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I CORIN. 13:1-13

           I. The Priority Of Love

          II. The Personality Of Love

         III. The Permanency Of Love


     I think you will agree with me that this is indeed one of the greatest chapters in all of the Bible, its language is sublime. A. T. Robertson, the great Greek scholar, said that this chapter comes as a sweet bell between the jangling noises of chapter 12 and 14. Right in the midst of this discussion of the disorder, the confusion, the problems and the division they are experiencing in Corinth about the matter of spiritual gifts the apostle Paul devotes time to this beautiful, beautiful little chapter on love.

     Now it is very important that we look at this love chapter in its context. We must always study the Bible in its context. Someone said text out of context is pretext, so you must always be sure that you know what’s gone before a chapter and what is going to come after a chapter. So in that connection it’s important for us to notice verse 31 of the previous chapter. In chapter 12 he has laid before us the matter of spiritual gifts, he has said that every believer has one or more spiritual gifts, that the Holy Spirit sovereignly chooses which gifts a believer is going to have, and then he says in verse 31, But covet (that is, desire) earnestly the best gifts: and yet I show unto you a more excellent way. So in that context and in that atmosphere he moves to a discussion of love.

     Now there are three categories I want you to jot down that will be very important to your understanding of this chapter and the whole area of spiritual gifts. I want you to jot down the GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT, GIFT OF THE SPIRIT and GRACES OF THE SPIRIT.     Those three categories are vital to our understanding. The gift of the Holy Spirit of course refers to the Holy Spirit himself. The Bible says that when we repent of our sin and invite Jesus Christ into our heart as our personal Savior He comes into our life in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our Lord’s ascension gift to His believing people. When Jesus ascended back to heaven then Christ poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit on believers. So there is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself.

     Then the Bible discusses the matter of the gifts of the Spirit, and we’ve been spending a little time talking about these different gifts of the Holy Spirit. Three categories of the gifts of the Spirit: there are the speaking gifts, there are the serving gifts, and then there are the sign gifts. So the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit himself, the gifts of the Spirit are those grace gifts given by the Holy Spirit to individual believers for the purpose of ministry and service.

     But also there is the matter of the graces of the Holy Spirit. Now referring to the graces of the Holy Spirit I mean in particular the fruit of the Spirit as it is mentioned in Galatians chapter 5. You will remember in that magnificent passage it says, The fruit of the Spirit is, and then he enumerates nine items beginning with love. Those are the graces of the Holy Spirit. The graces of the Holy Spirit enable us to function as believers and to exercise the gifts of the Spirit in the right atmosphere and with the right spirit. Now that was at the root of the problem of believers in Corinth. The Bible says they had all of the Spirit’s gifts, all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were in operation in the Corinthian church but there was an absence of the graces of the Spirit, there was no love in that congregation. They were fighting and they were quarreling, they were disagreeing with one another, there was evidence of carnality and deep sin in their fellowship, and there was an absence of love, there was an absence of the graces of the Spirit in that fellowship.

     That’s why it is not an unrelated subject, right in the middle of the discussion on tongues, for Paul to give us this magnificent, beautiful subject, this beautiful chapter on the subject of love. Now it’s very difficult for us in our day to talk a great deal about love in Bible terms. Love has been so abused in our day, the very usage of the word “love” has become such that it’s hard for people to really understand what you mean when you talk about love 2in Bible terms. We use the word “love” in so many interesting connections: I love peanut butter; I love my Honda. We use the word in so many different kinds of ways. And of course love is so often perverted in the minds of people today. Several years ago I read about a man who blinded a young lady and then she turned around and married him. What a strange conception that is of love. Sometimes when people discuss the matter of love or sometimes when they say, I love you, what they really mean is, I love myself and I want to use you. I’m not talking about that kind of love. I am not talking about a perverted kind of love or a self-centered kind of love.

     The love that Paul discusses and we’re talking about tonight is a love that is supernatural in origin. Now you will notice that as I read this chapter I changed the King James word “charity” and used the word “love"  .It is the Greek word “agape", agape love. There were several words for love that were found in the Greek language. One of those was the word “eros", it was the word that made reference to sexual love, sensual love. So polluted did that particular word become that it is never found in the fertile soil, the beautiful garden of scripture. One of the words for love that was also found was the word to describe social love, it was the word “philos” from which we get the word “Philadelphia", it was a love that referred to affection between members of a family. You do find that word in the New Testament. But it seems as if the Holy Spirit coined a word to described the love that we’re talking about tonight, it is the word “agape"  .For instance in John 3:16 it says, For God so loved the world, it is the word “agape"  .SoPaul here is using that word “agape” love.

