We have begun a fresh new look at 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the great love chapter. As I look back over the 40-plus years of ministry of the Word of God here at Grace Church, I have decided that on Sunday nights we’re going to continue to – to look at some of the highlight texts of Scripture, and some of the highlight doctrines that we have studied through the years. We’ve been doing that for a number of years now and going over these great themes and great doctrines of Scripture, great sections, and certainly 1 Corinthians 13 is one of those.
This chapter on love is the greatest that has ever been written on the subject of love. It is the summum bonum of chapters on love, and it is the highpoint of our Christian experience to demonstrate love to one another. This is not really about marital love, although it encompasses that. It’s not about family love, filial love, although it encompasses that. It really is about love in the church. It’s about loving each other in the body of Christ.
We all know that God is love, and we have been given the capacity to love because He loved us first; John says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” We also know that the apostle Paul reminds us that “the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts,” and we follow the divine pattern in loving, and we have a capacity to love granted to us by the Holy Spirit. We should be best known by our love.
“By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, that you have love for one another,” Jesus said to the apostles gathered in the upper room on the night of His betrayal. And Paul also adds that “love is the fulfilling of the whole law.” Now, the law is divided into two parts - the law, meaning the Ten Commandments, the summary of God’s law, God’s moral law. The first part deals with God, and the second part deals with man; the first part, our relationship to God, the second part, our relationship to men.
The first part can be summed up in these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and the second part can be summed up in these words: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” so that if you love God perfectly and you love your neighbor perfectly, you will fulfill the whole law. You will never violate God, and you will never violate anyone else. “Therefore,” Romans 13:10 says, “Love is the fulfilling of the whole law.”
We are to be the model of the fulfilled law, we are to be the model of godliness in the world, and it is our love that makes that visible. It is our love for God that drives us to honor Him. It is our love for others that drive us to honor them. The essential ingredient, then, in our lives, as we relate to God and as we relate to each other, is love. It is also that which should most mark us, so that the watching world can discern that we belong to another kingdom then the one they’re familiar with, by virtue of a kind of love with which they are also unfamiliar.
Having said that, I suppose it would be fair to say - and most of you who have had church experiences somewhere else would agree with this - that while love should mark us, love sometimes seems to be absent, even in the life of the church. Christians in churches can become known for their lack of love, even though it is that which should most singularly and certainly and consistently define us. The Corinthians needed this chapter. They were a church filled with conflict.
The first letter to the Corinthians was really not a letter about theology; with the exception of the 15th chapter, which deals with the resurrection, there really are not a lot of references to doctrine or theology. It is all about how the church is to deal with its own personal relationships. Now, that calls into question their relationship to the Lord; but the issue here is how they did or didn’t get along with each other.
Conflict in the church, separatism in the church, accusations in the church, lawsuits in the church, carnality in the church, pride in the church - all these kinds of things were part of that Corinthian congregation. The fact of the matter was they had come to faith in Jesus Christ, but they really hadn’t yet been sanctified. Saved and gifted, but unsanctified, they had dragged into the life of the church all the attitudes that they had before they were saved, and the world is not particularly known for its love.
They knew the word love, but they weren’t experiencing the word love; they weren’t experiencing the reality of love. And so, the apostle Paul drops this incredibly beautiful and practical chapter on love in this letter to them. And I think, in a very real sense, part of the beauty of this chapter is that it’s against a rather dark background. There were factions in the church. They were at each other’s throat. There were people who wanted to be identified with Paul, and some with Peter, and some with Christ, so there were segmented groups in the congregation.
There were people in the congregation who were Christians who were joining themselves to prostitutes, and thus bringing horrible dishonor on the name of Christ, on the indwelling Christ who lived within them. They were “joining Christ to a harlot,” Paul says. They were dragging each other in the courts. There was conflict at every level. Even when Paul writes the second letter - this would be months later - he remarks that his fear is that there will be among them strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossips, arrogance and disturbances.
Why would he expect that? Because that’s the way it used to be, and there were still remnants of it even after one letter - a biblical letter - and a couple of other non-biblical letters - there were actually four in total written to the Corinthians. He writes the fourth letter - the second one we have in the New Testament - and he still fears that these kinds of decisive attitudes would prevail in the church. He even goes so far as to say, “I’m afraid to visit you, because I’m afraid when I come back I’m going to find out that everything I’ve done has been for nothing, that I’ve labored in vain.”
