21 May, 2024

April 21 Study | Love

by | 15 April, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: 1 Corinthians (Part 2) 
Theme: The Powerful Church 
Lesson Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 
Supplemental Texts: John 13:34-35; 21:15-17; Romans 12:9-21; Colossians 1:3-8; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 
Aim: Let love always be your motivation for serving the Lord. 

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By Mark Scott

Who would deny that love is one of the largest (if not the largest) themes of Scripture? It is the most descriptive characteristic of God himself (1 John 4:8). It drove God to send Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). It caused God not to give up on his people (Hosea 11:8-9). Scripture suggests three nuances. Some passages tell of God’s love for us (Jeremiah 31:3). Some passages tell of our love for God (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Still other passages tell of our love for others (James 2:8).  

The love chapter of the Bible is in the middle of Paul’s argument about spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church. All the spiritual gifts of the church must be employed with love (12:1-11, 27-31). All body life in the church is expressed in love (12:12-26). Preferring prophecy over speaking in tongues for the sake of edifying the church takes love (chapter 14). The use of spiritual gifts in love is the “more excellent way” (12:31b). Love is the greatest fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love is the distinguishing mark of the disciple (John 13:34-35). Love is evident in taking care of God’s people (John 21:15-17).  

The Importance of Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

Knowing of love’s importance puts it in proper perspective in the Christian life. Love trumps speaking in tongues, other inspired speech (prophecy), and specially revealed knowledge (mysteries). Love trumps faith (the kind that would be responsible for miracles—the metaphor of moving mountains gets at this). Love trumps the grace of giving to the point of poverty. And finally, love trumps martyrdom (hardship).  

Paul indicated that failing to love as we apply our spiritual gifts means our efforts amount to nothing. The verses essentially say, “I do nothing,” “I am nothing,” and “I gain nothing.” Few things are as annoying as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (think of a car horn going off in the driveway of your next-door neighbor’s house at 2 a.m.). That is what a Christian who does not use their spiritual gifts in love sounds like. 

The Description of Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

Some say this paragraph defines the word love because it uses the word is (i.e., “Love is . . .”). But is can be definitive or descriptive. This cannot be the definitive is because Paul does not describe the lexical meaning of agape.  

Instead, love acts (or does not act) in these ways. Of the 15 ways that love acts (and which are described), eight of them are negative. We often know what something is or is not by how it is described. Antonyms help to define a word.  

Among the positive descriptions: love is patient (long-suffering), and love is kind (willing to help). Love also rejoices with the truth, always protects (covers over things), always trusts (believes), always hopes (expects with great desire), and always perseveres (remains under).  

And as for what love is not: love does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not proud. Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, and does not delight in evil.  

The Eternality of Love
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 

Love never fails because love lasts forever; and God is love, and he lasts forever. Other things (speaking in tongues, prophecy, and revealed knowledge in particular) will cease or be stilled. This is an important paragraph as to the permanence or temporary nature of what, at times, are called the “sign” (miraculous) gifts.  

No position on “sign” gifts is without problems, but there are basically three: (1) Sign gifts will continue until the return of Christ. Arguing for this position fits the “knowing partially now and knowing fully then.” Also, if completeness refers to the complete person (or perfect one), would that not be Jesus? (2) Sign gifts will cease when the New Testament is complete. Arguing for this position fits the mirror metaphor (used of the Word of God in James 1:22-25) and some evidence from church history (e.g., John Chrysostom said that the sign gifts had ceased). (3) Sign gifts will cease as the church matures. Arguing for this position fits the child illustration in the text. Does the church outgrow the need for sign gifts? There is not unanimity about these positions, but everyone should be united on using whatever gifts they have in love.  


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