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Be Alert & Love   Leave a comment

Do you “get” it?

Will you apply God’s Word to your life and be changed?

We’re drawing to the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (don’t worry, I’ll continue into 2 Corinthians because they really are tied together). We’re about to wrap it up. In this section, Paul suggested love is the remedy for church ills and he provided three elements of spiritual maturity.

Ask yourself – Do you qualify as a mature Christian by Paul’s standards?

Exhortations of Spiritual Maturity

Stay alertstand firm in the faithshow couragebe strong. Everything you do should be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

In these opening two verses, Paul unveiled five moral exhortations:

  • Be on the alert
  • stand firm in the faith
  • act like men
  • be strong
  • let all that you do be done in love.

Image result for standing guardThese five exhortations are all present tense imperatives demanding continuous action. God’s commands are not good advice. They are not optional. God’s commands are not like a cafeteria where we can pick or choose what we want. All five commands are incumbent upon the believer. The first four commands employ military metaphors to encourage resoluteness in the faith, while the final command summarizes the previous four.

  • Be on the alert. This command is a warning to watch out for those that seek to bring about division. Paul urged the Corinthians to be watchful regarding danger from inside as well as outside the church. Most of the problems in Corinth, and in most of our churches today, arise from within the congregation, so we must be especially alert. The expression “be on the alert” sometimes occurs with anticipation of the Lord’s coming, so that may have been in Paul’s thinking as well. We should expect the return of the Lord at any time, and our behavior should reflect the Lord’s values and should not be characterized by sinful activities.
  • Stand firm in the faith. This is a military image that urged the Corinthians “to hold their ground” and not retreat before an enemy. The command to “stand firm” has already served as the bookends for chapter 15 (15:2, 58). The phrase “the faith” here probably denotes both the body of Christian teachings and our own personal relationship with the Lord (theology and lifestyle). Since there are many temptations out there that can cause us to depart from the faith we need to be vigilant and stand firm. Are you standing firm in the faith or are you like shifting sand?
  • Act like men and be strong. These next two commands should be taken together. The verbs are frequently combined in the Old Testament to exhort God’s people to have courage in the face of danger, especially from one’s enemies. The word Paul used for “be strong” is in the passive voice, meaning “be strengthened.” We cannot strengthen ourselves; that is the Lord’s work. Our part is to submit ourselves to Him. General George Patton summed it up well, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

The fifth and final command is the glue that holds the other four together. In 16:14, Paul exclaimed,

  • Let all that you do be done in love. Paul made his point especially clear by framing this letter’s closing: “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14), and “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus” (16:24). This love involves both love for the Lord (16:22) and love for one another (16:24). Paul earlier challenged his readers with the fact that “knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (8:1). Love is the greatest motivating force for ethical behavior. The old saying is still true that “People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”

Love is the remedy for church ills.

Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity.

16:15 Nowbrothers and sisters, 12  you know about the household of Stephanusthat as the first converts 13  of Achaiathey devoted themselves to ministry for the saintsI urge you16:16 also to submit to people like thisand to everyone who cooperates in the work andlabors hard. 16:17 I was glad about the arrival of StephanusFortunatusand Achaicusbecause they have supplied the fellowship with you that I lacked. 14  16:18 For they refreshed my spirit and yoursSo thenrecognize people like this.

16:19 The churches in the province of Asia 15  send greetings to youAquila and Prisca 16 greet 17  you warmly in the Lordwith the church that meets in their house. 16:20 All the brothers and sisters 18  send greetingsGreet one another with a holy kiss. 1 Corinthians 16:15-20

In these six verses, Paul shared five characteristics of spiritual maturity:

  • service
  • submission
  • friendship
  • hospitality
  • affection

All five characteristics are essential aspects of growing to maturity in Christ and in our relationships with God’s people.

  • Service. Stephanas and his family were Paul’s first converts (“first fruits”) in Achaia, the province in which Corinth stood. They had given themselves selflessly to serving the Corinthians. They were probably loyal to Paul and may have been the source from which he received some of his information about conditions in this church. Verse 15 states that the household of Stephanas “devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.” The King James Version translates the verb “devoted” as “addicted.” I like this! They were serving in ministry so consistently, so regularly, that it was like an addiction; they were hooked on ministry. That’s not such a bad addiction, is it? Could anyone accuse you of this?
  • Submission. The Corinthians had a problem with submission to authority. They were competitive, stubborn, and even arrogant at times. Many in the church wanted to do their own thing. Paul encouraged them to appreciate some less flashy servants of the Lord. Submission is not earned by holding an office; it’s earned by godly character and service. There’s no indication that Stephanas was a pastor, or even a church officer. He was apparently just an ordinary Christian with extraordinary love. But he deserves as much respect as pastors and elders. Mutual submission is a key theme of Spirit-filled living. All believers are to submit to each other (Ephesian 5:21). Service, not status, should be the basis for honor in the church. Are you submitting to the various servant leaders in our church? Do you esteem them above yourself? Do you seek creative ways to honor them?
  • Friendship. Apparently, when the financial support for Paul’s missionary work dried up, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus bailed him out. But even more meaningful is the fact that they “refreshed” his spirit. One of the finest compliments that can be paid of another Christian is to say that he or she is refreshing to be around, picks up your spirit, and encourages you to keep going. I know a lot of people in our church who are like that; I always feel better after being with them. They are a blessing to everyone they come in contact with.

Consider – when you enter a room, is there more joy, peace, and love than before you arrived? When you leave, is the atmosphere and attitude better? Do you refresh your fellow-believers or bring them down?

When you experience refreshment from other believers, how should you respond? Paul recognized such people and gave them kudos. Thank them. Write them a note. Give them a hug and tell them how much they mean to you.

This section closes with two additional marks of spiritual maturity: hospitality and affection.

  • Hospitality. Aquila and Priscilla opened up their home and hosted a church. According to the New Testament, this dynamic ministry couple lived in at least three different cities—Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome—and in all three places they had a church in their house. Furthermore, it was at their house that Paul stayed during his very first visit to Corinth, probably for more than a year and a half. There may be no greater tool for ministry than the Christian home. Because the home is a testing ground for the power of love and acceptance, it serves as a living demonstration of God’s love for those seeking to be part of God’s family.

The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Elizabeth, moved from America to Switzerland and started L’Abri (“shelter”) in their home in 1955. Soon they were inundated by students and others seeking answers to life’s questions. They provided biblical truth, acceptance, and hospitality to all who came to their door.

Some people have a real gift for hospitality. Note the entire household of Stephanas is recognized in 16:15. Parents, children learn love and service in the home, and they learn the lack of love and service there also. They learn hospitality as they see their parents practice it; they also learn to hold on to their stuff tightly as they watch parents who do that. As a parent, are you helping your children learn through observation and practice how to live out these characteristics?

Affection. Paul saw the custom of the holy kiss as a proper corrective to the cliquishness and bickering that characterized the church at Corinth. It could also serve as a remedy to the tremendous personal isolation that so many feel today. Why, then, has this custom of kissing one another on the cheek all but passed from the church? First, it faded because it was liable to abuse. Some people had trouble distinguishing holy kisses from other kinds. Second, it faded because the churches became less and less about fellowship. In the little house churches, where friend met with friend and all were closely bound together, it was the most natural thing in the world; but when the little fellowship turned into a vast congregation, and houses gave way to cathedrals, intimacy was lost and the holy kiss vanished with it. The kiss, of course, is not the important thing; a hug, or a warm two-handed handshake, or an arm around the shoulder can express the same feelings, and in some cultures might be more appropriate. Alaskans are not, societally, big on kisses and I never really know what to do when a near-stranger hugs me. On the the other hand, if someone in my Sunday School spontaneously gave me a hug, I would return it because I consider them at least acquaintances. The key is the love and intimacy that the gesture symbolizes. Who needs a hug or a holy kiss from you today? How will you communicate your love to others in the body of Christ? Love is the remedy for church ills.

Mark of Spiritual Maturity (16:21-24).

I, Paulsend this greeting with my own hand. Let anyone who has no love for the Lord be accursedOur Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with youMy love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 16:21-24

Please notice that this third and final point is singular, not plural. In fact, in these four verses, Paul boiled down everything that he has said in this passage and in this letter to a single word: LOVE. First, however, he provided a note in 16:21: “The greeting is in my own hand—Paul.” This verse indicates that this letter, like most of Paul’s letters, is written by a scribe. The scribe did not compose the letter. He merely put ink to paper or papyrus. In our day, this is akin to an executive that dictates a letter to a secretary but signs it and adds a brief note at the bottom. Paul picked up the quill and signs off this letter with a personal touch.

