Love – 1 Corinthians 13 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

Love

1 Corinthians 13 (559)

-Love seems to be everywhere around us.

-Almost as if it’s in the air we breathe! Hallmark movies are plentiful this time of year, jewelry stores seem to double their commercials to air during Vikings games that proclaim “every kiss begins with kay.” 

-A yard sign in my neighborhood proclaims “love is love.” That runs contrary to the first rule I was taught in defining words: can’t use the word in the definition. 

-But even think about the way we use that word every day. I love that song, I love the snow, I love my wife Cara, I love my kids. Surely those don’t all mean the same thing, right?

-I’m going to give away the ending to this sermon at the beginning: love isn’t a feeling, as dc talk taught me in my formative years, love is a verb. More precisely, love is a list of characteristics that are meant to be demonstrated in all our lives, and even further than that, love was perfectly encapsulated in 1 person who came to earth 2,000 years ago.

READ/PRAY

-Dropping in the middle of a flow of thought. 1 Cor. 12-14 serve to break down divisions regarding spiritual gifts in the church. 

-Most often when we hear this text it’s at weddings, and while it’s certainly appropriate at weddings, that overly narrows the focus of the text.

12 talks about the wide variety of gifts given from the HS to the church. Natural tendency among humans is to elevate certain gifts. We do the same today! Do you realize the variety of people we have serving here every week? Decorating, coffee, cleaning, running sound, playing instruments, teaching kids, welcoming people, safety team unlocking doors. That’s just Sunday! Paul ends this section with an exhortation to “earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

14 then applies 12, 13 to prophecy and speaking in tongues, with a final exhortation for how the church should structure their weekly worship services. These 3 chapters are all centering around spiritual gifts and their use in the church, so even the love chapter is meant to be demonstrated not in marriage, but the church. 

-Let’s take a look at the 3 ways Paul talks about love in this passage.

  1. Love Lacking (1-3)

-These verses serve as a transition point from 12

-All about spiritual gifts being needed together to build up the church.

-Quick sidenote about that: there isn’t a JV squad in the church. There’s not even bench warmers! How often do we compare ourselves to what seem like “better” gifts and then become discouraged? Or even comparing ourselves to someone with the same gifts, but manifested differently and then beat ourselves up. Happens ALL THE TIME in preaching!

-Music and teaching/preaching seem to be highly elevated in our culture today. Did you know God doesn’t view it that way? Now, that being said, God DOES care that you’re actually using your gifts and growing in them (the parable of the talents speaks to this). If you don’t know what your gifts are, reach out to one of us, we’d love to help you discern your gifts!

-Paul does some comparing in these first 3 verses. 

-It seems that comparing gifts has been an issue for thousands of years! The church in Corinth said the best gifts were prophecy and speaking in tongues. Don’t have time to dig too far into those gifts today, but someday we’ll talk about them!

-First gift is speaking in tongues. This was viewed the best gift in the church, which is why Paul starts here. Some people today even use this as a way to determine whether or not someone is truly a believer.

-Look at the words Paul uses though: tongues of men and of angels.

-Some debate about what the gift of “speaking in tongues” is in the NT: either a known, earthly language or an angelic heavenly language that is untranslatable on earth. But Paul includes both! Whichever “tongue” it is, it needs to be done from the outpouring of love.

-Notice the comparison Paul makes here. If I have these amazing gifts of language, if I can speak every language on earth, AND in heaven, but don’t have love I’m just as helpful as a noisy gong, or clanging cymbal.

-In certain contexts, gongs and cymbals are great! Like in the movie ‘Shang-Chi’ that just came out. The gong as the war starts is super epic! But if you’re trying to have a conversation and you’re standing next to a cymbal how helpful is it?

-I love playing drums! But if I were to sit back here and play drums while I’m preaching, how helpful would it be? Does this help or hurt your ability to hear what I’m saying? Paul doesn’t stop with tongues though, does he?

-Up next is prophecy and interpretation of prophecy.

-If I can prophecy, speak on behalf of God to a group of people. And understand, notice the qualifiers: ALL mysteries, and ALL knowledge. AKA if I have the same level of understanding as God. And even beyond that, if I can do what Jesus said his followers could do with faith that can move mountains. If I can do all these things, but don’t have love, how helpful is it? It’s worth NOTHING.

