The Perfect Love -1 | 1 Corinthians 13:1-4

Introduction

The points covered here for the Perfect Love are, The importance of Love, The practice of Love, Love is Kind, Love is patient, Love is not jealous,

Now, some have dubbed this chapter as Paul’s hymn of love, and it is the greatest chapter ever been written on the subject of love.

Further more, Paul is writing about love based on God’s character of love. which is the perfect love.

God’s character of love

1 John 4:8 

God is love.

1 John 4:19

 We love because God first loved us.

Matthew 22:35-39 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question. 36Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” 37Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Romans 13:10

 Love is the fulfillment of the law.

Paul generally wrote his epistles by dictating them to a secretary who wrote what he was dictating. So at this particular point, I am sure his secretary must have dropped his quill and looked up into Paul’s face at the sudden dramatic change in the style of dictation. But here, all of a sudden, you have what is almost a lyrical hymn to love. Between chapter 12 and chapter 14 sits this magnificent, almost poetic gem that Christians have come to call it as the love chapter.

There is a reason why this chapter is right here. As Chapter 12 talks about how God has richly endowed His church with abilities, called spiritual gifts. Then Chapter 14 giving instructions on the specific use of those gifts. And dropped in between those two is this chapter on love because the only environment and the only atmosphere in which these gifts function properly is in the atmosphere of this perfect love. Therefore, love is the right environment in which ministry must happen.

So basically this chapter is for ministry in a church context. And certainly is not really about the kind of love that we associate with sexual attraction – aeros. That is the love that always takes. This is also not really about family love or friendship love – phileo. That is the love that gives and takes. However, the love in this chapter and the love of the Bible is the agape love. That is the love that just gives, the perfect love we are talking about.

Agape love

So we are going to study about this agape love and that love practiced in church, relationships, family, workplace and everywhere where it can be of maximum impact because it is the perfect love.

1. The Importance of love

1 Corinthians 13:1

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. The context is spiritual gifts. He says if a person has spiritual gifts, here talking about the gift of tongues and if the gift is so developed that I can even talk in angelic language and I have no love it is in vain.

1 Corinthians 13:2

 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If a person has all knowledge (there is none so full of knowledge) and he knows all mysteries and there is no love it is in vain. Then he talks about faith. If a person has all faith (none has all faith) and have no love that amounts to nothing. 

1 Corinthians 13:3

 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. If a person is so charitable that he sells all he has and gives it to the poor

I have all faith, the ‘all’ here is an exaggeration which, none can but even if I have all of that and I have no love then it is all noting. Then he talks about surrendering our body to flames. So, if a person is someone’s slave he is taken to the fire and marked with the seal of the master. Even if you become a slave of someone, a men or God and you have no love, then it is of no use.

In the ancient Athens an Indian head burned him-self in public and in his tomb was written – ‘Immortal lies here’. likewise in olden days many religious people burned themselves for immortality. however, no matter what you do for martyrdom or immortality if you do not have this perfect love it is of no use. Therefore, love is the most excellent way.

The importance of love

  1. Love is important than spiritual gifts.
  2. Love is important than knowledge.
  3. Love is important than faith.
  4. Love is importance than money.
  5. Love is important than charity.
  6. Love is more important than sacrifice or martyrdom.

It doesn’t matter what else you have, if you don’t have love, you’re nothing. and we are not talking about just random love, but rather the perfect love.

2. The practice of love

Now, how do we practice this perfect love?

1 Corinthians 13:4 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Now the Bible moves forward from the importance of love to the practice of how. This is a real test of our loving character.

There are fifteen characteristics of acts of love that Paul brings out here. Then, Paul puts this picture of the perfect love in all its beauty like a flower with fifteen petals, against the dirt of the Corinthians’ behaviour, and I hope that we can see the beauty of these characteristics of the perfect love perhaps against some of the dirt in our own behavior.

However, there is only one who has ever lived in this world as a human being, and is the best example of someone with the perfect love. So, who’s that? None other than Jesus Christ!

a. Love is patient

This comes from a Greek word that means – practice of extreme patience with people. It’s not about patience with experiences and Not about patience with personal pain. Nor is patience with people but rather, It describes a person who is extremely slow to anger, who virtually never ever gets angry no matter how people treat that person. above that this person never explodes, never retaliates, never seeks vengeance, and never becomes hostile.

Even Aristotle had a saying on it, also some translates this word as “long tempered” in dealing with those who wrong us. Also in the New Testament it is repeatedly told to function that way: 

Ephesians 4:2

 Be Patient.

1 Thessalonians 5:14

 Be patient with everyone.

Above all the best example is Jesus himself; He was patient with people, even with the ones who rejected Him. Certainly the story of Israel is the record of God’s patient love toward a rebellious, disobedient, sinful, and disloyal people. If God were at all impatient, Israel would have been destroyed. but we see the perfect love in God.

Romans 9:22

 God bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction. Patience is powerful, a powerful feature of love and it is not weakness. Anybody can get mad, anybody can retaliate, anybody can desire vengeance, but love forgives seventy times seven, seventy times a day. That’s what it means that love doesn’t retaliate, that love is patient.

b. Love is kind

1 Corinthians 13:4 

Love is kind

So Paul is taking the first point, patience and adding to it: The perfect love not only does not retaliate, it finds a way to extend kindness instead of vengeance. It certainly doesn’t seek to injure even its enemies, rather it seeks to love, and it seeks the well-being of those who harm.

