Love is the Greatest – 1 Corinthians 13
The twenty fourth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
We met up with my family in the Outer Banks a couple of weeks ago and we took part in a family tradition on morning for breakfast. We ate orange rolls.
Now, I’m going to guess that most of you have never had orange rolls. Most people haven’t.
We are not really sure how this got started, but we think that my grandmother intended to pick up cinnamon rolls and grabbed these by mistake.
However it started, it became something that we ate when we got together with my dad’s mother.
I love them. My brother and sister love them.We grew up on them.
However, the people who have married into the family aren’t as crazy about them.
Then, we all had kids and there are now 7 grandchildren and most of them don’t like them either.
So on the morning we had these rolls, I ate orange rolls and the spouses and kids ate cereal of whatever they wanted to eat, because the reason we got together wasn’t orange rolls.
The reason we got together was we’re family and we love one another.
Can you imagine if out of some desperate dedication to orange rolls I demanded that everyone must eat one! It’s tradition!
There would have been a lot of whining and crying and it wouldn’t have been a whole lot of fun.
I didn’t meet up with my family for orange rolls, I met up with them for them. I love them!
I love my nieces and nephews and brother-in-law and sister-in-law even if they are totally missing out on these awesome orange rolls.
I bring this up before tackling the end of 1 Corinthians 13 because what was happening in the Corinth church was that they were putting the practice of speaking in tongues before their church family and especially before the unchurched people who walked in the door.
Paul get’s really practical on this in chapter 14 because
Chapter 12 covered what they need to know,
Chapter 13 covered what they should feel,
and Chapter 14 covered what they do.
I’m sure if you were to ask the Corinthians, they would have told you that their church was a loving church, after all everyone says that. I’ve never met anyone who says, you should come check out our church. The people are hateful and unfriendly, but still I’d love for you to come with me sometime.
Churches are supposed to be loving and welcoming places, so they would have attempted to play that part, but they weren’t being loving. They were making it hard for the outsider to come in and understand the gospel.
We love our community the best when we make the gospel clear.
The Corinthians weren’t doing that, they were making the worship service into what they wanted it to be and it was a mess and chaotic.
Here in Corinthians where the people were faking it.
Paul takes the approach of showing them just how wonderful love is. He believes if they see the beauty of love, they’ll choose love.
Love isn’t just greater than hypocrisy, it’s greater than all.
He shows them that love is the greatest. It’s the best!
Let’s read this passage and I think you’ll see what I mean (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
In VA Beach when I was a teenager, we called fake people “posers.” We were mainly referring to people who played the part of being a skater or surfer but weren’t. They had the clothes and maybe even the gear but they never skated or surfed.
They wanted to look the part because they thought it was cool or because there were a lot of people in that area that looked that part and they wanted to fit in.
They were playing a role, posing as something or someone that they are not…
There’s another passage where Paul speaks of Spiritual Gifts and Love together, it’s Romans 12 and there Paul says to them-
“Let love be without dissimulation” or in other words let love be without deceit- let love be real. Don’t fake it.
Paul’s aim is the same here, but he wants the Corinthians to see how incredible love is so that they will gravitate toward it.
He ended the previous paragraph saying that love never ends, he starts this one by saying love never ever ends.
In case you thought that love last throughout life, Paul points out here that Love last into eternity.
Sincere love is the greatest because sincere love never, ever ends.
Paul says prophecies will fade, tongues shall cease, and knowledge will vanish, but love will remain.
There’s an application to of this here in this life and in the next.
Let’s talk a second about the application here and then we’ll get to the application for there.
Beauty fades and youth fails, but love remains are we are reminded of that whenever we see an elderly couple holding hands or helping one another shuffle into church on a Sunday morning.
One day I will lose by ability to preach. My mind won’t be as sharp or my voice will fail. I’ll no longer be able to do what I believe God has gifted me and called me to do, that will fade away but love, that will remain. God’s love will not fade. My love for him will not fade.
Paul’s point here is that in the next life, in the heaven, when we are with God, this love will continue.