They needed to know how to love each other, and that’s why this chapter is here. It isn’t long - 13 verses - but it’s really complete. It is not esoteric; it is very, very practical. There are four parts to the chapter: the prominence of love, the perfections of love, the permanence of love, and the preeminence of love, and we’re going to work our way through those. The prominence of love we already looked at in verses 1 to 3. Let me read it again.
He says this: “If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” There’s hyperbole here. These statements are rather extreme.
He says, “If I can - if I can speak every human language, if I can talk - if I can have a conversation with angels, in whatever language angels converse, if I - if I have the power to proclaim, if I know all mysteries, if I have all knowledge, if I have all faith” - the all there is the hyperbole in this, running it to extreme. “If I have everything that one could ever imagine to have in the spiritual realm, and if I am so sacrificial that I voluntarily give up all my possessions to feed the poor, and actually voluntarily give up my body to be burned, having done all of this, possessing all of this, I am absolutely nothing.
“I am profited nothing. I am a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal without love.” Now, this is a powerful way to say that it doesn’t matter what else you have; if you don’t have love, you’re nothing; you’re nothing. So, we looked at that last week, the prominence of love. Let’s look at the perfections of love. He does not define love in abstracts. He describes it in action; he describes it in action.
Verses 4 through 7: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Now, there are the perfections of love. In some English translations they appear as adjectives; that - that even is kind of how it is here.
Love is patient - that’s an adjective. Love is kind - that’s an adjective. Love is not jealous - that’s a negative adjective. Actually, the term kind, the term patient, and the term jealous, are all wrapped up in verbs, because love can only be described in action. Love is a verb, and they’re all verbs here, all these descriptives. This is the spectrum of love, understood by how it acts, not by how it feels. That is the worse way to define love, really, as a feeling.
That is not how you define biblical love. You might define some kinds of human love in that way, but not agapē, not biblical love, not the kind of love that we as believers have received from the Spirit of God and are to demonstrate. There are fifteen characteristics of love that I just read to you, and they are all pictures of love in action, love as a verb; and so, here we’re going to see what love does, how it behaves. This is so very important, again, because in the Greek world, everything was sort of ephemeral, everything was esoteric, everything was in the conceptual realm.
Paul wants to get the readers, who are used to that Greek philosophizing, out of that realm and into the realm of life. The Holy Spirit has come into our lives, He has dispersed the love of God throughout our lives, and it is to be made manifest under the influence of the Holy Spirit as a fruit of the Spirit - the first of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. That is to be what characterizes us, and it will be visible only in action; only in action.
And again, I think it’s very helpful for us - and we’ll see this as we go - that Paul puts this picture of love in all its beauty, like a flower with fifteen petals, against the dirt of the Corinthians’ behavior. And I hope that we can see the beauty of these characteristics of love, perhaps, against some of the dirt in our own behavior. And by the way, there was one and only one who could sit for this portrait. There is only one who ever lived in this world as a human being who is the perfect picture of love, and who’s that? Jesus Christ. So, He sat for this magnificent portrait of love.
Now, this is going to be very practical, and you’re going to see this very simply and clearly; that is the intent of the Spirit of God. So, let’s jump in and just take these as they come. Love is patient; love is patient – makrothumia; makrothumia. Thumōs is a word for anger. Makrothumia is a word that comes to mean extreme patience; a sort of maximum experience before you ever get to anger. It actually became a word that means patience with people.
It’s not about patience with experiences, it’s not about patience with personal pain, it’s patience with people. It describes the person who is extremely slow to anger, who virtually never ever gets angry, no matter how people treat that person. The spirit that never explodes, the spirit that never retaliates, that never seeks vengeance, that never becomes hostile - by the way, this was not a virtue in the Greek world. It is never listed anywhere in any lists among the Greeks as a highly valued virtue.
It wasn’t a virtue. On the contrary, Aristotle himself defined the great Greek virtue as this: “Refusal to tolerate any insult, any injury, and readiness to strike back at any hurt.” That, according to Aristotle, is a virtue. The man who did that was the big man among the Greeks, but not among the Christians. The Christian, marked by love, loves in return when hurt, when insulted, when injured; and when in a position that some might deem gives him a right to revenge, he never takes it.
