The Meaning of Love - RR274K20a
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Let us worship God. Not unto us oh Lord, not unto us but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truths sake. Help us oh God of our salvation for the glory of Thy name and deliver us and purge away our sins for Thy name’s sake. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God we come again into Thy presence mindful of our need, grateful for Thy mercy, rejoicing in Thy favor. We thank Thee for Jesus Christ Thy son our savior. Who came into this world, gave himself for our sins as atonement and has made us kings and priests unto Thee forever and ever. Grant our Father that always mindful of Thy grace and mercy we give Thee thanks as we ought. That we rejoice that our times are in Thy hands and Thy mercy endureth forever. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Our scripture this morning is First Corinthians 13:1-13.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
This chapter is one of the best known in the Bible together with Psalm 23. IT is also the subject of a little controversy because of the word originally translated in the Authorized Version as ‘charity’. In the Greek the word is agape, love. In First John 4:8 the translation is, of agape, God is Love. [00:05:08]
Charity comes from the Latin ...
Charity comes from the Latin ‘caritas’ which now means tolerance, benevolence, a different meaning. In the Greek there are three words that can be translated into English as love. We only have one word in the English for all three of them. The first is Eros, a word not used in the New Testament, it means erotic love, we get our word eroticism from Eros. The second is Phileo, which means normal human love, a high regard for somebody else, affection, friendship for someone else. In the name Philadelphia we have that word: phila- love, adelphia-adelphos love. Then the third word is agape. A very uncommon word in Greek usage. This is an interesting fact, why is there in the Greek, it was rarely used and did not fit into Greek thinking. It means something very close to what the word grace portends. It means a selfless giving love; it means the love of God for us. The meaning of agape, love, is close to the meaning of grace, unmerited favor. To understand Paul’s meaning we must see love, agape, in that sense. It is clearly related to grace but it is more than grace in that it means a favor which is uncaused by anything in the recipient. We are the object of God’s love even though we don’t deserve it. Of course that idea is also in grace, grace is something given to the underserving but love goes further. It indicates not only the favor of God to the undeserving but His love to the undeserving. Now this makes the word very important. It brings a focus, together with the word grace, the meaning of our salvation. [00:08:45]
The word agape reveals the great extent of God’s grace...
The word agape reveals the great extent of God’s grace even to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The love of God is manifested towards us and it now must be reflected through us. We have received agape, this kind of love from God; we must now show it to others. Paul is emphatic that the prized charismatic gifts are empty of meaning without love. Without agape. Our gift of tongues may be like that of foreign men, even like to angels, but without love in this sense we are no more than sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. Clearly all these charismatic gifts are nothing without love. We can believe all that we must believe, be strong in the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries and knowledge, Paul says, and though I have all faith so I could remove mountains and have not love I am nothing. None of the gifts are of value if this kind of love is lacking, a supernatural love. We may be ready to give all our possessions to charity to feed the poor, Paul says, we may be strong enough under persecution to face death by burning but if we lack agape love we are, he says emphatically, nothing! The various gifts Paul cites are conspicuous ones readily attracting attention and even awe. But compared to the gift of love they give us no status and we are nothing. Paul is very strong here. He says you may be able to do things which are clearly supernatural acts, heal people, perform miracles, but these are all nothing as compared to or without agape love. These various gifts can and do puff up a man and indeed that was a problem at Corinth. A number of the members had some of these gifts and they were puffed up. All these other gifts are distinguishing virtues which tend to call attention to a man whereas agape love does not. [00:12:30]
By comparison it seems a little thing...
By comparison it seems a little thing. Its character however makes a man long suffering patient and kind. Now, such a love is without envy and without self-promotion. Its conduct is not a calculating one, governed by self-promotion because it does not seek its own good but the glory of God and His kingdom. It is not easily provoked and its response to evil is not evil. This is because it does not rejoice in evil but in the truth. Paul is dealing here with the realities of life, we are easily provoked, and the world is full of people and things that do provoke us. But Paul says that someone who has God’s grace and agape love in his heart is not easily provoked. They now how to live with the reality, reality is not what we want, it is a fallen world, fallen people, a world of sin and death, a world in which we have a battle until our last breath is drawn. And then for all eternity we have a triumph. Now such a love is trusting, in all things is full of love, it can therefore bear and endure every kind of adversity. When we think of Paul one of the greatest men who ever lived the adversities he endured, the catalog of horrors, things he was subjected to, we can indeed say he knew what he was talking about in this chapter. This love, agape, never fails because it is God’s grace, power and Holy Spirit in us. It is more than a gift on occasion and is rather God’s power and grace in us. Prophecies, gifts of tongues, special revelations of knowledge, and all the various gifts shall cease. And vanish away we are told. They are special gifts of the spirit, but love, agape, is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit himself. A special revelation of the spirit might tell me of what is about to happen, I may have the gift of prophecy, in Acts 21:10 following we are told that one believer called a prophet, Agabus, foretold Paul’s arrest if he returned to Jerusalem. Agabus was a man of God but his gift of prophecy at this point did not alter his character which was a good one. [00:16:58]
Nor after he had prophesied, been proven correct, was...
