Summary: This sermon gives 5 reasons that God considers love to be supreme above all other desirable characteristics in the Christian life.
November 17, 2002 I Corinthians 13:8-13
¡§The supremacy of Love¡¨
In the book, ¡§Children¡¦s Letters to God: The New Collection¡¨, a little girl named, Nan, writes this letter: ¡§Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I have trouble loving them!¡¨ Love is never easy. But it is absolutely necessary. It is the glue that holds all of us together in the body of Christ. It motivates us to work together and use our differences as a way to make us stronger rather than to tear us apart. It causes us to focus on one another and our world rather than on ourselves and the fulfillment of our own personal desires.
We have been talking about God¡¦s kind of love for the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, we talked about substitutes for love ¡V things that we put in place of real love. They include words, spiritual activity, and sacrificial giving. And we learned that without love, all of these are futile. We say nothing, we are nothing, and we gain nothing if we attempt to do anything for God without love. Then, last week, we talked about the substance of God¡¦s love. We saw that it is active, decisive, it behaves in a certain way, and it can best be understood by looking at the character and actions of Jesus.
This morning, we are going to finish our examination of this beautiful chapter. We¡¦re going to look at 5 reasons that God considers love to be supreme above all other desirable characteristics in the Christian life.
1. Love is supreme because it never leaves us. (vs. 8)
On Christmas morning, the focus of a child¡¦s attention is on the gifts that they receive. In that moment on Christmas morning, those gifts are the most important things in their lives. Nothing is more important than them and those gifts even though many of those gifts will be broken by the end of the day, more by the end of the week, and all will be forgotten by the end of the year. They are temporary. At that moment, the children don¡¦t care about grandma, mom or dad who gave them those gifts. And they certainly don¡¦t care about loving their sisters and brothers at that time. Gifts can make you very selfish.
God has given us many gifts too. We have spent time talking about them and their role in the church over the last month or so. Of all God¡¦s gifts, the greatest is love. One reason is that love never fails.
That¡¦s what Paul says here in vs. 8. The word that is translated ¡§fails¡¨ is ¡§used of a flower or leaf that falls to the ground, withers and decays.¡¨ ¡V MacArthur, p. 358 Ben and I were studying about trees for a science quiz the other day. We learned the difference between evergreen trees and deciduous trees. Deciduous trees are the trees that were so beautiful with the fall colors a couple of weeks ago. Their leaves change colors in the fall, they wither and they die, and they fall. Evergreens on the other hand remain green all year long regardless of the circumstances that surround them. That is the character of love. It never falls; it never ends; it is permanent regardless of the circumstances that surround it.
Love will never end, but something else will end ¡V spiritual gifts. Paul talks about 3 in particular ¡V prophecy, tongues and the gift of knowledge. The Corinthians were putting all of their focus and attention on temporary spiritual gifts when permanent love should have been the focus of what they were doing. Focus needs to be on eternal things not temporary ¡V not on a building, not on finances, not on your job. The only things that are permanent are God and people. Humans spend too much time concentrating on what is temporary falsely thinking that temporary things will satisfy their greatest needs. Instead, they should be seeking what is eternal, for only what is eternal can satisfy.
My responsibility for loving you and your responsibility for loving me will never end. But my responsibility of communicating God¡¦s revealed truth to you ¡V which is what the gift of prophecy is all about ¡V will end. (Jer 31:34 KJV) And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD¡K When we are in the presence of God, He will communicate His truth perfectly. There will be no need for a middleman. The need for me to use unknown languages to communicate with God or man will no longer be a reality. I will speak God¡¦s language, which means that I can clearly communicate with Him, and you will speak it too, so we can clearly communicate with each other. The need for me to communicate knowledge will be gone as well because all of us will have an inexhaustible capacity to learn from the greatest Teacher of all! When all of my earthly responsibilities end, I will still have the responsibility to love.