Some translate the word “long-tempered” - patient in dealing with those who wrong us. The New Testament repeatedly tells us to function that way: 2 Corinthians 6:6, in patience, Ephesians 4:2, with patience, 1 Thessalonian 5:14, be patient with everyone. It’s the same exact concept. We are to tolerate whatever may come. Certainly, Jesus was patient with people, patient with the people even who rejected Him. But, of course, God is patient.
The story of Israel is the record of God’s patient love toward a rebellious, disobedient, sinful and disloyal people. If God were at all impatient, Israel would have been destroyed and all promises cancelled long ago. If Christ were not patient, the church would have been put out of existence, and all of us who have sinned against the very Christ who loves us would be assigned to condemnation. But God is patent, Christ is patient. God bore with the sins of His people. Christ bears with the sins of His people with our foolishness and our disobedience.
God is loving, and the patience of God - as we learned a few weeks ago in Romans 2:4 - is meant to lead us to repentance. Romans 9:22 says, “God is even patient with vessels fitted unto destruction.” This is a powerful, powerful feature of love, and it is not weakness; it is not weakness. Anybody can cave in and get mad. Anybody can cave in and retaliate. Anybody can seek a pound of flesh. Anybody can go for the throat. Anybody can desire vengeance, but love forgives seventy times seven, seventy times a day.
That’s what it means that love doesn’t retaliate, that love is patient. Secondly, love is kind; love is kind. It gives benefits to others. So, taking the first point and adding to it, not only does love not retaliate, it finds a way to extend kindness instead of vengeance. It grants benefits to others. It doesn’t seek to injure even its enemies. It seeks to love. It seeks the well-being of those who harm. Now, the context here is in the church - remember this - where offenses happen. Jesus said that, didn’t He?
“In this world offenses will come.” And they certainly come in the church, and they are to be received with love; and love is patient, and love is kind. The root for the word kind is useful; useful. It is a usefulness in behalf of someone else. The idea is not so much a sweet attitude, the idea is not so much a friendly disposition. The idea, rather, is that even though one is injured, even though one is mistreated, even though one is hurt or harmed, patience is exhibited.
And on top of patience, usefulness is rendered on behalf of the offender, deeds of kindness that are useful to that person who has offended. Now, wouldn’t that be a transformation of most churches? Offenses will happen. Where a church receives those offenses, individuals receive those offenses, with longsuffering and patience, and return useful goodness and kindness, you have the kind of church that is obedient to these behaviors that are enjoined upon all of us.
Paul does not picture love in ideal surroundings. He doesn’t picture it at all in ideal surroundings. He doesn’t picture love in the realm of very close and intimate long-term friendships. He doesn’t picture love in the realm of affection, but in the hard surroundings of a sinful, selfish, colliding group of sinners in a church, who have all come out of a bad world, and have all had bad influences on their already depraved souls, who are by nature selfish.
And even though they have a new nature and long for holy things, the old is still resident. This is the atmosphere that we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about your best friend. We’re talking about all the people, all the sinners, who collide in the life of the church. We are to demonstrate to one another kindness, and our model again, Peter says - 1 Peter 2:3 - “If you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Do you think the Lord is pretty good at returning goodness for evil?
Has there been any point in our salvation since we came to Christ that we have earned His favor? Isn’t it a constant forgiveness? Isn’t every good gift that He gives to His own a gift of grace? Is any of it merited? Do we deserve anything? Not now, not ever. That is why - in Ephesians - we must always remember that we have been given something that we will never, ever deserve.
The apostle Paul puts it this way: “We have been raised up with Him by grace, seated with Him in the heavenlies in Christ, that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us.” Even heaven’s kindnesses will be by grace; we will not have earned them. This is so different. Jesus said, you know, to the Jews in Matthew 11, “Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest. Take My yoke, and learn of Me; for I am humble, I’m meek, I’m lowly: I’ll give you rest for your souls.”
Coming to Christ is coming to the kindest of all. That’s why Titus 3 says, “And when the kindness of God, our Savior, appeared” - referring to the incarnation, the arrival of Christ. Our model, again, is the kindness of God. He is kind to everyone, Scripture says. When Paul wanted to instruct the Ephesians about that, he said “Be kind to one another even as God for Christ - and forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.”