-So speaking in tongues, prophecy, interpretation of prophecy, all faith if they aren’t done from love are literally worth nothing in God’s kingdom. But that’s not all!

-Finally, verse 3. If I force poverty on myself, if I do HUGE acts of charity and mercy for others, or even deliver up my body 

-Text says “to be burned” alternative text is “that I may boast.” Couple letter differentiation in Greek. The point is the same: either I offer my body to death, or sell myself into slavery for the sake of someone else.

-If I even do these unbelievable charitable things, but do it without love, how helpful is it in God’s economy? Worthless!

-Think about these 3 things like this:

-We all know how money works, at least most of us do! I still remember one time asking my mom to get a toy and being told “we can’t afford that.” I confidently told her “just write a check!”

-Imagine getting up to heaven, and acting like that with God! I prophesied! I spoke in tongues! I gave away everything I had! I can base my salvation on that! And God saying “depart from me, I never knew you. You can’t afford to enter here, your spiritual bank account is empty.” It’s like me trying to tell my mom to just write a check – it’ll bounce!

-Paul’s point is not that spiritual gifts are bad AT ALL! Remember, he just said to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.” But the point of these gifts isn’t to be used to build ourselves up (as we’ll see in the next section), instead the gifts are meant to be used from the foundation of love, to flow out into the building up of the church, the people of God. So how does Paul define love?

  • Love Lived (4-7)

-Here’s the most fascinating part about this, look at what Paul describes. Are these ethereal, pie in the sky definitions, or are these character traits that should be evident in our lives? 

-Paul lists 15 character traits of love, and he’s breaking love down into 2 lists: what characteristics should be demonstrated by love (7), and what characteristics should NOT be demonstrated by love (8). Let’s start with the negative, what love isn’t.

-Envious

-If you love someone, you cannot be jealous of their gifts, strengths, accomplishments. That is antithetical to how God has commanded us to live.

-Boastful

-The other side of being envious is turning into someone who thinks you’re the bees knees. In Greek, this is literally translated as “wind bag” so if someone is demonstrating this characteristic, tell them they’re like a whoopee cushion! 

-Arrogant

-Similar to the “wind bag” is arrogant. Self-centered and cocky about their own giftings/strengths instead of recognizing where those gifts are from. 

-Rude

-Descriptive of misbehaving/acting out, behaving in a way that doesn’t fit with societal norms. Like if you’ve seen those kids at Target who start throwing fits (always at Target, never seem to have those kinds of meltdowns in the car!) Think of an adult acting out like that, antithesis of love!

-Insisting on its own way

-This is a hard one! Especially when you KNOW you’re right. See the gospel compels us to “outdo each other in showing honor,” and to consider others interests even higher than our own!

-Irritable

-You know people who always seem on the verge of blowing up at you? You never know what’s going to set them off.

-Resentful

-This is keeping a record of wrongs. This is knowing life’s not fair, and keeping track of the ways you’ve been wronged. Another way of thinking about this is being unwilling to forgive an offense.

-Rejoicing at wrongdoing/injustice

-ESV says “wrongdoing” other translations have “injustice.” This is not celebrating when someone who is created in the image of God is treated poorly

-That’s what love ISN’T let’s take a look at what love IS.

-Patient

-Long-suffering, understanding, opposite of irritable and resentful. This is someone who won’t let circumstances dictate their responses.

-Have you ever had the privilege of going on a cross culture missions trip? Joining up with brothers and sisters from across the world who seem SO much more content with their life than I am here. They’re patient even in how God is working in their lives.

-“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Chuck Swindoll

-Kind

-loving, merciful. Opposite of rude/irritable. 

-Do you know anyone who just never seems shaken up? They’ve got an inner core that’s always at peace. No matter what happens they’re kind to everyone.

-Rejoices with the truth

-This is the one that most stood out to me this time reading through these characteristics. Because our world likes to define love VERY differently than this! You’ve probably even heard people talk about sharing MY truth. You can speak of your experience, but there is 1 truth. And all truth finds its consummation in the source of all truth, Jesus. 

