"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves." — John Piper (Don't Waste Your Life)

Friday, February 18, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 : How Love is Truly Defined

Good evening and God bless. It seems so time since I have had the joy of expositing God's Word. I must say what a joy of all days to get an opportunity to do providentially speaking it is on Valentine's Day. When you consider the Scriptures and how they are to be regarded by the Christian it makes senses of my joy. For as the Psalmist declares,"Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Psalm 119:97,ESV) Consider it is also written,"As a deer pants for flowing streams,so pants my soul for you, O God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:1-2,ESV) Just one other though I could state more,"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" (Psalm 34:8,ESV).

So with these in mind today as everyone is full aware it is Valentine's Day. This is the day where many spend sometimes...well, sadly more money is invested than love. By this I am stating people will spend crazy amounts trying to display how they love someone and yet most really say is honey this is what your worth to me or even more sad this is the most love they show to that significant other. Do you think I'm kidding or being ill out of being single? No, I have seen this,both from being a lost person from before my conversion and as a redeemed saint. It really does sicken me for on one day we see a cheapening of love, a perversion of love, and not to mention a continually waxing cold of true affection in a heightened sense. This doesn't mean these same actions don't occur at other times I'm just stating they happen at a heightened sense due to today being a holiday.

So some may ask or even a huge number what is love John and who defines? Well, first and foremost I will say two great questions. I will also say in addition that is the need for examining a popular Biblical text often preached around this holiday. While there would be nothing wrong to preach out of it,I do believe there has been harm due to not treating the text with proper biblical hermeneutics. This is gathering from the text what it is saying and not placing on it meaning from what we believe it is saying nor letting cultures standards dictate. So with this introduction I shall seek to exposit 1 Corinthians 13.Here my goals are this first and foremost to glorify God. Following and naturally according to that I seek to define what love is and isn't along with who defines it.

1 Corinthians 13

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.[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

[8] Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a

child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know inpart; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.[13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Let me go ahead and make this remark I will give some background seeing as we need to understand some things of which the Apostle Paul is addressing in his letter to the Corinthian churches. For anyone who has done any reading through the book of 1 Corinthians can see there were certainly some problems/issues and Paul was addressing them via this letter. Another thing to consider when reading this chapter keep in mind the context. While I love chapters,verses,etc. I do believe sadly today people don't read much in context and instead think thoughts end at a chapter or in particular area simply because it goes to the next chapter. Hence the reason I have stated numerous times 2 Timothy 2:15,its importance for all Christians not just Pastors. The truth is indirectly there are those who seem to see a particular passage and don't see how it can apply to them when the truth is all of Scripture is beneficial and helpful to the Christian not just the parts that you want. Holy writ is not Ryans and you pick what you want,but instead all is inspired by God for as it is written,"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."(2 Timothy 3:16-17). Now yes I agree most certainly a Pastor needs it for those means when shepherding the flock entrusted to him by God along with the leadership,but make no mistake about it God does correct His people through His Word not just on Sundays. Another benefit for all Christians to spend time in study of the Word is to be able to discern between truth and error. For if you are growing in grace and in the knowledge by continual study will not error be clear. What I mean by this is that by spending time in His Word when confronted by any circumstance or situation you will examine things in light of the Holy Scriptures and if what someone brings before you contradicts His Word then you shall know it is falsehood. Does this mean we won't ever make errors? No,but instead it prepares for it is also written,"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." (1 Peter 3:15-17)

So now 1 Corinthians 13. In verses 1 through 3 notice a point which the Apostle is drawing out. Here he first states if "I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,but have not love..." You see this similiar repetition in the following verses. The Apostle is making a very clear point those things if not done in love mean nothing. They are nothing,but noises as verses states. Emphatically he is showing us that without love of which he will describe in the proceeding verses you will gain nothing, you are nothing and honestly just simply wishing to draw attention to yourself. To clarify what is meant by you are nothing or as the Apostle states in verse two I am nothing, this is stating that absolute hollowness of who the person is without love. That is they are vain and absolute shallow for their concerns and worries only are for them. They have a love,but it is a perversion in that they love themself and that is not love,but self-glorifation which seek to place oneself upon the throne. It's sad,but believe it or not this is the truth of many in this world and to hit home closer in this country.

