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The More Excellent Way
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1. The love of God. The great love of God verse is John 3:16 . Another great love verse is Romans 5:8 . The whole Bible is, however, one story of love. The love of God to man. is inseparable from the story of salvation. To be sure, the Bible displays the wrath of God toward them who reject His love, and walk in unrighteousness. However, the love of God in grace, found a way to save even the believing sinner from wrath.
The love of God climaxes in the Gift of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. "God so loved * * that He gave." He not only gave His Son, but He gave Him for our sins, that He might die, the Just for the unjust. What a wonderful love! We bow the head and say, "O Thou Lover of my soul, teach me to love Thee."
2. The love of Christ. The Saviour loved His own, and having loved them, He loved them unto the end. The Bible well asks the question, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" It answers the question with a great, "I am persuaded." Here is the conclusion: There is nothing that can separate us from so great a love.
That we might know the love of Christ is the great prayer of Paul for the Ephesians and for us. Let us spend much time thinking on that love.
3. The love of the Holy Spirit. The Trinity loves. The Holy Spirit is the great manifesting power of the love of God and of the Son. Paul wants the saints to be strengthened with might by the Spirit, in the inner man, not only that they may be rooted and grounded in love, but that they may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of the love of Christ.
The Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of Christ in our hearts. He teaches us not only to love as He loves; but He gives us His love with which to love.
The Holy Spirit is love, and when we are filled with the Spirit, we ourselves, yield the fruit of the Spirit.
4. The love of saints.
(1) We love God. This love is a test to the genuineness of our sonship. We know that we are born of God, when we love God.
(2) We love our brethren. We know that we love God, when we love one another. All men know that we love God, and that we are born of God, when we love one another. We ourselves know that we are the children of God, because we love one another.
(3) We love the lost and sinful among men. Here, however, love takes a different aspect. The love we have toward God, and toward saints, is a love of comradeship and fellowship: the love we have toward the lost is a love of pity and of desire to rescue.
God loves the world because God loved us when we were yet sinners; yet, that love is not the love wherewith He loves us now. It is written "Ye are a chosen generation, * * a peculiar (or special ) people." We are not of the world, and are even hated by the world. It was, "having loved His own * *, He loved them unto the end."
Yet, withal, there is a love which should throb within the saint toward the lost sinner. We should gladly mix with them with the sole purpose of telling them the parables of His grace and mercy. We may not enter with them into their sins; we may and must go to them, with the words of salvation.
May God thus fill our hearts with love toward God; toward His saints, our brethren; and toward the lost.
I. WHEREIN THE BEST OF GIFTS UTTERLY FAIL (1 Corinthians 13:1-2 )
1. Oratory may be but meaningless noise.
2. Prophecy may be but "nothing."
3. Understanding of mysteries may be as "nothing."
4. All knowledge may be as "nothing."
1. Oratory may be but meaningless noise. Here is a Scriptural statement that should make noted orators stop to listen: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,"
Should oratory be so little appreciated? It should, when it is foreign to love. Harsh sentences and loveless harangues, though they be ever so correctly phrased, bring no spiritual blessing. Neither God nor man cares for the message of a heartless soul. Words, to be fruitful, must be scented with love. Be they ever so fitly spoken, ever so angelic in symmetry and tone, yet they are alike ineffective apart from love.
Here is, perhaps, a little deeper insight into the reason that the Lord spoke as never man spake. Back of His words was more than a depth of meaning; there was also a depth of love. He spake as none ever spake, because He loved as none ever loved.
2. Prophecy, understanding of mysteries, and all knowledge, may be as "nothing."
(1) Prophecy may be as nothing, even though prophecy is the chiefest of gifts. To prophesy is to speak unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort. Thus, even though I, with the tongue, speak forth words so vital to the Church, and speak those same words apart from love, "I am nothing."
(2) Understanding of mysteries may be as "nothing." To know the mysteries of God revealed in the Word, relative to the chosen people, relative to the coming man of sin, relative to the Church, which is His Body, relative to iniquity, is a great achievement, but to know them apart from love, will mean "I am nothing."
(3) To have all knowledge, and yet to have no love, leaves me as nothing. The biggest thing we can know, is to know the length and breadth and depth and height of the love of Christ; yet to know of His love, and not to have His love, leaves me as nothing.
II. WHEREIN GREAT DEEDS LEAVE ME AS NOTHING (1 Corinthians 13:2 , l.c., and 3)
1. Though I have all faith to do, and have not love.
2. Though I have all gifts to bestow, and have not love.
3. Though I have all sacrifice to make, and have not love.
1. Though I have all faith to do, and have not love. The story of faith is a great story. The deeds of faith are most marvelous. Think of the "By faith Abel," "By faith Noah," "By faith Enoch," etc., and you have enough to hold your attention for some time. Think how "these all died in faith!" Think of how, in life, they subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, waxed valiant in fight, were tortured, not accepting deliverance; of how they had trial of cruel mockings, were stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword; of how they wandered about in sheepskins, and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted and tormented; and then remember that they all must have had love, or else it would have profited them nothing.
