The Power of Love – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ~ Message Five, Verses 6-8a

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The Power of Love, Part 5

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Bruce A. Hess

I want you to take out the Word of God and turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians, chapter number 13. Today we are going to be concluding our series that we have entitled ‘The Power of Love.’ As we’ve been talking about love from 1 Corinthians 13, we have been referring to some popular songs that utilize the theme or the subject of love. You ought to google that sometime, there are so many songs out there that refer to love. I just want to give you some of the titles of the songs that are out there.

You have, ‘True Love’; you have ‘Young Love,’; you have ‘Steady Love,’ ; you have ‘Big Love,’; you have ‘Faded Love.’ How about this one: ‘Crazy Love,’ yeah!

 Then, I want to share one other one with you. It is a song that was sung by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie who wrote the song. The song title of that particular song is, ‘Endless Love.’ Think about that title…what a great title! ‘Endless Love,’ that is what we all long for, right? Endless Love…and that is the love that God has for us.

Now, you might have wondered this when you think about this series, and the question would be:  why have we taken time over five weeks to focus on what it says in 1 Corinthians 13 about love? If you’ve ever even wondered that question in the back of your mind, my response would be:  why wouldn’t we do that? It is important to understand that love is truly critical and pivotal in the Christian life.

Jesus said that Love is the Greatest Commandment. In Matthew 22 there was a Sadducee who came up to Jesus and he said to Him, “Teacher what is the great commandment in the Law?” And Jesus’ response was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” And, that is a vertical commandment.

Then, He goes on to say, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments,” (the second is the horizontal commandment), “On these two commandments depend all the Law and all the Prophets.” Think about that. You have thirty-nine books in the Old Testament, multiple thousands of words, and it can be boiled down to two commandments, one vertical, one horizontal. Love is the greatest commandment!

Another reason why we would spend time in 1 Corinthians 13 is that Love is the Greatest Hallmark of our Relationship with Jesus. I didn’t say that, Jesus said that. In John, chapter 13, He said to the disciples there, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, Love is the Greatest Commandment, and Love is the Greatest Hallmark of our Relationship with Jesus. Therefore, it should be a central focus of what it means to live a Christian life.

Now, there is another song title I want to mention. It is a song by the Bee Gees, which, by the way, has been rated the number 27 song of all-time by Billboard Magazine. That song title is, ‘How Deep is Your Love?’ Interesting question, isn’t it? How deep is your love?

I think that was the question that God was inquiring of the Corinthians when He wrote what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, how deep is your love? I think that is the question God is inquiring of you and me:  how deep is your love?

So, if you’ve been with us in this particular series, we’ve been asking the question, what does love really look like; how is love to be expressed in our relationships? I think we’ve been learning that we need to recalibrate our approach to what love is. We’ve been pointing out that how Paul, through the Spirit, describes love in 1 Corinthians 13 is a list of all verbs. You see, it is hard to control and to direct our emotions, but our actions are always ready to be activated.

If you have not caught the four previous messages, I would appeal to you to go and to listen to those messages; to watch them on our YouTube channel, so that you get the full benefit of the teaching of 1 Corinthians 13.

What I would like to do now is read from chapter 13. I am going to read from verse 4 down to the very first phrase in verse 8. I invite you to follow along as I read.

Verse 4, “Love is patient and kind, 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, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Now, what we’ve been seeing in this section of Scripture is he says:  this is what love is, this is what love does. And he’s also saying, this is what love is not, this is what love does not do. We’ve come down to, in our study, verse 6. I just want to warn you as we get into verse 6:  he is going to step on our toes [saying something that offends or convicts someone] just a little bit;  just a little warning, a little heads up.

What we have in verse 6 is, in essence, a tandem descriptive. “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but love rejoices with the truth.” Let’s just look at the first part of this tandem description:  Love does not Rejoice at Wrongdoing. The NIV translates it, “Love does not delight in evil.” The word that is translated here either ‘wrongdoing’ or ‘evil’ is a term that pictures the violation of the standards of right conduct. Love does not do that. Love does not violate the standards of right conduct. It doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing; it does not delight in evil.

So, the question then comes:  how can we be guilty of such a thing? Well, let’s just talk about that. First, in the Personal Realm, let’s talk about this guideline about love. You know, there are a lot of themes in movies and television programs that we watch. By the way I’ll just admit I like action movies, I really do. But there are a lot of things out there that glamorize graphic violence. Is that a good thing or a wrong thing?

There are a lot of programs out there that celebrate things like cannibalism or programs or movies that celebrate distorted sexuality. Love does not delight in evil;  love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. We’re talking first about the Personal Realm.

