Summary: No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time. That’s love.
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Chapters 12, 13, & 14 are really one unit. Chapter 12 talks about the context of the Holy Spirit’s work through the believer. Chapter 13 the motivation in using Holy Spirit gifts, and chapter 14 the proper operation of those gifts.
Paul in chapter 12 laid the foundation – that we are all part of a system and that to do God’s work we need to let the Holy Spirit work through us collectively in whatever way or with whatever gifts He chooses. There are no Lone Ranger and there are no Superstars. Each part of the body and each gift is just as important – even if it is not as “flashy” as others.
Paul ends chapter 12 by saying: And now I will show you the most excellent way.
No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time.
That, of course is love. 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It’s quoted as weddings routinely. So much so that it begins to sound like the trite phrases of a Hallmark card. “What the world needs now is love sweet love” as if just saying the word “love” is all that’s needed.
This chapter is far more than that – it is far more challenging than you may have imagined.
The Need for Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
No matter how much I know – or how much great wisdom I speak, no matter if I utter incredible mysteries that wow the masses – I might as well be just honking my horn in bumper to bumper traffic unless I do it with love.
No matter what I can do – healing, miracles – without love it is meaningless.
This one really kills me – no matter how much I give of myself – I can be the humblest most giving person on earth – even give up my life for my faith – but if I am not flowing in God’s love I might as well not do it.
What kind of love is this? Every time the word “love” appears in this chapter it is the word “agape.” This is different from the other forms of the word “love” in Greek. Phileo is the idea of brotherly love or friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name from this word. Eros is the idea of sexual love – we get the word erotic from this word. Agape as a word didn’t really appear until the New Testament. It is selfless love – the love of God towards Jesus and towards us. It’s not a love of word but a love of action without regard to self interest.
It is the character of God. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Everything you strive for, who you want to be, what you want to do, how you want people to think of you, what you want to accomplish – everything should go through this filter – “am I doing this with agape love?”
And before we go on – remember that it is from the Holy Spirit that we get the power to live this kind of life. Don’t think you can find it in worldly philosophy or philanthropy or religious piety. Only a person who says “Jesus is Lord” can exhibit this kind of love.
So now let’s look at the character of this love.
The Character of Love
Paul defines for us what agape means. He does it in terms of what it is and what it is not. There are 8 things it does, 8 things it does not do.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
The 8 things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices in truth, Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres, Never fails.