2. Though I have all gifts to bestow, and have not love. The story of gifts has, likewise, a large place in the history of the Church. When we consider the amount of money spent in the equipment and upkeep of the churches, we are amazed. When we consider the present day valuation of church edifices, and of schools, colleges, and universities which fly the Christian flag, we are still more amazed. Beneficences have even reached millions from single benefactors. With all of this before us, let us quote our Scripture, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, * * and have not chanty (love), it profiteth me nothing." Let us, then, not consider the amount of our gifts, so much as the love behind them. It is prompting love that counts.
3. Though I make sacrifice of my body and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Once again we ponder the text. Sacrifices have been many; gifts which cause suffering are not a few. Some have even given their body to be burned. We stand beside the flames, as the martyr yields up his life, and we say, "There is no profit, no reward in Heaven, no real 'Thou hast been faithful over a few things,' unless the supreme sacrifice has been done in love."
III. GOD'S ESTIMATE OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:4 )
1. Love suffereth long,
2. Love envieth not.
3. Love is not provoked.
1. Love suffereth long. We have spoken of the uselessness of the very best of gifts apart from love. We have also spoken of wherein great deeds may utterly fail through lack of love. We have thus become very much interested to know God's definition of love: What is that love of which 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 has spoken?
First of all, it is a love that suffers long. True love does not cease to prophesy; nor stop to work the works of faith; nor does it cease to give its body to be burned, as the years go by. Sorrows and sighs may deepen, but love gladly suffers on. The path may grow steeper and more rugged, but love trudges on. The difficulties may become more seemingly impossible to conquer, but love presses on,
2. Love envieth not. Love is kind. It is ever seeking to work good in behalf of others. It knows how to heap coals of fire on the head of an enemy.
Love envies not. Others may possess more, accomplish more, but love is not envious. Others may be praised more, be more in the limelight, but love is not envious. Love delights in seeing Christian victory won by other saints. It rejoices at the conquests of others. Envy does not belong in the catalogue of love. Envy is a word unknown and unused in any personal way where love prevails.
3. Love is not proud. Even when the life, prompted by love, does accomplish something great for the Lord, it never vaunteth itself. Even if the love life, through accomplishment, is applauded and praised in the papers, it is not puffed up.
Love seeketh not the praise of men; love desires not the best seats in the synagogue; love never delights in being called of men Rabbi, Rabbi. Love lives for the Beloved, seeketh His honor, His praise, His glory. It makes itself of no reputation.
IV. LOVE'S BEHAVIOR (1 Corinthians 13:5-6 )
1. Love seeketh not her own.
2. Love is not provoked.
3. Love thinketh no evil.
4. Love rejoiceth not in iniquity.
1. Love seeketh not her own. We have just learned how love suffers long, and is kind; of how love envieth not, and is not proud, puffed up. We now go a step further, a step deeper into the hidden secrets of love's heart throbs. Love seeketh not her own. If one would take her coat she gives her cloak also. If one would rob her of what others might call her rightful and cherished rewards, she gladly gives up her all, lays down her rights.
Love is too busy in seeking another's fame, another's welfare, another's good to be concerned about her own. She lives for others, and in so living, forgets herself.
2. Love is not provoked. Had she been seeking her own, she would have resented any loss that might have befallen herself. Had she been interested in the things which concerned her own enhancement, she had been angered, provoked, when anyone had crossed her pathway to fame and honor. Love is not provoked, because love is not self-centered.
3. Love thinketh no evil. Had love lived for self, she would have been ever looking out for those who might hinder her path to higher self glory. Had love been envious, she had always been suspicious of everyone who seemed to be making faster strides than herself. Then she had been imagining evil, and thinking evilly of any who would, in any way, have overstepped her pathway.
4. Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Here is a cautious word. While love is not envious of evildoers, she by no means rejoices in the iniquity of those who would do evil. While love gladly yields her back to her smiters, and prays. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"; yet she never rejoices in their iniquity. Love rejoices only in the truth, and in the true. Everything that is a lie, a deception, is a sorrow to love.
V. THE EXCESSES OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:7 )
1. Love beareth all things.
2. Love believeth all things.
3. Love hopeth all things.
4. Love endureth all things.
1. Love beareth all things. For a moment let us emphasize the "all things." Some bear "some things"; they are faithful for a while, they spring up for a time, but, alas, they soon fall away. "Ye did run well; who did hinder your"
Love keeps on unto the end. It beareth all things. It beareth all kinds of things. There may be buffeting, and spitting, and a crown of thorns. There may be reviling, and the piercing of the nails. There may be a burden of the sins of others, the hiding of the Father's face, with the darkness of midnight enshrouding you; but love beareth it all.
2. Love believeth all things. It believes the promises; it believes the good tidings of grace; it believes the power of the Gospel to save to the uttermost; it believeth all things.
Love believes without a shadow of a doubt, or of a turning. Every word of God is yea and amen to love. Love believes in the midst of a doubting and disbelieving generation. It believes where others disbelieve.