Take the subject matter of pornography, which is an incredible distortion of God’s design for sex between a husband and wife. What happens in pornography? Well, women, and many times girls, are exploited all purely for financially gain. Love does not delight in evil; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

We’ve had a new kind of behavior emerging in our culture recently. This behavior of rioting and looting and shoplifting, all the while claiming rationalizations for such behavior. But love doesn’t operate that way; love does not delight in evil; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

It’s true in the Personal Realm, but it’s also true in the Relational Realm. How so Bruce, you say? Well, how about this one? How about the arena of dating, where one person pressures another person, or talks another person into violating their conscience, going beyond where they think they ought to sexually?

I want to share with you a principle. It comes from 1 Corinthians 8:12. It says, “When you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong,” how about this one: “you are sinning against Christ.” Love doesn’t do that is what Paul is teaching us! Love does not delight in evil; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

We can continue with this Relational Realm. Love does not take malicious pleasure and sinister satisfaction at another person’s failure or defeat, especially someone who has wronged us. You know, when we see that happening to them, deep inside there is this sort of secret delight. Ah ha, they finally got theirs! They’re reaping what they deserved. Well, Love doesn’t do that.

Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 17 and 18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the Lord will see it and be displeased.”

You see, love does not delight in evil; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. But on the flip side of the tandem, Love Rejoices with the Truth. Let’s just take the arena of something that happens a lot in human relationships and that would be the whole arena of gossip. Really, what gossip is, is parading other people’s faults and failures. Gossip can rear its head on multiple levels. But you notice what love does: love rejoices with the truth.

I have a couple of things to say about that. What does that really mean? Well, it means, first of all, Love will not Tolerate Hearsay (h-e-a-r-s-a-y). Love will not tolerate hearsay. See, when information comes to love, love starts asking questions:  where did you get this information? Here’s one of my favorite ones to ask:  may I quote you when you share that information? See, love does not assume facts, love confirms facts. That is what love does.

Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Love rejoices with the truth. Love will not Tolerate Hearsay.

Then, we can say also, Love will not Tolerate Heresy (h-e-r-e-s-y). Love rejoices in the truth and the word ‘the’ is in the original here. Love rejoices in the truth. Love traffics in the truth; love tells the truth; love lives the truth. It tells the truth even if it is unpopular.

I want just to remind you of the culture at Corinth. At Corinth they were immersed in a culture that had very progressive sexual practices, even in the religious realm. It was actually a regular part of your religious experience, to be involved in some of these sexual practices.

What he is really saying to us is that love is not spiritually tolerant. Love does not approve of practices that are outside of God’s standards. This whole idea of having progressive sexual practices is not limited to the ancient time of Corinth. We see it emerging more and more in our own culture also.

We see where being immersed in these progressive sexual practices there is a growing tolerance of same-sex behavior in our culture. There is an active promotion of transgender issues. Well, what does love do? Love traffics in the truth. Love tells the truth, even if it is unpopular. And, Love lives the truth.

Love Rejoices with the Truth. Love applauds godly choices that people are making. Love stands up and speaks out when there are unfair or unjust treatments. For example, we have a lot of talk today about racism. Love stands up and speaks out about that. Love supports God’s standards despite what the culture promotes. That’s what love does.

Now, we have come down to verse 7 and there is an overarching theme in verse 7, I think, and that is that Love is Tenacious. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. What specifically does that mean? Well, let’s just take a few moments to zoom in on each one of those.

First, “Love bears all.” The New Living Translation translates it, “Love never gives up.” The NIV translates it, “Love always protects.” Love always protects because the term here is used of putting a roof over a house. Love bears all;  love shields; love shelters. Love does not broadcast other people’s faults; other people’s mistakes; other people’s failures. It doesn’t do that.

Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, love on the other hand, covers all offenses.” Love bears all.

Then, it goes on to say, “Love believes all.” The NIV translates that, “Love always trusts.” The New Living Translation translates it, “Love never loses faith.” Now, what does it mean when it says, “Love believes all?” I mean, are you trying to tell me that love is, you know, gullible??  If we’re going to love we need to be naïve, we need to be foolish?? No, that’s not what it’s teaching.

We know that Scripture teaches us that we are to be discerning, we are to make judgments about things. You can jot down 1 Peter 4:7 or Hebrews 5:14. Many other passages tell us that we need to be discerning; we need to make judgments. It’s not saying love is gullible, naïve, foolish.

What it is telling us is that love is quick to assume the best. Love gives the benefit of the doubt and love communicates confidence in other people. That’s what love does. I like to put it this way, love is in the construction business. Love is a people builder. Has anyone ever accused you of being a people builder?

