1 Corinthians 13: 4-13
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul devoted chapter 12 to the
Spiritual Gifts, but until believers like us are living with the
Fruits of the Spirit, the gifts won’t add much
to the Kingdom of our Lord.
So now this morning we turn to the first of the Fruits of the
Spirit. The one Paul calls “the most excellent way.”
Jesus commanded it.
The apostle John explained it.
The early church lived it.
This church is mandated by that verse in our foyer
to show it generously… it’s the way of Love.
This 13th chapter is best considered under three headings:
1. The Priority of Love,
2. The Properties of Love and
3. The Permanency of Love.
If it’s by this thing – by love – that all people will know that
you are a disciple of Jesus
then its right that we start this morning by considering ….
A. The Priority of Love
1. Love must be expressed within the exercise of spiritual
gifts. Name any of the spiritual gifts and it will be
dangerous if done without love.
Look at Paul’s four examples:
1. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, (example #1)
but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or
a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy (#2) and
can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, (#3) and
if I have a faith that can move mountains, (#4)
but do not have love, I am nothing.
Get this: Tongues, prophecy, knowledge or faith but no love
amounts to zero contribution to the Kingdom of God.
You might never be an “amazing church” with healings, and
miracles and demon-defeating events, but …..
if you excel in love, you have gained the highest priority.
2. Love must first be expressed
before the exercise of great sacrifice.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and
give over my body to hardship
(The NIV version we use here even says “give my body to
the flames” – meaning – be burned at the stake)
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and
give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Some manuscripts add in that phrase “that I may boast.”
It certainly won’t be love as the motive
for helping the poor or dying for Christ.
3. In the letters to the 7 churches – to the first Church Jesus
asks about the state of their FIRST love.
Jesus asked Peter: “Do you Love me?”
Take a moment – is love the priority in your Christianity?
I search my heart with you at this moment too.
If your answer is “I think so, maybe, perhaps…”
we must ask Paul to tell us bluntly what love looks like.
Let’s make point two…
B. The Properties of Love
1. Our age, assisted by the books and movies and
you tube clips goes on and on about how love feels.
Think of a famous love song from 2016.
How about “Vapor” by 5 Seconds of Summer.
The songwriter compares love to the effects of a drug:
I want to breathe you in like you’re vapor,
I want to be the one you remember
I want to feel your love like the weather
All over me, all over me … So lie to me, just lie to me,
So talk, talk, talk, Well, tell me what I want, want, want….
So don't stop, stop, stop, We'll take another shot, shot, shot
'Cause you know you got perfect aim,
I wanna feel you in my veins (the heroin reference)
Really?? – love is about how it feels?
2. The Fruit of the Spirit Paul calls love is about
Doing… and not doing!
The heart of the 13th chapter is well known to most Bible
readers. I’m going to go through it very slowly –
try not to get bored or to start thinking about
what you are going to do after church.
These next few moments may contain one single sentence
that is the next vital step in your character development.
There are 15 sentences – yes 15! Try hard now!
What Love Is or Does:
1. L Suffers long - endures slights, criticisms and
wrongs when done spitefully to you.
2. L Is kind - obliging, willing to help or assist
3. Rejoices in the truth - truth is the atmosphere in which
love thrives. Lie and love dies
4. Bears all things - it covers and protects.
Thus in regards to the sins or failings of others,
there is willingness to bear with them patiently.
5. Believes all things - in regard to the conduct of others,
there is a disposition to put the best construction on it;
to believe that they may be actuated by good motives,
and that they intend no injury.
6. Hopes all things – hopes that all will turn out well.
This must also refer to the conduct of others;
and it means, that however dark may be appearances;
how much so ever there may be to produce the fear that
others are actuated by improper motives or are bad people,
yet that there is a "hope" that matters may be explained and
7. Endures all things - bears up under, sustains, and
does not complain.
Bears up under all persecutions at the hand of man;
all efforts to injure the person, property, or reputation.
Found your sentence yet? Some of you – maybe coming next
What Love is not or Does not do
8. Does not envy - is not jealous of what others have
or have become
9. Does not parade itself - does not brag or boast of one's
abilities or possessions.
10. Is not puffed up - swelled with pride and
elated with a vain conceit of self.
11. Does not behave rudely - to behave in an ugly,
indecent, unseemly or unbecoming manner
12. Does not seek its own - does not seek its own happiness
to the injury of others
13. Is not provoked - does not fly into a rage,
but keeps the temper under control.
14. Thinks no evil - not malicious, or disposed to find fault,
or to impute improper motives to others.
15. Does not rejoice in iniquity - Does not rejoice
over the "vices" of other people;
Have you got your sentence? Now don’t despair.
Consider poetry by Charles Wesley: Love can bow down the
stubborn neck, the stone heart to flesh convert, soften and
melt and pierce and break the very hardest heart.
Refining fire go through my heart – illuminate my soul;
scatter Your life through every part and sanctify the whole.
3. The Permanency of Love
What’s one of the few abilities you will take from this world;
to the next at the moment of your earthly death?
It’s the ability to love.
The Bible says God is Love – when you move from this life to
the heaven that awaits there’s much we don’t know what it will be like
but love will be there.
There are many things you can do down here on earth
that won’t be needed in that next life.
Let’s go now to the concluding verses of chapter 13:
8 Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes,
what is in part disappears.
1. Love never fails
All the effort you put into gaining knowledge in this life …
is for this life, but a day will come when, after death,
you will have perfect knowledge.
You might have plenty of knowledge and still be wrong
about a few facts – but if you have love –
the love will never be wasted.
I will go one step further – you may want to use knowledge
to improve some situation and still not succeed in doing so –
but bring genuine love to a relationship
and there will be success. That’s because…
2. Love Abides
Love abides along with faith and hope.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
Those are the three tastes of eternity
that the soul can have in this world.
But the greatest of these is love.
- Love is truly "The Most Excellent Way".
When properly defined and understood,
love is also "the way of Christ".
- For in Paul's description of love, we see
a picture of the character of Christ. As Disciples of Christ,
we are to walk in the way of love as well