with me that there are degrees of love. There are degrees of maturity in love. It’s not a yes or no or black and white thing. It’s the, not that you love your dog love. There are degrees. There’s degrees of maturity. We grow in a capacity to love. Imagine someone who has no love whatsoever in their heart. None. I suggest to you that person is a monster and that shows us that love is what makes us something. See, this is a very key thing for us to understand that’s why he explains this as the more excellent way and he is showing us this point.
II. We Love because…
We love because, because what? We love because I mean why? Why should we choose to love in this way? This is such a high way. Why should we choose it? By the way, it helps us to see that love is a choice. It is within our capacity to choose. Now, I say that because the, there has been, I guess you might say debate over the years will love is a choice or love is an emotion? I suggest that you that if you wait until you feel like love you gonna fall far sure. We have the capacity to choose that’s why Paul says at the beginning of Chapter 14, “Pursue love.”
A. Otherwise we’ll become an irritable old cuss
So why? Why should we pursue love? I suggest to you that we should pursue love because otherwise will become an irritable old cuss. Now, I thought maybe I should see that in a softer way then I thought no that needs a little punch. Sometimes we just need the hero things with a little punch to it. Amen. Do you know anybody who’s an irritable old cuss? Oh, don’t raise your hand. Do you know anybody who’s an irritable old cuss? What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with that person? What’s missing? What’s lacking? Love. They’re just an irritable old cuss and they’re missing out because they have not love.
Too many people think the goal of life is to be loved, to receive love, not so. You are already loved beyond your wildest imagination because of God’s love poured out to you. I suggest to you that you not live one day on this earth that you have not been loved. God has loved you so abundantly that’s why he says, “I pray that you comprehended.” He could only comprehend the height, the breadth, the depth, the width, the love of God. So this is so important. The goal of life is to love, to give love. It’s within our capacity to choose. Maybe an illustration could be using the opposite.
I’ve used illustration before but it’s very helpful to show the point. Young pastor called to this new position in a small town and so he comes to the communities trying to get to know people in the town and he meets this old woman. She’s an old maid. Irritable, cantankerous, bitter, everybody knows her and he’s very curious, how did, how did this happened? How did she become like this? She wasn’t born this way. What happened? So he began to ask around. Oh yes, her story. It’s a great tragedy. When she was young, she was in love. She became engage to be married and her fiancé ran off with her best friend and she’s never let go. She’s become a bitter old woman and so either way you could see what happened. Now we understand betrayal, we understand the hurt, we understand the pain. Oh, what happened is that she, she chose to not forgive, she chose to hold on, she chose to be bitter, and then she chose it again and the she chose it again and then she chose it again and then she chose it again and the she chose it again until she didn’t have to choose it anymore. She just simply became it. She became a bitter old woman. It’s not the same true and the opposite. What if we choose love against all things which was love?
We choose it. It’s within our capacity to choose, we choose to give, we choose to give, we choose to love, we choose it and then we choose it and then we choose it again and then we choose it again and then we choose it again until we don’t have to choose it anymore. It’s part of our character. It’s who we are. It’s written upon our soul. This is very important why we should love. The choice is ours. I can’t choose my circumstances but I can choose my reaction. I can’t choose all things on life gives to me but I can choose my character. I can choose who I become. I do not have to let life’s bitterness make me bitter. I do not have to make life’s injustices make me unforgiving. It’s within my capacity to choose to love. Galatians Chapter 6, Verse 7 – “Do not be deceived. God does not mock for that which a man sow see will also reap. Ah, this is interesting. Spiritual principle at work. 2 Corinthians 9:6 now this I say, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
B. God told us to love
See now, we then we look and understand why His giving us this chapter. See, we love because God told us to love. He directed us to love. See God has made it abundantly clear that the quality of love is the most important quality that He desires to see in our lives. Highest, first, foremost. It’s the greatest of all commandments. It’s, it’s the some of the entire Old Testament and New Testament. Let me give you this first I quoted it last week but it’s important to see it.
