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The Preeminence of Love

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I think it’s very interesting how Paul put 1 Corinthians 13 right before his discussion about prophecy and tongues in chapter 14.  Those two gifts, especially tongues, seemed to cause the most issue in Corinth.  And…they’re still an issue today.  That’s why we need the love chapter so desperately.  

Eternity past to Eternity future:

My hope this past Sunday was to let God’s word elevate our hearts to the reality that love was present in God, before time, and it will be present after time, in heaven.  And I wanted us to see that when God’s love penetrated this world with Jesus’ coming, it gives us as Christians the example and power to show forth God’s love to a world that needs it.  

And I wanted to raise our eyes upward because so often, in the Church and in the world, things are anything but loving.  There’s division, church splits, fights, unresolved conflicts, etc., and we see so little of it.  Not to mention our attitudes and actions with non-Christians that we disagree with.  Christians can be mean, condemning, and very critical.  

But 1 Corinthians 13 presents us with a compelling picture.  We can stand for truth, righteousness, and God’s holiness while living in love and speaking in love.  We can do all these things in love.  And the reason we can is because God is love, and He empowers us to live in love that reflects His character.  

“Love is weak on sin”?

One of the things I said through the years and one of the things I hear people say to me quite a bit is that it seems that love is weak on sin.  So, I want to explore that briefly.  

Years ago, I remember quoting from Romans 2:4, which says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”  And I followed that by saying, “you want to know how God’s kindness leads you to repentance?  By not sending you to hell.”  Well, that statement is true, but it’s not complete.  God’s kindness is His forbearance, long-suffering, patience with us, as He graciously, pointedly, and truthfully deals with our sin.  What God does to us is that He speaks the truth to our hearts, in genuine love, for our benefit.  What I have done is speak the truth, but more to prove people that they’re wrong and I’m right.  Or I’ve spoken the truth to show that I’m a standard-bearer for truth.  Or I’ve spoken the truth because I don’t want to be seen as a compromiser.  While those might be good motivations, they’re not enough.  The standard…is God’s unrelenting, measureless love.  Do I really care for the well-being of others or am I just trying to get some ‘guilt’ off my back?  Am I really concerned that the sin they’re living in could hurt them and others or am I more concerned that they hurt me?  

The kindness and love of God is THE greatest motivator to biblical change.  A sermon that speaks to this was preached by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” (link will take you to the sermon).  In that sermon, Pastor Chalmers talks about how God’s love for us and our love for God, expels sin from our hearts.  

So, here’s what I’ve found through the years of Christian ministry, and of which I am constantly working on.  People respond when they see, hear, and experience a constant, undying, immovable love for them combined with uncompromising truth.  Proverbs 16:6 (NASB) says, “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for,  And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”  Notice…both love and truth, combined

Know who you’re talking to:

To add to this a bit, is something that I’ve also had to learn through the years.  When you look at all the people that Jesus rebuked or dealt strongly with, it was usually religious zealots or self-righteous religious leaders.  He didn’t put up with it.  

But when he dealt with sinners, who were lost, he dealt with them differently.  He was gracious, truthful, forthright, and caring.  You can see this in John 4, with his interaction with the woman at the well. Or with the woman in John 8, caught in adultery.  

Then notice the way that He spoke to His disciples.  Yes, there are moments, when you can almost feel Jesus saying, “how long will you guys keep not getting it?” but mostly, there was grace, mercy, patience.  Take His interaction with Peter in John 21.  

Now, here’s why this is important…love is to always lead the way.  But, I think sometimes as Christians, we get our categories mixed up.  We sharply criticize sinners, we coddle zealots, and we’re impatient with Christians.  Or we care for wolves, comfort swine, and shoot sheep.  When we’re actually supposed to shoot wolves, confront swine, and care for sheep.  Love must win the day in our hearts.  

“When the perfect comes”

The reason why getting this phrase correct is because some famous bible teachers see this phrase as meaning “when the Word of God is completed and the last of the apostles died”.  

My subtle rebuttal to that on Sunday is important to this.  Every indication in 1 Corinthians 13 shows us that gifts cease, when Jesus restores all things because it’s only at that time when the “veil” will be lifted and we will see God face-to-face and will know fully.  

I’m not sure about you, but I know me pretty well.  I have the Bible in my hands everyday and I am grateful for that.  But my knowledge is not as complete as it will be in the day when Jesus is face-to-face.   

This coming week:

We will need 1 Corinthians 13 ‘love’ as we move into 1 Corinthians 14 this coming Sunday.  This week we will look at the gift of prophecy in 14:1-5 and 26-33.  

From the Cheap Seats:

To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.

Have a great week!

In Christ, 

Dave York

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