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Are you ready for a challenge? If so, listen to this message to learn how to become someone who loves others the way Christ loves us. Hear the characteristics of biblical love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and see that without love none of our Christian service has value. Find out that it’s impossible to produce Christian love in ourselves by trying, but only when we’re studying God’s Word and walking by means of the Holy Spirit can it be produced in our lives.
Dr. Dean recommends you also listen to a complementary lesson in his 1 Corinthians series to add to your understanding of this passage. 1 Corinthians #085.
Love: A Fruit of the Spirit
Ephesians Lesson #113
July 18, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are reminded that in Your Word our Lord prayed, ‘Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth.’ In those two brief statements, Jesus affirmed the fact that there was absolute truth. He also verified that that absolute truth could be understood through Your Word.
“Third, He prayed that we would be sanctified or set apart, that we would be matured spiritually, and that that could only come through Your Word. Father we take time, many times during the week, to read Your Word, to study Your Word, to have classes where we continue to teach the Word.
“And on Sunday morning to teach Your Word, so that we might grow, so that we might mature. That we might do what the apostle Paul challenged us to do in Romans 12:2, and that is to exchange the garbage opinions of mankind that so often shape our thinking with that which has eternal value, that which is to be desired more than gold, and that is Your Word.
“Father we pray now that as we look at Your Word and especially at a topic that is somewhat difficult for a lot of people to really understand and not surprisingly, because it is something that is produced only by God the Holy Spirit in our lives. Help us to understand it and to see how we are to grow and mature in order to see it in our lives. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We will begin in Ephesians 4, so open your Bibles there. We will look at the topic of love, that is so poorly understood, I think probably in every generation, but some generations just abuse it more than others do.
We live in such a world, a world where people talk a lot about love, but the more they talk about it the less they demonstrate any real understanding of what love is.
If we were to start a study of love by going to the English dictionary, most will define love first and foremost as an emotion. Many people in our society and culture think of love as a feeling. In the postmodern world in which we live—influenced by the presuppositions of postmodernism that there’s no absolute truth—the use of reason and logic have nothing to do with finding meaning and value in life.
In the development of the thinking of the world and the culture, if reason and knowledge are not necessary to find truth, then the alternative becomes something extremely subjective, and it’s all about how something makes us feel.
How often has it been in your life and mine—let’s say, for example, probably something like this has escaped our lips at one point or another, “this must be right because I can’t imagine God not wanting me to enjoy something that seems so beautiful and wonderful.” That opinion as expressed is that truth comes from feeling.
Yet as we look at Scripture, we see an emphasis on truth so many times. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.” Just an extraordinary statement: that He is identifying Himself as the personification of truth, and that therefore, truth is something that is eternal, something that is absolute, and something that is personified in the person of Jesus Christ. And He identified it with His Word.
I mentioned John 17 in my prayer, “Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth.” “Sanctify” is a difficult word for a lot of people to use today because it’s an archaic English word, but it means to be set apart to the service of God.
Sanctification is the theological, biblical concept, of growing in our spiritual life, growing to spiritual maturity, so that we can better serve God by being set apart to Him, having our thinking set apart to God, because it aligns with the thinking of God.
It does not align with the thinking of the culture, the thinking of the world, the thinking of what is most popular, the thinking of the ideals and values that are promoted on social media and through films and television shows and other forms of entertainment.
In fact, James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. That is a profound statement if we really think about it. Because if truth were told, most of us are friendlier with the world than we’re willing to admit because we grew up surrounded by all of these concepts and values, and they shape us. They shape every generation, and they have ever since Adam sinned.
Every generation gets shaped by these human opinions, so we have to reshape our thinking. Paul says in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world …” The word translated “conform” has the idea of something being pressed into a mold.
Don’t let the world influence you. Don’t let the world press you into a mold. Don’t let the world tell you that you have to act like other people or that you’re part of some group.
