And the greatest of these is love...

Ds J Bruintjes
1 Korinthiërs 13:1-7
Preek Inhoud: 

Love. Now when most of us think of love we get into our minds this worldly, mushy, Hollywood, white wedding on a beach kind of love. A love where you benefit – where your needs are met by the one and only love of your life. In this love you love the other person because you love the way that they make you feel. You are in love because it feels good, it feels right, it makes you emotionally happy when you think of that other person. This love will give us short term satisfaction but ends when the feeling ends.

There is only one love that endures forever. And that is the love of God. And although ultimately this love alone will satisfy us. Only this love will last into eternity. Only this love extends past death. It is the love of Christ. But will also cost us. It will cost us because it is antithetical to the natural human love of sinners.

We think of 1 Corinthians 13 as a lovely warm fuzzy passage. But, as one theologian said, it is truly a text of terror. And it goes along with those terrifying words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount where he says we should love our enemies. It goes along with the words to the “Rich Young Ruler”, where Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. It goes along with the words in John’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you”. As he has loved us!

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.” He has loved us. Now we ought to love one another. It is by this love that the world will know we are his disciples.

O, most of us think we are doing pretty good in the love department. I mean its not like we hate anyone… and of course the bible says I must love my enemies, but at least I don’t have to like them. We quickly come up with self-justification. But I just want to hit the pause button on those excuses. Because that is what they are. Excuses. We try to find reasons why we don’t need to reach out and love those we don’t want to reach out and love.

And what Paul is mainly addressing here is the divine love of God that binds the church together as a body. That is why chapter 13 comes after chapter 12. What is more, he is not addressing the Corinthians on a special occasion when everyone is aglow, reveling in the bonds of Christian fellowship—after just having sung Psalm 133. Rather, Paul speaks this way about love in a letter addressed to people who are at each other's throats. Instead of picturing people all aglow on a joyful occasion, picture these words addressed to people who are in a white heat of conflict. And he gives to them a cruciform love – a Christ-like love. Not just deeper than worldly love, but indeed its opposite.

And the greatest of these is love...

  1. The motivation is love.

  2. The revelation of love


The motivation is love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  The motivation for everything must be love! What drove God to make the world, is love. What caused God to redeem the world his love. What saves you – is love - the love of God shown displayed in and proved in the person of Jesus Christ.

Paul right away started with that which the Corinthians boasted in – speaking in tongues. And says your tongue speaking is as annoying as temple gongs without love. The citizens believed the piercing, deafening banging and clanging of the drums was essential for achieving a state of spiritual ecstasy. A person who claims great spirituality but doesn’t demonstrate love can be just that much of an irritant! In fact, it’s worse – its idolatry.

He says, “And If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love I am nothing.” Prophets know things that are hidden from others because they receive revelation from God, but no prophet has ever had such omniscience – knowing all mystery and all knowledge. Yet, without love he would be nothing, even if he knew every divine secret. The moment the love for God and others is not the motivating the principle you have broken the command upon which the entire law and prophets hang – LOVE!

Spiritual gifts do not transform the heart, even if they may reform the life. What Paul is driving at here is what John Owen calls, gifts without graces. You might be able to do great things that help others, but be a complet stranger to the Spirit-wrought inner transformation that true knowledge of God brings.

This is why Paul does not pray nearly as much for gifts, or great ministerial exploits but what does he pray for? He prays in in Ephesians that they may “come to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.” He prays in Philippians that “love may abound more and more” he gives thanks  in Thessalonians for their love! What about Bellville? Is love the driving motivation for all we do? Is that why we study the things of God? is that why we love our theology? So that we might love God and others better? Or simply to be better than others? Does the world see Christ in us because of our love?  

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Don’t waste your life on the martyrs alter if you are not doing it for love. If you are doing it to prove the strength of your faith, or to stand out in history, or for some other reason – don’t waste your life. It is idolatry. . If you think I am being extreme with this idolatry comparison let me remind you of what john says in 1 John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God” Are you a loving person! I am not asking if you are reformed now, or read, or go to church, or how much you are sacrificing. I am asking do you love. If not, you gain nothing.

Nothing. You can get burned alive and it will be of no benefit to you because you are trying to prove something or to attain something. But love is not trying to prove something.  When I love my wife, I am not trying to prove myself to her. If I was it would be about me and not her. Love is wholly other focused. Parents love for children is the closest thing I think we have on earth. It is wholly other focused. It gives and gives and gives again, and in giving loves all the more.  It is not concerned about self. This was a Corinthians problem. Everyone was too interested in themselves to love.

As John says, this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. There is only perfect pure, and spotless example of love throughout human history. You want to see the perfect act of love. The only one. Look to the cross, and let your love be that love!  And why? For the joy set before him! What was that joy? That you and I would for all eternity share that love! And how does that love look practically? Well Paul goes on.  

It is not the stuff that God gives, but the relationship that God gives is most important.

The revelation of love

In these next verses Paul defines and describes this love. These verses give us the content and the description of love. And this love reveals itself in diverse and difficult relationships with each other in the body of Christ.

 “Love is patient.” Let’s just stop there for a second. Love is patient. Which means the other side is also true. Impatience is not love. You see we so easily confess I struggle with patience. We should say I really struggle to love. Why? Because impatience shows a greater love for oneself than for the other. People are impatient when their own time is more important than anyone else’s time.

If you considered others time as more important than yours then you would be endlessly patient. This is divine love. Think about Christ patience with you dear beloved. Its not for nothing that again and again the Old Testament describes God as patient and long suffering. Slow to anger.