In 16:22, Paul’s personal touch is a verse with a curse: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.” Wow! Sobering, right? The word “accursed” means “devoted to destruction.” Did Paul mean temporal or eternal destruction? Most scholars argue for the latter; however, there is no contextual reason to assume that Paul is now all of a sudden discussing unbelievers or false teachers. Rather, it seems that he is still addressing believers. True to form, some of the Corinthian church members did not love the Lord. Lack of love for the Lord refers to factiousness, self-seeking, strife, and carnality that practically denies one’s love for Christ. In this context it means lack of obedience to Him in such things as exalting human wisdom over the wisdom of the cross, tolerating incest, attending idol feasts, dividing over spiritual gifts, and abusing the Lord’s Supper. Those who fail to love the Lord and other believers will face God’s curse. This probably is exclusion from fellowship in the local church. The opposite of this is “Maranatha,” an Aramaic word that means, “Our Lord, come.” This is similar to John’s final words in Revelation 22:20: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Paul concluded this strong but loving epistle with a prayerful benediction of God’s grace. This is the very same way that he began his letter: “Grace to you” (1:3). What a wonderful reminder that people need the grace of God, for without it they are hopeless. The most loving act that we can perform is to show people God’s grace.

First, we must share God’s grace in salvation. This means informing people that God’s love is not based on our own merit but on Jesus Christ’s merit. We receive salvation the same way that we would receive a Christmas gift. We simply open up our hands, receive it, and then express gratitude. We must also be messengers and dispensers of grace to those who are believers. This means not only do we proclaim God’s grace in salvation, but we exemplify God’s grace in being gracious.

The last sentence of the letter, written in Paul’s own hand, reaffirmed his love for all the Corinthians—despite their failings, despite their arrogance. Although Paul knew some pretty ornery people in the Corinthian church, and some of them made his life difficult, he sent his love to all of them.

Paul wrote thirteen letters, yet this is the only one that he ends with an affirmation of his love for his readers. It’s amazing when you think of the church to which he expressed it. This was the church that resisted him the most, that was the most fractured in its love life. But Paul wrote, “I love you,” not just in himself but because of the relationship with Christ that had transformed his life. Out of that he expressed his love for the church, because he knew that’s the only kind of love that lasts, the only kind of love that makes a difference, the only kind of love that’s tough enough to survive in the face of the personal rejection and insult he had experienced from this church.

Who do you need to express love to today? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to come alongside of? Who do you need to serve or to reach out to? Our church will advance when we show love for one another. As Jesus said, “All men will know that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Love is the remedy for church ills.

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Love is Eternal   Leave a comment

Love Never Fails
(13:8-13)

Love never endsBut if there are propheciesthey will be set asideif there are tonguesthey will ceaseif there is knowledgeit will be set aside. For we know in partand we prophesy in part,  but when what is perfect comesthe partial will be set aside. When I was a childI talked like a childI thought like a childI reasoned like a childBut when I became an adultI set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to faceNow I know inpartbut then I will know fullyjust as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faithhopeand loveBut the greatest of these is love.  (1Corinthians 13:8-13)

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul set out to show the superiority of character over charisma. Christian love overwhelms spiritual gifts.

  • Verses 1-3, Paul stated even the most highly prized gifts, exercised to the ultimate level of success, but without love, are of little value to the one who is gifted or to the one who is the recipient of his ministry.
  • Verses 4-7, Paul described love in a way which defines it in very practical terms and also shows the Corinthians’ lack of love.

In our subject passage for this week, verses 8-13, Paul reasoned love is superior to all the spiritual gifts because love outlasts them. Love never fails; spiritual gifts do fail.

The statement, “love never fails,” nicely links Paul’s words in verse 7 with those which follow. Love “never fails” because it always bears up, always has faith, always hopes, always endures (verse 7). Furthermore, love “never fails” because it is eternal.

The word “fail” is the translation of a word which literally means to fall. This same word is used to describe the fatal “fall” of the young man from the third story window during Paul’s really long sermon in Acts 20:9. Ananias and Saphira both “fell” dead when confronted by Peter (Acts 5:5, 10). Paul employed this term when he spoke of the 23,000 who “fell” dead in the wilderness due to their immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8; Exodus 32:28). In other words, love does not die; it does not come to an end. Love is like the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going and going …

In contrast to love, which does not come to an end, spiritual gifts do come to an end. Paul said they fail. He wrote of the demise of the three spiritual gifts considered most valuable by the Corinthians. Gifts of prophecy will be done away with; tongues will cease; knowledge will be done away (verse 8). Knowledge and prophecy in this age are partial and incomplete. But when “the perfect” comes, this will render the “imperfect” obsolete.

My husband is a repairman. Often when he is called out in the middle of the night because someone has no heat, he will repair the boiler/furnace temporarily. He keeps used parts on hand to effect those repairs. He will then return the next day when he has secured the brand new part to make permanent repairs. Consider the late night repair to be “imperfect” until he makes the “perfect” permanent repairs.

Paul contrasted the permanence of love with the temporary nature of all spiritual gifts. I know there’s debate about how some gifts may be temporary in nature, but I don’t see that in Paul’s writing … and neither do the Bible commentators I read in research here. I guess the gift of tongues is singled out because of a subtle distinction in the Greek text. One Greek word is employed to refer to the passing of prophecy and knowledge, translated in the NASB by the expression “done away.” The cessation of tongues is depicted by a different term, rendered “cease” in the NASB. While the verb employed for the passing of prophecy and knowledge is passive in voice, the term used in reference to tongues is middle in voice. This subtlety is interpreted by some scholars to mean tongues will cease after the days of the apostles before the cessation of prophecy and knowledge.

“They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), IV, p. 179.

All Christians should be knowledgeable and honest enough to say that the so-called “cessationist” position (certain gifts—especially tongues—came to an end at the close of the apostolic age) is based upon inferences rather than upon clear statements. Yes, I am a Baptist who does not speak in tongues, but I don’t agree with the “cessationist” position. It is one thing for the Bible to say tongues will cease; it is quite another to say tongues have ceased. Doctrine based upon clear, uncontradicted statements is to be held more dogmatically than doctrine based upon inference. I too hold certain beliefs based upon inference, but I desire to acknowledge them as just that. In 1 Corinthians 14:39, Paul pointedly prohibited us from forbidding others to speak in tongues. This is not an inference but a command. So, there you have it. I don’t speak in tongues because God hasn’t given me that gift, but I believe He has given others that gift. I’ve seen very.few people who exercise the gift do it properly, but the only argument I have against that is 1 Corinthians 14, which also tells me not to forbid others from speaking in tongues. Therefore, ….

I don’t embrace the cessationist position, but I also believe God is not obliged to give the gift of tongues anyone today. There are certain vital and necessary functions in the church, for which there are accompanying general commands. All are commanded to give, to help, and to encourage. All may not be gifted in these areas, but it seems necessary that there be some who are thus gifted. All are not commanded to prophesy or to speak in tongues. I don’t think tongues are necessary for the work of God, but I don’t deny the possibility of tongues. I also question the practice of tongues by some Christians. Not all that is called tongues is biblical tongues, and much of what is practiced as tongues (whether genuine tongues or false) is not practiced as the Scriptures require. In spite of this, a blanket rejection of the possibility of tongues cannot be biblically sustained.

Paul showed love to be superior to all spiritual gifts because it is permanence. Spiritual gifts are not permanent because they are not perfect. Spiritual gifts are partial. We know in part, and we prophesy in part. Prophecy is never wrong or inaccurate; it is simply incomplete. Peter wrote of the prophets of old who spoke of the sufferings and glories of the Messiah who was yet to come and whose own writings puzzled them because they were incomplete (1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul was privileged to fill in some of the gaps of the Old Testament Scriptures by unveiling certain mysteries (Ephesians 3:1-13). Nevertheless, his revelations were partial. He did not reveal all that we would like to know. Because of this, his letters raised unanswered questions, and false teachers were quickly on hand to distort his writings (2 Peter 3:14-16).

God used th prophets of old to reveal all He wanted us to know—but not all there is to know nor all that we would like to know. When “the perfect” comes, the imperfect will no longer be necessary. The imperfect will be done away with. I doubt the completed canon of Scripture is “the perfect” which will come (13:10) is the completed canon of Scripture. More likely, Paul meant the kingdom of God for which we eagerly wait. Only then will we know fully, just as we are now fully known (see verse 12).

In verses 11 and 12, Paul told the Corinthian Christians, and us, that we should view spiritual gifts as we do the toys of our childhood. We kept some of our kids’ toys for when friends bring their children to our house and while they still delight small children, our kids themselves have moved on to other “toys” … musical instruments, cars, etc. Childish toys are great when we are children, but they should hold little attraction for adults.

Paul’s illustration taught an important lesson to the Corinthians and also gently rebuked their pride and arrogance. Did they think they were wise? Of course, they did (see 4:6-21)! But their wisdom and understanding were partial. In the light of eternity, such knowledge will be set aside as imperfect. Did the Corinthians believe they saw things clearly and that their perception of matters was accurate? Paul let them know their knowledge was sketchy compared to the perfect knowledge which will be ours in eternity.

Our perception of truth and reality is like looking in a cheap, old mirror which only imperfectly reflects reality. Our modern mirrors are so much better than those of Paul’s day. His mirror was probably like the “mirrors” at a highway rest stop. Many states use metal “mirrors” in their restrooms to cut down on vandalism. Those mirrors make it very difficult to see yourself clearly. The Corinthians did not see as clearly as they thought, either. At best, their knowledge was partial. They shouldn’t have clung to their spiritual gifts with pride and thought too highly of themselves. They should have possessed and appreciated all the gifts as temporary provisions of God, seeing them as partial and inferior to what eternity holds for us.