So, the context here is the church, remember this is where the offenses always happens right? but now this offences are to be received with love and love is patient and love is kind. The root for the word kind is useful, yes useful. The idea rather is that even though one is injured, even though one is mistreated, even though one is hurt or harmed, patience is exhibited and on top of patience usefulness is rendered on behalf of the offender, deeds of kindness that are useful to that person who has offended. Now wouldn’t that be a transformation of most churches and most families?

Paul’s picture of the perfect love

Paul does not picture love in ideal surroundings nor pictures love in the realm of very close and intimate and long-term friendships. He doesn’t picture love in the realm of affection either, but in the hard surroundings of tough people in the church who have come from the world, and are selfish by nature. And even though they have a new nature and longs for holy things, the old is still resident. So basically, this is the atmosphere that we’re talking about here. We are to demonstrate to one another kindness, that is the perfect love. but if you cannot exhibit love in the church how can you show love outside?

See what Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus: Ephesians 4:32 be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. The model of kindness again is God, who demonstrate the perfect love.

Illustration

Two men went two different directions on a precipice on a cliff. then they happen to meet, and the wall was on one side and the cliff was on the other and there was no way that they could pass, they tried every possible way to get by each other and they couldn’t, until one man lied on the ground and the other walked across him. And that’s the way it works in the church.

Therefore, the perfect love is willingness to be walked on if it serves someone else. It’s not about a battle for your rights and what you think you deserve, but rather it’s a battle to see how useful you can be to others, even those who offend you.

b. Love is not jealous

1 Corinthians 13:4 

Love does not envy.

This is the first of eight negatives. Love is not jealous. What was going on in the Corinthian church was jealousy over spiritual gifts. Everyone wanted to have the showy gifts. They were jealous of the gifts that someone else had and what they did not have. So everyone wanted to have the best gifts.

Paul describes the kind of jealously in the church 1 Corinthians 12:15-20 15Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 as it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1 Corinthians 12:21 

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Solomon in Proverbs 14:30: Envy rots the bones.

Love looks at people’s gifts in a complete different way. When love sees someone who is popular, effective, fruitful, gifted, prosperous, rich, appreciated…love is glad, love rejoices. Jealousy hates the fact that that person is so gifted and so well received, and wants what that person has and then wants that person not to have it.

And so, the jealousy burns in the heart and leads to criticism where behind the scenes, the jealous person has to tear down the brother, a fruitful and faithful person. And you really can’t sink lower than that, beloved.

Philippians 1

Apostle Paul here is writing what is called as prison epistle. He is in the jail and it’s a horrible place to be in. This is in the center of the old city, a place underground where the city sewage is running by, only occasionally they would open a pipe and let the sewage drown the prisoners and haul the dead bodies out and put a new batch in. Certainly not a very nice place to be.

However, Paul is there now and so there are some people who says, “Well, Paul got what he deserved, he must have had secret sin that’s why the Lord put him in jail and shut him down. His days are over for sure.”

Seems like, all over the place in the Gentile churches there were young upcoming preachers who were jealous of Paul, and they wanted to believe that he was actually in jail because he deserved to be in jail. 

Philippians 1:15-18

 15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

It’s so sad to think about that because all of those preachers who were carrying that kind of attitude toward Paul were doing what they were doing because of him, right? Also they were either his spiritual children or his spiritual grandchildren.

How in the world could they be so jealous of this faithful man of God, so greatly gifted, so greatly blessed and yet who suffered to greatly? Even more, how could they possibly spread terrible rumors about him, adding pain to his already severe suffering? But they are always there, because I’ve seen them my whole life.

What was Paul’s response? 

Philippians 1:18 

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. So, here were those young preachers who wanted to be in the limelight where Paul was and they were discrediting Paul behind his back. But end even that couldn’t make him angry.

Jealousy is a terrible thing, however, in contrast it won’t destroy Paul, but it will destroy the jealous man. It’s a root of bitterness that is destructive. For it was out of jealousy that Eve ate the fruit wanting to be like God, and it was Out of jealousy that Cain killed Abel. Likewise it was out of jealousy Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers. Out of jealousy the older brother wouldn’t go to the party when the prodigal came home.

Jealousy is evil and devilish

 James 3:15

 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. Chaos will reign. Why? Because jealous people lie and lies create chaos everywhere. Jealousy produces bitterness. Bitterness produces hatred. Hatred produces lies. Lies produce strive and chaos, undermine the work of God.

A loving person, on the other hand, rejoices in everybody else’s success, rejoices in everybody else’s giftedness, celebrates when others do the same thing he does better. That’s a test, isn’t it?

Illustration: 

Probably when Satan fell, he landed in the choir because there were so many people in the choir who were mad all the time because they didn’t get to sing solos.

And there’s only one thing that can save us from envy and that is the perfect love. The only thing that can save us from jealousy, and the only thing that can save us from being unkind and impatient is the perfect love.

Conclusion

Therefore, let’s introspect ourselves based on God’s love. More than anything you do love is important, it is patient and is kind and is is not jealous. so, let’s surrender ourselves and ask God to fill us with his perfect love.