Spiritual Gifts (02) - Love (1 Cor. 13)

Date: 1/31/2016
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Love
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

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. . . . 3 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1–13

The Prerequisite of Love (vss 1-3) - All believers love this marvelous passage; it is beautiful. Though the context does not usually shine through in the way this passage is used (e.g., at weddings), Paul is addressing spiritual gifts and division in a congregation. Love is here urged toward other believers. The nature of this “love” is not emotion-based, or romantic, or even natural-familial. It is agape which is to love without reference to the object of that love’s worthiness (Rom. 5:8). In vss 1-3 he conveys the contrast of love and spiritual gifts used poorly in five conditional sentences: If I speak in tongues; If I have the gift of prophecy; if I have all faith; if I give all my possessions; if I give my body to be burned. But without love any such gift is nothing. Love is a prerequisite for any spiritual fruit, regardless of the gift or sacrifice.

The Portrait of Love (vss 4-7) - While we may feel as a result of receiving this love, it consists in actions, not feelings. There are 15 verbs that are used to paint a portrait of agape. Our translations don’t capture this, “love IS patient.” In the Greek text the word “patient” is a verb. “Agape suffers long” is one way to capture it, or “Love be’s-patient” (bad grammar, good theology). So it is with all these descriptions; they are actions (verbs). Here’s a more literal translation to bring this out: “The Agape suffers long and acts kindly; the Agape does not act jealously; the Agape does to brag or act arrogantly, act inappropriately, seek its own, does not provoke, does not reckon resentment, does rejoice at unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth, accepts all, believes all, hopes all, waits upon all. The Agape never falls.” This paints the picture vividly.  This is the picture: “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross…” “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died.”

The Priority of Love (vvs 8-13) - In the final section, the temporal is contrasted with the eternal.   Because of their pride and strife, the various gifts bringing division, are put in their place.  These things will pass away. Even faith and hope will pass away.  Prophecy will be done away; tongues will cease of themselves (middle voice); knowledge will be done away. When the “perfect” comes the “partial” will be done away. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (v 12). Then we will see “face to face.” Paul thus calls them to maturity, a frequent theme (14:20, Eph. 4:13-16, Phil. 3, Col. 1:28, Heb. 5:14). Stop fighting like children over toys. Remember what is at stake eternally. The term “perfect” (v 10) (teleios) means, mature, and it is usually translated that way when it applies to people (e.g., 2:6, 14:20). Note v. 11,  “When I was a child . . . when I became a man.” If we link this passage as parallel with Ephesians 4, a good case can be made that as the Church matures beyond the foundation of the apostles and prophets and is no longer tossed around by every wind of doctrine, some gifts will cease and others may be morphed into different form. Agape is what we should strive to do. Love is the greatest because it is the final form of the proper use of the temporal good gifts. Love continues  eternally.

Exhortation -
 It’s not possible to improve on Paul’s description or portrait of love. So my exhortation is not an attempt at a better poem; it’s only an attempt to provide concrete and ordinary responsibilities of what this amazing Love Chapter pictures. These are random and not in any order:

Love changes diapers
Love cooks dinner
Love sweeps the floor
Love shares the bathroom in a timely manner
Love makes lunch
Love cleans the toilet
Love takes out the trash
Love makes the phone call
Love goes to the dreaded meeting
Love says the hard things
Love listens to the story without interrupting
Love forgives and keeps on repeating that forgiveness
Love reaches out one more time
Love lets go of the justified resentment
Love feeds the dog that you didn’t really want
Love prays for the blessing of your enemy
Love pets the cat that pooped in your room, on your side of the bed
Love accepts responsibility for someone else’s mistake
Love hears the same complaint again without melting down
Love goes to th

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more