Paul declared love is not only better than any or all of the spiritual gifts, but that it is even greater than faith and hope. Spiritual gifts fail, while love lasts. Faith, hope, and love all “abide” (verse 13). While love is greater than spiritual gifts which do not last, love is also greater than faith and hope, which “abides” and “endures.” Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It won’t be necessary in heaven because we will be with God face-to-face. Hope too seems to be temporal.  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Faith is necessary for salvation because it waits for God to reveal His plans, but that level of trust in the unknown will be unnecessary when we’re with God in Heaven. We won’t need to hope for eternity any longer because we will already have received it. But love will still be there. Love is not something to look down upon as inferior to spiritual gifts and wisdom. It holds greater value than anything else.

Something of such great value must not only be esteemed, it should be sought. Jesus told the parable of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). When the merchant found the one pearl of great value, he gladly sold all he had to purchase it. Paul told us that love is that “pearl of great price.” It is the thing of great value. The Corinthians, knowingly or not, sacrificed love in their pursuit of certain spiritual gifts (see chapter 8). Paul showed this was contrary to eternal values, since love is the greatest. One does not wisely sacrifice that of the greatest value for something of lesser value.

The first verse of chapter 14 is Paul’s “bottom line,” the application he wants his readers to accept and accomplish. In saying love is the greatest, Paul is not belittling spiritual gifts. He merely seeks to put spiritual gifts into perspective. Spiritual gifts are a gracious provision of God, but they are never to be pursued or practiced at the expense of love. Love is to be pursued as the “pearl of great price,” but the spiritual gifts are not to be neglected. Love is the attitude of heart which adds value to the gifts.

A former pastor of mine was descended from the Bach family of musicians, so it was a family requirements that he learn to play an instrument and many of the men in his family were accomplished fiddlers (he grew up in the Ozarks). He learned the notes and fingering and bow work, but he just wasn’t that good. He tried (and his sons wished he wouldn’t), but he couldn’t make a good violin “sing purdy.” Spiritual gifts are like the violin. They are good. When employed by immature, carnal, self-seeking Christians, however, spiritual gifts produce an unpleasant sound. When spiritual gifts are employed by spiritual Christians, those who walk in love, the gifts they exercise are beautiful; they are edifying to others. Love is one ingredient that can never be absent without being noticed. The Corinthians might have professed to pursue and practice love, but they were lacking in it.

Christian love is a huge topic, but you can summarize Paul’s teaching on the subject with two main statements:

  1. Love should be our priority
  2. Love should be pursued

Love as a Priority

Spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. Spiritual gifts do not abide, while love does. Love is even superior to faith and hope, which do abide.

This truth is not unique to Paul. The teaching of the entire Old Testament and of our Lord Jesus Christ can be summed up by one word—“love.” (See Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; John 15:17).

Love was the goal of Paul’s instruction:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

Peter and John referred to love as the highest level of Christian growth, and Paul spoke of it as the basis for edification (see 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 4:7-11; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-16).

Love is to be a high priority for the Christian, but it is so quickly and easily lost. Certainly love was lacking in the church at Corinth. The church at Ephesus all too quickly lost its first love and did not even seem to know it (see Revelation 2:1-5.

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE

Love is not automatic. It’s quickly lost, and it comes about only when we make it our priority and pursuit. How does one pursue love? We begin by reading God’s Word and meditating upon it. This epistle was written not only to the saints at Corinth but to all the saints, including us (see 1:1-2). The first thing we gain from God’s Word is an accurate definition of love. Our society does not have the same definition of “love” as the Bible says Christians should hold. The Bible is the only source of truth which defines what love is and does.

As the Word of God speaks to us of love, we should recognize our lack of love, and repent of it. Surely as Paul’s description of love’s conduct begins to unfold in verses 4-7 of chapter 13, it became increasingly clear the Corinthians lacked love. As we meditate on these verses and many like them in God’s Word, our lack of love must be recognized and repented from as the serious sin it is. This is what Jesus called for in His letter to the Ephesian saints in Revelation 2 and it is what He requires of us today.

Having recognized our lack of love and repented of this deficiency, we must now look to God alone as the source of love. Love does not originate within us. We love as a result of God’s love for us. We are to keep ourselves in this love (1 John 4:19; Jude 1:20-21). 

If we are to keep ourselves in the love of Christ, we must never stray from the cross of Christ, because that is where God’s love for us was poured out (Romans 5:3-8).

The love we have received from God came in the form of a cross—sacrificial love. That is the kind of love we are to manifest toward others (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:25-27).

The way we demonstrate love toward God and toward others is by obeying His commandments. This is why the Old Testament law can be summed up in two commandments, both of which are the expressions of love. Legalism is man’s attempt to keep God’s law without love. Love is that state of heart which seeks to please God by keeping His commands. In chapter 14, verse 1, Paul instructed his readers to pursue love, and the rest of the chapter tells us how that is to be done. We pursue love by exercising our gifts in a self-sacrificial way that endeavors to edify others. If most of the church today ignores the instructions Paul laid down here, we can conclude the problem begins with a lack of love toward God and toward others. Love is not so much a warm and fuzzy feeling as the grateful disposition to please God and others at our own expense, by keeping His commandments as initially laid down in the Old Testament and clarified in the New.

Just a reminder that I’m speaking primarily to Christians because this epistle was written primarily to Christians, but now I want to say something to those who have not yet acknowledged their sin and trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. You cannot express the love of God until you have first experienced it. This is why some Christians scoff at you when you try to lecture them about love. Christian love is impossible for those who have not yet accepted the love of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I urge you to consider the awesome reality of God’s love, expressed toward you in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us, to bear the penalty for our sins, and to give us His righteousness, as we place our trust in Him by faith. May you trust in Him this very hour and thus come to experience His love.

Christian Love Has No Sell-By Date   Leave a comment

It bears all thingsbelieves all thingshopes all thingsendures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Paul spoke of four different qualities of love, all linked to each other by the word rendered “all things.”, which seems to fall short of communicating what Paul is saying. Love does not, for example, believe everything. It is not “love” for a mother to believe her child when he denies getting into her freshly made pie, when the meringue has formed a mustache around his mouth. Paul had just written that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (verse 6). While we tend to read these as separate phrases, they are dependent upon one another and should be understood in context. How could he inform the Corinthians that “love” accepts everything as truth, believing whatever one is told and not contradict that earlier statement?

Image result for image of love enduresInstead, what it means is love is always characterized by certain qualities, without exception. Throughout history, man has sought to excuse disobedience or sin by convincing himself that his situation is an exception. Jesus was asked if a man could divorce his wife for any reason at all (Matthew 19:3). His response was a refusal to dwell on the exceptions. He focused instead on the rule. He knew that for the Pharisees, the exception had become the rule. This is why Paul had already excluded any “loopholes” in the Bible, by insisting that whenever we succumb to temptation, it is not because we had to (The “I’m only human” defense), but because we failed to act upon God’s divinely provided “way of escape”:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

And so Paul informed his readers that there are four things love never ceases to possess and to practice, four things which can always be expected from genuine love.

(1) Love always bears up under adversity (“bears all things”).

Love had endurance. It can continue no matter what the opposition.

Edwards points out that the Greek term employed by Paul has two senses:

The term used here by Paul “… means originally ‘cover over,’” … then, “contain as a vessel.” From this latter meaning two metaphorical uses of the word are derived, either of which may be here adopted:

  1. that love hides or is silent about the faults of others;
  2. that love bears without resentment injuries inflicted by others.

(T. C. Edwards, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Hodder and Stoughton, n.d.) p. 347)

I do not believe we are forced to one choice or the other. It is completely within the realm of possibility that Paul meant us to understand this word in terms of its broader range of meaning. If true, we can see two major dimensions to love’s consistent capacity to “hold up” rather than “fold up.”

Firstlove bears up silently; that is, love covers sin with a cloak of silence. Sin is shameful, and love does not wish the sinner to be shamed more than necessary. Noah’s son, Ham, broadcast his father’s shame to his brothers when Noah was drunk and naked in his tent. His brothers “covered” Noah’s nakedness in a way that prevented them from viewing his shame (Genesis 9:20-23). Peter reminds us that Jesus suffered silently, not responding verbally to the abuses hurled upon Him, and that this pattern of silent suffering is to be followed by all the saints (1 Peter 2:18–3:15; 4:8).

Matthew’s Gospel sheds further light on this matter of our silence when Jesus teaches His disciples about church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20). We are to go privately to a brother who has sinned against us, and if he repents as a result of our rebuke, the matter is settled, never to be made public. If, however, this wayward brother resists and refuses to repent, then the matter once dealt with in the strictest privacy must now be dealt with in a way that becomes more and more public. After all efforts to turn the wayward brother from sin have been rejected, the whole church must be notified of his sin, and he must be publicly ex-communicated. Love always seeks to keep the sin of a wayward brother as private as possible, but this does not mean we cannot and should not be confronted publicly, if all private efforts have failed.