     Now love in this sense is something that is impossible to produce from the human personality. You and I are not capable of this kind of love. That’s why sometimes I say to a lost man, though he may love his wife and though he may love his family, when he comes to Jesus Christ he will be able to love them with a love that he has never known before. I am referring to that supernatural love that is only given to a man by God himself. Romans 5:5 Galatians 5:22 again, The fruit of the Spirit is love. In John’s gospel the Bible says we are taught of God to love one another. So, you see, I am talking about a supernatural love, I am talking about a love that only comes into a life as a result of the new-birth experience. That’s the love that we must have and that is the atmosphere in which spiritual gifts must be exercised if they are to accomplish what God wants them to accomplish. So let’s look at this chapter around several main divisions.

     In the opening three verses of this chapter he lays before us the PRIORITY OF LOVE. Now he begins with a hypothetical situation and he basically, in the opening verse, points out to us that without love we are nothing but noise. Do you see he begins the chapter by saying, Though I.  You could change the word “though” and just use the word “If"  .IfI speak with the tongues of men and of angels. And then in verse 2, If I have the gift. He is using hypothetical situations. Now what he’s saying is that spiritual gifts without love amount to just so much noise. Now he begins in verse 1 talking about though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels; that is, earthly eloquence or heavenly ecstasy. Now what he’s simply saying is, Though I am able to speak with human eloquence, though I am able to speak in such a way that people will be enthralled by what I say; or, he says, if I am able to speak the language of angels themselves. Now the question arises, What is he referring to here? Is there a kind of angelic language?

     When you study the scriptures and the speaking of the angels every time in the Bible we have a record of the angels speaking they always spoke in a language that was understood by the people to whom they spoke. There is no evidence that the angels ever spoke in a kind of unknown language. What does the Bible teach about a prayer language? There is no evidence, to my understanding, in scripture that there is a kind of prayer language that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. There is no angelic language that God gives to believers. And of course, you see, he’s dealing with a hypothetical case here; he is just simply saying, Suppose I could speak with all human eloquence, suppose I could speak as if I were an angel myself. His point is, If I don’t have love it is just so much noise.

     Now in the Corinthian city the mystery cults were very prominent and there was the worship of Dionysius, there was the worship of Cybele there, and the worship of those mystery cults was very ecstatic, they had ecstatic utterances, they had clanging cymbals, they had blaring trumpets, it was a very noisy, it was a very disorganized kind of thing. But Paul says all of that without love amounts to nothing more than noise. He said, I’m like a sounding brass, a noisy gong; I am like a tinkling cymbal, a clanging cymbal. Now in there place a cymbal or a gong can have an appropriate purpose, but in and of themselves there’s not a great deal of melody or music to a cymbal or to a gong. I don’t suppose any of you go into any of these record shops around here and say I’d like to have an hour CD of cymbal music, I’d like to have about an hour’s worth of just pure old cymbal noise. Because, you see, there’s no melody there, there’s nothing that moves the heart there, there’s nothing that pleases the senses or appeals to the aesthetic nature of a man there. So, you see, he’s saying that’s exactly the way we are. It doesn’t matter how eloquent you may be, if there’s no love in your heart you don’t communicate, you don’t move the hearts of people. Now of course there is tremendous power in language.  the book of Proverbs say life and death are in the power of the tongue. Have you ever thought about that? Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Every time I think of that verse I am reminded of the career of Adolf Hitler. He had to be one of the greatest public speakers in the world. If you’ll listen to some of the newsreels of his public speeches here was a man that was absolutely on fire with language, and by the means of words this mad man, this demonic man, Adolf Hitler, was able to take a nation of sophisticated, intellectual people and whip them up into a frenzy. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, life and death are in the power of the tongue. But if you had all of that power, Paul says if you don’t have love you’re just so much noise.

     And then he talks not only about the languages but he talks about some other prominent gifts in verse 2: prophecy, knowledge, faith to move mountains; verse 3, the gift of giving, even giving your body to be burned; and he says though you have all of those gifts, if you don’t have love he says you are nothing. All knowledge, if you had all knowledge, if you had faith that could remove mountains, mountain-moving faith, or if you had the gift of giving, or he says if you just went to the ultimate and you sacrificed, you burned your body, he said if all of that is done and there is no love involved he says you’re nothing. In other words he says you put it all in your computer, you put it all in your calculator and you push the button and it comes up one big, fat zero. And, ladies and gentlemen, without love it doesn’t matter how sensational our gifts may be, it doesn’t matter how gifted we may be, if the love of Jesus is not in control of our hearts, and if love does not motivate everything we do then Paul says we’re so much noise and we are nothing. So he begins with the priority of love.

