How Can I Express Love?
Explore the Bible Series
July 18, 2010
Lesson Passage: I Corinthians 13:1-13
Last week, I misread the Background Passage, and, as a result, the lesson outlined I Corinthians Thirteen. Please forgive the error and the confusion created by the outline. I copied the pertinent materials for you below.
I. Love: The More Excellent Way (13:1-13): This chapter may seem like a departure from the overriding theme of the lesson, but, indeed, it serves a critical purpose in Paul’s argument concerning spiritual gifts. Apparently, the Corinthian church experienced some controversy over spiritual gifts, and Paul included this section to correct the divisions. Vaughan and Lea outline the chapter under three heads.
A. The necessity of love (vv. 1-3): No Christian can properly exercise a spiritual gift without the essence of love. You may speak in tongues, prophecy, possess the gift of faith, and evidence extraordinary generosity (the gift of helps); however, you will have no profit from these gifts if you don’t love people.
B. The excellence of love (vv. 4-8a): The apostle lists several qualities of Christian love (also, I quote here from the NKJV and draw some expository comments from Leon Morris).
1. “love suffers long” (v. 4a): “Love has an infinite capacity for endurance… The word points to patience with people…”
2. “is kind” (v.4b): Love responds to ill-treatment with gracious forgiveness and compassion.
3. “does not envy” (v. 4c): “Love is not displeased with the success of others.”
4. “does not parade itself” (v. 4d): Love is not ostentatious, pretentious. Or filled with empty flattery.
5. “is not puffed up” (v. 4e): Love is not swollen with self-promotion.
6. “does not behave rudely” (v. 5a): Love does not behave in an inappropriate, disrespectable, or dishonorable manner.
7. “does not seek its own” (v. 5b): This admonition echoes a similar principle as “is not puffed up.”
8. “is not provoked” (v. 5c): “Love is not touchy… not easy to take offence.”
9. “thinks no evil” (v. 5d): “love is always ready to thing the best of people… it does not impute evil.”
10. “does not rejoice in iniquity” (v. 6a): “love takes no joy in evil of any kind.”
11. “rejoices in truth” (v. 6b): “Even love cannot when truth is denied.”
12. “bears all things” (v. 7a): Love does not easily fail. It endures despite hardship and trial.
13. “believes all things” (v. 7b): Love retains its faith in others.
14. “hopes all things” (v. 7c): Love does not see the failure of others as final.
15. “endures all things” (v. 7d): “Love is not overwhelmed, but manfully plays its part whatever the circumstances.”
16. “never fails” (v. 8a): Love never falters or collapses.
C. The perpetuity of love (vv. 8-13): Eventually, all of the spiritual gifts will perish, love endures forever. These gifts serve a “childish” purpose, but, when Christ returns, all things will reach maturity, and, when this occurs, only love will endure.
Personal Note: Chapter Thirteen is the most elevated, noble description of Christian love contained in all of Scripture; yet, some readers may feel discouraged about their own failures to live up to the high standards Paul expresses. I encourage all of God’s people to strive for these dignified principles, but I also encourage a careful balance to the thoughts expressed in this chapter
Surely, Paul was no hypocrite. He lived by his own counsel, but there were times when even the apostle dealt with adversaries in a strident manner. I list a few examples.
1. Paul’s conflict with Barnabas (See Acts 15:36-41)
2. Paul’s confrontation with Simon Peter (See Galatians 2:11-14)
3. Paul’s anathema on those who preached a different gospel (See I Corinthians 16:21) and Galatians 1:8)
4. Paul’s condemnation of Phyletus, Hymenaus, and Alexander (See I Timothy 2:20; II Timothy 2:17, and 4:14)
Look, I have no interest in promoting church divisions or conflict; nor, however, do I think the Bible requires Christians to submit to certain types of behavior. Again, I list an example or two.
1. The Bible, in my judgment, does not require Christians to condone or tolerate blatantly sinful behavior.
2. I have come to believe that the Bible does not demand that Christians submit themselves to the demeaning, abusive, demoralizing, or dehumanizing behavior of others.
3. In summary, experience has taught me that love is a two-way street. It’s difficult to live by Paul’s principles unless others agree with this covenant of love and all order their lives according to these directives. In fact, that seems the point of Paul’s observations—these principles govern the community of faith, a community committed to treating one another with mutual respect, dignity, forgiveness, and grace.