Second, love always bears up, no matter how great the persecution, suffering, or adversity. Job’s wife “tempted” him to sin by urging him to “curse God and die,” thus bringing his suffering to a conclusion. Love never caves in or collapses under duress. Love always holds up. Should we attempt to deceive ourselves by thinking otherwise, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13 jolt us back to reality.

Third, love always has faith (“believes all things”). Love never forsakes faith. The word translated “believes” in this verse is a verb, and the noun which shares the same root is very often translated “faith” in the New Testament. Of all the many times Paul employed the verb found here in our text, virtually every time it is used in a context which indicates the one who “believes” is the one who “has faith.” It is often used of those who have come to faith, those who have become “believers” (see 1 Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 14:22). Only once in Paul’s epistles does this verb refer to a belief in something other than the truth of the gospel:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it (1 Corinthians 11:18, emphasis mine).

Love always believes; it always has faith, even when life seems to be crumbling about us. Adversity is never an occasion for unbelief. Paul, imprisoned and awaiting a verdict from Caesar, was filled with faith, trusting that his death would either bring him into the presence of God or that his life would be used to draw others nearer to God (Philippians 1). Suffering is not an excuse for the failure of faith; rather, it is an occasion where love and faith may be demonstrated.

I know that faith, hope, and love are often mentioned together or are found in very close proximity to each other. I’ve come to appreciate the very close association that exists between love and faith. When Jesus summoned the four fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, why did these men leave their nets, their boats, and even their fathers to follow Jesus? Was it because of their faith? Partly, but I think they were drawn to Jesus out of love—His love for them and theirs for Him. These disciples did not understand a great deal about Jesus and His gospel until after His death, burial and resurrection. What kept them following Him before these things were clear in their minds? Faith, in part, but also love.

Love always has faith. Our love for God and our trust in His Word should give us unlimited faith in Him. Those men and women whom we love we must also trust, but within limits. We dare not believe everything we are told. In Deuteronomy 13, Moses warns the Israelites concerning those who would lead them astray. Included among those who might mislead us are those we call our “loved ones” (see 13:6-10). Love is never a license to uncritically accept all we are told. The love we find in the Bible is based on the truth (see Philippians 1:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:5).

Our faith must not be in our fellow man, but in God. No matter how bad things may be, no matter how much grief others may dish out to us, we should have unlimited faith in God. We should have faith in His promises to sustain us, to keep us from falling, and to perfect His work in us. We should have faith that God is using our trials and tribulations to strengthen our faith (Romans 5:1-11James 1:1-18) and to bring about our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Paul found great consolation in his sufferings for Christ’s sake because it enhanced his sense of identity with Him and his love for Him (see Philippians 3:8-11Colossians 1:24-29).

All too often I see a kind of cynicism in Christians that is not compatible with faith. Of course, we believe in the depravity of man. We know this world is passing away and that the unbelieving world’s efforts to bring about the improvement of man’s moral and spiritual nature are doomed. We know a genuine and permanent peace will never be negotiated or brought about on this earth, apart from the return of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom. Nevertheless, we can have faith that God will bring about His purposes for this earth and that He can save those who are seemingly hopelessly lost in their sins (such as Saul of Tarsus). We can be optimistic about what God will accomplish through us in this world. Love, true love, always manifests faith.

Fourth, love always has hope. Faith is believing in what is ultimately real and true but not immediately seen (see Hebrews 11:1). Faith believes God is going to give us that which our eyes do not and cannot see but which God has promised to us. Hope is our longing and desire for those things which are future, which by faith we believe we shall receive.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:22-25).

The concept of hope is frequently found in Paul’s writings. Hope enables the Christian to face even the most adverse circumstances, hoping for the promised blessings which will follow. “Hopeth all things is the forward look. The thought is not that of an unreasoning optimism, which fails to take account of reality. It is rather a refusal to take failure as final. Following on from believeth all things it is the confidence which looks to ultimate triumph by the grace of God.”

We can fairly readily grasp the relationship between faith and hope, but what is the relationship between hope and love? It seems to me that we hope for what we really love. I think we see this kind of hope in the life of Jacob. When Jacob fled from home (really from his brother Esau), he went to live among his relatives in Padan Aram. Finding his uncle Laban, Jacob stayed with him, falling in love with his younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob worked for seven years to earn the dowry for Rachel, only to discover that Laban had given him Leah instead. It took another seven years of labor before Jacob had paid the dowry for Rachel. And yet we read these words concerning Jacob’s attitude toward the delay in obtaining Rachel for a wife: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20). Jacob’s love for Rachel gave him both hope and endurance.

Of course there is a sense in which our love for others should give us hope for them. We love the children God has given us, and as they grow up, we have hope that God will save them and that they will grow up to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Our hope, however, is not in them so much as it is hope for them. We have hope for our children because ultimately our faith and hope are in God. We have hope that God will accomplish certain things in them.

Many of the Corinthian Christians were Paul’s spiritual children (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). In spite of all the abuse he had taken from these, his children, Paul had great hope for them (see 1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 9:11-15; 13:6-14).

Man’s hope may be wrongly placed (see 1 Timothy 6:17), but the only true source of hope is God, and particularly the Lord Jesus Christ (see Psalm 33:171 Peter 1:21Psalm 31:24; 38:15; 42:5, 112 Corinthians 1:101 Timothy 1:1). Christians should be characterized by hope in the midst of adversity, and it may well be this hope which opens the door for sharing our faith with others: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). True love is characterized by a consistent hope. Love always hopes.

Fifth, love always perseveres (“endures all things”). Some have been troubled that the first description of love (“bears all things”) is too similar in meaning to Paul’s last description (“endures all things”). I believe these two things are related, just as “faith” and “hope” are related. I see the “bearing” of things related to the intensity of the trial or offense. “It was more than I could handle,” someone excuses. “How much am I supposed to put up with?” another asks. Perseverance or endurance do not focus so much on the intensity of the trouble as the duration of it.

Love, Paul wrote, does not run out of time. Love lasts. This point will be taken up in the following verses. No matter how difficult the trial, love bears up under it; no matter how long the trial, love perseveres. This was not the case when the Corinthians divorced one another (chapter 7) or when one believer took another to court (chapter 6). There is a world of difference between a Christian asking the question, “How long?” and the Christian throwing in the towel with the excuse, “Too long!”

This, by the way, are what marriage vows are all about. When a man and a woman love each other and enter into covenantal marriage by the taking of vows, they promise to love each other, no matter what. And when they repeat their vows to each other, they commit themselves to loving their mate, “until death do us part.” Love does not put time limits on its own existence, even when things get rough.

What Love Is & What It is Not   Leave a comment

What Love Is Like
(13:4-7)

Love is patientlove is kindit is not enviousLove does not bragit is not puffed up. It is not rudeit is not self-servingit is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injusticebut rejoices in the truth. It bears all thingsbelieves all thingshopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Image result for image of long-sufferingPaul declined to give a technical definition of love. He provided us with a description of love, one especially pertinent to the Corinthians. The first two statements describing love in verse 4 are general. Paul then advanced to things not characteristic of love. These just happen to be some of the characteristics of the Corinthian saints. I doubt that’s a coincidence. Finally, Paul concluded in verse 7 with four characteristics of love, none of which are selective or partial. The Corinthians’ conduct in these areas was very much partial and incomplete. These four verses teach us what love looks like and that the Corinthians lacked it.

LOVE IS PATIENT

Paul began his description of love in verse 4 with the words, “Love is patient.” Although I love modern translations of the Bible, sometimes the King James Version has it better and this is the case here. It renders it “suffereth long” (“suffers long,” NKJV).

Long-suffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Ex. 34:6 (Sept.); Rom. 2:41 Pet. 3:20. Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; it is not used of God. (W.E. Vine)

We should not be surprised to find that God is described by the term “long-suffering” (see Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9, 15).

Pre-King David exemplified long-suffering. King Saul persistently sought to kill David, once he knew he would someday replace him as king of Israel. David not only endured this persecution graciously, refusing to take the king’s life when given the chance, he actively sought to do good to Saul. David was both long-suffering and kind.

Longsuffering is named as one of the “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). We are commanded to be “patient” or to manifest “long-suffering” toward others (see Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

I can imagine the Corinthians cringing as they read Paul’s words since they clearly fell far short of what God required of them regarding long-suffering. The Corinthians found it unbearable to wait for those who could not arrive before they started to eat the meal at the church’s fellowship gatherings. Paul had to command them to wait for one another. Had love been present in Corinth, it would have prompted them to wait (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). And when one Corinthian Christian irritated another, the response was, “I’ll see you in court!” (see chapter 6). This is not patience!

Before we begin to feel too smug, we are not doing all that well either. Christians in our part of the world are not inclined to endure ill-treatment from anyone. Putting up with ill treatment is what long-suffering is all about. We are to put up with one another: “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13). We should be willing to endure ill treatment from unbelievers and believers alike, even as our Lord did (1 Peter 2:18ff.; see also Matthew 17:17Acts 13:18). Let us not forget all that Paul put up with from the Corinthians (see 4:6-21).