That because you are white, or because you are male or female, or because you are Hispanic or Black or whatever it may be, that you have certain characteristics that belong to you because that’s your identity.
Identity philosophy, identity politics, identity everything is just another facet of and another way in which the devil expresses his various philosophies to get us into thinking groupthink instead of being individuals. We are all held accountable individually before God.
The world has its view of love. Dictionaries start by defining it as emotion, and love cannot be an emotion if God commands love because emotions are not responsive to commands. Emotions are responsive to circumstances, to things.
One day we feel really nice and wonderful about something or somebody, and the next day we wake up and we didn’t get enough sleep and we didn’t eat right the day before, and we just feel sort of overwhelmed by life, and we don’t feel like we love anybody.
Those feelings go up and down, and they change all the time. For love to have any sort of value, it has to be based on something that is not so mutable, but something that is immutable, and therefore, it must be based on the character of God.
We are told in Scripture that God is love. We are also told in Scripture that God is holy, another term that is rarely understood very well because it’s somewhat antiquated. The idea of holiness is of being distinct, of being unique, one-of-a-kind.
It is often thought to be the idea of being morally pure, but that’s not the core meaning of the word. It means to be set apart. Because you have various pieces of furniture and articles of worship that are used in the tabernacle and in the temple that are said to be holy. Something made of wood or metal cannot be morally good or morally evil, but it is set apart to the service of God. So we have to start with that as the basic idea.
God being holy is reflected in the numerous statements as you go through the Scripture, that God says, “I am God. I alone. There is none like Me,” over and over and over again. There is none like God. God is holy. He’s one-of-a-kind, and God is love. We have to turn to God who is the pattern, the model, the exemplar for what love is.
I’ve talked about this many, many times, when going through the Scriptures that we see this ultimately in several passages that talk about the gospel:
John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was undeserving.
In English we have one word for love to express a multitude of various nuances. The Greeks had four different words, two of which are primarily used in the Scripture, but we need to understand what the Bible says. That’s our starting point for understanding anything as really God. Let’s go back and look at our passage in Ephesians and review it to where we ended last time.
In this section we will talk about walking in unity, putting on the new man in the latter half of Ephesians 4, then “do not grieve the Holy Spirit” in Ephesians 4:25–32. Ephesians 5 begins “walk in love.”
Remember our passage in Ephesians 4 begins, “walk worthy,” then there are subsequent commands on how we are to walk or not to walk—walking being a metaphor for how we live our lives. We are to walk in unity, and that’s the section we’re looking at right now.
Ephesians 4:1, “Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, strongly urge you to conduct your life in a manner worthy of the exalted position to which you were summoned.” By that he means that at the instant that we trust in Christ, we have been given a new identity.
This chart shows Eternal Realities and Temporal Realities. The circle represents the fact Paul develops in Ephesians 5 that we are children of light. In 1John he talks about the fact that God is light, and that we are to walk in the light.
We have two dimensions here:
- The fact that we are children of light as an absolute reality when we are placed in Christ at the instant of our salvation by the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Then we become adopted into God’s royal family and we are sons of light.
- We also have an experiential reality that has to do with our day-to-day living as we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or not walking by the Holy Spirit. Some days and at times we walk in the light as He is in the light, but other times we don’t; we walk in darkness according to our sin nature.
Paul is talking about those who are in Christ, who have trusted Christ as Savior, are immediately given this exalted position, adopted into God’s royal family, and we have this new calling. That is our exalted position in Christ and with that new calling we have a new identity.
We’re called a new man and a new body in Ephesians 2:15; a holy temple Ephesians 2:21–24—that is, the church is being built into this holy temple. We’re called the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the royal priesthood family of God, and we are a new household.
All of these describe this new exalted position that is ours. And with that exalted position, then there is also an expectation of how we should live. That is why Paul urges us to walk worthy of that exalted position in Christ.
Ephesians 4:2 characterizes it—the New King James states, “with all lowliness and gentleness …” also accompanied by patience; that is, long-suffering.
