The Powerful Nature of Love – 1 Corinthians 13
The twenty third message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
Man, I am excited to dive into this Chapter with you today. Its a familiar one. Theres a good chance you’ve heard it at a wedding, read it in an instagram post, or seen it in someone’s tattoo. It’s a popular passage and for good reason because it’s absolutely beautiful.
It’s definitely one of Paul’s most lyrical or poetic passages and it’s about love which is such a main element in our lives.
Love is the most used word in music. If you search the iTunes database for “Love” you get thousands of results. There have been 128 songs that were number one on the charts and had love in the title.
Because this passage is beautiful and about love, it’s pretty familiar and common. Famous really- what can happen to a passage that is super familiar is that we lose sight of the context that it is in. For example, many people have heard John 3:16, but how many of them know that statement was made by Jesus to a religious leader named Nicodemus who sought him out at night so no one would know about their meeting?
The context of 1 Corinthians 13 or the Love Chapter is vital to our appreciation of the passage. It will help us see that the direct application is the powerful nature of the love of the church which worship’s Jesus Christ- However, the nature of love is the nature of love and it is powerful in any and every setting. So it fits your marriage, your parenting, your friendships, and your ministry.
Paul was straightening out yet another mess in Corinth and the latest was that in their worship services everyone was trying to practice the gift of speaking in tongues.
It had become the in vogue things to do, people thought if you spoke in tongues then you have arrived. So some people were faking it, some people were using it, not for it’s intended purpose of spreading the gospel over language barriers but for the purpose of getting everyone to notice them and look at them.
So Paul deals with this issue across 3 chapters.
Chapter 12 He tells them what they need to know.
Chapter 13 He tells them what they should be feeling.
Chapter 14 He tells them what they should be doing.
Chapter 12 speaks to the head.
Chapter 13 speaks to the heart.
Chapter 14 speaks to the hands.
So here in Chapter 13 we are speaking to the heart, and what the Corinthians should be feeling, what should be motivating what they do, is LOVE.
I’ve got to press pause here for a moment because in our current day we need to hear this.
In the middle of a letter in which Paul is rebuking the Corinthians, straightening out their theology, arguing with their philosophy, and condemning their practices he writes the most beautiful chapter on love.
The lie that our culture perpetuates is that if I disagree with you then I hate you.
Paul sharply disagreed with the Corinthians even though Paul intensely loved them.
I can love you powerfully even though I disagree with you completely. I can love you without affirming your actions and decisions. I go to the jail on a regular basis. I love those guys and I believe God’s grace can save them. But I don’t affirm their actions.
One of the men who sits in my church services in the jail was just convicted of an execution style murder, and I believe he is guilty. I don’t go to the jail because I disagree with them, I don’t preach to them because I disagree with them, I go because I love them. But the fact that I love them does not mean that I agree with them. I’m motivated by love.
What we need to see from the very presence of this chapter in the letter to the first Corinthians is,
Love is greater than disagreement.
Don’t be persuaded by our current culture’s posture that to disagree is to hate. Do not be afraid that if you disagree that you are doing so out of a hateful heart… Paul writes chapter 12 to help them understand the issue at hand of Spiritual Gifts and Serving. Then he ends Chapter 12 by saying, I show you a more excellent way. Then he goes into chapter 13 and makes these powerful statements.
Let’s read that together. verse 1 –
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels
That’s what this issue is all about. However, Paul was a preacher. Everyday he got up and spoke in front of people telling them about Jesus. There are a couple of indications in scripture that Paul wasn’t the best speaker the church had at the time.
People in Corinth had said they like Peter and Apollos’ preaching better. In one place while Paul was preaching a guy was sitting in a window listening and the guy fell asleep and the guy fell out of the window and died. Paul raised him from the dead and then finished his sermon. Paul says, if I was the best preacher, if I could speak in every tongue so that everyone, even the angels could understand me, but I didn’t have love it just sounds like a clanging symbol or a noisy gong.
I love how vivid Paul gets with this. Ever heard an annoying noise? Got a noise that drives you crazy? Paul said the most eloquent speech is like nails on a chalkboard if there is no love. He doesn’t stop there though.
If I have the gift of prophecy, if I have all knowledge.
If I have powerful faith, enough to do miracles, without love, it’s nothing. It’s not even worth mentioning.
If I gave it all away for others, if I gave my own body to be burned to warm those that were cold, if I did it all without love,
it’s not even a drop in the bucket.
Love is more excellent than knowledge, talent, and service. (12:31-13:3)
This is so powerful.
More than you need an eloquent sermon, you need love.
More than you need an awesome band, you need love.
More than you need your preferred style of worship, you need love.
More than we need a building, or a parking lot, or a sunday school ministry, or a youth group.
We need love.
I’ve seen this illustrated again and again over the past 11 years.
When people come to our church looking for some thing, we might have it, but they won’t stay. Because they’re confused about what they need. They think they need a church with x, y, or z. They think they need a church with a super educated pastor, they think they need a church with a rock band and fog machine, they think that they need a church with awesome coffee, they think they need a church with a huge youth group…
What they need is love. People who have come here and stayed, it’s not because I’m impressive. It’s not because of some cool stuff we’ve got…It’s because they’ve found love here. I’ve also seen this illustrated in personal lives.
There are people who have gobs of talent, more knowledge in their pinky than I’ve got in my whole body, and serve with great dedication, but they didn’t have love and they were incredibly unhappy.
Some of you think that your service to God is where its at because you’re so smart or talented or dedicated, but you lack love and you’re completely missing it.
It’s interesting that when you read the New Testament letters what you find again and again is we are pointed toward the love that God has for us…
Because love is so powerful it overcomes all of the issues. So clearly, love is powerful. What makes love so powerful? Let’s talk about the nature of love.
