Summary: A sermon that challenges the body of Christ to make sure that they possess agape love.
“Summa Cum Laude”
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
You might want to know what my title means and why I chose this phrase for this sermon when it is not even graduation time. If you were to look up this phrase you would find that it is Latin and means “of highest distinction or worthy of highest praise.” Knowing that you can easily see why Paul declares that charity (love) is the “summa cum laude” the Christian graces. Henry Drummond, a preacher from a by-gone era called this love “the greatest thing in the world” and so it is! Dr. Warren Wiersbe provides some background for this chapter when he writes; “It is tragic when the world takes a chapter like this (as it does) and divorces it from its true Christian meaning.
I. Love is Essential
a. The explanation
What is the meaning of this word? When we think of the word charity today we think of donations to the Goodwill or Salvation Army or something like that and don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this kind of charity but this is not what is meant by this word. The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention—a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Matt. 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christlikeness. I don’t want us to get bogged down in a bunch of Greek definitions so I’m going to focus on this one word which is “agape” and means a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This Greek word and variations of it are found throughout the New Testament. Agape perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus Christ has for his Father and for his followers:
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
But the word charity is not just a powerful emotion, it is love in action and is much more demanding! For instance we are told to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and being and to love our neighbors and our friends but agape love moves beyond this and teaches us to love our enemies as well!
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Luke 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
b. The endowment
Two things can be said about this love that is such an important part of the Christian faith. First, it is not natural, it is supernatural and it’s source is the Holy Spirit!