A lot of modern Christians really need to develop thicker hides when it comes to the slights and offenses others impose on us. The word “abuse” is one of the great “excuse” words of our day. Let me be very clear that there are certain kinds of abuse no one should put up with, such as sexual abuse. However, the categories of abuse seem to multiply daily. For example, there is verbal abuse and mental abuse. But now, Christians seem to think that whenever the “abuse” word arises, every Scriptural command is put into a different category, one which does not apply. Turning the other cheek is out because that would be tolerating physical abuse, regardless that Jesus silently endured verbal abuse as a pattern for all Christians (1 Peter 2:18-25). Somewhere Christians must make up their minds to suffer at least certain kinds of abuse from others. I’m a big believer in individual rights, but I think they need to be balanced (by the individual, not the government) with long-suffering.

LOVE IS KIND

If long-suffering (or patience) is the passive side of love, kindness is the active side. Kindness is the opposite of “having a chip on one’s shoulder.” A chip on one’s shoulder predisposes one to hostile action with only the slightest provocation while kindness predisposes one to helpful action which only requires the hint of a need before it takes action. The “good Samaritan” did not need to be prodded into action nor did he seek to find a “way of escape” from his obligation as a neighbor. When he saw the man lying in the road in need, he willingly did all in his means to help (Luke 10:30-37).

David is one of the most striking examples of kindness. He loved Jonathan, one of his closest friends. After Jonathan died, David wished to demonstrate his love toward his deceased friend. Since Jonathan was dead, the only way to show kindness to Jonathan was through his offspring. David was delighted when he was informed that Jonathan had a living heir. His surviving son, Mephibosheth, was crippled in both feet. In one sense, this was even better for David’s purposes, because this man’s handicap presented a need David could meet. By David’s decree, Mephibosheth henceforth ate regularly at the king’s table (2 Samuel 9). David’s love manifested itself in kindness, a predisposition to do good to others.

Kindness is characteristic of God and should thus characterize the Christian (see Luke 6:35; Romans 2:4; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 4:32; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Peter 3:8). The Christian is commanded to be kind (Ephesians 4:32), and thus, failing to show kindness is disobedience. Kindness is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Paul reminded the Corinthians of the kindness which he manifested toward them even though they were unkind to him (see 1 Corinthians 4:6-212 Corinthians 6:1-13). Kindness was surely lacking in the Corinthian church.

Kindness is not the spirit which produces strife and divisions in the church (chapters 1-3). It was not the response of many Corinthians toward Paul or the other true apostles (chapter 4). It surely was not kindness that caused the church to embrace a man living in sin (chapter 5). Neither is it kindness which compelled two believers to square off with each other in a secular law court (chapter 6). Kindness did not cause one spouse to withhold sex from the other (chapter 7). Kindness did not prompt one believer to assert his or her alleged rights to the detriment of another (chapter 8). It was not kindness that motivated some Corinthians to indulge themselves before their brethren arrived (chapter 11). Kindness didn’t make one believer look down upon the gifts of another (chapter 12) or cause certain individuals to assert themselves in the church meeting for their own personal gain (chapter 14). When the Corinthian saints were described, kindness is not the first word which pops into my mind.

According to Paul, love is demonstrated by two general characteristics:

  • long-suffering in the face of adverse treatment by others, and
  • kindness toward those who abuse us.

Long-suffering endures ill treatment without responding in a retaliatory fashion, and kindness seeks to do good to those who delight to cause us harm. That is what love is like. Now, in the second half of verse 4 through verse 6, Paul lets us know what love is not like. If these characteristics exist in Corinth—or in our church—we need to confess our lack of love.

LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS

Jealousy is a term which conveys “earnest desire.” It can be a good desire or a bad desire. In our text, the desire is bad. We might define jealousy here as “a sadness or sorrow on my part, due to the success of another.” Jealousy causes me pain when someone else feels pleasure. It is the kind of feeling a person feels when his or her competitor wins.

Perhaps it is the feeling a Miss America Pageant contestant has when, as one of the top finalists, she hears the girl standing next to her pronounced “Miss America.” Both girls, not to mention their parents, have sacrificed many years for this moment. Music lessons, diets, exercise, contests, clothes have all played a significant part in her life. She has made many sacrifices to win this coveted title, only to have the girl next to her win. All the other contestants manage the semblance of a smile on their face and kiss the winner, but it is hard to believe there is not the feeling of jealousy, a regret that the other person has succeeded, at their expense.

Asaph confesses his jealousy of his fellow Israelites in Psalm 73, and David warns of being jealous of the wicked in Psalm 37:1. Cain is jealous of Abel’s acceptance (Genesis 4:1-8), and Haman is jealous of Mordecai’s success (Esther 6). Saul is jealous of David and his success (1 Samuel 18:7), so much so that he seeks to kill him. The scribes and Pharisees are jealous of Jesus’ popularity and power over the people (Matthew 27:18). Peter is concerned about John’s fate in comparison with his own (John 21).

Jealousy is incompatible with love for a very good reason. Love seeks the benefit and well-being (edification) of another, so much so that it is willing to make a personal sacrifice to facilitate it. When others prosper at our expense, this is precisely what love intends. Jealousy is not consistent with love. Jealousy would rather prosper at the expense of the other, and so when another prospers, jealousy results where love is absent.

The gospel is the supreme example of love, in contrast to jealousy. God made the ultimate sacrifice by going to the cross to bring about our salvation. The Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself for our salvation, paying the ultimate price of His own blood. If this kind of sacrifice was required to bring about our salvation, how can we regret God’s blessing on others? Ironically, because Christians are a part of the body of Christ, the prosperity of one member is not at the expense of the rest of the body, but for the benefit of the whole body (see 1 Corinthians 12:26).

Someone might protest, “But isn’t God jealous? Why can’t Christians be jealous if God is a jealous God?” There is a great difference between our jealousy and God’s. God is jealous over that which belongs to Him. We are jealous over that which belongs to someone else and not to us. God is jealous over what He has; we are jealous over what we do not have that someone else does have. There are times when we can exemplify godly jealousy (see 2 Corinthians 11:2), but this is not what Paul has in mind in our text.

Jealousy was rampant in the church at Corinth. The Corinthians were jealous of the gifts and ministries of their fellow-believers. Some despised their own gifts and calling and wish to have the gifts and ministries of others. They seemed to be jealous of those visible and verbal ministries. They even seemed to be jealous of Paul’s time which he spent in ministry to others. In both 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul had to speak to the issue of his absence which some seemed to resent.

Sadly, Christians today manifest the same kinds of jealousy. We are jealous of the (apparent) success of others in business and in the church. Some can be jealous of those who are given a leadership position in the church. We can be jealous of those who appear to be (or at least claim to be) more spiritual than we are. I see a great deal of jealousy in the ministry. Ministers may be jealous of the success of others in ministry, of their radio ministry, or the opportunity to speak in the Bible conference circuit. Some may be jealous of the salary, the prestige, or the size of church others might have. All of this betrays a lack of love and the sacrificing, servant spirit which love engenders.

Jealousy may be among us in other ways. First, we may be guilty of provoking people to jealousy by distorting the gospel which we preach and share with others. Consider these words of the apostle Paul:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment (1 Timothy 6:3-6).

LOVE IS NOT ENVIOUS

Paul specifically identified envy as one of the evils in this text (verse 4). I believe Paul established a connection between envy and greed and a distorted gospel. People may come into (or at least along side) the faith because they are given false expectations of what their conversion will produce. Some approach the Christian faith as a means of “getting ahead” in life, seeing the gospel as a “means of great gain.” This is certainly possible when one listens to the “health-and-wealth gospel” preachers who abound today, trying to lure people into the faith (or into their congregations or list of supporters) by promising them prosperity if they join their ranks.

When Jesus invited men to follow Him, He did not make sweeping promises of prosperity. Instead, He sought to dispel any misconceptions about His ministry by stressing discipleship and its cost, and by talking in terms of “taking up one’s cross.” Some in churches today who envy the success of others may have been tempted to do so by those who promised them prosperity rather than the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Let us preach the gospel as Jesus did and never seek to lure people into the faith with unBiblical bait (see 1 Corinthians 4:1-22 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-2).

LOVE IS NOT ARROGANT AND DOES NOT BOAST

Arrogance and boasting are the reverse side of the coin. Jealousy is my sinful response to the prosperity of others. Arrogance and boasting are my sinful response to my own prosperity. Arrogance (or pride) takes credit for my “success,” as though it were due to my own merit or superior efforts. Boasting is letting other people know about my success in a way that tempts others to be jealous of that success.

Arrogance and boasting are not Christian virtues; humility is a virtue. Arrogance is a character trait of Satan. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, political leaders were rebuked for their arrogance in a way that suggests a close kinship to Satan himself. It is not possible to take pride in that which we are given, apart from merit or works. We cannot boast or take credit for the gift of salvation, our spiritual gifts or ministries: Grace pulls the rug out from under pride and boasting. Paul once took great pride in his performance as a Pharisee, but not after he was saved. As a Christian, Paul saw his contribution to the work of God in a new light (Philippians 3:1-10). Our calling is not to “enter into the glory” of our Lord, the glory yet to come; rather, we are to enter into His sufferings(Colossians 1:24-29; 1 Peter 4:12-14). 

