Summary: This sermon is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
What is the greatest spiritual gift? Wisdom? Knowledge? Miracles? Healing? Tongues?
Paul will answer this question for the Christian in the 21st century, just as he answered this question for the Corinthian Christians in the first century. In our text today, we note that Paul’s exposition on love signified its importance as a required characteristic in the life of the Corinthians. And because the Word of God does not change, as stated by the prophet Isaiah, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever,” we must realize that as followers of Christ, love is a necessary attribute in the Christian’s life. Because love is necessary to walk in the more excellent way, you and I must have love. So why do we need love? Can’t we live a Christian life that is satisfactory to God without having love? As we analyze this text, we will notice three truths that illustrate why Christians need love. So in the words of Tina Turner: what’s love got to do with it?
Truth #1—Love makes us effective (vv. 1-3).
After reading these verses, we notice that Paul told the Corinthians that love was necessary in order for one to use spiritual gifts effectively. Paul was saying that if he did speak in the tongues of men or angels, literally a heavenly language but did not have love, then his speaking in tongues would become a booming gong or crashing cymbal. He told the Corinthians that without love, his possession of the spiritual gifts of prophecy, knowledge and faith were meaningless. Paul went on to say that if he might or could possibly give away his possessions piece by piece; also translated as bit by bit or dole out but did not it do it with love, then he would benefit nothing. So if the Corinthian church were to auction off all of their possessions without receiving any compensation but had no love, they would benefit nothing. Consequently, their benevolence would be in vain. Many of our churches are dying, slowly but surely. Notice I said our churches, not Christ’s church. They are not dying because of lacking spiritual gifts. The twenty-first century church is filled with numerous gifts: preaching, teaching, evangelism, administration, healing, speaking in tongues, etc. However, churches are dying because our churches are lacking love. Where there is no love, there is no God because God is love. No matter what our churches do: build family life centers, support missions, administer soup kitchens, etc. Without love, our doing is in vain. One morning a guy tried to crank his car but it would not start. He performed several tests…Finally he checked the water level in his battery and noticed it was low. After adding water to his battery the car cranked up. Some of our churches need to check their spiritual batteries to see if we need to add more love. Then our pastors will be servants, people will be spiritual, and the world will be saved.
Truth #2—Love exhibits our characters (vv. 4-6).
In these verses Paul listed the characteristics that would be exhibited by the Christian that possessed love. In verse four Paul elaborated on the meaning of love. One could say that these are the attributes or characteristics love. Paul said that love is patient which means forbearing or long tempered. This phrase would be parallel to the phrase love is kind. A deeper look into this latter phrase would reveal that love has an affect on the possessor; it makes that individual kind. Love would also stop an individual from being jealous, a bragger, or arrogant. As Paul continued to disclose the connotation of love, he said that it was not rude or offensive. This meant that when one exhibited love, it would not cause another individual to feel shameful or disgraced. Then Paul said that love was not self-seeking.
Therefore, when one loved, that person would not be expecting to receive recompense because love does not seek for itself. Next, Paul said that love could not be provoked. If the Corinthians expressed the love that is being preached, then it would have an affect on them so that they would not be aggravated or annoyed. Then Paul said that love did not keep a tally of wrongdoing. Again, if the Corinthians expressed the love that Paul is exhorting, they would be affected by this love and would not keep count of misfortune.
In verse six Paul continued to elaborate on the characteristics of love. He said that it did not rejoice in malevolence. So, the Corinthians were not supposed to find delight in evil. Instead, they were to find joy or celebrate in the truth because Paul said that love rejoices in the truth. Paul said that if the Corinthians truly possessed love, they would admonish sin and exult fidelity. When I envision the life of Jesus, I see the embodiment of the love that Paul was describing to the Corinthians. As we read the gospel narratives, we will notice that Jesus was patient and kind. He was not arrogant or a bragger. Jesus was not rude or offensive.