Then two participial phrases which also modify that, Ephesians 4:2–3, “bearing with one another in love and making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace.”
I charted this for us last time, how does a worthy walk look? How are we going to define it? There are certain characteristics that accompany it, expressed by that preposition “with.” In the blue we see that it’s accompanied by what is described in the New King James as lowliness.
This gets into the whole area of humility that is difficult for people to understand. It’s not that we are making ourselves lowly, but the idea in humility is that we don’t think more of ourselves nor less of ourselves than we ought to think. We have a true picture of who we are, we’re honest about that, and we get that from the Word of God.
“Gentleness” is also a problem. A lot of men have a problem with “gentleness” because they think, “Well, is that getting in touch with my feminine side,” or “Isn’t that an effeminate term?” Sometimes there are Greek concepts that are extremely difficult to translate into English because we just don’t have a corresponding word for it.
The word for gentleness really indicates strength under control. Some have used the idea of breaking a wild stallion, so that he comes under the control of his master. The stallion still has all of the strength that he had before, but now it is channeled by being under the control of his owner, his rider, his master.
We see that these words translated humility and gentleness are used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ, Who certainly wasn’t this meek and mild “run Him over” Jesus that you have in liberal theology.
This is the Jesus who went into the temple to initiate His ministry and then end His ministry. The Scripture says that when He saw how the temple, His Father’s house, was being profaned by the moneychangers who were using it as a means to rip off the people by selling the animals for sacrifice at over overinflated prices, He approached their tables and overturned them and bodily threw them out of the temple courtyard. That’s gentleness, strength under control.
The fact that He went to the cross, He humbled Himself in obedience to the point of death. He’s under the authority of God. Moses was called gentle as well, and the most humble man who lived. These are pictures of strong leaders, but they were under the authority of God, and they walked in obedience to God.
The last phrase is that we are to “bear with one another in love.” Actually, the Greek word there should be translated “putting up with.” I like translating it that way because we are all sinners, and we all have aspects of our personality that we really don’t want anybody else at church to see.
But our kids, our parents, our spouses all see those sides of our personality, and we are not always enjoyable people to be around. Our children, parents, spouses, friends, fellow employees at times have to put up with us, and we have to put up with them. And we do it in love.
The phrase here uses the Greek preposition EN, which I usually see here as being instrumental. That means it’s talking about the means we use to be able to handle people that aren’t really being too lovable at the moment. We are able to put up with them by means of love. We have to use our love for others in order to understand and put up with them and those kinds of circumstances.
Before we go to our next verse, turn in your Bible to Galatians 5.
When we are talking about love, there are several ways in which pastors and theologians have struggled. How do we articulate the essence of what this love is? Because we see in Galatians 5:22 that this is a fruit of the Spirit, the first one listed.
That means you can’t gin it up in your own life. You can’t wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to be loving today. That’s my goal.” It’s not something produced from within.
It is something that is the result of what we read in Galatians 5:16 where the command is to walk in the Spirit. It’s that same preposition that we saw in Ephesians 4:2 that we put up with one another “by means of.” We are to walk by means of the Spirit.
Paul’s command came a little earlier in Galatians 5:14, “For all of the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
That seems like somewhat of a challenging thing to do, especially if you have a neighbor, and “neighbor” is defined elsewhere in Scripture as anyone that comes within the periphery of our life. It may be someone we don’t know. It may be someone who drives erratically and cuts us off in traffic.
It may be someone who isn’t quite adept yet at their new job at the cash register at the supermarket. It may be someone on Facebook or Twitter or some other social media account that we think is an absolute idiot. It may be any of those. We don’t have to know them personally, but we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
When Moses wrote that in the Law, that was a part of the way in which Israelites were to conduct themselves. They already love themselves. Secular psychology came up with the gross error that nobody loves themselves, but the Bible constantly contradicts that: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Some say, “Well, first have to learn how to love yourself.” No, your sin nature loves you from the moment you were born. The orientation of your sin nature from the moment you took your first breath is “It’s all about me. Aren’t I wonderful? I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs and everybody’s going to pay attention to me.”