The Corinthians were arrogant (1 Corinthians 4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:12 Corinthians 12:20) and boastful (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31; 3:21; 4:7; 5:6; 9:15-16; 15:312 Corinthians 7:4, 14; 8:24; 9:2-3; 10:8, 13, 15-17; 11:10, 12, 16-18, 30; 12:1, 5-6, 9). Where do we see pride and boasting manifested in the churches today?

Pride and boasting are found wherever the most coveted gifts and ministries are present. People who mean well may compliment those with outstanding gifts, and their words may become flattery. Praise leads to pride and pride to arrogance.

I see pride manifested often around the family. Those who may have prayerfully and diligently (though not infallibly) sought to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) may be broken-hearted because of the outcome, at least as judged at the moment. Meanwhile, those whose children appear to have turned out “right” may, without knowing it, be inclined to take credit for those results. In truth, good parenting is never a guarantee of good children. God is sovereign in the election and salvation of our children, and He is under no obligation to save them because of any work or merit on our part. When our children walk with the Lord, it is solely due to the grace of God and not to our good parenting. We, as parents, are obligated to be faithful in the rearing of our children, just as we are to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel. But faithful parenting, like faithful proclamation, does not assure us of the results.

The most pious forms of pride and boasting seemingly give God the credit for our works because it makes us sound so spiritual, while all the while mentally patting ourselves on the back as if we deserve any part of the credit for what God does through us. Many of us have discovered that we have nothing worth boasting about in ourselves. We nevertheless find ways to boast in a second-hand manner. The Corinthians, for example, boasted in their leaders: “I am of Paul, Apollos, …” etc. We can do the same: “I go to _________’s church.” Or we can boast in our church or denomination: “I go to a New Testament church that teaches the Bible.” “Our church is serious about Bible study or Bible doctrine.” “Our church believes and teaches the full gospel.” Many of these statements may be desirable and even true, but our attitude can be one of pride, our speech boasting.

LOVE DOES NOT BEHAVE BADLY (ACT UNBECOMINGLY)

The Corinthians were not behaving well. There were divisions and factions, immorality enough to shock the pagans, lawsuits, and some church member were actually participating in heathen idol worship celebrations. Corinthians weren’t waiting for the rest, before they began to observe the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians were uncouth jerks, really. This is not what love is all about. Love is about behaving in an appropriate manner. It is about conduct befitting the circumstance.

I cannot go on without pointing out some ways Christians behave badly, all in the name of “spirituality.” Often “spiritual considerations” become our “lion in the road,” not only excusing bad behavior, but, in our minds, demanding it. One way is found in evangelism. Many of us use the gospel as an excuse to be pushy or overly aggressive with others. We confront, buttonhole, badger and bully others, all in the name of soul-winning. Who can fault the faithful “soul-winner”? But Jesus never intruded, never forced Himself upon an unwilling, uninterested victim. Soul-winning is no excuse for running roughshod over people so we can put another notch on our evangelistic gun belt. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Being “Spirit-led” is another pretext for bizarre behavior. Much of the conduct of the Corinthians in the church meeting was not Spirit-led but merely compulsive self-assertion. And it’s no different today. A friend who was a fairly new Christian reported about her first visit to a charismatic church, ending her email with “I don’t think I’m going to go to church if I’m required to lose my mind to do it.” Fortunately, she reached out to the right Christians who were able to steer her to churches that don’t want to scare the visitors. Let us never blame God for our bad behavior. If we truly love God and others, let us not act badly, whether excused by pious language or not. Love does not act unbecomingly. Love is conduct which is winsome, which draws people to us, and which prompts them to ask us about our faith (see 1 Peter 3:13-15).

LOVE IS NOT SELF-CENTERED (DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN)

The Corinthians were completely self-absorbed. They measured themselves by their gifts and ministries and didn’t think of themselves as a part of the body of Christ. They had marvelous “self-esteem,” but they disdained Paul and the other apostles. They were so self-centered they were willing to demand the freedom to practice their alleged liberties, even if it destroyed a weaker brother. They asserted themselves in the church meeting with little or no regard for others and for edification.

The church of our day is not really different. The word “self” is found often on the lips of professing Christians. We are told that our first priority is to love ourselves so that we can then love others, which is pretty unBiblical, but also illogical and foolish. How can we be so gullible as to embrace this kind of error? Love is a matter of prioritizing. I am to love God above any and all others; He has first priority. I am to love my husband above all mankind, just as Christ has set His love on His church. I am to love my neighbor and even my enemy. That is, I am to put the interests of others above my own (see Philippians 2:1-8). If I love myself first, I cannot love my neighbor, because loving my neighbor means putting him first. I am to love my neighbor as myself; that is, I am to love my neighbor in the same ways I find it natural to love myself (see Ephesians 5:28-30).

Some Christians see self-love for what it is, but there are other forms of self-absorption, and some people are self-centered in other ways. Some put themselves first by continually leveling blame or guilt toward themselves, rather than accepting and appropriating God’s forgiving grace. Others wallow in self-pity, constantly meditating on the ways others have abused them. Any preoccupation with self is self-centered and contrary to the way of love. Let us not forget that ours is the way of the cross; the Christian life is about dying daily and the mortification of the flesh. Too many Christians try to coddle that which needs to be crucified.

LOVE IS NOT PROVOKED

This Greek term, rendered “provoked” in the NASB, is used in Hosea 8:5 and Zechariah 10:3 to depict provocation to anger. The term is by no means used only with a negative connotation. In Acts 17:16, it describes how Paul’s spirit is so provoked within him that he begins to preach to the idol-worshiping inhabitants of Athens. In Hebrews 10:24, the writer urges the saints to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the term to describe a short-fused person who is easily and quickly provoked to take action which is not edifying to either party. Love does not “blow its cork,” “lose its cool,” or “blow a fuse.” Love does not have a chip on its shoulder, looking for some tiny straw of offense so it can ventilate all its anger and hostility.

The Corinthians are obviously provoked in a number of areas … enough to take their brethren to court, to divorce their mates and to start the Lord’s Supper without waiting for all to arrive. Today, Christians are provoked by minor offenses and leave the church or take some form of retaliatory action. Some are provoked by their mates and act in a destructive way to their marriage. Parents may be provoked by their children or children by their parents (see Ephesians 6:4). There are all too many abusive parents or mates, whose explosive anger cannot be predicted or avoided but only dreaded.

Having warned of being very careful about becoming too quickly provoked, I must add that some saints really need to get upset about what they see in the world around them. We ought to be angered at sin, but in our anger, we should act appropriately and not explosively (see Ephesians 4:26). There is a time for righteous indignation, but let us be certain it is truly righteous wrath and not just human anger with a pious label (James 1:19-20; 3:13-18).

LOVE DOES NOT KEEP NOTES ON PAST OFFENSES

Paul tells us that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” We find it hard to forget it when people offend us, often storing up such grievances.’” Some saints seem to have photographic memories when it comes to offenses against them. One little irritation brings to mind an entire file of previous offenses, carefully annotated and documented, sometimes with date-stamps. This kind of mental bookkeeping only serves to fuel resentment and certainly does not facilitate true reconciliation.

LOVE DOES NOT REJOICE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH

Finding out what a person enjoys—what gives them pleasure and causes them to rejoice—may be very revealing about the character of that person. All too often, I find myself enjoying something not really righteous. Some humor is funny, but not particularly righteous. Paul said love looks to the truth of God’s Word to define that which it can enjoy, that over which it can rejoice.

Secular entertainment offers a good illustration. Many movies set us up to take pleasure  in unrighteousness. Often the villain is characterized by incredible violence and cruelty. All through the movie, he does things designed to cause us to hate him with a passion. We don’t want him to be caught and sent to prison. We don’t want him to be convicted and given the death penalty. We want this person to die in the worst conceivable way. And so, in the end, the individual gets his reward, dying the most painful, violent death the film writer can conceive. And we find ourselves watching this man die with great pleasure. Often, the hero responds with equal unrighteousness and violence, but we cheer him on because he’s the “good guy”. Very often, he’s the one who kills the villain and we applaud heartily. We rejoice in unrighteousness.

Gossip is yet another area where most all of us fail to live up to the standard Paul set for us. Many Christians actually take pleasure in gossip. Suppose someone in the church has gifts or a ministry we covet. If we think this person’s success is at our expense, then the failure of that person is something in which we could take pleasure. Someone comes along and shares a rumor: “Did you know so and so was supposed to have … ?” We are too quick to believe the worst. We want to take pleasure in that person’s moral assassination. We gladly listen to the rumor and even pass it along to others. If we wish to look especially pious in the process, we share it as a “concern” or a “prayer request.” All the while we take great pleasure in the process, which is unrighteous (see 2 Corinthians 12:20; compare Matthew 18:15-201 Timothy 5:19-20).

LOVE TAKES NO PLEASURE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. LOVE SETS ITS MIND ON WHAT IS RIGHT:

Rather than comment on this, I thought I’d leave us with the quintessential Bible passage on the subject.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:8-9)

Here is the way to unity. Love dwells on what is right and then does what is right. This is the way to peace.