-We should be on the lookout for truth around us, celebrate it, and find out how it points us to the ultimate source of truth in Jesus. Christmas is a GREAT time to be reminded of this. Our neighbors are decorating, presents are being bought, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and it’s an opportunity to talk about the reason we all celebrate Christmas. Look for and utilize those opportunities! 

-Bears all things

-Love means being willing to be burdened for someone else. It may mean you emotionally help them carry the weight of their emotional issues.

-Ever had some issue that comes up that feels like it’s literally weighing you down, then sharing that emotional weight with someone else feels like the weight is lifted off your chest?

-Believes all things

-Do you assume the best in others, or do you approach everything they do with suspicion? Our world views everything through the lens of suspicion today! We’re not supposed to. Doesn’t mean be foolish, but if we’re extending love to others, we’ll hope for the best in them.

-Hopes all things

-Can you imagine never giving up hope?? Even when it feels like there’s not a chance in the world, love convinces you to continue on.

-Brothers and sister – I realize Christmas/Thanksgiving may be difficult for you if you’ve got estranged relationships, this text is reminding us to not give up hope. Pray, seek reconciliation, and trust God’s sovereign guiding hand.

-Endures all things

-Summarizes everything else, it will endure forever! Which you’ll see in the next section.

-The crazy thing about these characteristics is all of them are meant to be descriptive of us! So you should be able to replace “love” in these verses with “I am.” Just think about that. I am…

-God gets to define what love is because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

-Then the world gets to determine whether or not we’re Christians by how we love. (John 13:34)

-This is meant to be true individually, yes, but it’s also meant to be descriptive of us as the church. In fact, Jesus says in the previous verse that our love demonstrated visibly is meant to serve as a witness/example to the world of what God’s love looks like. That’s super hard to read/think, isn’t it? It seems like our world generally thinks of Christians as the opposite of these descriptions (some of it is because of our commitment to the truth). But similar to the gentleness idea we saw in Phil. 4, what would it look like for us to grow in love for God and each other over the next year?

-Love lived is demonstrated by these both positive and negative characteristics. But here’s the even more incredible part, compared to even the most miraculous spiritual gifts we saw, love is more important, because love lasts.

  • Love Lasts (8-13)

-Look at that first phrase: love never ends. When will it end? NEVER

-I remember trying to comprehend eternity when I was growing up, and it would freak me out. I’m so used to having an end point, it’s TERRIFYING to really sit down and think about forever. But because God is love, and God is eternal, so love is eternal. 

-At some point, prophecies will be done because we’ll be with Jesus! At some point tongues will stop because we’ll be able to understand each other. At some point knowledge/understanding won’t be necessary because we’ll be with God. But love? Love will still be going strong. 

-The reason for this is because we only know partially. These next few verses are different ways of saying the same point: right now we can’t see everything as it SHOULD be, we can only see/comprehend partially, we see glimpses, but only the rough outline, like looking in a distorted mirror.

-Think of how the world would be viewed through the lens of a child. Their perspective, their views are so profoundly influenced and shaped by their parents and what their parents expose them to. Calvin’s starting to ask questions about heaven and why Jesus had to die, and why people used spears on him, and Cara and I have to try to figure out how to explain it in a way a 4-year-old will understand. He one time asked me if God could pick up our house. 

-Do you ever view your questions of God like that? I don’t think I think of God the same way my 4-year-old does, I would hope that my perspective is a little farther and broader than his, but in God’s eyes 33 and 4 aren’t that much different! 

-“Even as I have been fully known.” God knows everything about you, and He still loves you. We’ll never fully know God (part of the reason we get eternity with Him), but he fully knows you and still sent Jesus to die for you. Christian, you’ve got nothing to hide today, nothing to prove, nothing to do that Jesus hasn’t already done.

-This love is something we get to tangibly see, taste, and touch when we celebrate communion together. 

-And we drink this cup and eat this bread together to remind us that our love for God needs to be visibly demonstrated by our love for each other. Our love is the way God works in and through each other to continue drawing us to Himself. 

-Because Christ is perfectly lovely, he can make even unworthy and unlovely people like you and me perfectly lovely.

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