We developed great skills of manipulation to get people to pay attention to us from that moment on, and we couldn’t even talk or think yet, but that’s just the natural thrust of that sin nature.
God said, “See, that’s how you love yourself. You’ve been loving yourself since the day you took your first breath, and you are to put your neighbor first and love them like you love yourself.” That was a pretty difficult challenge. We’ll see that Jesus came and gave us an even more difficult challenge.
When Paul tells them to walk by means of the Spirit, he says in a very strong way, “you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” “The flesh” is a term for the sin nature, our orientation to rebellion against God and disobedience to God. Sin is nothing more than doing anything that contradicts the character of God, any word thought or deed that contradicts the character of God.
Sin is not 10 things or 20 things, it’s a host of things, mental attitude sins, like jealousy and envy and anger and resentment, bitterness, refusal to forgive others. There are sins of the tongue, like gossip and maligning and all kinds of different things that we say about others, telling lies.
Then the works of overt sins, which are the things we usually think of. But all sins are motivated by arrogance and self-absorption. When we’re walking by the Spirit, though, we won’t bring it to completion. That’s what it means when it says, “You shall not fulfill.”
It’s stated in such a way in the Greek that you have a double negative, which is bad grammar in English, but it’s an intensification in Greek, meaning “it will be impossible.” Because as long as we’re looking at the Holy Spirit and walking by the Spirit, we’re not going to fulfill the drives of the sin nature.
The best illustration of Scripture, I guess, is when Peter is walking on the water and his eyes are on Christ. As long as he had his eyes on Christ, he could walk on the water. But the second his eyes just sort of flickered, he caught that wave out of the corner of his eye, and looked at that, took his eyes off of Christ, and then he fell.
When we take our eyes off walking by the Spirit, the consequence of that is that we will sin. Various characteristic sins are listed in Galatians 5:19–21, but the focal point here is that God the Holy Spirit produces a certain character.
Walking by the Spirit produces the character of Galatians 5:22. This takes us to love because the primary command is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” in the text. You do that by walking in the Spirit, and that’s why the first thing that is produced is love.
Look at what accompanies; because it’s a fruit of the Spirit, singular, there are all these other character qualities that come into play which the Holy Spirit produces over time. It’s a matrix that’s developed over time. Love is the first one, but it is often associated with elements of joy, which is not happiness; it is ephemeral, where we feel happy one day and not so happy the next.
But it has that idea of a solid tranquility, that even when we’re feeling down, even when we’re grieving, even as our Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was sweating blood through His pores because He was anticipating the horrors of bearing our sin on the cross the next day, He still had joy. He never lost that.
Joy is there; peace is there; that is part of tranquility. Patience, which we’ve just studied, accompanies that worthy walk. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, these words will show up again as we study love.
Then gentleness, which is PRAUS, has that idea of being under control. It is translated “meek” or “gentle” or “considerate,” and we just don’t quite capture it with any English word. And self-control; all are related to love.
What makes love so difficult is what Jesus said in John 13:34–35. He is talking to His disciples. He is shifting gears from the Old Testament to the New Testament. He’s shifting gears to the characteristics of the Church Age.
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another.” That sounds pretty close to loving your neighbor, but now He is talking specifically about believers. Love one another, others in the body of Christ. “… love one another as I have loved you.”
Uh oh! It was hard enough to love my neighbor as myself, but now I’ve got to love other Christians like Jesus loves them? That seems pretty impossible. It is! It’s not just difficult, it’s impossible.
It is a supernatural way of life that requires a supernatural energy power to do it, that’s the walk by the Spirit. You can’t get there if you’re not walking by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit has to be in conformity to what Jesus prayed in John 17, that we are to be sanctified by means of truth. So you can’t separate it from that moral conviction of absolute truth that comes from the Scripture.
