SPIRITUAL MINISTRY MUST FLOW THROUGH THE CHANNEL OF LOVE
MacArthur: It is easier to be orthodox than to be loving, and easier to be active in church work than to be loving. . . Chapter 13 is the central chapter in Paul’s lengthy discussion of spiritual gifts (chaps. 12-14). Chapter 12 discusses the endowment, receipt, and interrelatedness of the gifts. Chapter 14 presents the proper exercise of the gifts, especially that of languages. In this middle chapter we see the proper attitude and atmosphere, the proper motive and power, the “more excellent way” (12:31), in which God has planned for all of the gifts to operate. Love is certainly more excellent than feeling resentful and inferior because you do not have the showier and seemingly more important gifts. It is also more excellent than feeling superior and independent because you do not have those gifts. And it is more excellent than trying to operate spiritual gifts in your own power, in the flesh rather than in the Spirit, and for selfish purposes rather than for God’s.
I. (:1-3) IN THE EXERCISE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS, NOTHING CAN COMPENSATE FOR A LACK OF LOVE –
MINISTRY WITHOUT LOVE FAILS IN 3 AREAS:
A. (:1) No Reception of Revelation . . . Just Annoying Noise of Proclamation
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
B. (:2) No Spiritual Impact . . . Just Empty Knowledge and Faith
“And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
C. (:3) No Eternal Reward . . . Just Meaningless Sacrifice
“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Stedman: In the next section the apostle goes on to show us that love must be practical. Love is not an ethereal thing; it is not just an ideal you talk about. It is something that takes on shoe leather and moves right down into the normal, ordinary pursuits and aspects of life. That is where love is to be manifest. Nothing is more helpful, in reading a chapter like this, than to ask yourself the question. “Am I growing in love? Looking back over a year, am I easier to live with now? Am I able to handle people more graciously, more courteously? Am I more compassionate, more patient?” These are the measurements of life. This is why we were given life, that we might learn how to act in love. Nothing else can be substituted for it. There is no use holding up any other quality we possess if we lack this one. It is the paramount goal of every human life, and it is well to measure yourself from time to time along that line.
II. (:4-7) IN THE EXERCISE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS, LOVE CAN COMPENSATE FOR A MYRIAD OF DEFICIENCIES –
15 WAYS LOVE PROMOTES EFFECTIVE MINISTRY:
1. Love is Patient
Leake: be inconvenienced; allow yourself to be taken advantage of by others without getting angry; be slow to anger; be aware of the faults of others but still show love and care; help to preserve the unity in the church; Eph 4:2; 2 Pet 3 – look at how God views time; Rom. 2:4; Eph. 5:3-5; Listen well Prov. 18:13; show patience with newer believers and with unsaved friends and in discipling others; spiritual learning is a slow process; spiritual leaders must be persistent; patience with correcting our children; patience with traffic; sometimes action is needed or we would be called neglectful; the trouble is when I am in a hurry and God is not; Col. 3:12
2. Love is Kind
Leake: gracious in serving and helpfulness; connotes action of some kind; deeds of kindness; must be shown first in the home; opposite = bickering and sarcasm; recognize that everybody carries a heavy load; unlocks hearing for the gospel; Ruth showed kindness to Naomi; David to Mephibosheth; kindness is the oil that takes out the friction in the machinery of the church; Prov. 3:3; think of others first; show hospitality; pray for others
Stedman: Notice in that paragraph there are only three positives; all the rest are negatives. So love is really only three simple things, basically. It is patient, it is kind, and it is honest. It rejoices in the right. (The word really is “truth.” It rejoices in the truth.) The quality of love we are talking about is that which produces patience, kindness and honesty. The negatives that are given here are associated with love in the apostles though — because these are the things we must set aside in order to let the love of God, which is patient and kind and honest, manifest itself. We do not have to produce this love in the Christian life. We only have to get the things that are hindering it out of the way. Those are the negatives that are suggested here.