     Then he moves on in verses 4 and following and I want you to see here that he sets before us the PERSONALITY OF LOVE. Now sometimes it is a little hard to understand these kinds of things in the abstract, it is a little difficult for us sometimes to see love and to understand love as an abstract thought. So what we need to do is we need to put flesh and blood on it, we need to see this spiritual commodity in a real light. As you read these verses one of the things you can do here is just take a look at these verses in the light of Jesus and you will see that the statements made about love here give us a beautiful, beautiful picture of the life of Jesus because, you see, this is the way Jesus acted, this is how Jesus conducted himself, these were the governing principles of His relationships to other people. But I’m going to tell you something else, if you’ll look carefully at these verses you will see here the personality of a Spirit-filled believer; here you will find the evidence of a maturing Christian life. Now what is the evidence that you’re growing in the Lord? The Bible says we ought to grow, doesn’t it? The Bible says in Second Peter, Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What is the evidence that we are growing in the Lord?

     Well I believe the evidence that we are growing in the Lord is that there is a growing love in our life for Jesus, for other believers, and lost people. I know I’m growing if I’m loving Jesus more, if I’m loving my brothers and sisters more, and if I’m loving lost people more, then I know I’m growing in my life as a Christian. Now we’re going to take a quick little journey down through these things. There are about thirteen or fourteen of them, according to how you want to divide them here, but I want to just use these as a check list and let’s just see if you and I are growing in the love of Jesus tonight, let’s just see if the love of God is really taking control of our life. All right, verse 4, he says, LOVE SUFFERS LONG. Now what that really literally means, it means love has a long fuse. The root of the word is fire stretched out and it means it takes it a long time to get angry. Love is longsuffering. That means patience with people. Now we are not normally gifted with an abundance of patience, God has to teach us patience, God has to teach us to be longsuffering. So, you see, that’s one of the characteristics of love, love is longsuffering, it’s got a long fuse. It takes a whole lot to upset love, love is patient.

     Now of course the great example of patience is none other than God himself. The Bible says that God is not slack as some men count slackness but He is longsuffering to us-ward, the patience of God. Aren’t you glad God is patient? Oh, friend, aren’t you glad that God didn’t give up on us? Aren’t you glad that God had a long fuse, that God was willing to wait for us to come to Him and receive Him as our Savior? I like to read about Robert Ingersoll and I find his life very, very interesting. Robert Ingersoll was the infidel, he went all over this country making all kinds of speeches, and one day in a speech to demonstrate his proof that God did not exist old Ingersoll said, I’ll give God five minutes to strike me dead. He said, I’ll just give God five minutes to strike me dead. And then of course at the end of five minutes God didn’t strike him dead and Ingersoll would use that as a proof that God didn’t exist. So someone told a preacher named Theodore Parker in that day about what Ingersoll had said, that he’d give God five minutes to strike him dead, and here’s what Parker said, he said, And did the gentleman think that he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in five minutes? Bless your heart, friends, you can’t exhaust the patience of God in five minutes. Love is longsuffering. Oh, we need to pray God will help us to be longsuffering in our dealings with people.

     But then he says LOVE IS KIND; that means love is mild in its disposition. Love is a language which the deaf can hear and which the blind can read. Kindness is a picture of how the Lord Jesus was in His dealing with people, He was kind with people. You know, we ought to ask God to help us to be kind. We’ll blow many an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus if we’re not kind to the people we come in contact with. Let’s ask God to help us be kind to the people who wait on us in the store, to be kind to the people who may pump our gas, to be kind to the people we come in contact with in our daily business dealings. Love is kind.

     Then he says LOVE ENVIES NOT; that means love is not jealous. There is no jealousy in love. Now jealousy is pulling others down. And then he says love vaunteth not itself; now that means to put yourself up. Jealousy pulls people down, vaunting yourself means you lift yourself up. It is pride and if we’re not very careful we’ll do a lot of bragging about ourselves. And the Bible says we are not to do that we are not to vaunt our self, we’re not to brag. You know, we all admire the gorgeous plumes of the peacock until we’re run away by the discordant noise of its voice, and there are a lot of people who would fair a whole lot better if they’d be quiet and let other people brag about them instead of them bragging about themselves. I heard the fable of the two ducks that were seen flying overhead one day with a stick between their beaks and a frog holding on to that stick with its mouth. Someone saw those ducks with that stick and that frog hanging on by its mouth to the stick and someone said, What an original idea, who thought of that? And the frog said, I did, and immediately fell to the ground. And the Bible says pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Love doesn’t pull the others down and love doesn’t lift yourself up.