Matthew 22, Verses 36 to 40 someone said to the Lord, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?” and he said to him quoting from Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind.” Let’s start with that. It’s the foundation from which everything flows. Love is the greatest and the foremost commandment. Now the second one is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments, depend the entire law and the prophets, the entire Old Testament in other words but even the New Testament. Jesus gave a new commandment to us. John 13 Verses 34 to 35, he said “A new commandment I give to you.” You know, some people read that and say, “I didn’t realize your commandments in the New Testament and then I knew there commandments in the Old Testament but there’s actually commandments in the New Testament. I don’t think I should live that. Commandments like commandments, I commandments. I don’t like commandments they sound so command-like.
I don’t like that. Grrr!” Jesus said, “Oh now listen. I give a commandment to you love. I’m directing you because I love you so much. I love you so much that I’m directing you on this ‘cause that was what would transform you, that is what will bless you. Love one another even as I have loved you. I’m giving you the picture, the definition, it’s me that you love one another and by this…” he said, “…by this all men will know that you’re my disciples if you have love for one another. All men will know, they’ll see it, they’ll mark it. You must be, you must be a follower of Christ. You must be one of his disciples because that is a very uncommon love that you have there. There’s something very distinctly different about your life. There’s a, there, there is an uncommon love, you must be a disciple of Christ ‘cause you don’t see that every day. Will that be marvelous? Will that be absolutely marvelous if people recognize that? There’s something different about you. You don’t see that every day.
C. Love profits me greatly
That, that’s maturity right there. That’s maturity of Christ. That’s a maturity of the Spirit. See, he tells you this because love profits me greatly. We are the ones bless also. He wrote in Verse 3, “If I gave all my possession to feed the poor. If I deliver my body to be burned but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.” We just to say, if I do these things in love it profits me greatly. If I love others it’s a great blessing to me. It’s a spiritual principle of sowing and reaping. Love for example in Matthew 5:7 we see this principle alive and well, he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Blessed are those who give grace…we can just keep extending that principle. Blessed are those who give grace they will receive grace. Blessed are those who love for they will receive love. You sow bountifully, you reap bountifully. Press down shaking together you’ll receive it beautifully.
In fact, out of this comes a principle and I like to speak to each person on this principle ‘cause it’s very important for us to grasp. Listen to this principle, very important. “Don’t wait for others to love you.” Don’t wait. This is very important because many people they go through life and they’re looking to others to love them. I suggest to you that people will always let you down. People will let you down but got is love and He keep pours love into your heart. He fills you overflowing. “My cup overflows” David says. He fills you with love that’s the love you need. Don’t wait for other’s to love you. You love, you love, you bless, you give that’s the principle of His preach because some people they go through life and they kind of look to others. Would you love me? Somebody must love, who you love me? Who would love me? Somebody please love me. Please be my friend. Would someone be my friend? I need a friend. Could someone please be my friend? Now I understand that, the great compassion. It dealt that Christ born out of an emptiness and a deep desire. We are made with the deepest capacity and desire for love but the principle spiritual give love less. You give while then I’m giving very much to me, you missed the point. You love because God asked you to love because He filled you with the love of the Holy Spirit poured out in your heart, you give because of that. Sometimes in marriage, you know this, this happens in marriage where one will say, you know the husband will say, “Oh, love when she starts loving me!” to which the wife responds, “Really? Well, you know exactly Mr. Lover Boy, you know and I guess where this is going. It’s going downhill fast. Did you swirls them to table, whirlpool, or maybe cesspool is better word?” This is going nowhere. No, you love him simply ‘cause God asked you to love him even his not loveable. You know what, there’s a whole lot of people in this world that are not really loveable. You love her simply because God asked you to love her. You love, you give, you pour out. Oh, what a great blessing will come back to you in return because love is a transforming power. This we must understand.