Jesus says that we are to “love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That just isn’t going to happen because we wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, I feel so great today, and I’m going to love everyone. I just feel good about that.” Then something happens about 30 minutes later, and it’s all gone.
How do we understand and define love? You’ve heard me say for many years that it is difficult, difficult to define love. That’s why most definitions fall short. We have descriptions, and a description is not a definition.
There are some things that we can only grasp if we have some kind of group of word pictures that describe it, and then we can begin to get it.
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13, often called “the love chapter” because it focuses on love. In reading or studying your way through 1 Corinthians, when you come to 1 Corinthians 13, you might well wonder, why does Paul interrupt his discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 with what seems to be a diversion into talking about love?
In 1 Corinthians 14 he’s talking about problems and regulations for two specific gifts: Prophecy and tongues. I’m not going to get off into talking about prophecy and tongues and the cessation of gifts and all because the purpose of this is to focus on how Paul describes love.
1 Corinthians 13:1–8 is divided between verses 3 and 4. The first three verses are quite distinctive. Why is he stating it this way? He makes three statements that are all based on starting with an “if clause” that in the King James is translated with the word ‘though” to get across the fact that he’s not talking about reality, he is giving hypothetical examples.
We should ask, “Why does he use these specific examples?” 1 Corinthians 13:1 is translated “tongues of men and of angels,” which has always caused confusion. It’s an antiquated term. The word “tongues” means languages, so I prefer to translate it “the languages of men and of angels.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:2 he talks about prophecy and all mystery and all knowledge. In 1 Corinthians 13:3 he talks about giving away all that he has, and about delivering up his body to be burned. In connection with those things, he talks about a sounding brass and clanging symbol. Why does he use that language? What’s he talking about there?
In 1 Corinthians 13:2 he talks about removing mountains; not just one, many. Why does he use that example?
In 1 Corinthians 13:3 he simply says that if he doesn’t have love, it profits him nothing.
He makes four conclusions. In the first verse he makes two conclusions, that if he were to have these abilities to talk all of the languages of men and of angels, first of all, he would be like a noisy gong, and second, he would be like a clanging symbol.
In 1 Corinthians 13:2, he gives a third example, that if he could do all of these things, but not have love, he would be nothing, nothing at all.
In 1 Corinthians 13:3 he says if he did all of these things and did not have love, it would profit him nothing.
He is telling us in those first three verses that without love every other thing that we do in attempting to serve God will be meaningless. It will not have eternal value, it will not have spiritual significance, and it will be worthless if it is not done from love.
1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I become a sounding brass or a clanging symbol.”
In each of these examples, he starts off with an “if” clause in the Greek, “If I did this.” In English we have one way to express the “conditional clause.” For example, “If it’s not raining, I’m going to go fishing.” We have an “if” there. We don’t know what kind of “if” that is, what the nuance is.
In Greek they could express it one of four different ways. The first way, it comes close to meaning, “Since it’s not raining, I’m going to go fishing.” That’s called a first-class condition, “If, and I’m assuming it’s not, because there was no rain in the forecast, I’m going to go fishing.”
The second is, when we look out the window, it’s just pouring rain, and you are saying, “If it wasn’t raining (but it is), I would go fishing.” You’re really stating that your wish is that it wasn’t raining, but it is, so you’re really not going to go fishing. It’s the idea “if and it’s not true.”
The third is you don’t know whether it’s going to rain or not. It’s cloudy, it could rain; it might not rain, so you use a third-class condition. That’s the way we usually express it, it could be, “Maybe it will rain, maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t rain then I’m going to go fishing.”
There are a number of different ways in which that third-class condition can be used. One of the other ways that it is used is to express something that is hypothetical, often hyperbolic.
In other words, it’s not talking about something that you really think could happen. You are expressing it in an extreme form in order to make a point. As Paul expresses these three conditions, he is using a lot of hyperbole.