We see this illustrated quite in Scripture so we can see how it happens in real life. One passage would be Acts chapter 9 verses 26 and 27. There we see the story of Barnabas with Saul. Remember, Saul was the great persecutor of the church imprisoning people; torturing people; killing people. And he has this experience on the road to Damascus and Jesus appears to him and he is converted there.

Then he tries to begin to interact with the disciples and they’re scared to death of this guy Saul because they are afraid this is a ruse where Saul is going to try to get close to us and then he is going to turn us over to some authorities and we’re going to be sent to prison. So, what Barnabas does is he comes to Saul and he brings Saul to the apostles. Barnabas was a people builder. He introduces him to the apostles and he personally describes Paul’s conversion to the apostles. He describes Paul’s ministry to them. Love is a people builder!

I want to share with you another illustration of someone being a people builder. It involves a guy by the name of Adam Clarke. Adam Clarke, you may not recognize that name, but he was a man who lived in the latter part of the 1700’s and then also into the early 1800’s and he was an incredible scholar. He was a national spiritual leader…Adam Clarke (with an ‘e’ on the end) was an incredible theologian. He wrote multiple theology books. Adam Clarke wrote a full commentary on the entire Old Testament and the New Testament. Adam Clarke was an influential leader.

But I want you to hear the rest of the story. Steve Williams shares this story. He says that young Adam was a very slow student. One day a distinguished visitor came to visit the school and to visit Adam’s class. When this distinguished visitor came in, the teacher of the class made fun of Adam Clarke in front of this visitor, saying to the distinguished visitor, “this is the stupidest boy in the school.” That visitor, before he left that day, tracked down Adam and said this to him: “Never mind, my boy, you may be a great scholar one day, do not be discouraged. But try hard and keep on trying.” Look at how Clarke’s life turned out. See, love is a people builder.

I want to tell you a little story about when I was fifteen years old. I had a severe case of appendicitis and so I was going to have my appendix removed. So, I’m fifteen years old and I am going in to meet my surgeon. Now, think about this for a second. I am meeting my surgeon for the first time. You know what the first thing he said to me was? He said, Bruce, show me your hands. Okay. He looked at my hand and he said this:  that looks like the hand of a surgeon. Now, who does that? A people builder does that! Of course, I never became a surgeon, but I knew from the age of fifteen if that is what I chose to do, I could do it because someone had built that encouragement into me.

When we are talking about this, it goes like this:  rather than saying to someone, ‘you can’t do that,’ ‘you’ll never’…love says, I believe in you, I see ________ (whatever might go in the blank) as your strength. Part of what Paul is saying is we need to be people builders.

He goes on to say, “Love hopes all.” The NIV translates that, “Love always hopes.” But this isn’t just bland, run-of-the-mill, nothing special kind of hope. Like when we might say, Well, I hope it doesn’t rain when we have the picnic. Or I hope when I go to the dentist, I hope I don’t have a cavity. Or, when we are going to go to a restaurant, I hope they have room for a reservation for a table of eight. It’s not that kind of hope he’s talking about.

One writer said when it says that love ‘hopes all’ it means that “love is optimistic and smiles at the future.” The basis of our hope is God Himself. Why would we have hope?

Well, “He’s always with us,” Hebrews 13:5,

“He will supply all of our needs,” Philippians 4:19.

“He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20.

“He works all things together for good,” Romans 8:28. That is why love ‘hopes all.’

Then, he goes on to say, love not only bears all, believes all, hopes all, Love endures all. The NIV translates it, “Love always perseveres” The New Living Translation, “Love endures through every circumstance.” Love is relentless through hard times. Love is not sidetracked but persists through difficulties and illnesses and hardships. That is what love does. Love, as we have shared the definition of love, continues to be committed to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost.

Then, finally, we come down to that first phrase of verse 8, which says, “Love never ends.” Many translations read, “Love never fails.” What does that really mean? Well, it means the kind of love we’ve been talking about—it just never goes out of style. This kind of love is never obsolete. It will never be obsolete like a rotary dial phone or like a cassette tape. It never will be obsolete! It never goes out of style! It has application to every dimension of our life.

I want to be transparent with you. As I’ve been working through this series, we always encourage people to be reachable and teachable, so I’ve wanted to be that myself. As I’ve been working through this series my perspective has been, God what do You want to be teaching me? How can I grow in my love for other people?