Everything else will fall away, but love will continue.
“10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
In heaven there will be no need of preaching and speaking in tongues. There will be no need of these spiritual gifts that we employ today.
After all, why would I preach in heaven?
A sermon, at its best, points to Jesus. In heaven I won’t need to preach a sermon to point to Jesus because I will literally be able to point to Jesus.
I won’t need to give you explanation and illustration of who Jesus is, because you will be able to look right at him.
So all of that will go away, but love will remain.
Love will continue. Preaching and Teaching will cease, but love will continue.
Paul is telling them, you are all hung up on speaking in tongues and that is something that we will not even need in heaven. We will not be employing these gifts in heaven!
So Paul is saying to them, you guys are getting all worked up and jumping in front of one another to practice a gift that it just for this small period of time before we get to heaven.
When we get to heaven we’ll be using the greatest gift, love.
Paul then makes an analogy.
When I was a child, I spoke as a Child but when I became a man I put away childish things, when we get to heaven we’ll put away the childish things and we’ll focus on what is mature…
I need to call a timeout here.
The mark of maturity here is not how well we preach or sing or teach or serve or even how much we know.
The mark of maturity is love.
Knowledge, talents, and service are childish in comparison to love.
We often think of mature Christ followers as people who know a lot about the Bible, as people who have these great talents and gifts to serve the church, those are important, but no where near as important as love.
When was the last time your capacity for love grew?
It seems to me from this passage that’s a real metric for Spiritual Growth, love.
Nicole and I are renovating this old house.
We were priming walls this week and she said,
Daniel. Have you seen where they marked their kids height on the wall?
When God marks our spiritual height on a door frame it’s not a measurement of how long we’ve been serving, much we know, how much we’ve done. It’s measurement of how much we love.
This metric, this mark of Spiritual growth, it doesn’t end in this life, it continues on into the next, so it never, ever ends.
Not only is sincere love the greatest because it never ends but also because sincere love only gets better.
Sincere love is the greatest because sincere love only gets better.
Paul makes this statement in verse 12,
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
The glass that they had in their day was nothing like the glass we have today. Glass had just recently been put into use.
Looking through a glass gave a mirky view.
Paul says through a glass darkly.
But then face to face.
We can see what the Lord is doing.
We can experience His presence and His love and His redemption.
But one day, our faith will become sigh.
We will see Him.
Not through the dark glass, but clearly.
When we see Him, when we can point to Him, we’ll no longer need to speak of Him and explain Him, we’ll be able to see Him.
And then, love will not only endure, it will explode.
It will exponentially magnify.
We live a pretty cool time.
My kids Skype with their grandparents pretty often.
Probably about once a week.
They love it.
I’ve got this device that I can send them pictures and videos all of the time.
That is all great, but when they get together, it’s a-whole-nother level, you know?
Paul says, love is powerful now and here, but just you wait until then when we are there. When we will know him just as we are known in the flesh.
In verse 13 Paul says, now abide these three
Faith, Hope, and Love.
These were the trinity of the Christian experience.
They would often be preached about in connection with one another.
Faith brings hope and hope brings love.
When we have faith in Jesus we have hope for this life and the next and we fall in love with Him because of what he has done and is doing in our lives…
Faith, Hope, and Love are seminal elements in the Christian experience- they’re all great.
But love is the greatest.
In Heaven, when we get there,
Faith will be sight.
In Heaven, when we get there,
Hope will be complete.In Heaven, when we get there,
Love will become exponentially greater.
Heaven is the destination for our faith and hope,
but it will be a springboard for our love.
Paul makes the point that there in Heaven we will see and know just as we are known.
We will know Jesus just as we are known.
In VA Beach the way you knew if someone was a “poser” or that they were faking it, was you could see that they never skated because they weren’t banged up.
You could know that they had skated if you could see the scars from when they had inevitably taken a fall…
In Heaven we will see Jesus and we will see His scars because He wasn’t faking it. He truly loves us with a sincere love.