3. Love is not Jealous
Leake: wants what others have – their toys, their popularity; joined with spite and envy; there is a godly form of jealousy – 2 Cor. 11:2; Ex. 34:14; Deut. 4:24 = zealous for the name of God and for the purity of His people
Jealousy is the inability to rejoice when others have success and you do not; robs you of happiness and fruitfulness; cf. Rachel vs Leah over Jacob; Prov. 27:4; first sin in heaven and first murder on earth sparked by jealousy; selfishly possessive; sometimes lazy people are jealous; they feel that others owe them; you can see it in their countenance; they turn into backstabbers in the church; their success should be your success – Phil. 2; James 3:16; Rom. 13:13 – coupled with arguments and strife
4. Love does not Brag
Leake: talk conceitedly; gloat; show off; trash talk; if it is all of God’s grace there is no room for bragging; empty yourself; Paul viewed himself as a servant; 1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Pet. 5:6; Mark 9:35; Phil. 2:17
5. Love is not Arrogant
Leake: Humility involves lowliness of mind; 1 Pet. 5; lower your view of yourself; Romans and Greeks saw no use for humility – they valued power, control, intellectualism; 1 Cor. 1:26-30; 2 Cor. 10:17-18; 11:30; we like to commend ourselves; but should boast only in our weakness = the things that I can’t do; 12:9 – we need the power of Christ; don’t take pride in our knowledge of Scripture and the conclusions we come to; church leaders need to watch out for pride in themselves; how do you receive correction? Do you need to be at the center of attention? Are you always bragging about your children? Do you need to be seen as one of the cool ones? Do you associate with the lowly?
6. Love does not act Unbecomingly
7. Love does not Seek Its Own
8. Love is not Provoked
9. Love does not Take into Account a wrong suffered
Goins: Love doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered; it isn’t resentful. “Take into account” is a bookkeeping term. It means to calculate something, as when entering numbers into a journal or a ledger. It’s to keep a permanent financial record. That’s good practice in business, but in human relationships that’s a bad thing. It’s very destructive to keep records of imagined or real slights against us, because it means we end up living with indignation toward other people, holding a grudge, feeling victimized by an affront or personal injury. We must remember that God does not view us this way. God is not a record-keeping God. And love won’t keep records against other people. It never evaluates people that way.
10. Love does not Rejoice in Unrighteousness
11. Love Rejoices With the Truth
12. Love Bears All Things
13. Love Believes All Things
14. Love Hopes All Things
15. Love Endures All Things
Goins: Finally, love endures all things. Literally that means to stay under pressure. It’s a military term that means to hold a position at all costs, even unto death, whatever it takes. So love holds fast to people it loves. It perseveres. It never gives up on anyone. Love won’t stop loving, even in the face of rejection.
III. (:8-13) THE CAPSTONE OF THE SUPREMACY OF LOVE = ITS PERMANENCE AND VALUE
A. (:8A) Promise of Permanence for Love
“Love never fails”
MacArthur: Love cannot fail because it shares God’s nature and God’s eternity.
B. (:8B) Contrast with the Transitory Nature of Spiritual Gifts
1. Example of Gift of Prophecy
“but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away”
2. Example of Gift of Tongues
“if there are tongues, they will cease”
3. Example of Gift of Knowledge
“if there is knowledge, it will be done away”
MacArthur: Prophecy and knowledge will be stopped by something outside themselves (the coming of the perfect), but the gift of tongues will stop by itself. . . Tongues will have ceased at an earlier time (when the New Testament was completed).
C. (:9-12) Supremacy of Full Revelation Over Partial Revelation
1. (:9-10) Full Knowledge Will Replace Partial Knowledge
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
2. (:11) Maturity Preferred Over Immaturity
“When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things”
3. (:12) Full Knowledge Will Replace Partial Knowledge
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
Piper: My conclusion is that the contrast between seeing fuzzily in an old mirror made out of metal and seeing face to face is not a contrast between first century spiritual knowledge and the knowledge we have from the New Testament today, but rather it’s a contrast between the imperfect knowledge we have today in this age and the awesome personal knowledge of God we will have when the Lord returns.
D. (:13) Supremacy of the Value of Love Over Even Faith and Hope
1. The Top Three Christian Virtues
“But now abide faith, hope, love, these three;”
2. The Winner is. . .
“but the greatest of these is love.”
MacArthur: Love is the greatest of these not only because it is eternal, but because, even in this temporal life, where we now live, love is supreme. Love already is the greatest, not only because it will outlast the other virtues, beautiful and necessary as they are, but because it is inherently greater by being the most God-like. God does not have faith or hope, but “God is love” (1 John 4:8).