So, one of the things I’ve been doing is as I’ve been studying and preparing these five messages, I’ve been reading a book. It’s by Glenn Stanton, who is a director at Focus on the Family. This is the title of the book, Loving My LGBT Neighbor, subtitled Being Friends in Grace and Truth. Stanton not talking about affirming or condoning LGBT lifestyle choices, he’s talking about learning how to love people the way Jesus loves them. And, Jesus loves LGBT folks, despite their life choices.

Now as we work our way through this series of messages, right about now I think, if you’re like me, we’re all feeling a little overwhelmed; we’re all feeling a little bit inadequate. And I want to remind us all that we are not called to crank this out in our flesh, to just try harder by the sheer force of our will. The only way we love like this is through a daily reliance, a daily dependence on the Holy Spirit. He is, by Jesus’ words, our Divine Helper (John 14:16-17). Why are we given a Helper? Because, we need help, right?

Earlier in our series I suggested that where love is being described in these verses that you put your name there, in place of the word love. For example, I had said, Bruce is patient, Bruce is kind, Bruce does not envy. Now I want you to look at it in a little different way as we consider how we need a reliance on God to be at work through the Holy Spirit in our life. That would be to say, Jesus in Bruce is patient, Jesus in Bruce is kind; Jesus in Bruce does not envy or boast; Jesus in Bruce is not arrogant or rude; Jesus in Bruce does not insist on his own way; Jesus in Bruce is not irritable or resentful; Jesus in Bruce does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth; Jesus in Bruce bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. See I’m not cranking it out, I am allowing Him to produce that in my life. This is Jesus’ desire for us, men and women.

1 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 12, “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in your love for one another,” then he adds this little phrase, “and for all people.” This applies to everyone across the board.

Here is what I want us to remember though:  that our catalyst, our motivator for all of this is His love for us. “We love because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19. So, if we want to grow in our love for all people, it is very critical that we focus on His love for me. We need to review it; we need to reflect on it; we need to revel in it on a regular basis.

How might I start doing that? Well, here’s a couple of ways.  1) Study God’s mercy and grace from Ephesians 2 verses 1-10. Study that a little bit.  2) Study His great work for us in Ephesians 1 verses 3-14.  3) Study the example of Jesus in Philippians 2 verses 3-8. Focus on His love, review it; reflect on it; revel in it, and it begins to transform and change our hearts.

You know, we have sung a song many times at Wildwood and the title of this song is ‘One Thing Remains.’ Here is part of the way the chorus of that song goes:

Your love never fails

Never gives up

Never runs out on me

On and on and on it goes

It overwhelms and satisfies my soul

Focus on His love; review it; reflect on it; revel in it. It is the greatest thing ever! Romans chapter 8 verses 38 and 39, “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things to come…,” anything in the future, “will be able to separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, we need to be energized by focusing on His love for us and that will change our hearts as we practice love for others. Lamentations 3:22, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” It never ceases.

Isaac Watts, when he wrote the hymn, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,’ has these words that he wrote, I love these words,

Love, so amazing, So divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all

We have a God who loves us, so therefore we should love others!

Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You so much for Your Word. We thank You for the opportunity to open it, to unpack it. But more than anything, as we talk about love, may we all be catalyzed and energized as we focus on Your great love for us. The greatest thing that You offer us (love), is what we need to, in turn, give to other people. People in our family, in our neighborhood, in our world. We just thank You and we thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Questions for Reflection

The Power of Love

Message 5, 13:6-7

1. Bruce stated from 13:6 that love is in the construction business, it is a ‘people builder.’   What are some ways people have said to you, I believe in you, I see ______ as your  strength?  What did that mean to you?

         Who are some folks to which you could be loving people builder?

2. Reflect on and discuss some about the definition of love that Bruce shared early in the series: Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost.

3.  Bruce pointed out that Jesus said (John 13:34-35) that Love is the greatest hallmark of our relationship with Jesus.  Why is it that people often fall short of displaying that hallmark consistently?

4. Peruse through the list of the attributes of love (the verb forms) in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Which attribute would you say you most need to develop in your home?  In your closest relationship?

5.  “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing” (13:6), it does not delight in evil. What are some ways people can fall into that pattern of behavior?

6.  Bruce said that Love will not tolerate ‘hearsay’ or ‘heresy.’  How should we respond when faced with either situation?

7.  Bruce shared how he has been reading the book by Glenn Stanton entitled, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being friends in Grace and Truth. Should we actually befriend folks who identify as LGBT? Are we limited as to who we are to love?

                    [see what Jesus says in Matthew 5:44]

8.  As the song says, ‘Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.  On and on and on it goes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul’ [One Thing Remains].   Take some time in worship to thank God for his overwhelming love for you.    

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