Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


True Love - Part 1

1Corinthians 13:1-4

There are a few times for a pastor teaching through the Word of God when a real defining moment arrives. I feel we are at one of those places today. Often times people want a key to becoming a mature Christian. I believe we have such a key before us today. But make no mistake, what we are about to look at may seem simple but it is by no means easy. To fully understand and apply the elements of what is contained in this chapter will forever change you as a person and rewrite some things that we think make us mature.

1st Corinthians 13 is probably one of the best known chapters in the Bible, or at least verses 4 through 8 are extremely well known. When we hear them we think of violins swelling, wedding vows being spoken, and romance in the air. But taken in its context, this chapter forms a sharp rebuke to how the Corinthian church was acting when it came to worshiping God, and it helps inform us of how short we really come to acting like God, who is love (1 John 4:16).

So before we get into the chapter let?s look first at the world?s definition of love.

World?s Definition of Love

Love is a feeling of closeness to someone else. Love is romance. Love is the physical union between two humans. Love is defined as ?a strong positive emotion of regard or affection.? Love is something you give, and hope it is given back in response. Love means never having to say you?re sorry.

Our idea of love, no matter how vaunted, is but at best an echo or at worst perversion of what God means by love. The problem is that we try to imitate God without being like God. You can?t fix this age; you can?t create real love out of people who can?t really love. You can only show our weakness and God?s ability to bring about His character in us.

As we begin, keep in mind that Paul is in the middle of speaking to the Corinthians about ?matters of the spirit.? They were misunderstanding and misusing spiritual gifts. It was about their show and their impressiveness and ultimately their place of prominence. Paul says the gifts are an important part of the work of the body of Christ, but that body must work with a certain motivation and attitude and towards a certain purpose that is counter to the way these people, and often us, act.

I want to break this chapter up into three parts: 1. Love isn?t about us 2. Love is about relationships, and 3. Love is the hallmark of a maturing apprentice

1 ? 3 Love Isn?t About Us

Paul is saying that I can be:

Impressive in speech & knowledge

Powerful in faith & the supernatural

Great in acts of humanity

I might be impressive, put on a good show, and even seem giving? but without real love I am nothing and all of my giving gains me nothing. This by and of itself should bring us up short. You mean that the greatest acts of charity that we see today are not love? They can be, depending on the attitude and purpose of the giver. And without God, you are wasting your time.

Remember that: Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment;

You can?t fix this age; you can only put it to death and resurrect it through Jesus Christ! Our problem is that in our default human nature we?d rather be impressive, knowledgeable, powerful, and even giving?than loving. It?s because love isn?t about us and it can hurt and humble and our flesh fights against that. Might I go so far as to say that we are often so busy being ?spiritual? that we have no room for true love.

Next, Paul talks about what real love is. The characteristics listed in verses 4 ? 7 are the opposite of the attitudes in 1 ? 3. Now I could go into the definitions of love in the Bible?eros, phileo, and agape, but I think that this chapter probably more than any other, actually defines love in a much more meaningful way.

4 ? 8a Love Is About Relationships

This is of course a well-known section in our heads but is it well known in our hearts? Our first reaction is to just brush over the words as some syrupy sweet nicey nicey feel good bunch of platitudes. But the words and their opposites reveal to us 1) the character of God and 2) what we should be like as little Christs. We also tend to think of these in terms of black and white, either or. But in reality the subtle differences between the positive and negative reveals much about our spiritual condition.

8 positives, 8 negatives

Love is as much what it is not, as it is what it is. As we talk about these characteristics I want to address the two important relationships we have?with God, and with others around us.

Patient ? Short tempered

How is our impatience with God not love? When God doesn?t answer us or come through we begin to get testy because we want things done our way when we say. We know as Christians in our head that ?my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts? (Isaiah 55:9) but in our heart it doesn?t make sense.

How is our impatience with others not love? Are you known for having a short fuse? Do you start getting anxious and testy when people don?t respond in the way or the time you want? That?s impatience.

What does patience with God look like? When the Bible talks about patience and waiting for the Lord it uses terms like: courage, ?let your heart be strong? (Ps 27:14), ?be silent? (Ps 37:7), ?keep His way? (Ps 37:34), getting what we need ?in the right time? (Ps 104:27), Isaiah 30:18 talks about being ?happy? if we wait on the Lord. James 1 talks about the Lord building the ability to have patience in us through trials but that we should ?let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.? (NKJ).

What does patience with those around us look like? 1 Thess 5:12 ?Be patient with everyone.? It?s the same word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 13 and it means the opposite of short tempered. In fact, looking at the verses around verse 12:

1 Thess 5:13-15 Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.  

There is so much to be said from these verses but I want to point out that Paul is telling them not to avoid difficult things, but to have God?s perspective?that in everything act with redemption in mind. Others are not as far along as you. Don?t look down on them, but assist them with great patience.

Would we all be known as the people of the long fuse!

Kind ? Unmoved

The word ?kind? is used only here, but comes from a root that means ?to be employed.? The word means to show yourself useful. How is this a characteristic of love? Love looks out for the needs of others.

Phil 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

How are we not being useful to God? One way is when we close off our heart to His desire to work in us or when we turn away from wanting to think, speak, and act like Him to go our own way.

We are unkind towards others when we are unmoved by the plight of others, and I?m not just talking about doing acts of charity. I think that when we see someone else hurting and refuse to comfort, we are being unkind. When someone is struggling and we turn away because it?s just too much work.

So, in conclusion, these first two love-words are about attitudes and responses. If we want to be filled with God?s character then we need to have the same attitude God has towards us that (Rom 5:10) ?while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son?

God looks out for our interests and waits patiently for us to turn to Him and He is always working redemptively in our lives?would we do the same in our relationship with God and with those around us!