A More Excellent Way   Leave a comment

A friend tells me that he thinks 1 Corinthians 13 may be the most misunderstood chapter in the Bible, because people don’t read it in context. It is sandwiched between Chapter 12 and Chapter 14, which both discuss spiritual gifts within the church. If that’s the gem setting, it casts the message of the chapter in a different light. Because I can’t cover three chapters in one post, I had to break it up, but you can read it for yourself in one go.

And now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison. (1Corinthians 12:31b)

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angelsbut I do not have loveI am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophesy, and know all mysteries and all knowledgeand if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have loveI am nothing. If I give away everything I ownand if I give over my body in order to boastbut do not have loveI receive no benefit.

Love is patientlove is kindit is not enviousLove does not bragit is not puffed up. It is not rudeit is not self-servingit is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injusticebut rejoices in the truth. It bears all thingsbelieves all thingshopes all thingsendures all things.

Love never endsBut if there are propheciesthey will be set asideif there are tonguesthey will ceaseif there is knowledgeit will be set aside. For we know in partand we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comesthe partial will be set aside. When I was a childI talked like a child, I thought like a childI reasoned like a childBut when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectlybut then we will see face to faceNow I know in partbut then I will know fullyjust as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faithhopeand loveBut the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

Introduction

Image result for image of christian loveI find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe the Corinthians deliberately chose to abandon Christian love. I believe they were so caught up in certain spiritual gifts that they had unconsciously abandoned true love. They were something like Samson after Delilah cut his hair. Samson leapt to his feet, fully expecting to be able to handle the Philistines, not knowing that God’s power had departed (see Judges 16:18-21). The Corinthian church was like the church at Ephesus which had lost its first love (Revelation 2:1-7).

Why is love important? Why do Christians need to study it more intently?

  • The whole Old Testament Law is summed up by the one word, “love” (see Leviticus 19:17-18Matthew 19:19).
  • Love sums up the Christian’s responsibilities in the New Testament (Romans 13:9).
  • Love is the capstone, the crowning virtue, the consummation of all other virtues (Galatians 5:22-232 Peter 1:5-7Colossians 3:12-14).
  • Love is the goal of Paul’s instruction (1 Timothy 1:5).
  • Love is the distinguishing mark of the true Christian (John 13:35).
  • Without love, the value of spiritual gifts is greatly diminished (1 Corinthians 12:1-3).
  • Love is greater than any of the spiritual gifts and is even greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).
  • Love endures suffering under persecution, and Christians will be persecuted (Matthew 24:102 Timothy 3:12).
  • Love is easily lost, without one’s even being aware of it (Revelation 2:1-7).
  • Love is misunderstood and distorted by the unbelieving world.
  • Love is vitally important to Christians, for it should govern our relationships with other Christians, especially those with whom we strongly disagree.

So why did Paul decide to address love right in the middle of an ongoing discussion of spiritual gifts? I think it was because the church at Corinth greatly resembled the churches of today. In the Corinthian church of Paul’s day, and in the evangelical church of our own day, strong polarization exists between charismatic Christians and non-charismatic Christians. As the charismatic movement has grown, it has become more diversified, thereby rendering many generalizations about it reductionistic, but its fair to say both charismatics and non-charismatics often cherish neat stereotypes of the other party.

As judged by the charismatics, non-charismatics tend to be stodgy traditionalists who do not really believe the Bible and who are not really hungry for the Lord. They are afraid of profound spiritual experience, too proud to give themselves wholeheartedly to God, more concerned for ritual than for reality, and more in love with propositional truth than with the truth incarnate. They are better at writing theological tomes than at evangelism; they are defeatist in outlook, defensive in stance, dull in worship, and devoid of the Spirit’s power in their personal experience.

The non-charismatics themselves, of course, tend to see things a little differently. The charismatics, they think, have succumbed to the modern love of ‘experience,’ even at the expense of truth. Charismatics are thought to be profoundly unBiblical, especially when they elevate their experience of tongues to the level of a theological and spiritual shibboleth. If they are growing, no small part of their strength can be ascribed to their raw triumphalism, their populist elitism, their promise of short cuts to holiness and power. They are better at splitting churches and stealing sheep than they are at evangelism, more accomplished in spiritual one-upmanship before other believers than in faithful, humble service. They are imperialistic in outlook (only they have the ‘full gospel’), abrasive in stance, uncontrolled in worship, and devoid of any real grasp of the Bible that goes beyond mere proof-texting.

Of course, both sides concede that the caricatures I have drawn admit notable exceptions; but the profound suspicions on both sides make genuine dialogue extremely difficult. This is especially painful, indeed embarrassing, in the light of the commitment made by most believers on both sides to the Bible’s authority. (D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), pp. 11-12.)

But, while all Christians now share in the “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3; compare 4:5; 2:14-22; 1 Corinthians 12:13), we do not all share in the “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). This is because we only “know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). We Christians disagree, in part at least, because our knowledge is partial and incomplete. We don’t know what we don’t know and we tend to disagree over those things we do not fully know, even though we may believe we do know. Love is the means God provided for us to live in harmony and unity, even though there is a diversity of doctrine in matters which are not fundamental. Paul’s instructions on love then become absolutely vital to our Christian walk and unity.

What is distinctive about Christian love? It’s important to answer that question before looking further at Chapter 13. We overuse that word “love” in the modern world so that the meaning of the word is sort of fluid. And, yes, there are different Greek words for our single English word love and they all have different nuances of meaning, but I’m not going to get into that in this study. Paul provided us with a definition of Christian love in the writing of Chapter 13.

He didn’t instruct us about the importance of distinguishing between Greek words for love. He began in verses 1-3 by showing that spiritual gifts have only minimal value, unless they are exercised in love. In verses 4-7, Paul didn’t attempt to give us a very technical definition of love; instead, he described love in a way which makes it very clear what Biblical love looks like. His description makes it glaringly evident that the Corinthians had indeed lost their first love, even more quickly than the Ephesian saints (compare Revelation 2:1-7). If verses 4-7 contrast the behavior of true love with the conduct of the Corinthians, verses 8-13 contrast love with all spiritual gifts, showing that while all of the spiritual gifts are temporary, Christian love is eternal, outlasting even faith and hope. If we measure the value of something by how long it lasts, love comes out on top. Love is the “better way” (see 12:31) beyond all comparison.

I’m going to break the study up into segments over the next few weeks, but before doing that, I want to make a few observations.  Paul took what are considered to be the greatest gifts anyone could possess, starting with tongues (the “ultimate gift” for the Corinthians and many charismatics today), and granted that each could be exercised to the fullest possible extent. Even then, these spiritual gifts would be of limited value unless exercised out of a heart of love.

Tongues is the ability to speak in unlearned earthly languages as seen in Acts 2. Or is it? If you go back to that Biblical passage (Acts 2) and read it without a preconception, you quickly realize that the miracle was not that the disciples spoke in tongues, but that the hearers understood what they were saying in their own language. Peter could not have preached in more than one language. It would be a physical impossibility to speak in more than one language at the same time. Yet, hearers from all over the Mediterranean understood what he said.  So, while the disciples did speak in tongues that day, it may not be the sort of tongues we are familiar with today. And, even if it were, Paul declared, if this were done apart from love, it would not be profitable to men: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Can you imagine listening to a cymbal or a gong hour after hour? I actually can because my nephew played the drums. Babysitting him was hell. Hour after agonizing hour of drums pounding away. Some instruments are not good alone. Rather than being enjoyable, they can be irritating. A tongues speaker without love could speak long and loud, enraptured by the sound of his own voice, but apart from interpretation, there would be no value to those who hear or even to the speaker (see 14:14-17). Exercised in love, and in accordance with the restrictions set down by Paul, tongues could be edifying. But without love, tongues would be irritating.

How do I know? I have worshiped with charismatics on-and-off throughout my Christian walk. In very few groups is any interpretation offered. In one prayer meeting a woman erupted into an ecstatic utterance that sounded a great deal like an old-style coffee percolator. I got nothing spiritual out of that meeting, though occasionally I have been in groups where interpretation occurred and it was very uplifting.

Any gift exercised primarily for the benefit of the one who is gifted is a prostitution of that gift, and the end result of that kind of “ministry” is not edification but exasperation. Love seeks to serve others to their benefit and at the sacrifice of the one who serves in love. This kind of ministry blesses others. Self-serving, self-promoting ministry is a pain to others, something to be endured at best.

The Corinthians wrongly measured their own significance by the gifts they possessed. Were this false assumption granted even for a moment, without love, the greatest gift, exercised to the fullest measure, really makes the exerciser a nobody.

Luke 7:36-50 illustrates this truth. There, everybody who was considered important seems to have gathered at the dinner Jesus attended at the home of Simon the Pharisee. A woman regarded as a “nobody” came, uninvited, and washed the feet of our Lord. Simon the Pharisee took note and, in his heart, thought less of Jesus because He allowed this woman to touch him. He thought, “If Jesus knew who she was and what a sinner she was, He would have nothing to do with her.” But Jesus turned the tables. This woman went away forgiven and saved. She who was a “nobody” was a “somebody” in the kingdom of God, simply because she loved her Lord. The one who was least, but loved, was the greatest. Those who were the greatest, without love, were the least.

