Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Love is 1)Enriching 2) Edifying &3)Enduring.

It’s a rare thing these days to get a letter. I’m not talking about the junk mail of solicitations, or bills, nor the hundreds of emails we get but a genuine hand written letter from someone we care about. There is a warmth and personal touch that we get in no other medium. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous love letters. It is the central chapter in Paul’s lengthy discussion of spiritual gifts (chaps. 12–14). Chapter 12 discusses the endowment, receipt, and interrelatedness of the gifts. Chapter 14 presents the proper exercise of the gifts, especially that of languages. In this middle chapter, chapter 13, we see the proper attitude and atmosphere, the proper motive and power, the “more excellent way” (12:31), in which God has planned for all of the gifts to operate.

Agapç (love) is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common in the New Testament. Unlike our English love, it never refers to romantic or sexual love, for which erôs was used, and which does not appear in the New Testament. Nor does it refer to mere sentiment, a pleasant feeling about something or someone. It does not mean cose friendship or brotherly love, for which philia is used. The King James translators carried the term charity over from the Latin and which in English has long been associated only with giving to the needy. This morning we are going to explore the fullest meaning of biblical charity, agapç love in which this chapter is the best definition of it. Love is 1)Enriching (vv. 1–3), 2) Love is Edifying (vv. 4–7), and 3)Love is Enduring (vv. 8–13).

I will only briefly touch on point one, focus on point two and only read the concluding verses of point three.

1) Love is Enriching (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)


1 Corinthians 13:1 [13:1]If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (ESV)

In verses 1–2 Paul uses considerable hyperbole. To make his point he exaggerates to the limits of imagination. Using various examples, he says, “If somehow I were able to do or to be …

First Paul imagines himself able to speak with the greatest possible eloquence, with the tongues of men and of angels. Paul’s basic point in 13:1 is to convey the idea of being able to speak all sorts of languages with great fluency and eloquence, far above the greatest linguist or orator. That the apostle is speaking in general and hypothetical terms is clear from the expression tongues … of angels. There is no biblical teaching of a unique or special angelic language or dialect. Angels always speak in the language of the person being addressed. There is no indication that they have a heavenly language of their own that men could learn.

Paul simply is saying that, were he to have the ability to speak with the skill and eloquence of the greatest men, even with angelic eloquence, he would only become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal if he did not have love. The greatest truths spoken in the greatest way fall short if they are not spoken in love. Apart from love, even one who speaks the truth with supernatural eloquence becomes so much noise. Large, empty brass vessels were used in the theater at Corinth to amplify the voices of actors. Sound came from them, but they themselves were empty. Without love, however great our gifts, we are spiritually empty and void (Richards, Lawrence O.: The Bible Readers Companion. electronic ed. Wheaton : Victor Books, 1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 769)


1 Corinthians 13:2 [2]And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (ESV)


In the beginning of the next chapter Paul speaks of prophecy as the greatest of the spiritual gifts because the prophet proclaims God’s truth to people so they can know and understand it (14:1–5). The apostle was himself a prophet (Acts 13:1) and had the highest regard both for the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy.

Continuing his hyperbole, however, Paul says that even the great gift of prophecy in prophetic powers must be ministered in love. The most gifted person of God is not exempt from ministering in love. If anything, such a person is the most obligated to minister in love. “From everyone who has been given much shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). Of all persons, the prophet should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

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