He is not saying that all of these things can actually take place. Some of them could. “If I speak with the languages of men and of angels.” I believe every apostle had all of the spiritual gifts, so Paul had the spiritual gift of tongues or speaking in human languages that he had not previously learned.
Then, “If I speak with the language of angels …” We don’t know if there are angelic languages. You hear people say, “I’ve got a prayer language; it’s an angelic language.” “Oh really! You have a prayer language. Isn’t that great. How do you know it’s a prayer language?”
“When I pray in that language, I know God always answers that prayer.” “Really! How did you know what you prayed for? You don’t understand the language, and you’re saying God answered your prayer, but you don’t know what you prayed for.” That doesn’t make sense.
There’s not one place in the Bible where an angel speaks in anything other than a human language. It is merely pure speculation without foundation, something that would be an objection in a court of law and the objection would be sustained, that there’s no evidence for angelic languages.
It is just a supposition: if I could do all of this—that’s what all of these examples are—if I did all of this and didn’t have love … Paul’s point: without love it’s nothing. Love is the sine qua non for the Christian life. (Sine qua non is a Latin phrase meaning “without which, nothing.”) It is the indisputable necessary element that must be there, and without it, it’s useless.
1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I were to speak with languages of men and of angels, but did not have love, I would be like a sounding brass or a clanging symbol.”
Why does he say all of this? Because he’s writing to believers who are living in Corinth. Corinth is in the Peloponnesian Peninsula that is on the southern end of Greece, and it’s just south of a small, narrow isthmus. That’s a piece of land that connects it to the mainland.
Just on the other side of the mainland was a place called Delphi. In the ancient world there was a temple there, with a priestess who stayed inside of this small area where they believed some subterranean gases escaped.
It was like sniffing glue. She would go into some sort of altered state of consciousness and speak in what we would call gibberish—that’s what it was.
The Corinthians confused this.
“That’s spirituality! The Oracle—what they called her—gets close to the gods and she speaks in these other languages.” They confused that with the biblical gift of tongues. Paul is making specific allusions here to their pagan background, their pagan worship.
In fact, the Oracle of Delphi would often say things and answer things. Kings would go to the Oracle with their questions, and she would answer in very cryptic riddles that could easily be interpreted in different ways.
For example, Croesus, the King of Lydia, could not decide whether he should ally himself with the Greeks against the Persians or should ally himself with the Persians against the Greeks. So he sent a messenger to the Oracle of Delphi and said, “Who should I line up with, should I fight the Persians or should I fight the Greeks?”
The Oracle allegedly replied, “If Croesus makes war on the Persians, he will destroy a mighty empire.” Well, he made war against the Persians and they destroyed him. His was the empire that was destroyed. So, you can easily misunderstand these ambiguous statements.
Thomas Hobbes wrote about the Oracle Delphi, “And for incoherent speech—see how the Oracle spoke—it was amongst the Gentiles taken for one sort of prophecy, because the prophets of their oracles, intoxicated with the spirit, or vapor from the cave of the Pythian Oracle at Delphi, were for a time really mad, and spake like mad men; of whose loose words a sense might be made to fit any event, in such sort, as all bodies are said to be made of Materia prima.”
Of course, that fits any kind of fortuneteller, soothsayer, or interpretation of astrology. Paul is saying even if I could do all these things and I didn’t have love, it’d be nothing. He’s not saying they’re real, he’s just using it as an exaggerated example.
Slides 14–18 Skipped
In 1 Corinthians 13:2, “sounding brass” or “clanging symbol,” were used in pagan worship to get the attention of the gods. He’s just saying, “You’re just as useless as symbols and gongs.”
I Corinthians 13:2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge …” See that’s not real. How do you know it’s not real? To understand all mysteries and all knowledge, he’d have to be omniscient. Only God is omniscient.
So he’s using examples that are the most extreme that he can come up with in order say, “If I was Superman and had omniscience and could do all of this, but I did it without love, it would be useless and not have any eternal value.”
