When Love Comes To Town (1Corinthians 13:4-7)



Math can teach us about love.

  • 5 + 5 = 10
  • 10 + 10 = 20
  • 20 x 5 = 100
  • 100 x 0 = 0
  • 0 x ____ = 0
    hundred (2 zeroes) / thousand (3 zeroes)/ million (6 zeroes)/ billion (9 zeroes)/ trillion (12 zeroes)/ quadrillion (15 zeroes)/ quintillion (18 zeroes)
  • No matter the number, when it is multiplied by zero, the answer will always be zero. So how does this math teach us about love? No matter how great our words, our works, or our witness, if we do not have love then in God’s eyes it will always amount to nothing. Our intellect, giftedness, or courage must be combined with love for God and others if it will matter for eternity (1Cor 13:1-3).

Today we continue our study on 1Cor 13 to discover that love is not only essential but also must be expressed. In Jesus, we see love incarnate. We know that “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Therefore, love is expressed…

  • In visible display though Jesus’s life walked among people and His body hung on a cross publicly. Loving others requires not just private affection but also public actions. While loving Jesus and Christ’s body is personal, it is never described as private. The nature of Christian faith is to be expressed visibly.
  • In virtuous demonstration through Jesus’s sacrifice was an act of selfless and sacrificial love. His motivation was to glorify God and to redeem His creation. God’s love was costly. The Christian faith finds its greatest joy in the virtue of serving God wholeheartedly and serving others generously.
  • In viable manner as Jesus died in our moment of greatest needed – as sinners. Christian’s are not just to serve with random acts of kindness, but love with intentional and strategic efforts. Serving others is not about ourselves feeling good for a social cause, but to meet needs timely and thoughtfully in the name of Jesus Christ. Our aim is “love, from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1Tim 1:5).


EXAMINE      1Corinthians 13:4-7
When Love Comes To Town: Character Is Expressed

Love is more than a feeling and more than a shiver in the liver. Our social view of love is cheapened when we can express love of a food or a sport team, while also using the same word to describe relationship to a spouse.

To God, the Bible, and apostle Paul, there is a high & holy view of love. Paul lists 15 characteristics of love that can be placed into 3 descriptions.
Love is expressed positively.
After Paul communicates love is essential, he begins a precise definition of love with two positive characteristics.

  1. The Bible has two words for patience: ὑπομον which is patience in circumstances, and μακροθυμία which is patience with people. While both words/aspects of patience are essential for Christians, this latter word is used. The KJV translates the word as “long-suffering.” Agape love suffers long and shouldn’t have a short fuse for anger. Christians are to make allowances for gaffes, growth, and give second chances to others.à Corinthian church was impatient (cf 11:33).

à We can learn to be patient by regularly self-evaluating our failures. The patience we pray God and others give to us should be what we extend to others.


  1. Kind: This characteristic is akin to grace, but here Paul uses it as a verb: χρηστεύομαι. It is commanded for every believer (Gal 5:22; Eph 4:32; Col 3:12). In fact, the early church was sometimes called “chrestiani” rather than “christiani”; two words sounding similar but the latter meaning little Christ’s – “Christians,” and the former meaning “Kindness people.”[1] Biblical kindness is profound to give a person not necessarily what they want or even deserve; yet is giving another what they need; “active goodness on behalf of others”[2] and “readiness to enhance the life of another.”[3] Benevolence and grace are gifts that speak more about the character of the giver than the recipient. Kindness may be
    – a parent saying no to a child or spouse not agreeing on a way to spend money.
    – a family member separating from a conflict or church disciplining a church member (1Cor 3-5)
    – or any other circumstances. Elsewhere, Paul references God’s kindness as what brings us to salvation (Rom 2:4; Titus 3:4-5). “God’s kindness is a life-changing love”, to change us from what we were to who we can be because Christ now dwells inside us.[4] So, agape love is kind to give others what is honoring to God and good for that person.
  • Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read.” (Anonymous)
  • Kindness is the overflow of inflow. Listening to polarizing news does not input love for others who believe differently and need the gospel.

1Cor13_ 4 thru 7

Love is expressed piercingly.

While Paul begins with two positive characteristics describing agape love, he now turns to eight negative characteristics, many of which are relevant not just to the Corinthian church, but piercingly to us today.

