I recently preached a sermon 1 Cor 13 at our church in Naperville, Cross of Christ Fellowship. Here’s the notes:
1 Corinthians 13 “A CHURCH MARKED BY LOVE”
Intro: When you think about what is really important for a local church, what comes to your mind? What rises to your top as the most important? Dynamic preaching? People in your own stage of life? Programs for children? Great leaders? Growing in size? Focus on poor and overlooked in the community? Deep teaching?
These are not bad things, but we learn today in 1 Cor 13 that LOVE is even more important for a local church. The local church must prioritize love for one another, even above amazing spiritual gifts and ministries. A healthy, biblical church is where members tenderly and sacrificially love one another in all they do. This is God’s design and vision for His people.
-QUESTION: Is this our vision? Will we allow this priority to shape how we do ministry and life together? I pray we will, and that we would be a church marked by how its members tenderly love one another.
-CONTEXT: 1 Cor 13 is NOT a marriage ceremony passage.Original context is for the local church
-Church at Corinth had major issues
-One issues was how to rightly use gifts.
-Paul addresses this in ch 12 and 14. In the middle we find chapter 13 “the LOVE” chapter.
-The “more excellent way”: love regulating how we use the gifts and live together
-CONFUSION TODAY OVER THE TERM LOVE: “Love is love” people say, and we shouldn’t judge. For many, love is merely an emotion we feel, one that comes over us and we can’t control. We fall in love with someone, and we are encouraged to follow our feelings. We fall out of love and move on. The Bible has a different approach. Love is not mainly an emotion that overcomes us, but rather a posture or action we take toward another. Leon MORRIS: “The Christians thought of love as that quality we see on the cross. It is a love for the utterly unworthy, a love that proceeds from a God who is love. It is a love lavished on others without a thought whether they are worthy or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, not from any attractiveness in the beloved.”
-The Bible calls us to this biblical approach to love: a sacrificial love for the other. The local church, if it is to follow God’s design, must be shaped and marked by love in all of its life, service, and mission together. We must prioritize love, or we lose everything.
1 Cor 13 Layout: 1. Love’s Indispensability; 2. Love’s Characteristics; 3. Love’s Enduring Nature; 4. Love’s Greatness.
I. Love’s Indispensability (1-3)
-Boat illustration. “Indispensable”=the task is impossible without it. Boat=boating, marshmallows=smores, paint=painting.
*Paul shows us that love is indispensable for life and ministry in a local church.
ORIGINAL CONTEXT: The Corinthian Christians needed this reminder, because they were prioritizing spiritual gifts above love. This led to all kind of problems.
-TODAY: We can prioritize programs, ministries, having people of our own life stage, secondary things above love.
*NOTE: the repeating phrase of 1-3: “But have not love”
-Love is indispensable. If I don’t have love, my acts of ministry or use of gifts are futile.
-Great acts of speaking without love fail (1)
-Speaking in tongues=languages we do not know, but the Spirit empowers.
-Without love, great acts of communicate are noisy and painful to hear. They fail at communicating.
-Great sermons, or advise, or counsel or apologetics without love fail.
-Great gifts of prophesy, knowledge, and extraordinary use of faith WITHOUT LOVE fail (2)
-Without love, “I am nothing”
-LOVE is vital in all our teaching, learning, discipling, and preaching.
-Great acts of sacrificial giving, even martyrdom, without love fail (3)
-We can be incredibly generous or sacrificial—even point of death (burned)—but without love, one “gains nothing”
IMPLICATION: Love is INDISPENSABLE. Without love, all of our ministry acts and attempts are futile and empty.
QUESTION: Do you view love as indispensable in the local church? Do you view serving in nursery this way? Or serving at FMSC? Or discipling your children? Or set up/tear down? Or Meetup? Will we let this priority shape us in the future?
II. Love’s Characteristics (4-7)
Going to airport to find someone illustration. Here, Paul describes for us what love for one another in the local church actually looks like. Here’s a very practical ‘how-to’ on pursuing love for each in the local church. 14 (or 15) characteristics.
1. Love is patient
2. Love is kind;
3. Love does not envy
4. Love does not boast;
5. Love is not arrogant
6. Love is not rude.
7. Love does not insist on its own way;
8. Love is not irritable
9. Love is not resentful;
10. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
11. Love bears all things,
12. Love believes all things,
13. Love hopes all things,
14. Love endures all things
-JESUS: THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF LOVE. Restate with Jesus is…
-QUESTION: Which of these characteristics do you most lack? How might God be leading you to grow in these?
-Does our church look like this? (yes, but we can grow individually and corporately)
-We will seek these characteristics as we press on this summer and Fall?
III. Love’s Endurance (8-12)
Planet of the Apes illustration (Statue of Liberty endured). Here, Paul wants the Corinthians and us to see the ENDURING NATURE OF LOVE. Other spiritual gifts may be useful, but they are temporary; love lasts and endures into eternity.
-Unending love (8-10)
-Love never ends (8)
-The spiritual gifts God has given us for this age are temporary (8b)
-Even our use of these gifts only gives us partial knowledge (9-10)
-“Perfect comes” refers to the return of Jesus.
-Putting away the childish ways (11)
-Childish and immature ways of using gifts. Learning to be mature through LOVE
-Our partial knowledge in this life and the coming glorification (12)
-Even know our best glimpses are “in a mirror” dimly and “in part”
-One day we’ll know fully even as we’ve been fully known. A kind of fuller knowing than we’ve ever imagined
ADORATION: God fully knows us. Knows every fear, every hope, every joy, every hurt.
-OVERARCHING POINT: Other gifts are temporary, but love endures. See gifts and ministries in this light.
–LOVE IS OUR DESTINATION: JONATHAN EDWARDS: “Heaven is a world of love”
IV. Love’s Greatness (13)
At the conclusion of this chapter, Paul shows us the greatness of love.
-The three things that “abide” in this life: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
-The “GREATEST” of these: but the greatest of these is love.
-Love is the greatest! One day faith will be sight, one day our hope of eternal life will be experienced. But love continues and will grow and become more and more purified
-WHY IS LOVE THE GREATEST? Because God is love (1 John 4:8). And in the gospel God has shown us His love:
-1 John 4:10 “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his on to be the propitiation for our sins”
PAUL’S APPLICATION: given in 1 Cor 14:1a: “PURSUE LOVE”
We need God to help us pursue love for each other in the coming months and years. We need His grace!
MARRIED COUPLE AND CHURCH ANALOGY
Married Couple’s initial feelings of excitement and thrill.
-Question: Will they show love for each other even when honeymoon stage passes?
CHURCH: Might be initial excitement (programs, mission, persons).
-Question: Will we show genuine sacrificial love for each other even when feelings are absent?
CONCLUSION: EMBRACING GOD’S VISION FOR THE CHURCH
God’s design for the local church is that its members would show a genuine and sacrificial love for one another.