Nor after he had prophesied, been proven correct, was he any the different man for it. We know in the Old Testament of a prophet, not a godly man sometimes, we are given no name who prophesied accurately because God required him to. But he was a frail and simple man. The man however who is governed by love, agape, is always a different man. This is why Paul stresses this agape love as the greatest gift although too often unappreciated. This love never fails, that is it does not disappear. It is a permanent part of the man. Our knowledge is at best a partial one, even where it is a gift of the Spirit which is in all speaking prophetically for God is in us. Whereas the holy love of God in our hearts, this agape love, is our perfecting, our maturing in the faith, it is more than a gift, it becomes us! It remakes us. For this reason these partial and .limited gifts however important give way in God’s time to the mature gift, an agape love. Now it is interesting that Paul tells as we shall see in the next chapter that there must be a limit on some of these gifts. That if there is a gift of speaking in tongues only two, maybe three at the most, may be permitted to do so in a worship service. All the other gifts have their place, they are to be controlled, they cannot take over just because they are a gift of the Holy Spirit. But there is no such limitation on agape. We are to manifest it always. Agape love is the maturity of faith, this is why these special gifts of the spirit must in time, Paul tells us; give way to the maturity of the godly man which is agape love. Indeed the mature man puts away childish things because his growth in grace makes him stronger in the nature of grace, this spirit given love. This is why many interpreters say that all these other gifts of the spirit were special things for the apostolic age. [00:21:14]
But with maturity was to come their replacement, agape...
But with maturity was to come their replacement, agape love. So those who seem to feel that going back to the things like tongues is a forward step for the church are not right. The implications of verses eleven and twelve are startling because the line between time and eternity is not clear drawn. When do we fully to understand? We would like to think that this total vision and clarity of understanding comes only in heaven. Well in a very real sense this is true but Paul’s meaning is that it begins here and now. That as we grow in grace and in agape love we see more and more the fullness of God, the meaning of His grace and of His love. Our understanding matures from that as a child in the faith to an increasing maturity in our knowledge of God and His ways. Our knowledge becomes less and less in part and more and more in full. We grow in our knowledge of His grace and love and of Him. We pay a price for that growth; this is where the modern church has gone astray. We want to have the results without the maturity, without the pain, without the grief and the sacrifice. Without the refinement. We forget that God said through Isaiah that we who are called are the ones who are tried! We are refined by fire; he was referring to the process whereby gold is refined. The dross burned up, separated from the pure gold and that’s Gods work in us. This means it is painful. This is why Paul says in Hebrews that we endure a great deal of punishment, chastisement and suffering and so on if we are sons of God. If we are bastards there is no need, we’re not the child of the family we don’t belong to the family, and therefore we’re allowed to go our way. [00:25:22]
But to be the chosen of God means we pay a price, we...
But to be the chosen of God means we pay a price, we are being prepared for time AND eternity! Growth in the faith is basic to our life here and we who are alive in Christ must grow steadily in that eternal maturity. What abides, what endures, is faith hope and love, agape. But the greatest of these is love, says Paul. Faith saves us, hope enables us to endure all trials and tribulations but love binds us to Christ and to one another. Our Lord insists on the priority of His kingdom, seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The gifts of the spirit permanent or temporary can puff us up but the gift of love, agape, is basic to our life in Christ. And yet sadly sometimes it seems to be the least sought after of the gifts of the Spirit. Let us pray.
Our Father we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word, for Thy grace and mercy, for Thy patience with us. We thank Thee that Thou dost subject us to sore tribulations and we know, our Father, that we are distressed, troubled and impatient with Thy ways. We give thanks unto Thee our Father that Thou knowest us and Thy love for us is greater than any self-love we may have. And Thy love for us is wiser than the wisdom of men. Give us grace therefore to take what Thou givest, to thank Thee for it and in all things move forward in faith, hope and love. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Are there any questions now about our lesson? [00:29:02]
This is a chapter that at one time most people in a...
This is a chapter that at one time most people in a congregation knew by heart. Memorization is no longer as commonplace as it once was so it is less familiar. All the same, it is a chapter is well worth learning. It should be taught to children together with other key chapters of Scripture because what we commit to memory settles into our mind and our being. Then in times of trouble and crisis it wells up every word of it overwhelms our being with the grace and mercy it conveys. Memorization of Scripture is a great strength and comfort in scripture because the words become a part of us more than we realize and when we are in need of those words they come into focus in our being. If there are no questions let us conclude with prayer.
Our Father we thank Thee for these Thy gifts. Faith, hope and love. Thou hast made us very rich, thou hast given us the strength in these things with which to contend with ourselves, our own weaknesses, and with the world around us. Strengthen these Thy gifts in us so that we may grow and throughout all eternity rejoice in what Thou hast done for us and in us. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.