  1. Does not envy. Jealousy implies strong desire for what one does not have, and envy desirous of what others have. Proverbs 14:30 “envy makes the bones rot.” Envy is like kudzu of the heart (Ed Litton), and engulfs the heart with more than it can handle. So, Paul is saying agape love does not coerce or pressure, but is free and empowering to others.àEnvy was present in the Corinthian church (cf. 1Cor 3:3; 6:10; 9:3).
    à A remedy for envy is a relationship that trusts.
  2. Does not boast. Paul uses the word περπερεύομαι which means to brag and speak one’s own praises. It is not only annoying but unloving to speak more of yourself than serving others. “Let another praise you and not your own mouth” (Prov 27:2).à The Corinthians were quite boastful of their knowledge and giftedness (cf. 1Cor 1:31; 3:18; 5:6; 8:2; 14:37).
    à In church life, the greater our knowledge or spiritual giftedness, the greater humility and service we should reflect, and the less braggadocios we should be. Boasting is a sign of insecurity and immaturity, not influence. To Jesus, greatness is service (Mark 10:45; Php 2:3-5).
  3. Is not arrogant. Paul uses the word φυσιόω which means to puff, blow wind, or inflate; or like calling someone a “wind-bag.” Arrogance goes beyond boasting in that it not only promotes self but belittles others. An arrogant person will manipulate and use people; they are big-headed instead of big-hearted as God calls for agape love.à Corinthians struggled with competition, disunity, and arrogance (cf. 1Cor 1:10; 4:6-21; 5:2; 8:1).
    à The antidote to arrogance is learning to ask questions and listen to others.


  1. Is not rude. Paul uses the word ἀσχημονέω and the KJV translates it as not behaving unseemly. The idea is not acting improper or indecent, sometimes used of the body and in sexual overtones (1Cor 7:36, 12:23; Rom 1:27; Rev 16:15).à Sometimes people will speak rudely with the rationalization that their personality is blunt or their just being brutally honest. The reality is some persons are rude and unloving, and must learn to speak with respect.


  1. Is not self-seeking. Another way to say this is “it does not insist on its own way.” Agape love is not demanding or domineering but is compliant and cooperative.


  • Corinthians struggled with narcistic insistence in bible studies, worship services, and daily relationships (cf. 1Cor 10:24; 33; 11:21-22; 12:15-26).
  • Love never says, “My way or the highway.” Instead, love says, “Let’s do it Jesus’ way.”[5]
  • We do same with God. Instead of hymn “Have Thine Own Way” we say…[6]
    • Have mine own way, God, Have mine own way
      Let me be in charge here, at least for today.
      I really don’t need you – say what you will;
      I’ve got my own plan, God, you can just chill.
      Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way.
      Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
      Mold me and make me after Thy will,
      While I am waiting, yielded and still.


  • Overcome stubbornness through surrender, as Jesus did in Gethsemane (Matt 26:39).
  1. Is not irritable. The idea is to provoke or stir up (παροξύνω); love is not “easily angered” (NIV)[7] or given to emotional eruptions. So, we could add further, love is not cranky or crabby, grumpy or grouchy, easily ticked off or going on tirades, or even giving silent treatments. Back to the beginning definition of Paul, love is patient and pardoning.Irritability is not insignificant; “irritability is anger’s trigger finger.”[8] Therefore, our attitude must be very cautious or we can quickly lose our faith witness and damage relationships.

Steve Montforto – loving father
à Corinthians’ irritabilities led to outbursts of anger, division, and immaturity (1Cor 1:10; 3:1; 6:1; 7:5; 8:1; 9:3; 11:18; 12:22; 14:27; 16:13 “act like men”).
à Annoyances to us are often part of another’s imago dei. We can grow irritable and attack others based on how a person blinks or buttons their shirt, eats and chews their food, talks with a twang or sings off key, the way they drive, cleanliness or tardiness, and a million other items. It is said, life is often 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.[9] What annoys us says something more about our heart and character than it does about the other person’s being.
– – – – – [Me at home with clutter].
à Irritability often happens when we are either tired, tense, and hungry. Sometimes, the most spiritual advice we can take is to get rest (cf. Ps 127:2).


  1. Is not resentful (λογίζομαι To κακόv”). Other translations are “keeps no account of wrongs” or “thinks no evil”. Paul’s imagery of debts or bookkeeping is in play, showing agape love is free and unconditioned upon one’s behavior. Love doesn’t have a ledger to add or subtract, or as Peter says, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1Peter 4:8).
    à Corinthians’ ledger was weighty as conflicts became personal and public courtrooms (1Cor 3:4; 6:1).
  • Our ledgers with God are erased and cleansed, so we should with others (cf Mat 6:14; 18:35; Eph 4:31-32). As Paul says, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2Cor 5:19).
  • Many who have been a Christian a long time are living below God’s blessings for them because of bitterness and unforgiveness. We must choose between holding grudges or holding grace that flows to and through you (cf. Luke 7:47).


  1. & 11. Does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices with the truth.
    Agape love is holy. It does not grin or gaze at sin, but instead grows increasingly in its love for truth. Christians follow Jesus, who is truth (John 14:6), and they practice truth (1Jn 1:6) and cannot do anything against the truth (2Cor 13:8).