· Love is patient. v.4
Love suffers long.
That’s a pretty good definition of patience, willing to suffer long. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like suffering period, much less for a long time. I stopped by the store this week and picked up a few things for Chandler Day and I found myself questions how it is that I always pick the slowest register. If there is going to be a malfunction with the register, if someone is going to attempt to pay with foreign currency, if someone is going to be making a special order, I know about it.
I have the gift of prophecy or something. The other day I managed to get myself into a checkout with a long line of retirees and one of the new chip readers.
Love suffers long. Love is patient. Love is willing to wait. Love enjoys waiting and that is so counter cultural that it’s powerful.
· Love is kind. v.4
Patience is passive, kindness is active. To be patient you wait on them. To be kind you act for them.When you love someone, you are not just willing to do them a favor, you are looking to do them a favor.Remember when you first fell in love?You would wait as long as necessary for them to get off of work or to get ready for a date. You would do anything for them.
Why? You were powerfully, intensely in love.
· Love is not envious. v.4
Now there is quite a bit of jealousy in romantic love in the sense that you don’t want anyone else to have the person you love, they are yours and you are theirs. But here the passage is speaking of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ and it is speaking of not being upset when they do well.Not being upset when they receive some good thing. Not trying to put ourselves before others. In other words, love isn’t selfish.
I’ll be honest. I find it quite concerning that sometimes we act like we’ve got to look out for ourselves first. In our American society we have been trained to do what is best in our own self interest, to work for what we want, to build what we want if that means someone else misses out, well that’s their fault because they didn’t act quick enough. That’s not love. That’s greed and selfishness.
Love says, you go first. Love says, I’ll step back so that you can go.
The problem the Corinthians were having was that everyone wanted to be up front, everyone wanted to be noticed, to get glory.
When we are a group of people striving for some small resource, everyone suffers.
Sure it wasn’t a problem if one person spoke up. But if everyone spoke up, that was a problem.
Selfishness says, well I should be the one! I should be the exception to the rule. If anyone gets them, I should. If anyone is allowed to, I should be!
Love says, it’s ok. Someone else can go. I realize that not everyone will get to go, so I’ll step back.
· Love is not prideful. v.4
Gordon Fee says that the end of verse 4 basically says, isn’t a windbag.
We’ve all met people who have lots of love, love for themselves. They love to hear themselves speak. They love to list their accomplishments. They love to tell you how talented they are. Love doesn’t puff itself up, love doesn’t make itself out to be great.
Love doesn’t point to self. Love points to others.
“Puffed up” when something is puffed up, it’s just full or air. It’s not full of substance. It just empty. That’s what Paul was talking about, their worship was empty because it was full air. It was about puffing themselves up.
· Love always builds. v.5-7
What all of these traits have in common is that they are pointed outward, they are directed outward.It points our gifts, our resources, our time, our talents, all of it points outward toward the object of our love. Not inward. The next several phrases follow this theme and communicate that love doesn’t behave itself in a way that will be destructive to other.
Love doesn’t seek it’s own. It’s seeks for other.
Is not easily provoked- it’s hard for love to become aggressive toward someone because they are constantly looking to benefit that person, to build them up.
Love doesn’t think evil- it isn’t quick to think evil of someone but thinks the best for them. Hopes for the best for them.
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth
Why? Because the truth builds while iniquity tears down.
You know why it breaks my heart to see you take part in iniquity? It’s not because I have some emotional disorder that makes me want to control your life, it’s because I know that iniquity will destroy you. It will hurt you.
When I watch a young lady go from boy to boy looking for love, it breaks my heart not because I want to control her life, but because I know there is great heartache in each and every one of those disappointments.
When I watch a guy return to the drugs and drink that have destroyed his family and life, it hurts me not because I’ve got a vendetta against drug dealers, but because I know the hurt and shame that await.
The reason we get excited when someone comes to church- the reason we are ecstatic when someone places their faith in Christ, the reason we celebrate whenever someone comes to the truth, is because we know it will restore them and build them….
verses 7 & 8 are powerful and I hope they will be an encouragement to you and me to love powerfully. Let’s look at them together.
· Love never quits. v.7-8
Verse 7 is the final summary on the nature of love before Paul goes into an explanation of what that means for their lives going forward.
When he says love bears all things, love hopes all things, love believeth all things,
He is saying
Love can bear anything
Love remains hopeful in all things
Love still believes in all things.
One commentator said this verse can be summed up as
“there is nothing that love cannot face.”
Paul is saying that Love is powerful because no matter what happens, Love still believes and has hope. So it only makes sense that right after this Paul says
Love never fails.
There is nothing that can make love quit.
Love never quits.
Love never runs out.
Love never fails.
Jason Tuskes was a 17 year old school student. He loved his family. His mom, his wheelchair bound father, and his brother Christian.Jason was an expert swimmer and he loved to scuba dive. One Tuesday morning he went scuba diving in an underwater cave near his home in central florida. In the cave he got disoriented and went the wrong way. The wrong passage way he chose got narrower and narrower, before Jason realized it, he had wedged himself.
He was quickly running out of air. He took out his diving knife and pulled his air tank next to him, he took the knife to the air tank and etched these words into the yellow paint of the tank. “I love you mom, dad, and Christian.”
Even when Jason’s air was running out, his love was strong. Even when he was out of time, he still had plenty of love left.
I know that some of you, this morning you feel trapped. You are discouraged. You are frustrated. I want you to hold onto love.
I want you to know that there is powerful love that God has for you.
The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, as His strength was running out, when He was out of time, with his final breaths he said, Father forgive them. Christ’s blood had run out and His time was gone, but His love was just as strong as at it had ever been.