The model of kindness, again, is God, and God’s forgiveness and God’s outpoured grace to undeserving sinners. Churches flounder in division and discord and animosity, and I tell you, folks, I thank the Lord that we don’t have that. In this time in our church, we have been blessed with loving people, and it doesn’t mean we don’t need this continual instruction, because we do. But we are so thankful for the love that is shared in this incredible church.
I remember reading years ago about two men going two directions on a precipice on a cliff - no doubt a parable invented by somebody - and they met. And the wall was on one side and the cliff was on the other, and there was no way that they could pass. They tried every possible way to get by each other and they couldn’t, until one man lay on the ground and the other walked across him. And that’s the way it works in the church; love is willingness to be walked on if it serves someone else.
It’s not about a battle for your rights and what you think you deserve, but rather, it’s a battle to see how useful you can be to others, even those who offend you. Thirdly, “love is not jealous.” This is the first of eight negatives: “love is not jealous.” Now, that word has appeared in this same context; zēloō is the word from which we get the English derivative zeal. Where does it appear? Back in verse 31 of chapter 12, and I don’t think there’s any other way to understand this than an indictment.
“But you are earnestly desiring the showy gifts, and I show you still a more excellent way.” You are desirous of the showy gifts, but the word there is the verb translated jealous here. What was going on in the Corinthian church was jealousy over spiritual gifts. The verb actually means to boil over, and it refers to the boiling over of a selfish passion, a jealousy related to what someone else has and you don’t. And this is how it was in the Corinthian church; go back to chapter 12 verse 15.
In the analogy of the body, speaking of the church, Paul describes the kind of jealous conflict that was in that church. “If the foot says, ‘Because I’m not a hand I’m not a part of the body,’ is it for this – not for this reason any less a part of the body? If the ear says, ‘Because I’m not an eye, I’m not a part of the body,’ is it not for this reason any the less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
“Now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?” It goes on in verse 21, “The eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” And he goes on to describe this, which is nothing more than an analogy of the conflict in that Corinthian church. They were fighting over which were the more or less honorable functions in the church, according to verse 23 - and he indicts them for that.
Verse 25, he says, “There should be no division in the body, but the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you’re Christ’s body.” This is part of the ugliness of the Corinthian church. Now we come to verse 31, and what he says to them is, “You are jealous” - that’s the verb - “you are jealous for the showy gifts.” The prominent up-front things.
In particular, those miraculous gifts of speaking in tongues - that was the big one; that was the big one. Gifts of healing, interpretation, as he mentions in verse 30. They were torn by dissension. They were torn by carnality – already - before you even got to the spiritual gifts. They were divided over Peter, Paul and Jesus, as we learned early in the book. They were fool of jealousy for the gifts. Solomon called that - in Proverbs 14:30 – “rottenness of the bones,” and Shakespeare used to call jealousy “the green sickness.”
Love looks at people’s gifts completely differently. When love sees someone who is popular, effective, fruitful, gifted, prosperous, loved, adored, appreciated, love is glad; love is glad. Jealousy hates the fact that that person is so gifted and so well-received, and wants what that person has, and then wants that person not to have it. And so, jealousy burns in the heart and leads to carping criticism, where behind the scenes the jealous person has to tear down the beloved and fruitful and faithful person; meanness of soul.
And you really can’t sink lower than that, folks; you can’t sink lower than that. I always think about Philippians chapter 1 - turn to it - as an illustration of one who was not jealous. It’s my ministry hero, the apostle Paul, and he’s writing what is called a prison epistle from jail. He is in jail. It’s a horrendous place. I’ve been to the traditional site of that jail in the city of Rome, in the main part of the restored old center of the city.
It is a place that was a pit in the ground with the city sewage running by. Occasionally, they opened a flue and let the sewage drown the prisoners and hauled the dead bodies out and put a new batch in; not a very nice place to be. Paul is there. And there are some people who are saying, “Well, yeah, Paul got what he deserved. He must have secret sin - the Lord put him in jail. The Lord shut him down. His day is over. He’s irrelevant. He’s out of touch. If we only knew the truth - secret sin.”