Slides 20 and 21
1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I bestow—that word has to do with the giving—if I were to give all of my goods, sell everything I have, take all the money to feed the poor, and if I gave my body to be burned, but have not love, it would not profit me anything.” It would have no spiritual value.
Love is the key element. It would have no profit, OPHELEO in the Greek, meaning to be useful, to be beneficial, to have any value whatsoever.
Slide 23 Skipped
He starts defining what love is in verse 4. This is not hard for us to go through, not difficult. Most translations are clearly in the middle of the paper on the target.
1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love suffers long …” It means patience. It’s that word we studied last week, MAKROTHUMIA that accompanies a worthy walk.
“… and is kind.” That’s CHRESTEUOMAI, meaning you are to show oneself mild, to be kind, to be gentle, to be morally good, and benevolent. It indicates a positive reaching-out to people to help them. It’s kind.
“… love does not envy,” ZELOO. It’s translated “jealous,” or “envious;” also “zealous” in a good sense—that you’re passionate about doing something that’s right.
But in a negative sense, it is to be out of control emotionally, to be jealous or envious of someone. Love doesn’t have that; that’s not part of its characteristic.
You don’t love someone if you’re envious or jealous, because to be envious or jealous shifts it to being all about you, and love is all about the other person. When you’re jealous, it’s all about you, what you should get, and what you are due.
The second example, “love does not parade itself” is PHUSIOO, which means to be puffed up or conceded, and it relates to the third word. It doesn’t puff itself up, it doesn’t blow its own horn, it doesn’t talk about itself; it doesn’t bring attention to itself.
PERPEREUOMAI: does not brag, does not put itself in center stage; it’s not about me. That’s the sin nature. True biblical love is contradictory to the work of the flesh, which means that if you’re not a believer growing you can’t really love. That’s why some people call it “Christian love.”
You’ve heard different terms. You’ve heard “unconditional love.” This is when I am going to love somebody, but no matter what they do, I’m still going to love them. I’m not putting conditions on it.
If they do anything that is hateful or resentful or mean to me, I’m still going to love them. I’m not putting conditions on it. That’s God’s love for us; He loved us, “… even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That explains one aspect of it.
Another aspect I use is the word impersonal … because we have so many people that we need to express love to who we don’t know. There are people that we meet in the grocery store, people we run into that are behind a desk somewhere.
It might be the IRS auditor—that is probably going to cost us a lot of money and we want to get really irritated and mad at them—but we are going to love them without condition.
Even if they take my whole bank account, I’m not going to get irritated and mad at them. See, you can’t do this on your own. It has to be done as a result of your walk with the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:5, “… doesn’t behave rudely, doesn’t seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;”
It doesn’t behave rudely. Good manners: it is going to be poised. It is not going to react. It is going to be calm. This relates to humility, and it relates to gentleness.
It doesn’t seek its own. It’s not self-absorbed. It’s not about how it makes the one who loves feel. It is about treating the one who is loved the way they ought to be treated according to the standards of God’s Word.
It is not provoked, it’s not easily irritated or made angry, and it thinks no evil. It is not going to worry about things and manufacture problems and things that are contrary to what is desired. It is going to instead focus upon that which is right.
It’s not going to imagine evil. It’s not going to imagine sin. It’s not going to imagine then coming up with these other kinds of things. It thinks no evil. It is not going to be easily provoked or easily influenced to think bad of the person.
1 Corinthians 13:6, “… does not rejoice in iniquity …”
It doesn’t have joy because the other person has sinned or failed. Someone did you wrong and now they are disciplined and reap the consequences of their bad behavior. We don’t walk around the corner where no one can see us and go, “YES! They got what they deserve.”
That is not love. We’re not going to rejoice in iniquity. We are going to rejoice in the truth. Love is related to truth. That means it has integrity. Integrity is not going to be tossed to and fro by the various changes in our emotions.
