Love’n It! – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 04/19/2020

Love’n It! – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 04/19/2020

I wonder, as we consider life and the things we need to survive, and even to thrive, I have to wonder, what would we consider to be more important than love? Our passage today is a well-known one; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I leave it to you to look it up. In context, Paul has just shown that faith, knowledge, prophecy, tongues, gifts and healings, and even a perfect life, a life up to one including martyrdom, without love, are of no great advantage.[1]

With the fifteen verbs Paul applies, in verses 4-7, he describes what the Christian life is supposed to look like.[2] As we consider this kind of love, we need to remember this is, in fact, a description of God’s love.[3] This kind of love does not find its source in us, its source is God Himself, manifest in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This love is different from what the world offers.

Even as a noun, this love is an action word.[4] If we want to understand love, look to the nature of Jesus.[5] He didn’t just tell us to love, He showed us what that love would look like. This love is the one we’re so familiar with, (ἀγάπη)[6] love. It’s a noun, but a very active noun. Honestly, prior to the New Testament, this term conveyed a weak sense of “to be satisfied,” “to receive,” “to greet,” “to honor,” or, more inwardly, “to seek after.”[7] The word is given an exclusively Biblical meaning in the New Testament as it’s intentionally repurposed and applied to God’s love and our reciprocating love to Him, and as a result, love for our fellow creatures… because of Him.[8]

Now, it may seem as if loving God is a safe and antiseptic activity. It’s not. That’s because love for God will be expressed in practical ways to the people around us. For Jesus, love is a matter of will and action rather than feelings. In the New Testament this kind of love is a rational kind of love, it involves the recognition of an individual’s innate value as having been created in the image of God.[9]

I don’t want to fall into the trap of simply running through the list of traits that are expressed through this passage. You can read the list as well as I can, and in fact I encourage you to set aside some time in the near future to meditate on this passage.[10] Instead, what I intend to do is approach this list with broad strokes, making application to our lives.

Fundamentally, it’s impossible to claim that you “love” without being kind to others.[11] But… what exactly does it mean to be kind? Is it just being nice instead of being mean? Being kind is not only being nice instead of being mean, it’s being nice in the face of meanness.[12] It’s being considerate, gracious, forgiving, and generous to all those you come across.[13] Being kind is being prepared to go the extra mile in helpfulness while demonstrating a generosity of spirit.[14] Being kind is being ready to be inconvenienced for the sake of others.

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to begin to see that this list of traits goes way beyond the walls of the church. This is more than a set of rules. This is the standard that, in Christ, will impact all aspects of your life, which is exactly what Christianity is supposed to do.

As you think your way through the list of things love does and does not do, what you begin to notice is that this kind of love always addresses the motive as much as the action.[15] It is this kind of love that motivates us to serve without recognition. This kind of love allows us to take a God’s eye view of things and to serve without being easily upset or angry.[16]

In fact, love will refuse to keep a record of the wrongs committed against us and, instead, will forgive.[17] This is possible because we’ve been forgiven. In fact, to maintain a record of wrongs is a violation of the nature of love.[18] Rather than keeping track, we find that love covers over the faults of others.[19]

Here’s the catch. We cannot do this kind of love. We may pull it off, at least for all outward appearances, for a while. But it won’t last. We cannot do it, and trying to do it will only result in a moralistic set of rules that ultimately becomes a tragic parody of what God actually has in mind for us. This kind of love only happens as the life and nature of Jesus Christ is allowed to be expressed through us, and that only happens as we surrender ourselves to Him in real and practical ways. That’s described as “walking in the Spirit.”

How do we walk in the Spirit? We choose to.[20] We decide to set our minds on God and we decide to listen for and obey the promptings of the Spirit.[21] This is a walk of faith as we choose to die to our old ways of thinking and living, and instead, by faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, we begin to live in the life He brings us.

It is the demonstrable presence of love that is the objective evidence that Christ lives in you. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is given to illustrate some of the properties and effects of love.[22] It allows us to examine our own lives, and in doing so it allows us to determine whether we have this grace or not.[23] The purpose is not to make us feel bad when we fail, and we will. Its purpose is to spur us on to obtaining it.[24]

[1] John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Hubert Kestell Cornish, John Medley, and Talbot B. Chambers, vol. 12, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 194. [2] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1987), 636. [3] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1987), 637. [4] Robert James Utley, Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians, vol. Volume 6, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2002), 151. [5] Derek Prime, Opening up 1 Corinthians, Opening Up Commentary (Leominister: Day One Publications, 2005), 118. [6]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Co 13:4. [7] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 7. [8] Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), 2. [9] Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 11–12. [10] John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Hubert Kestell Cornish, John Medley, and Talbot B. Chambers, vol. 12, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 195. [11] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 64. [12] Accessed from https://www.daniellebernock.com/what-in-the-world-does-it-mean-to-be-kind/ on 4/8/20.. [13] Accessed from https://www.daniellebernock.com/what-in-the-world-does-it-mean-to-be-kind/ on 4/8/20.. [14] Accessed from https://www.daniellebernock.com/what-in-the-world-does-it-mean-to-be-kind/ on 4/8/20.. [15] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 64. [16] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 64. [17] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 10, Romans – Galatians, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Richard Polcyn, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1976), 268. [18] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 10, Romans – Galatians, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Richard Polcyn, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1976), 268. [19] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 10, Romans – Galatians, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Richard Polcyn, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1976), 268. [20] Bob Beltz: Becoming a Man of the Spirit: A Seven-Week Strategy Based on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit, ((NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.: 1990), 66. [21] Bob Beltz: Becoming a Man of the Spirit: A Seven-Week Strategy Based on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit, ((NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.: 1990), 66. [22] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2268. [23] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2268. [24] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2268.

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