Look at Jonah, the prophet. He enjoyed the kind of “success” of which the prophet Elijah could only dream. Elijah wanted to convert the nation Israel. He “failed” because this was not God’s purpose for him. So, too, Isaiah “failed” by secular standards of success. But when Jonah preached, the entire city of Nineveh repented. It was a success Jonah did not want. It was a success that made Jonah angry with God. Who could leave the Book of Jonah liking this loveless prophet? He was nothing because he lacked love.

In addition to the gift of prophecy, Paul wrote of the gift of faith. Faith, exercised to the ultimate measure of success, would be a faith that could not only move mountains but remove them (compare Matthew 17:20; 21:21). If one had this kind of faith, yet lacked love, he would be a nobody.

If I possess the greatest of gifts and exercise them to the fullest degree, yet without love, I am nobody. I am nothing. These words must have struck the Corinthians with considerable force.

In verse 3, Paul speaks of gifts in terms of the greatest imaginable sacrifice. “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Paul spoke of great personal sacrifice that would gain one favor and approval by his peers (compare Matthew 6:2-4). The ultimate sacrifice is made, either by giving up all of one’s possessions for the sake of the poor, or by the giving up of one’s life as a martyr. Because love is sacrificial (see Ephesians 5:25), some might be tempted to conclude that “great sacrifice” (giving up all one’s possessions or one’s life) was proof of great love.

Paul disagreed. People give away their possessions for any number of reasons, and many of those reasons can be self-serving rather than sacrificial. So what if I bequeath all my wealth to a charitable organization upon my death. I can’t take my money with me anyway. Even if I deprive my children of any inheritance, it really doesn’t mean I’m generous. I’m dead. The bequest doesn’t affect my life. People have set themselves on fire for causes they believe in and I’ve heard pundits ascribe that action to a love motive. I’m not confinced. Ultimate sacrifices can be made apart from love, and if they are loveless, they are of no eternal benefit to the one making the sacrifice.

Benefits and blessings may occur through the loveless exercise of spiritual gifts, but these benefits are greatly reduced when love is lacking. The Corinthians were obsessed with the value of spiritual gifts, equating the social status of the gift with the significance of the one who possesses it. Paul sought to elevate love, the fruit of the Spirit, above the gifts of the Spirit.

What Is Love?   5 comments

What is love? How do I show it to my loved ones? Given that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, this seems like a very appropriate topic.

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Love is a mystery because it isn’t just one thing. Is it an emotion? Is it action? Is it a mixture of both? People with a scientific mind sometimes explain all the feelings involved by proclaiming that love is simply a chemical reaction in our brains and is therefore nothing truly real—just a random byproduct of human brain chemistry developed through millions of years of human evolution.

As a Christian, I take my definition mostly from Scripture, where I learn that love is not solely an emotion and not solely an action, but that it is the Christian lifestyle.

In John 13:34-35 Jesus commanded Christians:

I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one anotherEveryone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.

This wasn’t a random comment. Jesus told his disciples to “love one another” three times. Obviously Jesus was stressing something of high importance. When we think of the word “love,” even in the Christian sense, we think of it as being accompanied by that “warm, fuzzy” feeling. I personally don’t feel that warm, fuzzy feeling with every single person I meet, whether they’re Christian or not. So does that mean love is absent? Absolutely not. This is because Christian love is not a feeling; although strong feelings can be involved. It’s a lifestyle.

A Pharisee once asked Jesus what the greatest command was, to which He replied:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 46  22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-39).

Similar to this, Jesus said:

In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.(Matthew 7:12)

This is where we get the cliché, “Treat others how you want to be treated,” also repeated in Luke 6:31.

Paul the apostle wrote:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments,Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,(and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this,Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).

Because I wouldn’t want someone to commit adultery with my husband, I choose not to commit adultery … not just with my body, but also with my mind. Because I want other women not to lust after my husband, I work strenuously to not allow lust for anyone other than Brad to enter my mind. That means I don’t read erotica, as one example of a broader application. Similarly, I wouldn’t want someone to murder one of my loved ones, so I don’t intend to murder anyone. I would not want anyone to steal from me, so I don’t steal from others.

WebA more concrete definition of how we love people as Christians comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed upIt is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This passage is the cliché of all weddings, which I believe is the primary reason why people mistake this passage as delineating human love in the romantic sense. Paul was talking about Christ-like love, not romance, but we can still use this passage as a guideline to love our significant other, so long as we recognize that it’s describing Christ-like love, not solely a romantic love.

It’s easy to do things for people by just going through the motions or out of obligation, but if you don’t love what you’re doing it for the benefit of that person and for the glory of God, then it means nothing. We aren’t expected to be 100% perfect in this First Corinthians list, but it has been given to us as a guideline on how to love others as Christ does. We ought to pray that Christ empower us to love in these ways to the best of our ability.

 

Posted February 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What Is Love?   Leave a comment

Modern society will tell you that God is love and then go on to define love in very specific ways that justify their own deeds. What did Jesus, Who is God in the flesh to walk on earth among humans, have to say about love?

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

This is perhaps the most recognizable Bible verse in the world. There are two things modern man gets wrong about this verse. One — they really hate that God sacrificed His child for our salvation. They are actually angry with God for this. What they fail to understand is that Jesus is God. I don’t fully understand how it works, but Jesus made it clear that He and the Father are one in the same. God sent Himself to earth to die for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to Him. Why was that necessary? Maybe so the sinless spirit God could understand why human beings are so weak against sin. Or maybe to show us that frail humanity can stand against sin for 30-odd years and die a horrible death and still not sin. Or, maybe just to show us that He loves as THAT MUCH that’s He’s willing to endure anything so that those of us who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Because I am not a Bible translator, I’m providing the notes on this verse from the NET Bible.

Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, tekna qeou), Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

The other thing they get wrong is not to read the rest of what Jesus said. This was a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. It wasn’t a string of unrelated verses.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. John 3:17

During His earthly mission, it wasn’t Jesus’ job to condemn those who sin in the world. His job was to offer salvation through belief in Him e the world. If He’d stopped there, modern man wouldn’t have much to worry about, but Jesus had more to say on the subject.

The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. John 3:18

We really like the warm fuzzies of 3:16-17, but we really don’t like this verse because it creates choices. It demands choices. Believers in Jesus Christ as Savior are not condemned. Yay! That’s great! But what of the nonbelievers? I can almost hear Nicodemus asking that question. Jesus explained that their lack of belief condemns them. Jesus doesn’t need to do any condemning because they have made their choice to not believe in the name of Jesus

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but as God, He will judge the world and this will be his criteria.

Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. John 3:19-21 

At a prior point in John’s gospel, Jesus is identified as the light. Apparently Nicodemus knew this. The Light has come into the world, but instead of embracing the Light, people preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.

So what does that mean … their deeds were evil? Those who come to the Light (Jesus) are not afraid to be associated with Him because it is plain their deeds have been done in the light. This is evident because they are not ashamed of their deeds.

Again, the margin notes from the NET Bible are helpful.

sn John 3:16-21 provides an introduction to the (so-called) “realized” eschatology of the Fourth Gospel: Judgment has come; eternal life may be possessed now, in the present life, as well as in the future. The terminology “realized eschatology” was originally coined by E. Haenchen and used by J. Jeremias in discussion with C. H. Dodd, but is now characteristically used to describe Dodd’s own formulation. See L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 1:54, note 10, and R. E. Brown (John [AB], 1:cxvii-cxviii) for further discussion. Especially important to note is the element of choice portrayed in John’s Gospel. If there is a twofold reaction to Jesus in John’s Gospel, it should be emphasized that that reaction is very much dependent on a person’s choice, a choice that is influenced by his way of life, whether his deeds are wicked or are done in God (John 3:20-21). For John there is virtually no trace of determinism at the surface. Only when one looks beneath the surface does one find statements like “no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Love it that Jesus was God Who took on human form to live among us and to die for our sins so that those of us who choose to believe will not be judged, but will be saved from eternal condemnation. We can choose to reject Him, but if we prefer the darkness rather than the light, there are consequences.

Posted September 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Leo X. Robertson

News of my latest publications, events, and episodes of the Losing the Plot podcast!

Sherry Parnell

Author of "Let the Willows Weep"

Emerald Book Reviews

Book Reviews and Promotion Services

YA Chit Chat

The Ponderings of YA author J. Keller Ford

madchen863's Blog

Planet Earth: home of life

MIND MIX RADIO

Radio for the Awake and Aware

SHAKERS & MOVERS

Soweto isiPantsula Crew + Management

RedheadedBooklover

Just a redheaded woman who is obsessed with books

Mercedes Prunty Author

The Walking Mumbie

InsureZero Blog

All you need to know about Insurance

Creative Ideas for Starving Artists

Brain juice that revives and refreshes

Real Science

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts" - Richard Feynman

Marsha Ingrao

Traveling & Blogging Near and Far

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." ~C.S. Lewis

Darlene Foster's Blog

dreamer of dreams, teller of tales

All About Writing and more

Advice, challenges, poetry and prose

Tapestry ~ Treasures

My life is but a weaving between the Lord and me!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Echoes of Life, Love and Laughter

S.R. Mallery's AND HISTORY FOR ALL

Everything Historical And Much More...

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