1 Corinthians 13:7, “… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”
“Bears all things” has the idea of covering something over in silence. You’re not going to make an issue out of it. You’re just going to let it slide off your back and go forward.
Does that mean you’re going to live in a fantasy world that everything’s okay? No, but you are just not going to rise to the bait and challenge it and get upset and angry.
“Believes all things.” Think about a mother, a good mother not a fantasy world mother, but a real mother. She knows her kids do things, but she’s not going to make an issue out of every little bad thing. She’s going to believe the best in her kids, even though she knows they’re not always the best. That’s what this kind of love is.
“… hopes all things …” It hopes the best; it’s not looking at the negative, but is hoping, focusing on the best …
It believes all things, hopes all things. It’s not believing all things in a way where they’re just credulous and taken advantage of. But they want to believe the right things, the best things for the person they’re loving.
“… enduring all things.” The Greek word is familiar to us, HUPOMENE, which is part of the Christian life. It is just being steadfast, enduring the situation, whatever it may be, and not putting the focus on self.
The last statement transitions into the last part of the chapter, the beginning phrase of 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails.” It is the key to stability. Love is that which is necessary for all of our actions. We don’t measure up to that very well. It’s a growth process.
We don’t start off walking by the Spirit and doing it right. We sin a lot. As we grow and are in the Word, we’re walking by God the Holy Spirit, then God the Holy Spirit is going to produce these things in us slowly, incrementally over time. Because whether you realize it or not, your heart and my heart are still stubborn and deceitful and wicked above all things.
But God the Holy Spirit is in the business of transforming that. So when we see this in people, this is the character of Christ that is being produced in us. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to turn around and sin five minutes later. But hopefully it won’t be like it was maybe 20 or 30 years ago because we are growing.
We’re all in that growth process, and we never arrive at the destination until we die. When we’re face-to-face with the Lord, that sin nature is no longer part of who we are, and that is when we realize our salvation.
This is what Paul talks about with the “worthy walk.” We have to have a standard, we have to have a guideline; we have to know what it looks like to walk worthy. To walk worthy means that it will be accompanied by humility, by patience.
It is going to be characterized by love, that we actually are using love as a way to handle difficult people, difficult circumstances. We will bear with one another, put up with one another by means of love.
Next time we will look at the next verse where we are endeavoring—we are being diligent—to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There are many connections in the Scripture between walking by means of love and maintaining unity in the body of Christ. And it’s not at the expense of doctrine.
“Father, we thank You so much for all that You do for us. For salvation, trusting in Christ for everlasting life, is not the end, it’s the beginning. At that moment we are born again, we are regenerate, we are given a new life in Christ, and now we have to nourish it, we have to eat the right kind of spiritual food. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
“We are to desire that unadulterated milk of the Word that we may grow. As our Lord prayed, we are to be sanctified by truth, by Your Word. This must be our priority. It is the Spirit of God who uses the Word of God to mature the child of God. If we are not in the Word and the Word in us, then we will not be going forward in the spiritual life. This is our challenge to make it a priority.
“Now I know there may be some here, some listening maybe now or maybe at some later time on the Internet, who are confused about just what is necessary to go to heaven when we die.
“The answer to that is very simple. The simplest way it’s expressed in Scripture is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and You will be saved.” We believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the God-Man who went to the Cross and paid the penalty for our sins.
“By trusting in Him we know that we are not trusting in our good works, we’re not trusting in anything in us for salvation. We recognize there’s nothing in us that impresses God. It is the possession of Christ’s righteousness that impresses God. When we trust in Christ, we are freely given the righteousness of Christ as our cloak, as it were. We are declared to be righteous.
“So it is my prayer that if there’s anyone listening who’s never trusted in Christ, who has never recognized that, ‘Yes, I can do nothing to impress God to save myself, God must do it all. He’s done it in Christ, and I trust in Him alone.’ That is all that is needed.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with what we must do, with what we have learned. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”