Who would say that? Who would ever say that about Paul? Oh, I hate to say it, folks, but all over the place in the Gentile churches, there were young would-be preachers who were - are you ready for this - jealous of Paul. And they wanted to believe that he was actually in jail because he deserved to be in jail; that somehow, he had discredited himself, and the Lord had to put him on the shelf. And so, in verse 15, he says, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from jealousy and strife, and some others from good will.”
“Some preachers are jealous of me and some only good will toward me. They see this as God-ordained imprisonment, for the expansion of the gospel,” which is what it was. “The latter,” he says, “do it out of” - what? What does it say in verse 16? “Out of love.” “They love. They’re not jealous. They know I’m appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former, the envious, jealous ones, they proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, and they want to cause me distress in my imprisonment. They want to add to my suffering.”
It’s so sad to think about that because all of those preachers who were carrying that kind of attitude toward Paul were doing what they were doing because of him, right? Wasn’t he the one that God used to establish the Gentile church everywhere? They were related to him spiritually. They were either his spiritual children or his spiritual nephews, or grandchildren. How in the world could they be so jealous of this faithful man of God, so greatly gifted, so greatly blessed, and yet who suffered to greatly?
How could they possibly spread terrible rumors about him, adding pain to his already severe suffering? But they’re always there. I’ve seen them my whole life. What was Paul’s response? I love this - verse 18 - this has been a great lesson for me: “So what?” - that’s what “What then?” means, so what? “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” - “just in case you think you can talk me out of it.”
Paul is saying, “I’m content to be outdone by others as long as Christ is preached; I don’t care. It’s sinful to say what they say about me. It’s distressing to hear what they say about me. But they preach Christ, and in that, I rejoice.” Here were these young preachers who wanted to be in the limelight where Paul was, and they were discrediting Paul behind his back, and even that couldn’t make him angry. Jealousy is a terrible thing.
It won’t destroy a Paul, but it will destroy the jealous lesser man. It’s a root of bitterness that is destructive. Out of jealousy, Eve ate the fruit, wanting to be like God. Out of jealousy, Cain killed Abel. Out of jealousy, Joseph is sold into Egypt by his brothers. Out of jealousy, the older brother wouldn’t go to the party when the prodigal came home. Luke 15:28 says, “He was angry, and he wouldn’t go in.” Jealousy is a horrible thing. It eats away at the soul.
Proverbs 27:4 says, “Wrath is cruel, anger is outrageous; who is able to stand before jealousy?” You can’t survive it. Envy and jealousy is a hatred without a cure; it’s a hatred without a cure. Listen to James 3:14: “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.” It is absolutely inevitable that if you’re jealous, you lie; you lie. About what? About whoever it is that you want to replace. You’re in the business of tearing down.
And you can lose control, because in the next section, in James 3, James reminds us that this jealousy is not a heavenly virtue. Oh, you can try to paint yourself as some virtuous person, but this jealousy, that is arrogant, driven by selfish ambition, that lies against the truth, is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” Chaos will reign.
Why? Because jealous people lie and lies create chaos everywhere; and it’s not heavenly chaos. Envy produces bitterness, bitterness produces hatred, hatred produces lies. Lies produce strive and chaos, undermine the work of God. A loving person, on the other hand, rejoices in everybody else’s success, rejoices in everybody else’s giftedness, celebrates when others do the same thing he does better. That’s a test, isn’t it?
Boy, when I was a kid and grew up, I used to think that when Satan fell, he landed in the choir loft, because there were so many people in the choir who were mad all the time because they didn’t get to sing solos. I remember Dr. Criswell at Dallas First Baptist Church - many years ago, of course, before he went to be with the Lord - got so tired of the people moaning and crying about the fact that they never got to sing in church, that he had one Sunday night a year called “Solo Night.”
And anybody could come and sing one verse of anything, and he just paraded them across the platform and got rid of it all on one Sunday night - theoretically. There’s only one thing that can save you from envy, and that’s love. Only one thing can save you from jealousy, and that’s love. Only one thing can save you from being unkind and impatient, and that’s love. A fourth - and we’ve already indicated this in the passage in James and in Philippians that - jealousy and selfish ambition go together.
So, the fourth one - back to 1 Corinthians chapter 13 - the fourth aspect of love that we see here is “love does not brag”; “does not brag.” That would be connected, wouldn’t it be, to selfish ambition. It’s a very picturesque word. It is perpereuetai. Maybe it’s a little bit onomatopoetic, because it means a windbag, a blowhard, and it’s only here in the New Testament. It’s not talking about so much an inner attitude; it gets all the way to the action.
