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LOVE IS…

1 Corinthians 13:1-13:13
Key Verse: 13:4

Paul preached the gospel in the city of Corinth during his missionary journey, and as a result Corinthian church was established. But after his leaving, he heard that so many problems arose in that church. So he wrote this letter in order to resolve the problems of the church. In chapter 12, Paul dealt with the problem of spiritual gifts because it caused disorder and troubles in the body of Christ. Now Paul said in 12:31b. “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Then in chapter 13 he began to talk about love. So we must know that love is not the same as the spiritual gifts. But love is the most excellent way that God gave us so that we can build up the body of Christ through our spiritual gifts.

Chapter 13 can be divided into 3 parts.

I. WITHOUT LOVE (1-3) : Superiority of love

II. WHAT LOVE IS (4-7) : Characteristics of love

III. LOVE NEVER FAILS (8-13) : Eternity of love

May God bless us to know what love is and grow as men and women of love.

I. WITHOUT LOVE (1-3)

Let`s read verses 1 to 3 together. `` If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Look at verse 1. Here the tongues of men refer to all kinds of human languages, and the tongues of angels are spiritual languages used in gifts of tongue speaking mentioned in chapter 12. But even if we speak many languages and even the language of angels, what does Paul say? I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbals without love. Gong and cymbals are music instruments that make big noise. It does harm than good when it is practiced without love. Look at verse 2. “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Gift of prophecy is about knowing all mysteries and all knowledge. Also, it is great to have such a faith that can move mountains. By saying, “If I”, Paul implies that God gave him such a great gift and such a great faith. But what does he say? I am nothing without love. Nothing means zero. Look at verse 3. “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” The gift of giving is beautiful, and if someone even give his life to others, what a great thing it is. But Paul said that even by doing that, I gain nothing without love. Without love even such great spiritual gifts, such a great faith and great deeds mean nothing. By comparing love with other spiritual gifts, Paul emphasized the superiority of love. Love is what we have to focus as of first importance.

In Greek, the word for love here is “agape.” In English, there is only one word for love. But at that time the Greeks have several other words for love, such as Eros, Philos, and Agape.

1. Eros, or erotic love, is sensual love between a man and a woman. It’s often a selfish sort of love, a concern for a person who can do something for me.

2. Philos, friendship, family love, is mainly concerned with those closest to us. It can be the highest level of human love.

3. Agape is a rare word in secular Greek. It is derived from God’s love and means selfless, sacrificial and unconditional.

In this passage Paul used agape when he talked about love. This agape love is the love of God. God is love, and love came from God. 1John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We can come to know true love when we know the love of God. Then what is God’s love? God’s love is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. This love of God was demonstrated through the cross of Jesus. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we are still sinners, Christ died for us.” Until we know this love of God, our soul can never be satisfied. Eros love, and even Philos love cannot satisfy us. Only when we receive the love of God can we live truly happy life. When we have this agape love, we can have true love for others and build up the body of Christ and serve God’s purpose with spiritual gifts God gave us. This is the most excellent way to build up the body of Christ.

Our labour day leaders’ conference is coming, and I heard that the theme of this conference is about the spiritual gifts. I pray that we may find and develop spiritual gifts God gave to each of us and use them in the most excellent way to build up the body of Christ, our church.

II. WHAT LOVE IS (4-7)

In verses 4-7, we can learn about 15 characteristics of love. It is easy to think of love as abstract concept because it is invisible and untouchable. But here Paul tells us very clearly what love is and what love is not. Someone said that love is not `noun` but `verb.` Let’s think about them one by one. Look at verse 4a. “Love is patient, love is kind.” This is two positive aspects of love. It is interesting to know that ‘patient’ is on the top of the list. It is because patience is the most basic thing for us to grow in love. Patience means ‘longsuffering.’ It takes time and effort to love others. But fruit of love can be produced through patience. We can see that all the great men of God bore fruits of love through patience, such as Abraham, Moses, David, and even our Lord Jesus Christ who endured the cross. Love is kind. When we become patient, God forms the character of kindness in our heart. Kind person is soft and humble and considerate of others. In verse 4b to 6, Paul lists what love is not. “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” We realize that we do not have love within us. Instead, we have what is not love. Our agony is that we cannot overcome our sinful nature with our own human strength. The more we try to overcome, the more we realize that we cannot overcome them with our human strength. That is why we need to know God and his agape love. When we come to God with humble heart and seek his love, God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The power of his love heals our hearts and restores our love for God and for our neighbors.

Look at verse 7. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.“ When our hearts are filled with God`s love, we can always protect, always trust, always hopes, and always persevere in our relationship with others.

III. LOVE NEVER FAILS (8-13)

Look at verse 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.“ There will be the time when prophecies cease, tongues are stilled, and knowledge passes away. Why is it so? Look at verse 9 and 10. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. “ This perfection comes in the time of Jesus` return. When Jesus comes again, all the imperfect things such as prophesy, tongues and knowledge will disappear. But love never fails. Love will remain forever because our God is love, and our God is eternal.

Look at verse 11. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.“ When we become adults, we leave our childish ways behind us because we realize that they are not so important as we thought. We come to know what is really important. In the same way, as we grow mature as Christians, we come to realize that love is what matters most, and the love of God is what we really need in our life. Look at verse 12. “Now we see but a poor reflection s in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.“ At that time, mirror was made of bronze, and it was not as clear as what we have now. It had poor reflection and distorted image. That is how we understand God and his love at present. But when the time comes, we will see face to face, and know God and his love fully, as God knows us fully.

In conclusion, let`s read verse 13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. “ Faith and hope are important. We must continue to grow in faith, and we should never lose hope in the kingdom of God. But we must focus on love in our life because the greatest of these is love. When we love God and love our neighbors, we fulfill all the law of God, and we can truly become blessing to others and build up the body of Christ.

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