     And then it says LOVE IS NOT PUFFED UP. Now that means the inner attitude, that means the inner attitude that causes you to brag on yourself, that means being stuffed full of yourself. This is probably the greatest inflation problem the human race faces here, it is the problem of inflation, a higher opinion of ourselves than we ought to be. Love is not puffed up. Boy, don’t you know that hit them a hard lick? Because Paul had already said on several occasions in this book, he said, You’re puffed up, you’re filled with pride. Love is never puffed up.

     And then he says LOVE DOES NOT BEHAVE ITSELF UNSEEMLY; that is, unbecomingly. Love is not crude. You know, I just hope you’re not crude. Please don’t be crude. You know, there is nothing more unbecoming of a believer than a person who acts rude and crude and coarse. Be careful about the language you use and don’t go around using crude language. You don’t have to prove you’re a man that way. You don’t have to prove to others you’re really tough by being crude in your language. Love does not behave itself unseemly. LOVE SEEKS NOT HER OWN. In other words, love doesn’t have to be number one. Love is not easily provoked. What I like to translate that by is this: love is not touchy. You don’t have to walk on egg shells around a person that has love in their heart. You ever seen anybody that they’re just so touchy? I mean they’ve just got a sharp spirit and every time you get around them it’s like getting around porcupines. I mean you just can’t get close to them without getting pierce through by one of them. Love is not touchy. Love is not easily provoked.

     LOVE THINKS NO EVIL. Now there’s an interesting picture. I think a better way to translate that is, love does not keep records of wrongs done to it. What he’s saying is, love doesn’t know how to count. Now, you know, this is so very important in a husband-and-wife relationship. Did you know there is many a couple has wound up in the divorce court because they kept a record of wrongs done to them on the part of the other partner? I’ve got news, friend, if you’re going to make it in your marriage you better throw the counting book away and you better not keep a record of all the wrongs. Well, you don’t know what he did to me. You don’t know what she did to me. I’ve got them all down in a book here, I’m writing it all down. Love doesn’t know how to count. I’ll prove it to you. I’ll prove that love doesn’t know how to count. Do you remember one time when old Simon Peter was feeling extra spiritual? I mean he was going to be Mr. Rededication of A.D. 90. I mean, boy, he was feeling mighty spiritual, so he kind of sidled up to the Lord one day, he said, Lord, how many times should I forgive those that sin against me? Now in those days the rabbis said that you should forgive them three times, so he decided he’d double that and add one. He said, Should I forgive them seven times? And he just knew that the Lord was going to pat him on the shoulder and said, Well, bless yo’ heart, Simon, that’s about as spiritual a thing as I’ve heard said in a long time. No.  Jesus said, No, Simon, I don’t say unto you seven. He said, Seventy times seven. Now you’re sitting here, you say, seventy times seven, 490; when she hits 491 I’m going to get her. No, no, no. You missed the point. What Jesus is saying by that seventy times seven is love doesn’t know how to count. You see? Love does not keep a record of evils done against it.

     Oh, we see this in our Lord on the cross. I mean we see this when Jesus Christ hung on the cross. What if Jesus had kept a record of wrongs? I heard about the old farmer, he married his wife and they were going out for a ride in the wagon one night and there was that old mule, you know, riding along, and that mule kind of balked, and the farmer said, Get up, Mule! And the mule got up and they went a little bit further and the old mule balked again and he said, I said, Get up, Mule! So the mule went a little bit further and it balked again. And that farmer just got out of his wagon, he reached in there and got his shotgun, went out in front of that mule and KABLOOEY!, just shot that mule right on the spot. And his new wife said, Don’t you think that was a little hasty? He said, That’s one. What if Jesus had counted wrongs? What if on Calvary’s cross when they insulted Him, what if Jesus said, That’s number four? What if when they spat upon Him, what if Jesus had said, That’s the third time? But, you see, friends, Jesus was filled with love and love keeps no record of wrongs done against it. Do you know something else he said? Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Let me ask you a question. Which had you rather hear: a juicy piece of gossip on somebody that’s bad or had you rather hear something good about somebody? Oh, why is it that we have much more tendency to want to hear something bad on somebody? And, you know, Christians are the worst, they have what I call spiritual gossip. You ever hear any of that spiritual gossip? “Now I’m not gossiping but in order to help you pray more correctly, let me tell you...” Are you happy when something bad happens to somebody? Love rejoices not in iniquity, love rejoices in the truth. See?

