Designer clothes are known by their trademark labels and designs. You can know if clothing is from Under Armour if it has the UA symbol. You can know if it’s a Polo shirt if it has the symbol of a horse with a man and polo stick. Nike has the swoosh; Adidas has the stripes. Vera Bradley bags are known for their floral & pastel designs. Such trademark labels and designs make these products easily distinguishable and fully on display for others.
Further, those who hold an office of a unique kind can be identified by their attire: doctors wear the white jacket, police officers wear a uniform, a judge wears a robe.
Likewise, God has designed easily distinguishable and displaying evidence for those who belong to Him. The evidence can be irrefutably proven. Jesus said it was this: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
We have spent the last 6-weeks, with two more – counting this Sunday reflecting on what it means to define and display God’s love. 1 Corinthians 13 lists 7 positive comparisons for love and 8 negative contrasts (15 total). Today’s message will review the final negative contrast and provide a near summary of the relevance and power of love in our life today.
EXAMINE 1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13 1 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 not rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or love is not 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 in part; 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.
Love is holy, so confront wrong.
So far, Paul has identified what love is not: impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful keeping records of wrongdoing. Not keeping a record of wrongs does not excuse others of wrongdoing. Since God is love, love is holy and full of truth.
Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Illus 1: Friend Sandy (former SPBC member) has a playful personality where she likes to play tricks or banter back and forth. For example, for “pastor appreciation gift” she sent me a jar full of skittles and m&m’s mixed together. After grabbing a handful and taking your first bite, you realize something is definitively wrong.
Illus 2: Humanity should not celebrate violence, exploitation and human trafficking, murder, and the like. Each of us have a God-designed conscience with an innate standard for right and wrong. While some people attempt to rationalize certain standards, deep down they know there is an appropriate right and an unacceptable wrong.
Biblical love is holy, so confront wrong. Not keeping a record of wrongs does not excuse others of wrongdoing. Love does not grin or gaze at sin. #1Corinthians13Tweet
So, Paul writes in v.6, “love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” Agape love does not grin or gaze at sin; it is holy and true based according to God’s commands.
The city of Corinth was known for all kinds of sinful practices. Likewise, the Christians involved at the church at Corinth had difficulty overcoming similar sin habits.
- They had internal church division (1Cor 3:16).
- They had marital infidelity (1Cor 5:6).
- They had interpersonal conflicts (1 Cor 6:2-3)
- They had intimate family dysfunction, sin, and immoral perspectives (1 Cor 6:9, 15-16).
- They had idolatrous business and worship practices (1 Cor 9:13, 24).
In each above case, Paul employs a literary device to address the Corinthians and hold them accountable to their professed Christian faith. He asks, “Do you not know?” (1Cor 3:16; 5:6; 6:2-3; 6:9, 15-16, 19; 9:13, 24). His aim was to challenge the Corinthians to self-evaluate and replace satan’s lie with God’s truth.
The world, the flesh, and the devil are daily taking aim to attack and overcome our heart. The world is where deceptive ideas, devious values, disordered desires, and depraved practices are becoming normalized. They’re not just being normalized but institutionalized with the twin sins of 1) the redefinition of good and evil, and 2) rebellion against God. We indulge our flesh rather than discipline it, so we end up becoming like thermometers that assume the heat and pressure of the world. In these cases, Christians, and the church becomes intertwined with worldliness that it loses its integrity and credibility before a world who hears truth proclaimed but see falsehood being lived.
Instead, Christians must feed our spirit and starve the flesh by walking in love and truth from Jesus Christ.
à Familiarize & marinate in the Gospels with the life of Jesus.
- What’s your 2023 plan with the Gospels?
- BibleX (21 days) / Gospels Life Church (30 days) / Bible Project (90 days) /
- Men’s Group in John starting Feb-May.
à Intertwine with a Gospel Group. For some, your first step is membership, but your next step is participating in a Group.
This furthers the idea of not rejoicing at wrongdoing not just about us but others. God wants us to help others rejoice with the truth and reject wrongdoing.
- Love confronts while it comforts.
The most loving action a person can do is to warn someone against wrongdoing.
- God with Adam & Eve / Abel / Hagar (Genesis)
- Where are you? (3:9)
- What have you done? (4:10)
- Where are you going? (16:8)
- Jethro with Moses (Ex 18:14) Why do you work alone?
- Nathan with David (2 Sam 12:9)
- Why have you despised the word of the Lord?
- How long will you limp between two different opinions? (1Ki 18:21)
- Can these dry bones live? (Ez 37:3)
- Why do you rob God? (Mal 3:8)
- Who do you say that I am?… For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? (Mk 8:29, 36)
- Paul with Peter (Gal 2:14), “How can you twist the gospel to unbelievers?”
These are a sampling and summary of questions that we can ask others. We love others by causing them to evaluate their attitudes and actions. By asking questions, we are not accusing but causing them to take assessment.
As Christians, we reject wrongdoing, and we rejoice with truth. Therefore, we invite others to speak into our life based upon the character and commands of our Lord Jesus.
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.
Love is holy, so confront wrong.
Love is hope-filled, so don’t give up.
As Paul deals with Corinthians who are celebrating wrong, he also recognizes the grief of those who want people to change from wrongdoing to righteousness. Love demands holiness and holding one another accountable. But it also endures difficulty.
Love bears. The word στέγω means to cover or shield, like a roof covers a house and shields it from weather elements of sun’s oppressive heat, fierce winds, or pummeling rain. God’s love is our protective covering; it’s a refuge and defender for us.
Psalm 18:1-2 “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
This language of love is battle imagery. Godly love helps us discern to fight for the right principles in the right manner.
