Feb 14, 2018
WOFCF Bible Explosion
Kingdom Authority Series – Love Knows No Limits (I Cor 13:1-13)
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul will argue that love is an action, not an emotion. The kind of love Paul will talk about is seen, experienced, and demonstrated. This is contrary to our culture that honors personal feelings above almost everything. We do what we want when we want because we “feel” like it. And if we don’t “feel” like it, we don’t do it. If love is an action, not an emotion, we need to study what God has to say about love. We need to know what love is and what it looks like when it is lived out in the church. As you read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Paul provides three distinctions of love.
Point #1 Love is greater than any spiritual gift (read verses 1-3)
Some of us may have missed Paul’s point here and have interpreted him as speaking merely of eloquence in human speech, but clearly he is referring to the gift of tongues. After all, the last gifts mentioned in chapter 12 are tongues and the interpretation of tongues. And those same gifts are the main topic of chapter 14. It is quite logical, then, that Paul begins the intervening chapter by discussing tongues. The use of tongues that Paul is speaking of here is the gift of speaking a private prayer language. Paul says you can speak in tongues all you want, but if you don’t have love you are merely making a lot of noise.
Prophecy refers to the ability to declare God’s truth in a powerful, life-changing way. Knowledge involves the deep understanding of the Word of God. Faith is the unique ability to trust God for great things. These three gifts are all from the Holy Spirit, and yet without love the person who has them is “nothing.” Verse 3 poses a problem because it asks us to ponder activities that we automatically consider noble. Giving to the poor is a good thing to do. And dying for your faith in Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. But as good as these things are, without love they do you no good. Paul declares that the greatest expression of spirituality is love.
So stop for just a moment and reflect on your spiritual gifts and your ministry in the local church. Do you do what you do out of genuine love for people? Or do you serve out of a sense of obligation? Do you serve because of the satisfaction you derive from ministry? Do you minister because you like honing your skills? We ought to be seeking to grow in our love not only for the Lord but for others. Paul says that love is an action, not an emotion; therefore, we need to put feet to our love. After talking about the importance of love, Paul now will discuss how love behaves.
Point #2 Love is expressed by supernatural responses (read verses 4-7)
1) Love is patient. Paul seems to be saying that love doesn’t have a short fuse. It doesn’t lose its temper easily. A person who exercises agape love does not lose patience with people. Loving people are willing to tolerate the shortcomings of others because they know they have faults too. As you mature, do you feel more and more patient or do you feel you are growing more and more bad-tempered? God wants us to grow in patient love for those whom we minister to and with.
2) Love is kind. Kindness is not to be equated with giving everyone what he or she wants. Sometimes love must be tough. Kindness may mean saying no to a spoiled child. Kindness may mean reporting a crime committed by a friend. Kindness means to withhold what harms, as well as give what heals. Love is kind, but often tough.
3) Love is not jealous. Jealousy implies being displeased with the success of others. Yet, true love desires the success of others. The best way to cure envy is to pray sincerely for the one of whom you are jealous. To pray for him or her is to demonstrate love, and jealousy and love cannot exist in the same heart.
4) Love does not brag. Love is not big-headed but big-hearted. This means the more loving you become, the less boasting you need to do. When we brag, we are demonstrating our insecurity and spiritual immaturity. We should pursue Christ so that we will be humble before Him and others.
5) Love is not arrogant. Arrogant people push themselves into leadership, using people as stepping-stones, and always consider themselves exempt from the requirements on mere mortals. Arrogance disrespects others and carries a distain for others. God calls us to serve others and be gracious toward them.
6) Love does not act unbecomingly. There are some Christians who seem to take delight in being blunt, justifying it on the grounds of honesty. They will say, “I’m just telling it like it is.” But love doesn’t always tell it like it is; it doesn’t always verbalize all its thoughts, particularly if those thoughts don’t build others up. There is a graciousness in love which never forgets that courtesy, tact, and politeness are lovely things.
7) Love does not seek its own. Love is not possessive, demanding, stubborn, or dominating. Love does not talk too much but listens as well. Love does not insist on its own way. It is always willing to defer to others.
8) Love is not provoked. Love is not given to emotional outbursts, is not exasperated by petty annoyances, and refuses to let someone else get under one’s skin. We don’t have to get irritated, and if we were exercising love, we wouldn’t. Do you know people who are so quick to take offense that you have to handle them with kid gloves? You try to avoid talking to them and when you can avoid it no longer, you carefully measure every word you say to make sure that you say exactly what you mean. But still the person seizes upon something and twists it to make you look bad. That kind of person knows nothing of agape love, for love is not touchy.
9) Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love doesn’t write down each injury done and keep the account open to be settled someday. Love doesn’t hang on to reminders of wrongs. Who are you keeping a book on?
10) Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. Love takes no joy in evil of any kind. It takes no malicious pleasure when it hears about the inadequacies, mistakes, and sins of someone else. Love is righteous.
11) Love rejoices with the truth. Truth and love go together like hand in glove. Truth must make our love discriminating, and love must make our truth compassionate and forgiving. If our actions are in accord with agape love, we will always welcome biblical truth and never resist it.
12) Love bears all things. Love protects other people. It doesn’t broadcast bad news. It goes the second mile to protect another person’s reputation. Love doesn’t nitpick. It doesn’t point out every flaw of the ones you love. Love doesn’t criticize in public. Love doesn’t do its dirty laundry for the entire world to see.
13) Love believes all things. Love is always ready to allow for extenuating circumstances, to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best about people. Love always trusts.
14) Love hopes all things. Love has a positive forward look. Love never gives up on people. Love hopes and expects the best. Love never loses faith in other people and gives up on them but remain faithful to them, in spite of their shortcomings.
15) Love endures all things. Love holds fast to people it loves. Love perseveres. It never gives up on anyone. Love won’t stop loving, even in the face of rejection. Love takes action to shake up an intolerable situation. Love looks beyond the present to the hope of what might be in the future.
Point #3 Love is an eternal gift (read verses 8-13)
In these final six verses, Paul discussed the temporary nature of the spiritual gifts and the eternal nature of love. When Paul says, “Love never fails,” he means love never ends. The reason that spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongues will come to an end is revealed in 13:9-10. Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” Paul explains that we are limited in our understanding, but this will not always be the case. A time of perfection is coming! The “perfect” refers to the returning of Christ. When we recall that 1:7 pointed out the ongoing role of the gifts until the return of Christ, there can be only one possible interpretation of “perfection”—it is the life in the world to come, after Jesus reappears on earth.
Paul explains that our understanding of God is indirect in this life. He uses two analogies: childhood and a mirror. In using the analogy of childhood, Paul is not suggesting that those who speak in tongues are childish and immature. Rather, he is adopting an eternal perspective and simply saying that there will come a time when the gifts of the Spirit will no longer be necessary.
We will experience God’s incredible love, we will experience a deep love for God, and we will love one another with a perfect love.
How will you grow in your love for others? First, you cannot become the loving person you desire to be apart from a loving and vibrant relationship with God. This love relationship must be cultivated first and foremost. Second, you must love those nearest to you. This means that if you are married, you focus on your spouse. If you have children, you prioritize your children. If you are serving in a ministry, you love those children, teens, or adults. You strive to love your neighbors and coworkers. Once you have accomplished this, you will be able to better love the world around you. God has called us to love people. Jesus said that all people will know we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another (John 13:34-35).