We want results now, or at least in the next month or so, and that is why we so often give up on people. But in the church, we have a patient love. A love that sticks with it. A love that walks the long road. Patience is the revelation of Jesus love.

“Love is kind.” It is a verb again. A present active verb. Love is shown or demonstrated. Look around you for a moment, and notice that you are not the only one in this building this morning. So many are hurting. Some deeper then you can imagine. .

What does kindness look like to the people to your left, to your right. Behind you, and in front of you.

Kindness is the is the ability to give of yourself, without expecting anything in return. Kindness means to doing good to others in a way not dependent on their character, conduct, or responses to you. This means that no one is excluded in principle. We are to extend loving-kindness to all that come across our path in need. That is the neighbor as defined by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  

Kindness recognizes people’s struggles. It shows genuine care to all people; it breaks the spiral of anger and resentment. This is not something we should do occasionally. Just like you should not fall in and out of love with our wife. It should be done constantly. In the bible kindness is one of the most important characteristics of God – his loving kindness. Kindness is an expression of new life: A new self; a new creation, a transformed person, and a transformed community.

Do you want to grow - think about his loving kindness to you. Kindness is a revelation of Jesus love.

love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable, or resentful. Some think the negative attributes listed here are a description of the situation in Corinth. And although I agree, I think it is a description of a lost humanity – of old nature. And none of these makes sense unless you are connected with other people. This is about how we as God people relate to one another. It works itself out in diverse and difficult relationships.

And I am describing the church when I say diverse and difficult. Ethnically and culturally diverse. Socially and economically diverse. I have difficulty trying to live this out  with the people with whom I share common culture and social status. How much more when we bring these people together in the same body. The local expression of Gods church is going to be diverse. And the one thing that unites is the Spirit in the bond of love.

It does not envy or boast. To envy and to boast are just opposite sides of the same coin. think about it if you truly love someone – considering them better than yourself – how could you ever envy that person? Envy is someone that wants more, and boasting is someone who thinks he has it all. In both you are comparing yourself with someone else. But in love you are not doing that. There is no comparison of “are they better then me” or am I better than them.” The love of God in Christ eliminates both. There is nothing to envy, we have received Christ – there is nothing to boast in – it was not of ourselves but a gift of love. A person that is envious or boast simply does not know the love of Jesus.

It is not arrogant or rude. Arrogant here means puffed up with air. These are the people that are smarter than others, and richer than others, more righteous, and more famous than others and they know it. Again, love does not think about what one has, but what one gives. These people often have little patience and are quick to behave dishonorably. But Love does the opposite.

Does not insist on its own way.  Literally in the Greek it says, “[Love] does not seek its own.” I think this is better, for at times love does insist on its own way if the gospel is at stake. But it is never does it for selfish reasons. It lays down preferences, comforts, conveniences, reputations, freedoms, rights, and perhaps our very lives for the sake of someone else’s good. how much would it benefit if we all stopped insisting on our own way.

It is not irritable or resentful. We all know that "irritability is the emotional launching pad for anger.” It does not take long for the irritable person to become angry. Or if they do not become anger, they become bitter and resentful. How many of us have not had this feeling. This comes from the old man. The sinful nature. The flesh. Not from God.

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It reminds me of the problem of Corinth in chapter 5 where they were boasting in sin! Paul says no! If you love someone you are going to stop them from wrong. If you love a drug addict, you are going to do whatever you can to stop him. If you love your children, you will discipline them.

As Augustine said, “Love should be fervent to correct. Take delight in good behavior but amend what is bad. Love the person, but not the error in the person: God made the person, but the person alone made the error.

Love bears all things.. Think about what Jesus was willing to bear for the sake of love – the love of his Father and those who were given to him. Think about the depth of Faith Jesus had in the Father – to go to that extent to have everything ripped from him including his relationship with the father – for the sake of love. He literally bore all things, including the pain and torment of eternal hell to love you. If he loves in us, we will bear with others.  This is the kind of love that is experienced in the family of Christ as well.

Believes all things, if we are secure in the Savior’s love, we will not simply put up with our fellow believers but think the best of them. it believes the best about others.

Because of our sin, we tend to think the best about ourselves and the worst about others. When we do this, we open the door to slander, gossip, and a host of other evils. Our pride rises up in sinful pleasure when we hear about the moral failure of a fellow believer. But the catechism says, “The catechism says, “I must do what I can to defend and promote my neighbors honor and reputations. 

If this is the way we look at others. Then we begin to move from cynicism to hope! hopes all things, Since love hopes all things, no Christian can ever be a cynic. Our hope in God’s promises, as sure as Jesus’ vacant tomb, makes our lives bright. In turn, we can share hope with those who are hopeless.

And if we have the steadfastness of Hope that Christ gives for each other we will be willing to endure all things to walk with them there. To bring them there. and endures all things

Yes love endures! We so quickly give up. We are so weak. Love takes courage, strength, and endurance.

And you know where we need this love that is unbelievably patient and a love that endures in the church where relationships are diverse and difficult! We need the love of Christ.  

As Jesus says, “by this they will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” Paul says – owe no one anything except to love one another. When those who have not come to faith in Jesus Christ look at the church do they gaze in amazement because our life together displays an abiding, self-sacrificing, attractive love. Is Jesus attractive to those outside the church, because those who claim to know him demonstrate a super natural love for one another. If this is not the case, could it be that we do not always pay attention to the priority and primacy of love. That we really don’t think the greatest of these is love?

Dear church I am so thankful that we may experience the love of Christ in our midst. It happens in the ordinary life. An encouragement there, patience here, a act of kindness there. A reaching out with a phone call. This is none other then Christ love that flows through. The love poured into our hearts.

let us love one another.