One challenge with preaching on a familiar text, like 1 Corinthians 13, is that it’s…familiar. When a text is so widely known, the danger for me is to try to be cute or “original”. You know what I mean…try to do something no one else has done. Well, with true biblical preaching, that’s a very serious danger. There’s ‘nothing new under the sun’ and originality is not always the best when preaching historical texts. The author’s original intent and reading the text the way the original hearers would’ve heard it inherently means, that nothing is original. So, when preaching on this text, this past Sunday, I worked hard to keep the Corinthian Church in the backdrop and draw some conclusions for us from that.
Now, this does not mean that we shouldn’t do ‘one off’ sermons or studies of various chapters. We could certainly do this if we’re doing a systematic study of what the Bible says about ‘love’ and 1 Corinthians 13 would be at the forefront for that type of study. But, when preaching expositionally, through books, keeping things in context really matters.
The heart of 1 Corinthians:
What I find fascinating about 1 Corinthians 13, is that it’s like the apex or mountaintop of Paul’s instructions for this church. He wrote them because there were divisions among them and his remedy is Christian love for one another. We’ve seen it throughout the book…from their disagreements about leaders to their differences in spiritual gifts. Paul called them to honor one another, defer to one another, and respect one another. In short, love one another is the answer to what sickened them. What a great lesson for us. That’s why I tried to stick so closely to the historical context.
Love is and love is not:
Often when this text is preached, there are definitions given for each of the various descriptions of love. Greek words are discussed and grammar/syntax is utilized to help us see what Paul is describing. Due to our time on Sunday, I didn’t have the time to do that. But one thing you did notice was that I wanted to put each of the descriptions against the backdrop of the Corinthian Church.
Further, it seems to me that each description is pretty self-explanatory, except for maybe a few of them. For instance, I don’t need to describe to you how love is patient or kind. Nor does there need to be any further explanation on what it means that love does not seek its own.
But one thing I do want to make sure we notice about love is the last run of phrases that Paul uses in vs. 7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I found this quote by A.C. Thiselton really helpful: “Love never tires of support, never loses faith, never exhausts hope, never gives up. Never gives up points to the third stanza of this chapter in which ‘love never ends.’ It is not only Paul’s example, however, that inspires these words; the love of Christ never gives up: “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).” Now, what I find interesting in this, is the trust and belief in the Spirit of God’s work in other Christians that is found in these verses. “Believes all things” doesn’t mean we’re gullible. It means we believe that the Spirit of God is working in the other person and He will deal with them, if necessary. This allows us to ‘never give up’. I find these words very helpful. First, there helpful because it reminds me that God will never quit on me! Second, I can be committed to working through ‘hard things’ with other brothers/sisters, because God is committed to them and to me. Finally, the other person is not ultimately my responsibility…they’re God’s…and they are in His good care and timing. My job…is to love them well in Christ.
For Further Study:
Now, in your own time, it would be good to study these texts about what love does:
- 1 John 3:16-17
- James 2:8-17
- James 5:19-20 (and compare this to Proverbs 10:12 and 1 Peter 4:8)
This coming week:
We’ll stay in 1 Corinthians 13 and finish up with vs. 8-13.
From the Cheap Seats:
- Sergio Aguero is Manchester City’s all-time leading scorer. This past Saturday, with a chance to put the Premier League on ice, he had a penalty kick fail. But the response of his teammate Raheem Sterling, after the match, is a sign of a great teammate: https://www.givemesport.com/1688560-man-city-12-chelsea-sterlings-classy-response-after-aguero-apologises-for-failed-panenka (shared by Chris Guastaferro).
- This is the last week of the regular season for our baseball season. UVC split with Glide this past week and it comes down to the last 2 league games to determine the league champion. As one AD wrote recently, “any league season that comes down to the last week, is a great league season.” I would agree, even though I felt we should’ve put things to bed this last week. But oh well. We’re getting better at the right time.
- Before this past weekend, the Mariners had beaten the Rangers 8 straight. But 2 out of 3 from our Pacific Northwest enemies, is always good. Especially because there are lots of Mariner fans in our church:).
Finally, CLF, your response to the need for VBS workers is amazing. One Sunday we make a plea for help, the following Sunday, we’ve got the teachers we need and there’s only a few things left. We cannot thank you enough! God has been so good to us in giving us Jesus…and in the Church, God has been good to give us you! We’re very grateful for you.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.