    verse 7 he says, LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS. Really the word “bears” ought to be translated “covers", love covers all things. That does not mean that you condone sin. Love covers the multitude of sins. It’s what Jesus did when the poor woman taken in adultery was brought into the presence of Jesus Christ. You remember what happened? They drug her in the presence of Jesus Christ and they said, The law says that she’s to be stoned to death; what do you say? You know the Lord Jesus stooped down, the only record we have that Jesus ever wrote anything, and He wrote in the sand. And in just a moment the Lord Jesus stood up as they were pressing the issue upon Him, and the Lord Jesus said, Let he that is without sin cast the first stone. Boy, you could just hear those rock, THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! and they all got in a line and walked away, the oldest first. You know why? He had the most sins. And then Jesus said, Woman, where are those thine accusers? has no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And the only one in the universe, the only one who had a right to cast a stone, on the terms that Jesus had said he that is without sin, said to her, Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more. Love covers. Love covers a multitude of sins, covers all things.

     BELIEVES ALL THINGS. Love wants to believe the best. HOPES ALL THINGS. Love is always optimistic. Love always believes it’s going to work out. LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS. That doesn’t mean just grin and bear it but it’s the picture of a stout-hearted soldier who gets under the load and doesn’t merely just bear it but he carries it on to victory. That’s love, ladies and gentlemen, and it is a description of what you and I are like if the love of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God is filling and controlling our lives on a daily basis. That’s the personality of love.

     Now watch. The priority of love: love is more important than all of the gifts. If you don’t have love you’re just so much noise, you’re just nothing. The personality of love: here is how love will conduct itself on a daily basis. And then the PERMANENCY OF LOVE. He says in verse 8, Love will never fail, and the picture there is of the petals of a flower that fall to the ground. He says basically here, love never fades. And you remember, prophecies will fail, and tongues will cease, knowledge will vanish away, and of course prophecy and knowledge here are specialized terms, restricted terms in this passage, as I understand it, referring to those special gifts that were given until the New Testament canon was completed. Because he says in verse 10, when that which is perfect (which, I believe, is a reference to the scriptures), then that which is partial will be done away. Tongues will cease because in verse 11 he uses the illustration of a child and he’s simply saying it’s time to move on beyond the babyhood years of the church. And the tongues ceased in and of themselves because at the end of the First Century Christian era the judgment sign that they had intended to be for unbelieving Jews, as taught in First Corinthians 14, had already been fulfilled and it’s passed off the scene. But what he’s saying now, he’s saying this, Though these things may come and go they’ll have their day and they’ll pass away. He’s simply saying there will never be a time that love will not be needed and that love will not be the most important factor in the life of a believer.

     And then he says in verse 13, now abides faith, hope, love. Look at those three words just quickly now as I wrap it up. Faith, hope, love: those are the three most important words in the Christian life. Those three words right there describe the entire Christian life. You see, you live your life in three dimensions, you are really 3-D. When I was a boy they came out with these 3-D movies, that was before the days of cinematography and all these kind of things, they had 3-D movies and you’d have to put on these little old glasses to see the 3-D movies. Well the fact of the matter is we’re all 3-D. Right now, sitting in this building you are living in three dimensions. You have a past, you have a present, and you have a future.

     Now, you see, faith addresses your past. You see, there’s one thing every one of us in this building have in common in our past and it’s that we’ve all sinned. We come from different states, we come from different circumstances and situations but there’s one thing that’s true about the past of every one of us: all have sinned. And that’s why you all need a Savior, that’s why every lost person in this building tonight, you need to be saved, you need a Savior. But, you see, that’s where faith comes in. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross and He shed His blood for our sin and when by faith I receive what Jesus Christ did for me He cares for my past. Hallelujah. But then, you see, I’ve got a future, and if you do not have Jesus Christ there’s only one word to describe your future, it is fear, fear of death, fear of judgment, fear of meeting God. But when you come to Jesus Christ as your Savior you now have hope and hope cares for the future, you’ve got a blessed hope. Now, you see, if your past is cared for by faith, and your future is cared for by hope, that liberates you now to live in the present and how do you live in the present? By love. Boy, what a way to live. Amen? Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but, he says, the greatest of them is love.

     But he’s not through. He moves on down in chapter 14 and he says, Follow after love. And the word “follow” there could be translated pursue, make it the ambition of your life to love. You know, if there’s anything that you and I should desire that people would say of us it ought to be that when they see us or when they speak of us they think of the love of Jesus. There was a sweet young Christian girl and someone said to her one time, Everybody just seems to love you. Why is it everybody just seems to love you? And the sweet young Christian girl said, Well I guess it’s because I just love everybody. And, you know, isn’t that the way we ought to live? We ought to have love for the Lord, love for one another, and love for the lost.

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