Summary: An exegetical sermon of 1 Cor 12:31-13:3

A. A teacher in an adult-education creative-writing class told her students to write “I love you” in 25 words or less, without using the words “I love you.”

1. She gave the class 15 minutes.

2. A woman in the class spent about ten minutes looking at the ceiling and wriggling in her seat.

3. The last five minutes she wrote frantically, and then read the class her results: “Why, I’ve seen lots worse hairdos than that, honey”; “These cookies are hardly burned at all”; “Cuddle up—I’ll keep your feet warm.”

B. That lady, whether she knew it or not, was able to define love.

1. No doubt she once came home from the beauty shop in tears, and her husband wisely said, “Why, I’ve seen lots worse hairdos than that, honey.”

2. No doubt she had burnt cookies to a crisp, but her husband ate them and said they weren’t burned at all.

3. No doubt she had been cold one night, when she hadn’t shaved her legs in days, and her husband said, “Honey, come on and cuddle up. I’ll keep your feet warm.”

4. Her husband was able to put his needs and his wants on the back burner and put his wife’s needs first.

a. That’s what real love is all about.

- We hear all the time that so-and-so has fallen in love or perhaps that so-and-so has fallen out of love.

- I don’t believe that for a second. It’s possible to fall in love. It’s possible to fall in infatuation or to fall in lust, but you cannot fall in love.

b. Rather than an emotion, true love always involves sacrifice, putting someone else’s needs in front of our own.

- “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph 5:25, 28-29).

- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:12-13).

- “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 Jn 3:16).

c. I can’t help but think of Liviu Librescu.

- Librescu was a Jew who had survived the Nazi holocaust and persecution in communist Romania.

- He had come to Virginia and was a respected aeronautics professor at Virginia Tech.

- He was lecturing to a class full of students on April 16, 2007 when a gunman came to kill the students in his class.

• Librescu wedged himself at the door, and told his students to jump from the windows.

• The last person to see Professor Librescu alive appears to have been Alec Calhoun, a student who turned as he prepared to leap from a high classroom window to see the elderly academic holding shut the classroom door. The student jumped and lived. Minutes later, the professor was shot dead.

d. The essence of love is always found in sacrifice—whether an elderly professor holding shut a door or the perfect Son of God hanging on a cross.

- Our sacrifices will likely never reach the point of laying down our lives for others. Our sacrifices may be nothing more than handing our spouse the remote when the Steelers are a touchdown away from a Super Bowl win. But, love is always sacrifice.

- The Corinthians so desperately needed to hear about true love, for they displayed so little true love to one another.

• Those who spoke in tongues thought they were better than those who could not.

• Paul, in chapter twelve, offers the unity of the body as a corrective against such thinking. Here, he shows the superiority of love. Paul says that LOVE IS A BETTER SYSTEM, LOVE IS BETTER THAN SPECATACLE, & LOVE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE.


A. “I will show you a still more excellent way.”

1. “More excellent” in Gr refers to a throwing beyond.

a. The term was used in classical Gr to refer to the altitude of a star or to an exorbitant price.

b. The word refers to things which are far, far beyond other things. In fact, this word has come into English as “hyperbole,” the literary device of great exaggeration.

2. Paul also says that he will demonstrate this more excellent way.

a. He, like he did concerning self-sacrifice back in chapter 9, holds himself up as an example. That becomes quite evident as Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,” for example, in verse 1.

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