When Love Comes To Town (1Corinthians 13:8 – 14:1a)

MOTIVATE

  • Picture attending the wedding day of one of my daughters.
  • Pastor’s children are grown / Pastor’s hair has been lost but he still loves the Lord & people.
  • Pastor’s wife D has been busy for several month’s preparing the wedding day.
  • Day comes… I’m a wreck.
  • Wedding starts with flower girls… Jake Mo’s daughter is the flower girl. She can’t walk straight down the aisle, but she’s delightful to watch.
  • Groomsmen and Bridesmaids march down aisle to melodious tune.
  • I’m still a wreck.
  • And then the doors close and after a brief moment re-open for me to nervously walk my daughter down the aisle.
  • The ceremony is beautiful: 1Corinthians 13 was read by Kaylie Mo / Sophia D’s twin boys play a splendid violin & cello piece, the pastor gives a nice message and the wedding couple kiss & dance out.
  • An innumerable and unnecessary amount of pictures are taken.
  • Everyone travels to the reception.
  • And somehow you end up at a table with PD’s great aunts Susie & Ginny who are spitfires and can’t stop talking. They’re going on and on about how sweet the ceremony was and every lavish detail ad-nauseum.
  • The only possible way for you to minimize the talking is to speak about the Bible passage read. So, you remark – “Wasn’t that 1Cor 13 passage frightening?” And Susie & Ginny are startled enough to silence. You explain, “That passage about love was frightening because it shows us the frightening possibility that we can be good and do lots of good in the world but still not be loving and have it amount to nothing. Isn’t that a frightening thought?”
  • Indeed, we can get to the end of our life and realize we’ve worked constantly but without genuine compassion; and therefore we gain nothing.
  • The frightening possibility is that we can go to a wedding or even get married and miss understanding love. And we can go to church or even serve in a church and miss understanding love.
  • 1Cor 13
  • 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).
    • Love endures (vv.8-13).

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EXAMINE           1Corinthians 13:8-13              When Love Comes To Town: Christ Endures

*Read / Memorization friends

Agape love is permanent (1Cor 13:8-12).

The previous 15 characteristics described love as positive, piercing, and promising, and a 16th characteristic describes love as permanent. Paul says, “Love never ends.” The word is πίπτει which means to forcefully fall apart or collapse under pressure.[1] Yet, while love endures the spiritual gifts will end.

Prophecies will pass away. The gift of prophecy was greatly important in the OT. Prophets would speak to kings, national leaders, and have substantial influence upon people. Even in the NT, prophecy played a role in developing the early church showing the fulfillment of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:16; Rom 12:6; Eph 4:11; 1Cor 12:10, 27; 14:1, 5, 22-32).

Tongues will be cease. The gift of tongues remedied the curse on Babel (Gen 11; Acts 2), as well as apparently adding a dimension of divine communication with God (1Cor 13:1; 14:13-14). Further, the gift of tongues and its immediate interpretation were used as a sign to unbelievers and the spread of the gospel (1Cor 14:22, cf. Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6).[2] While this gift advanced the gospel, there will be a time when it is unnecessary as “tongues will evaporate as readily as tears” at the resurrection and we will be in perfect communion with God (cf. Rev 4-5; 21).[3]

Knowledge will pass away. The spiritual gift of knowledge is used for discernment in ministry and wisdom to make decisions. Our use of this gift will be completed since God’s wisdom will be fully revealed in eternity. Specifically, the spiritual gift of knowledge ceases, not knowledge itself, as “then I will know fully as I am fully known” (1Cor 13:12).

Human knowledge has also increased greatly over the centuries. While knowledge been added over the centuries, we have entered a season where knowledge multiplies rapidly – within years, months, and sometimes weeks and days. Some say a college degree becomes dated in less than two years. Medical advancements have been rapid over the last few decades; and electronic innovation has been astonishing. Yet, often we equate knowledge with technology, which mostly relies upon electricity. If electricity fails then technology and modern knowledge is drastically changed, revealing the fragility of our knowledge and view of human competency. So, while some say knowledge doubles, it could also be said our skills are halving because we are losing the essential skills that allowed humanity to exist and thrive for thousands of civilizations.[4]
– – – – –

Sidebar: When will spiritual gifts end? Paul says “when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end” (1Cor 13:10). The perfect refers to the return of Christ and the glorification of humanity. Paul references maturity from childhood to adulthood as a reflection of spiritual maturity coming to its completion in eternity.
Interpretatively, the question of the “perfect” relates to the return of Christ OR as some say, the completion of the biblical canon. The latter assume the sign & wonder gifts were confined to the time of Jesus and apostles and are no longer necessary since we have the Scriptures to guide our discernment of the Holy Spirit and for ministry and making disciples. In this view, revelations from prophecy, tongues, or knowledge are no longer needed now that God has spoken through His Son and Holy Scripture. This group is known as “cessationists.” In contrast, those who believe all the spiritual gifts are still applicable are often known as “charismatic.” Charismatics or continuationists are not to be confused with “Pentecostal,” which view the Spirit gifts as a second-baptism and a different class of Christianity, not to mention some streams diverging from orthodox doctrines of God, Scripture, and more. Paul is very clear that not all speak on tongues and have diversity of gifts, with their use in proper order (1Cor 12:27-13:1; 14:33). In sum, it would seem the sign gifts are still applicable today with appropriate application (1Cor 14:39-40).