So what is love? Well, the Apostle Paul gives us the very nature of love by describing the embodiment of love. As we know God is love so when he is describing this perfect and true love we see how God loves.A love in which we should seek to imitate as Christians. Do I do so in perfection? No,but I pray Lord help me to love this way so I may display your love to others. For it is written,'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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” '(John 13:34-35)

In verse 4 the Apostle starts with Love is patient. That is,it is enduring. Honestly my friends when I get that far I must admit I think of how many times I've come up short in that area. What continues to amaze me is despite how many times I've been impatient God has shown such long suffering toward me. I am amazed not because it shocks me based out of surprisal,but purely I don't feel so deserving. My friends His love shows such patience which I truly believe breeds humility within us. By this I mean when a Christian reflects on how God has dealt with them in situations they are brought low and seek to apply this to others. This is being conformed to the image of Christ Jesus in these moments I do believe. Next following this in the same verse we read love is kind. This of course goes hand in hand with His patience. This draws my mind to Hebrews 12 where it is written,"And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,nor be weary when reproved by him.For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? " (Hebrews 12:5-7) God treats us as His children, though discipline isn't fun we know He does so out of love. For consider this,if we were not chasten this would indicate most likely we are not His and that we would not have peace with Him meaning His wrath would still be upon us. Does the weight of this understanding make you rejoice saint, knowing He punishes you not just to get a laugh as wicked men presume,but for His glory and your good and it is in His nature to act in such a way being He is perfect,Holy, and never changing.

Moving forward we have love doesn't envy or boast; it isn't arrogant. What I find amazing is with the holiday(Valentine's Day) where people go to such extravagants we see quite the opposite of what the Apostle is revealing here. For so many envy, that is they wish for something to be theirs which is not theirs in such a self-centered fashion is what they practice. They become consumed with anything,but love. In fact what literally follows is boasting in self. How do they manifest this? They do so by trying to buy various expensive items or trying to draw attention to self. They do not give any glory to God in any manner. In fact it even sickens me to hear some of the boasting I've heard for it literally is one of boasting in sin. So what is the Apostle Paul describing here, a love that does not say so to speak look at me. Instead we read of a humble and genuine love. One that is sincere and the reason it doesn't envy is because those for whom it shows affection belong to it. For remember God is love and His people have been His people since before the foundation of the world. How do I know this for it is written,"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."(Ephesians 1:3-10) So that love which is true which only God truly displays always is not envious for He is deserving of all our love for consider what He has done for us and for us to even give our attention to another in the place of God is quite absurd and very ungrateful in deed.

Continuing further the Apostle Paul further unveils what Love is, that it isn't rude. This is I find quite perfect as the Apostle stated in verse 4 of it being kind. For here Paul is continuing to emphasize that it is something that is not passive,but active. For consider the definition of being rude is to act in an impolite way deliberately. This implies and gives notion for an action which is done so actively. So when the Apostle Paul states that love isn't rude. Here we see that in this continued unveiling of this true love that its actions are those which deliberately show care to others without thought of what they shall receive. Let us consider just a few passages in regards to this for just a moment. First in Paul's epistle to the Philippians,"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4) Following this verse it states in verse 5 something which I believe we know and is obvious,but nonetheless something we should constantly remind ourselves of,"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 2:5a) That is having the mind of a servant leader and not thinking of self first. That is seeking to have your actions and thoughts line up with Scripture not what feels good or what the culture thinks is good. Men especially take note of this as we are called in our roles and not cower away,but truly be a man among men according to the Scriptures. For it is written,"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," Consider this speaks in no way how the world would place value on relationships for in it we see care for one another. I pray this probes deep in your thoughts when you say the words I love you, that you are not looking for something back, but sincerly do it. I hope also when I state this that no man nor woman draws from that sentence that love should not be reciprocated between two people. One other passage to consider is in Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome which says,"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."(Romans 15:2) Once again noting the emphasis being on considering another and seeking their interest and welfare. Opening this thought up more the Apostle states," it is not irritable or resentful"(1 Corinthians 13:5b). Here I believe is an extension of when he states it isn't rude for when you consider the words irritable or resentful someone who is rude would fill both of those descriptions to a T,but this true love isn't bothersome,but actually a delight. I believe the words of the Apostle John are quite applicable here along side with the Psalmist,"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. " "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."(1 John 5:3,Psalm 119:97)