3. Love hopeth all things. The light in the tower of hope never flares low. Love and hope are inseparable. On the one hand perfect love casteth out fear; while on the other hand, it enthrones hope.
Love hopeth through all disappointments; even though the shadows deepen, love hopes on. Even though the clouds lower, love surmounts them on the wings of faith, and hopes still on. Even though the night closes in and dims every star of the heavens, love looks through them all, in hope of the coming day.
4. Love endureth all things. This is more than "beareth all things," it bears all things on, and on, and on through fire or flood, through tribulation and anguish, through persecution and penury, it still endures; and enduring, grows brighter and higher till the perfect day.
VI. LOVE'S ETERNITY (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 )
"Love never fails!" Such is the glorious statement of God concerning love.
1. Prophecies may fail. Yea, the "gift," which holds first rank, may fail simply because of fuller revelation, deeper grasps of comfort, and enlarged sweeps of exhortation. Our present testimony will slip away, in the fullness of testimony which shall be ours by and by.
2. Tongues shall cease. They cease simply because in the great and glorious beyond, the sway of oratory and flights of swelling words, as in 1 Corinthians 13:2 and 1 Corinthians 13:3 , will no more be needed to sway the multitudes; and because language will take on a new, distinctive, and universal tongue of love and adoration toward the Lord.
3. Knowledge shall vanish away, simply because now we know in part and then we shall know even as we are known. The knowledge then, shall not be veiled. Present hour darkness will pass into the glorious light of God's new day.
If any doubt the interpretation we have given to prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, the three things set forth as "failings," "ceasing," and "passing away," let him consider the following:
(1) The statement "When that which is perfect is. come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
(2) The statement, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
(3) The statement, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face."
Each of these three statements plainly asserts that no present day is in view in the words, "Shall fail"; "shall cease"; "shall vanish away." God is talking only of the present, in the light of the future, of earth in contrast with Heaven.
Love, however, never fails. The love that now fills our breast, loves on. Present love is one with Heavenly love. Love is of the same quality from earth to Heaven. LOVE NEVER FAILS.
VII. THE THREE THINGS THAT ABIDE THE GREATEST IS LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:13 )
It is refreshing to find certain things which belong to earth, passing on into Heaven, and into God's great Forevermore. God seems to be opening the gate of Glory, and bidding us, look in.
As we look, we see a new "prophecy," a new "tongues," a new "knowledge." Then, still looking, we see before us three things which were common to saints on earth below: these three are, faith, hope, and love.
1. Faith abides. We seem to see, standing before us, faith, the same faith we knew on earth, arrayed in all of its glorious dress.
There is no shattering, no setting aside of "those things which are most surely believed among us," when we go to Heaven. There is no passing away of the "credo," which the Bible gave us on earth; no change in the simplicity, or sublimity of the faith in Christ we once knew. The Christ crucified, risen, exalted, coming again, will be the theme of all ages a memorial never to be lost. Faith is there with everything verified, everything realized. Faith is there, not to be improved, nor changed, nor altered. It will be the great basic confidence of our hearts forevermore. Faith abides!
2. Hope abides. Hope, in its same marvelous perspective. Hope which has realized the fulfillment of its fondest dreams, in the literalness of Heaven's realities, does not, by any means, pass away. What a man seeth, he may not hope for. However, when once in Heaven and with the Lord, there will always be more to see. Hope will still live, in a glorious anticipation of every new manifestation of the exceeding riches of God's grace that shall unfold in the ages to come. Hope abides!
3. Love abides. Love never fails, never passes away, never ceases. The love we had on earth, as children, does not leave us in the love we have in Heaven as glorified saints. Love does not now look "through a glass, darkly." Love is now and here, the same blessed, vital reality it will be then and there.
Neither faith, nor hope, nor love will pass away; but, in emblazoned beauty, they will abide forevermore.
AND THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE. It is greatest because it is the parent of the other graces. It is greatest because it is the choicest as well as the first fruit of the Spirit. LOVE ABIDES!
There comes an end to all that we do and possess in, this world. God does not ruthlessly snatch away what is dear to us, but everything wears itself out in time, as nothing is created for endurance in this world. The only thing that will endure is love Christ's love in the heart. Love, like Christ, came uncreated from all eternity, and will, like Christ, go on through all eternity. Love never fails.
As an aged Christian lay dying in Edinburgh, a friend called to say farewell. "I have just had three other visitors," said the dying man, "and with two of them I parted; but the third I shall keep with me forever." "Who were they?" "The first was Faith, and I said: 'Good-by, Faith! I thank God for your company ever since I first trusted Christ; but now I am going where faith is lost in sight.' Then came Hope. 'Farewell, Hope!' I cried; 'you have helped me in many an hour of battle and distress, but now I shall not need you, for I am going where hope passes into fruition.' Last of all came Love. 'Love,' said I, 'you have indeed been my friend; you have linked me with God and with my fellow men; you have comforted and gladdened all my pilgrimage. But I cannot leave you behind; you must come with me through the gates, into the City of God, for love is perfected in Heaven.' "
The Sunday School Chronicle.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17