Summary: In today's lesson we learn about the marks of love in the church.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of love in the church.
Let us read about it in 1 Corinthians 16:15-24:
15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.
19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:15-24)
Our culture writes fewer letters than in previous generations. Ours is an “email” culture. Nevertheless, even when writing a long email to someone we want to close with a strong conclusion.
The final command in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is found in verse 14. It is: “Let all that you do be done in love.” The next ten verses—the final verses of the letter—flesh out and illustrate Paul’s command. In these verses Paul talked about love in the church. Because love was hard to find in the Corinthian church, Paul’s final command to them was about love. The final section of the letter began with a command to love (16:14) and concluded with the assurance that they themselves were loved (16:24).
So, in today’s lesson we learn about love in the church.
I. Marks of Love in the Church (16:15-20)
First, then, let us look at the marks of love in the church.
In verses 15-20 the apostle Paul gives us seven marks of love in the church.
A. A Mark of Love in the Church Is Evangelism (16:15a)
The first mark of love in the church is evangelism.
Paul said in verse 15a: “Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia.”
Achaia was on the southern end of Greece. Corinth was located in the province of Achaia. The household of Stephanas were the first converts on Paul’s second missionary journey in the province of Achaia.
Why did Paul work so hard in evangelism? Why was he so passionate about reaching the lost with the gospel?
It was because of love. First John 4:19 says, “We love because [God] first loved us.” Paul experienced the wonderful love of God in his own life. Prior to his conversion Paul hated God and the things of God. But then God dramatically intervened in Paul’s life. Paul experienced the love of God and was completely transformed from a God-hater to a God-lover. Moreover, Paul also discovered a deep love for people as well, especially those who did not yet know the grace of God in Christ. And so he devoted his life to telling people about salvation, even at great hardship to himself.
Someone has said, “Evangelism is the sob of God. Evangelism is the anguished cry of Christ over a doomed Jerusalem. Evangelism is the call of Moses: ‘O this people have sinned, yet now if Thou will, forgive them; if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book Thou hast written.’ Evangelism is the heartbroken cry of Paul: ‘I could wish myself accursed.’ Evangelism is the cry of John Knox: ‘Give me Scotland for Christ or I die.’ Evangelism is the weeping in the night of the parents of an unsaved child.”
The first mark of love in the church is evangelism. Do you love people so much that you want to tell them about Jesus?
B. A Mark of Love in the Church Is Ministry (16:15b)
The second mark of love in the church is ministry.
Paul said in verse 15b: “. . . and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.”
Once Stephanas and his household became Christians they loved other believers so much that they served them in ministry. This was more than just light duty. They threw themselves wholeheartedly and zealously into ministry. The Greek word for “devoted” means “to do something with devotion.”
Henry Martyn had already done more than his share of missionary service in India by his late 20s when he announced he was going to Persia. Doctors had told him that the heat would kill him if he stayed in India, and the heat in Persia was worse.