Summary: The classic love chapter is actually an appeal to a church to embrace the selflessness that is key to us funcitoning as a team.
Playing on God’s Team
3. TEAM SPIRIT
(SLIDE) The passage of Scripture we’re looking at this morning, is one of the most popular and read passages of scripture in the Bible by Christian and non-Christian alike. The LOVE CHAPTER. I see a problem though. This chapter has become cliché to us because we almost never read it in context. We hear it at weddings, funerals, banquets, lovers use it for romantic notes.
Which is fine, but when Paul wrote it he wasn’t thinking about speeches at graduation ceremonies, or Billie Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, that modern embodiment of delicate romance and true love. No, what was on Paul’s mind was not romantic love, it was the church.
A specific church, the Corinthian church; which had lost it’s team spirit. Like Terry in our drama, it had lost sight, not what it was supposed to do, but how it was supposed to do it. And in Christ’s church, the HOW becomes the WHAT. Think about it:
- WHAT we’re supposed to do is give glory to God and
- WHAT we’re supposed to do is build up each other and
- WHAT we’re supposed to do is reach a lost world.
HOW? Through love. Love is it. We love God to give him glory, we love each other to build each other up and we love a lost world in order to reach them. (SLIDE) This is how Jesus set it up! John 13:34-35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 17:23 …to let the world know that [the Father] sent me…
That puts a pretty fine point on it, doesn’t it? Love is it. Love will be our calling card and our measurement of success. Love is not only HOW we are to do it, LOVE is WHAT we are to do… Jesus is saying:
- (BULLET) Love is the way that we the church will be recognized by the world as the community that truly belongs to Jesus Christ, and…
- (BULLET) Love is also the ONLY way the world will recognize HIM as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
A lot is riding on how well we love. Imagine we were to give glory to God without love, or try to build each other up without love, or reach a lost world without love. The Corinthian church was trying to do just that! So really Chapter 13 cannot be fully appreciated out of it’s context and especially not without it’s introductory verse (SLIDE), which comes at the end of chapter 12:31
But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.
To end chapter 12 Paul asks a series of questions which all have the same answer:
- is every Christian a leader?
- Is every Christian a teacher?
- Is every Christian a worker of miracles?
- Is every Christian gifted to speak in unknown languages?
The answer is obviously NO. His point has been to highlight the Corinthians desire for what they considered the best gifts, the superstar gifts. So we might be surprised that Paul then says, “eagerly desire the greater gifts…” Hasn’t he just told them to stop wanting the greater gifts? Yes!
So this is one of those verses that makes scholars scratch their heads. Why would he instruct them now to go after the status gifts? Doesn’t that run counter to his whole point and argument? Well, scholars solve this in a couple of ways..
- (SLIDE BULLET) One is to look at the definition of “Greater”. Perhaps he means, the better gifts, or the helpful gifts. IE the gifts that don’t just build you up but others. The problem with this is that word “greater” usually indicates a sense of “status” rather than helpfulness.
- (SLIDE BULLET)The second solution is best. The verb translated, “eagerly desire,” may not be not imperative, but rather just a normal verb. An imperative verb is a command verb. “PUSH the cart,” But if I say, “YOU push the cart,” the verb is no longer imperative, it’s just describing an action.
If it’s true that this verb is not imperative, here’s how we might understand 12:31:
Paul has asked, “does everyone have the same gifts? Does everyone have the spectacular gifts? No… and yet you still want them so badly. THEREFORE, because you can’t seem to get it out of your head that some gifts are more needed and important and because you are thinking selfishly about gifts, I’m going to go deeper than your obsession with spiritual gifts and spiritual experiences.
Thus he introduces Chapter 13 about LOVE. It’s only in that context that the following lofty words make sense. Paul’s point: under-girding God’s Team, must always be the team spirit of love. So in the following verses