III. Love is a Transforming Power
Love is a transforming power, you know A.W. Tozer, a very famous Christian writer he wrote something on this. No one did just really to you because it is so spot on. This is what he wrote, “We are all in the process of becoming. We’ve already moved from what we were to what we are now and now we’re moving toward what we will be but 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 on moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things a creative affinity; it changes its mold, shapes, and transforms. What we love therefore is not a small matter. It is a critical and everlasting performance. It is prophetic of our future. It tells us what we shall be, and so predicts accurately our destiny. Loving wrong things therefore is fatal to spiritual growth. It twists, it deforms the life and make impossible the appearing of Christ or 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 will surely follow.” That is such a great truth. In fact, Jesus spoke of something very much like it in Luke Chapter 6, Verses 44 to 45. I quote this because it’s so powerful to give us the picture of it. Jesus says, “Each tree is known by its fruit. Men did not gather figs from thorns. Neither you don’t gather love from a contain curse. Didn’t be grapes from briar bush. Not the good man out of the good treasure of his heart he brings forward what’s good and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart of his heart brings forward what’s evil for his mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.” Well then what fills your heart? The good man has good treasure and out of that good treasure he brings forward what’s good. He speak good words, he blesses, he loves. Good man has good treasure. Matthew 6, Verse 21 Jesus says, “For what your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So the picture we got is that we should love out of the treasure of our heart.
A. Love out of the treasure of your heart
What’s you treasure then? See the word “treasure” speaks about value. What is a treasure? Something of great value. What do you value then? What’s important to you? What are your priorities? What do you hold dear? What is your heart fixed upon? Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 13, Verses 44 to 46 speaking that relationship to God he says, “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 sell all that he has and buys that field and then the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and he sold all that he had and he bought it.” Oh, value he found in the kingdom of heaven. See this is, this is personal isn’t it? Your relationship to God, what does it mean to you? How do you treasure it? What is that you treasure? What is that you value? The good man out of the good treasure brings forth what’s good. What do you treasure? Your relationship to God? How do you value your relationship to your spouse? Your kids? What it is important to you? Your stuff? Your retirement account? Your paycheck? Your integrity? Your character? The love that you have?
Some years ago my, my wife met with a Joyce Mel, wife of Pastor Ron Mel of Beaverton Foursquare. We just getting started in ministry and Joyce was gracious to me with my wife and kind of give her some insights from the wife’s perspective and one point my wife asked Joyce, “How do you handle the differences, the you know, the tensions and arguments that come in marriage?” to which Joyce said surprisingly they don’t have a fight, “We don’t fight.” “Really, you don’t, you don’t fight? Why, why is that?” she says, “We decided long ago that this relationship is far too important, it’s far more important than being right. I would rather love than to win an argument. I tell you what, that is, that is remarkable wisdom because what we really understand is the value of love. The treasure that it is. If we made in the image of God that he made us to love.
B. Love always edifies
The capacity to be love in full and to give love and one of the things we need to see when you look in this list, “Love always edifies.” Love edifies, love edifies, the word means “to build up.” To build up, that’s the point what Paul wanted them to understand. Build up those around us. 1 Corinthians 8, Verses 1 and 3 – “We know that we all possessed knowledge but knowledge puffs up makes arrogant while love builds up.” Every single spiritual gift. Every given to the church was given for the purpose of edifying and building up. Contrary department opinion, there is no spiritual gift called criticism. There is no spiritual gift. There is no call to bring someone down. It’s always to edify which is to suggest that we much every word that proceeds from our mouth. So, woh, woh Pastor you’re going too far. Every word? Let me give you a great verse. Ephesians Chapter 4, Verse 29, great verse. Paul says, “Let no unwholesome proceed from your mouth.” The key in that phrase there is the word “no”, nada, none, nichiva. None, that’s a, that’s a, that’s a tall order there. Let no word? Yes that’s what he saying. Let no unwholesome word proceed to your mouth. Take hold of it before it goes out there but only such a word that is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it may give grace to those who hear that’s love, that’s love. Spiritual maturity is seen in love. You bless, you edify, you give, you pour. The most excellent way is love. It’s that which makes us something because without it, we are nothing and the greatest way to grow in love is to grow in your relationship to He who is love.
- 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.