That’s what we’re talking about here is actions, not so much attitudes. This is the arrogant person. This is the windbag. This is the person who brags. Again, we’re not talking about inner attitude here, we’re talking about the effect of a selfish ambition: baseless chatter, that elevates oneself and depresses and denigrates others. This is the braggart, this is the showoff; this is the one who always calculates everything to make himself look good and you look bad.
There’s no love in that - none whatsoever. But that is exactly what was going on in the Corinthian church. It was just tragic. There were people trying to elevate themselves because they resented the gifts that others had, and they were motivated and driven by their own selfish ambition to become braggarts. That’s why they were jealous in verse 31, for the showy gifts. That’s why, you know, if they weren’t going to get the eye or the face in the body - something visible, something, to borrow the word the - the old English word, comely - then they weren’t going to participate.
“If I can’t be this, I’m not going to be a part of it. After all, I’m this, and I’m that, and these are my abilities.” This is just the blowhard, the boastful person, who can only see himself and not beyond himself - self-centeredness. C.S. Lewis said that this is the greatest sin, the essential vice behind all sins: self-centeredness, the voice of conceit, and conceit is the child of pride. Only love can save us from flaunting ourselves: flaunting our knowledge, flaunting our accomplishments, flaunting our ability, flaunting our gifts.
And there’s more. There’s a fifth that goes with it. It says it. Love is not arrogant; it “doesn’t brag, it’s not arrogant.” And it uses another word. This one is onomatopoetic - phusioō, phusioō - to puff like a bellow. Again, this is the braggart. There was a great, great composer in Italy by the name of Mosconi; he wrote an opera called The Masks. Here is the dedication - I always loved this - here is the dedication that Mosconi gave to his opera: “To myself, with distinguished esteem and unalterable satisfaction.” I think he had a problem.
I think the story goes that he one time was asked to conduct with another more famous and more accomplished composer in Italy. He was to conduct a Verdi, portions of a Verdi concert, and he met with the people who were providing this opportunity for him, and he said, “I will do this one with proviso: you pay me more than the other conductor,” who was Toscanini. “Pay me more than Toscanini,” and he signed the contract, and they agreed to it.
After the concert was over, they gave him one lira; Toscanini did it for nothing. What a commentary on the misery of a loveless soul, huh? Nobody left to dedicate anything to but himself. How lonely is that world? If you want to isolate yourself, that’s the way to do it; just convince yourself that you’re better than everybody else, more important than everybody else, become a blowhard, arrogant braggart, and you’ll eventually be alone; you’ll be alone.
Inner arrogance and braggadocio do not demonstrate love. One of the interesting parts of the biography of William Carey was that William Carey was in India translating the Bible into 34 languages - how about that? He began life as a cobbler - not the kind of cobbler you eat - but he was a cobbler, he fixed shoes. And he was invited to some kind of uppity dinner party, and somebody there was snobbish enough to want to humiliate him.
And he said, “Mr. Carey, I hear that you worked as a shoemaker,” to which he is to have replied. “Oh no, sir; I was never a shoemaker. I was only a cobbler. I didn’t make them. I just repaired them.” One would do well to speak like that of oneself. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease” - John 3:30. Love is the only hope for the Corinthians. It’s the only thing that’s going to transform that church.
It’s the only hope for any church. It’s the only hope for us. Love - which is far superior to human eloquence, superior to angelic eloquence, superior to spiritual knowledge, superior to transcendent truth, mysteries, superior to faith, superior to self-sacrifice, superior to martyrdom – it's superior to all of it. It is patient. It is kind. It is the only power in the world that can save us from the stupid swagger of arrogance and bragging, and the indulgence of the sneers of envy and jealousy.
And it’s what must mark Christians; it must mark us. And for all those glimpses of that kind of love that I experience in this church, I am so deeply grateful. The Lord has done a wonderful work in your heart as a church. And I - I know when people come here, they expect only to experience preaching and theology, and they go away talking about the love that you show one another and them - and even your shepherds and your pastors.
Well, we’re five into fifteen, but let’s stop there, and we’ll cover the rest - or some of the rest - next time.
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