– – – – –

The Corinthians sought to compete and boast against each other with the spiritual gifts. There seems to be debate and division over which gift was superior and which were inferior, and thus which people were more important and which were insignificant. Yet, Paul emphasizes the gifts – especially the charismatic – as temporary while love is permanent.

At times, our spiritual giftedness, talents, and titles can become our identity. We introduce and define ourselves by positions and possessions rather than presence of humanity and pure love for others.

The spiritual gifts are signposts pointing to us to the future in the presence of Christ. However, love isn’t just a signpost but a preview and foretaste of the ultimate reality. Therefore, love is not only a Christian duty, but is our destiny.[5]

Our culture’s view of love is not permanence but unpredictability and changeability. If something or someone comes along with greater potential or promise then our love can be re-assigned. A hit song of a prior time shows how our culture’s view of love is unreliable and not just ‘a shiver in the liver’:

The Shirelles 1960 Will You Still Love Me
Tonight you’re mine completely, You give you love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes, But will you love me tomorrow?
Is this a lasting treasure, Or just a moment’s pleasure?
Can I believe the magic of your sighs? Will you still love me tomorrow?
Tonight with words unspoken, You say that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken, When the night meets the morning sun?
I’d like to know that your love Is love I can be sure of, So tell me now, and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow? So tell me now, and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

 

  • God’s love of permanent. It is consistent and ceaseless, therefore by grace through faith in Christ we can rest confidently in Christ.
    • Ephesians 3:19-20
    • Romans 8

Agape love is preeminent and prosperous (1Cor 13:13-14:1a).

Paul closes this profound synopsis on love with the statement: “these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Faith, hope, and love are one of Paul’s unique and usual triplets.[6] In Paul’s eyes, the church’s success benchmarks are found in this triplet. The prosperity the Bible speaks of is not so much found in material possessions as these moral virtues.

Personally, I also find it insightful that Paul lists love as greater to faith and hope. Faith is foundational for salvation and continuing in spiritual growth to be found in Christ at the resurrection of the dead (Rom 1:17; 3:22). Hope is certainty of God’s promise for molding our character and redeeming our circumstances going into eternity (Rom 5:4-5; 8:24-25). So, how can love be greater than these sustaining life virtues? While faith and hope remain, they are transformed so the Christian lives in full faith and hope through sight in the presence of God; but love remains grounded in Christ and the church. Therefore, love is the greatest because it’s the pinnacle of every person, including our Triune God, to perfectly and selflessly give oneself to another. Paul’s message to the Corinthian’s chaos and conflict in their church was to center on the love of God shared among each other. So, Paul exhorts, “Pursue love” (1Cor 14:1a).

Paul’s command to pursue is in the present tense carrying the idea of ongoing passionately following Jesus, perhaps like his zeal to persecute Christians, which was redeemed to follow Christ (cf. Php 3:7-10).

  • Since love is permanent and preeminent, our faith and relationships in the church must reflect agape. It is difficult to say “look how much faith/hope/love” that person has. It takes years, and a lifetime, to look back and evaluate a person or a church’s faith/hope/love. So, the evidence of our faith/hope/love is endurance – a long obedience in the same direction in trusting & treasuring Christ, in relationships, marriage, family, and church life.
    • “I’m saved and believe and Jesus.” Yes, hopefully, but let’s continue on. Salvation is described in all tenses – saved/saving/will be saved – showing the course of one’s life until we meet Christ.

APPLY/THINK

Abstract love is not attractive; agape love acts – love does.[7]
What each of us need is not to accumulate our actions for God, but to account what He has done for us. Our love falls short, but God’s love measures up. Religion tells us to follow these steps or we’ll be lost. But the gospel tells us to follow the Savior and we’ll be loved. God’s agape has acted for us in a positive, piercing, promising, permanent, and prominent manner. “Here is love, vast as an ocean; lovingkindness as a flood”[8]

Loving Jesus is not about stalking Jesus by investigating a bunch of facts and information through Bible study alone. Stalkers learn about people from a distance, but we best learn to love Jesus not by stalking but by becoming a soldier – one who engages the mission.[9]

And Jesus tells us that we will be known by His love for us and our love for others (John 13:34-35).

  • Are you loving those near you: family, neighbors, job, etc.
    • Love is not safe…
      “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable … The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers … of love is Hell.”[10]

  • Love is tangible. Ask, “What can I do to love you more like Jesus?”
  • Love in & through church with people of diverse backgrounds & gifts is the most profound and powerful force on the earth. What will it take for you to become a Christian soldier?

  • Are you loving those far from God?
    • While love is eternal, life on earth is limited. There is no time to waste. See Jesus’s life and what He calls us toward (Matthew 9:36-38).

 

———————–

 

[1] BAGD.

[2] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2013/10/20/tongues-in-book-of-acts/

[3] Anthony Thiselton, NIGTC 1Corinthians 13:8.

[4] http://www.wnd.com/2016/05/is-knowledge-doubling-or-halving/

[5] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p.296.

[6] For further study of these unique triplets see Romans 5:2-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Colossians 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:10-12, 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:21-22.

[7] Inspired from Bob Goff, Love Does, p.17 and throughout.

[8] Lyrics to Welsh hymn by William Rees, updated by variety artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTOP304FOG0

[9] Inspired from Bob Goff, Love Does, ~202

[10] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p.169.

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