à Corinthians’ celebrated immorality. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he responds to their sin-revelry with the question, “Do you not know?” (1Cor 3:16; 5:6; 6:2-3; 6:9, 15-16, 19; 9:13, 24). Paul’s aim was to replace satan’s lie with God’s truth.

Further, agape love cannot celebrate the failure or downfall of those who engage wrongdoing. Today’s news cycle and social media culture has become a buffet of vultures hovering over the latest personal failure or public fiasco. But agape love “delights not in exposing the weakness of others.”[10] We should not join the chorus of celebration at the inadequacies of individuals made in the image of God, regardless if it elevates one’s political agenda or personal goals. God’s people are better than that type of character because we know the grace of God at our most unworthy moments.

à Like Jesus, we are called to see people as sinners standing in need of grace (cf. Mk 2:13-17; Lk 7:36-50; 19:10).


Love is expressed promisingly.

  1. ,13., 14., 15. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Bears” is the word στέγω means to cover or to shield, and related to the word for roof that covers a house and shields it from weather elements of sun, wind, and rain. Agape love is a refuge and defender.

    Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield”
    Psalm 46:1-3, 10 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling… be still and know that I am God.”
    Psalm 91:1-4 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler”

    Believes” carries the idea of trust. Agape love is loyal with firm conviction, even in spite of challenging circumstances. And agape love sees people and shapes them into whom God calls them to become.
    – Like Jesus who spoke to the wavering Peter, calling him a “rock” (Mat 16)
    – Like Jesus speaking to sons of thunder, but calling them beloved disciple (Jn 13)
    – Like Jesus who spoke to a promiscuous woman, “she is forgiven” (Lk 7:47)
    – Like the husband who treats his wife like the queen of his heart, she lives up to the words.
    – Like the parent who speaks into a child’s life believing they can learn and do, they grow to become.

à Woven through Corinthians, and all the NT, is the love of God that is the most powerful and transforming force in the world. Nothing can compare or compete with God’s agape.
à God’s agape should be present in the church so that it’s like a hospital to mend broken sinners and a greenhouse to grow believers. May SPBC be a people where “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Cor 13:7).
Hopes all things, is Paul going the next step to show how agape love is able to see beyond this world to the next. Paul isn’t just being an over-realized optimist or half-heartedly seeing a silver lining. Instead, Paul understands the impact of eternity. There are some earthly circumstances that will never make sense on this side of Heaven, until Jesus comes and makes all things new & right. Paul understands how agape love sustains us in the midst of struggles and suffering.

à Hang on to hope. Jesus is trustworthy. (Rom 8:18, 28-39; 2Cor 4:7-18; 5:1-10; Php 3:7-21; Col 3:1; 1Thess 4:13-18)

à What hopes do you have for your life – your family – our church – our city and country? If our hope is in the God of agape, then we are not just ‘hoping for hope,’ but believing God to do the impossible and all that He is abundantly able to do more than we can comprehend (Eph 3:20).

Enduresὑπομένω means to remain or persevere, especially in tribulation. The phrase is a military term that means to hold a position at all costs, even unto death.[11] The word pictures an army surrounded by superior forces and attacked on all sides, but the few, the proud, the brace hold their company’s flag and fight valiantly to somehow survive impossible odds. That’s what agape love does – endures despite all the pressures of the world threatening to tear you apart, but you survive and thrive.  



If we were to replace our name with “love” in 1Cor 13:4-7, would we communicate accurate statements?

  • Dave is patient… etc.
    NO, but Jesus is in view of every characteristic. Love = Jesus. So, while our love falls short, Jesus is faithful. His love is available to you.


Again[12], we are like a child who when the Father puts a gift into our hands that we could never catch for ourselves, we throw it away. We do not know what we have and we take it for granted, throwing it aside. Yet, rather than getting annoyed or angry to punish us, God gives us more grace. Then he raises and grows us to share the same kind of love with others who will likely treat love like that little child. God’s love is for loveless people. But we must go and love them anyway. He did for us.



[1] Tertullian, Apology, quoted in David Garland, Baker Exegetical Commentary 1Corinthians, p.617.

[2] Gordon Fee, NICNT, 1Corinthians, p.636.

[3] Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits: A Realists View of 1Corinthians 13, p.15.

[4] Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, pp.38-39.

[5] Quote from https://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/why-love-has-a-bad-memory/

[6] Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, pp.119-120.

[7] NIV Bible. Also, Charles Hodge Exposition of 1Cor defines it “quick-tempered,” and David Garland Baker Commentary as “cantankerous.”

[8] Ryken, 48.

[9] Charles Swindoll.

[10] Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing In The World, p.27.

[11] Word picture inspired from https://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2000-12-10-Love-Never-Gives-Up/

[12] Illustration inspired from Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, p.58.

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