Moving into verse 6 Paul continues to unpackage what true love is by stacking so clearly something I believe Scripture has said in other ways,but here the Apostle is to some degree stating it in a more blunt way. Here he says," it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth." Here he is making it quite clear that true loves does not rejoice with that which is wrong nor that which isn't the truth. My friends it this was clear the first time I expound this section of Scripture and still I see it. That of which I speak is true love does not rejoice in iniquity. This is why it sickens me to not only see how degraded this holiday is treated,but also what people say and declare to be love. Let me just cite a few passages of Scripture to make my case,"For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;evil may not dwell with you."(Psalm 5:4),"The LORD tests the righteous,but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence."(Psalm 11:5),"And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them."(Leviticus 20:23), and "There are six things that the LORD hates,seven that are an abomination to him:haughty eyes, a lying tongue,and hands that shed innocent blood,a heart that devises wicked plans,feet that make haste to run to evil,a false witness who breathes out lies,and one who sows discord among brothers." (Proverbs 6:16-19). Does it not seem clear God does not nor will He ever rejoice in that which is evil. So for those who pin the word love to something which has no resemblence of what He defines as love,but actually opposes is sick. So what does love rejoice in, well, I believe Christ said it best in the Gospels,'God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ' (John 4:24) This is what the Father rejoices in truly worshiping Him we are expressing our love to Him. For do we not do so when come as a corporate body on the Lord's day and give adoration in our singing,in our prayers(Philippians 4:6) and our communing with God as the Word is preached to us.

Following this comes a verse I believe to very familiar with most if not all evangelicals is verse 7. Here we see three particular characteristics of love. First the Apostle Paul says it bears all. Wow, what a statement. My friends I ask how much do we bear with towards those whom we love? Instead I say sadly we instead are not patient as I mentioned earlier which lends to us not bearing with them and in essence we do not show this love which Paul is describing. Consider how God described Himself to Moses,'The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” '(Exodus 34:6-7) Now you may ask how is it the LORD is both one who bears yet does not let the guilty go unpunished. I believe a section in the book of Romans will shed light on this quite well,"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:22-26) Since there is none as in this same chapter of Romans who are declared to be righteous than it is clear God must be the one to justify for who else has any grounds? No for all stand before God guilty.

Then we have it believes all things. This isn't an indication that it is a naive spirit or guillible. No this indicates trust and walks hand in hand with bears all things for to bear all things you must believe all things. How else shall a man and a woman last in a marriage if not founded upon Christ and believe He shall get them through any trial or tribulation? Lastly in this verse love endures all things. My friends consider passage of Scripture,"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."(Romans 8:28),"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6),"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil,for you are with me;your rod and your staff,they comfort me....Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."(Psalm 23:4,6) Here we see just a few of the many examples throughout Scripture of the guarantee that His love doesn't fail,but endures. This doesn't mean we won't suffer. It doesn't even mean we won't have times of trial,but it means as it is written,'“I will never leave you nor forsake you."' (Hebrews 13:5b)

My friends, my brothers and sisters I do hope this has been a source of encouragement this evening. Let not the world dictate that which matters most(1 Corinthians 13:13),but instead be lead by His Holy Word.

Good night and God bless,

John W. Whybrew III

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