Overall, Paul isn’t just an over-realized optimist or half-heartedly seeing a silver lining. Instead, Paul understands the impact of eternity. The Corinthian church was full of sinners and fellow strugglers who needed reminded that
- We are not defined solely by our past mistakes.
- We are not limited solely by our present challenges.
- God’s love sees what we can become and offers hope to each of us.
Love believes and hopes. Agape love believes in the transforming power to free individuals from hang-ups, habits, and hurts.
- 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 instead of declining her self-esteem.
- Like the parent who speaks into a child’s life believing they can learn and do, they grow to become.
- Like the man who sees his friend in the grind of addiction, resulting in mental health challenges and marital struggles, yet believes for the miracle of transforming grace and reconciliation.
You see, 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.
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).
The word for “Endures” ὑπομένω 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. The word pictures an army surrounded by superior forces and attacked on all sides, but the few, the proud, the brave 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, with you surviving and thriving.
Biblical love is hope-filled, so don’t give up. Love bears and shields from hardship. Love believes and hopes with transforming power. Love endures against all odds. #1Corinthians13Tweet
One cannot help but reflect upon the nativity narrative with Joseph and Mary. Joseph had been betrothed to Mary.
- Betrothal was a legally binding agreement between families for the marriage of a son and daughter. The wedding occasion for the Eastern world was unique. The groom sends a friend of the bridegroom to conduct negotiations with the woman’s parents to establish a dowry for purchase. The reason for a dowry was the family would miss out on the workforce efficiency and required assistance for its loss (cf. Gen 29:18; 1Sam 18:25). So, the man pays for the wedding – – – which, as a father of four daughters I am herby instituting a policy #DowryForDadsOfDaughters!
After a dowry was agreed upon the wedding couple would enter a betrothal period; stronger than the modern version of being engaged. In fact, to separate from a betrothal agreement would have required a divorce (Mat 1:18; Deut 20:7). During the betrothal time the groom would ensure the woman’s purity and wait for intimacy, and during that time would also go prepare a place for his bride with the assurance that he would return to take her to himself (cf. John 14:2-3). On the night of the wedding procession, both parties would dress as elegantly as they could afford (Rev 21:2). The groom would come to the house of the bride and together they’d march through the neighborhood celebrating with music and dancing and joy. Friends would come along to help light the path at night (cf. Mat 25:1-13).
The wedding feast would last an entire week with guests coming and going. Again, the groom was financially responsible to host a huge feast of food and wine for the community (Mat 22:1-13). In return, the community dressed in wedding garments brought gifts to help offset the costs and to help the new couple get started establishing their family.
When Joseph learned Mary was pregnant, this was devastating news. He had high hopes and expected dreams just like any young person waiting to wed. Matthew’s Gospel says Joseph was a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace Mary publicly, decided to divorce her quietly (1:19). Joseph’s righteousness mirrors the character of agape love in 1Cor 13.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or not rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or love is not 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.
Paul last characteristic of love, “never ends” [πίπτει] which means to forcefully fall apart or collapse under pressure.
Just as Joseph’s love never ended for Mary, so does God’s love for us never end.
- Psalm 103:8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
- Lamentations 3:22 “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.”
There are many things in our life that we wonder if they will end.
- Will temptation end?
- Will personal crisis end?
- Will national wars end?
- Will sickness and suffering end?
- Will disease and death end?
Paul notes a few things will expire.
- Prophecies will pass away. OT prophecies concerning the Messiah were concealed but in the NT they are revealed. While prophecy was/is profoundly important throughout the Scriptures, there will come a time when we live in complete fulfillment of God’s promises.
- Tongues will cease. The gift of tongues is a little mysterious, but essentially it was God’s means to spread the gospel to all peoples (1Cor 14:22, cf. Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6). 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).
- Knowledge will pass away. The spiritual gift of knowledge is used for discernment in relationships 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).
Agape love on earth is the appetizer before the great feast in heaven. Likewise, the first Advent prepares us for the second Advent – the return of Jesus Christ.Tweet
So, 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 (cf. Revelation 21:1-6).
As we near single digits of days until Christmas, we recognize the Christmas spirit brings us a month, or at most two months of benevolence and happiness. Gift-giving occurs on multiple days, but most especially on Christmas evening and day. For a few moments, people are joyful and generous, even toward strangers. This wonderful time of the year makes us wonder why we cannot continue to care for others for successive days and months.
Agape love on earth is the appetizer before the great feast in heaven. Likewise, the first Advent prepares us for the second Advent – the return of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to be human so that love would come down.
- He needed a face that people could see and hear words of compassion…, and later so Judas would have a place to kiss.
- He needed a spine and back to stand with conviction…, and later against an unjust trial and Roman persecution with a whip, that would ultimately sentence him to execution.
- He needed hands to touch the unclean and heal frail bodies…, and later so there would be a place for spikes to hold him to the cross.
- He needed a head to rest and pray…, and later for thorn spikes to press through His brow.
- He needed a human heart to break in love for us.
- He became like us so that we might have access to Him.
Many take this last week of Christmas to purchase food, plan final decorations, wrap presents, call loved ones. And everyone is asking the question: “Are you ready for Christmas?” My friend, the greater question is, are you ready for Christ’s return?
 Illustration adapted from Tony Evans Illustrations.
 Copy video response: https://www.facebook.com/1145388084/videos/10224321558363664/
 For further study on this topic, see John Mark Comer, Live No Lies.
 Word picture inspired from https://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2000-12-10-Love-Never-Gives-Up/
 Insights from Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, Chapter 14: Marriage Customs.
 Anthony Thiselton, NIGTC 1Corinthians 13:8.