The Greatest of These...
1 Corinthians 13
Greater than Hope? Greater Than Faith? What a glorious gift Love is!
Shared February 10th, 2019; Updated February 10th, 2019
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The Greatest of These.... 2-10-2019 I. INTRO- 1 Corinthians 13 A. This chapter is best known to us as the Love chapter , because it's subject matter is entirely devoted to an exposition on the subject of charity, or love, it contains within these verses, 13 marks of a charitable person, and also 8 separate things that love is not . As we begin to consider the subject this morning we note that it is not really the beginning of such consideration as this is a subject that touches every part of our lives, and we have been under the influences of since the beginning of our lives. Love has many definitions, takes on many forms, and carries with it different expectations; so this chapter is vital to us and our understanding of what Love really is. As people are asked about what love is there are a multitude of answer that return, because everyone looks at the subject a little differently, throw in depravity, Satan's ambiguity, and society's norms and you got a recipe for misunderstanding . So then what is love, how is it practiced, how does it feel, what does it look like, what are the parameters of it, how can we find it, and so on we could go with the questions , but thankfully for every question we have and the countless others that we have yet to even think of the word of GOD has a perfect answer . Unfortunately defining and understanding love in it's truest biblical form does not come naturally to us because of our propensity to mix in the flesh and to rely upon what is normal as defined by the world. Let us consider instead what the bible has to say to us about this glorious subject. B. To love, and be loved — is real happiness. Our highest honor, and our sweetest happiness below — is to be beloved of God. For if God loves us — He will withhold no truly good thing from us. This is our starting point, our genesis in discovery as to the true nature of love. It all begins and ends with GOD and cannot be defined separate from HIM. The love of God is an infinite love — its heights and depths, its breadths and lengths — surpass our knowledge! The whole of His nature and perfections are thrown into His love, therefore He is said to BE LOVE. He cannot love His people more than He does — nor will He love them less! Until we can comprehend infinity and measure eternity — we cannot know the love of God to perfection . Which is what makes HIM the sum and source of all knowledge concerning the subject. If we step back for a moment and consider that God is both the creator and sovereign sustainer of all of creation, this means that apart from GOD man would not know what love is, He would not even have the capacity to love, nor would he have ever known love himself . Imagine a life, an existence really because one could scarcely call it a life, where one lacked the opportunity to either receive or bestow love. Such an existence would be grim and dark to say the least. We do not have such a problem because we have a benevolent creator that has made man in HIS OWN IMAGE which means that we naturally have the capacity both to give and receive love. C. Some may think this subject to be driven by the calendar and the holiday to celebrate love that is on the horizon, and that may partially be the cause, but the greater reason to consider this ever wide and expanding subject is it's connection to HOPE. Over the last few weeks we have made no small effort to discover the glorious nature of HOPE as God delivers it to us through Christ . HOPE, as we have discovered is vital to our success here in this life as we live victoriously for CHRIST. HOPE does not disappoint, is always uplifting, supremely empowering, providentially providing, and serves as a Refuge and Anchor for the soul as we voyage through life. Hope is hard to beat and is so inspiring but notice the connection here in chapter 13:13 . Hope is grand and glorious, along with faith also, but here we are told that there is something even greater than HOPE, which is hard to imagine but non the less true. In conclusion Paul tells us that the greatest of all of these things in LOVE. II. LOVE IS GREATER THAN.... ❤ Spiritual Gifts- Verses 1-2 -Though Spiritual gifts are awesome they are useless and even harmful without LOVE, and should never be sought separate and apart from LOVE. Teaching and preaching are powerful offices but without love they can do much harm and become as useless noise to others. Love is superior to these things in order! Even Faith is mentioned here as Christ spoke of it, to remove mountains, without love it is nothing! ❤ Service- Verse 3 - Service to the Lord is both admirable and God honoring, but when it is done without love, it has no value or profit either to us, others, or the LORD and is hypocritical at best. ❤ Sacrifice- Verse 4 - Sacrifice or the endurance of persecution is equally worthless without love, because without love we can only be motivated by self! ✔ Imagine how many activities that we hold in high regard are covered in these four verses, and how many times we have checked these boxes so to speak, without love! There can be no doubt that the bible places a great importance on the subject of LOVE, it runs through the entire course of its pages and covers the whole of human history. III. A Word about WORDS.... ✔ One of the reasons that we have such a hard time defining what love is, is that we generally have only one word to cover the wide range of emotions and feelings that come to mind when we consider the subject. Greek was not so limited in its expression of this subject and much can be gleaned or understood from thinking about those words. There are FOUR.... ❤ Eros - This is where our English word Erotic comes from and is used to describe erotic, or sexual love and is not used in the NT. ❤ Storge- This is Family love, Parents-child, brother-sister, and other family. Many examples of it in scripture particularly in OT where the language is different but the concept is the same. A compound is used in Romans 12:10 which shows the direction of this love. ❤ Phila- As in the church of Brotherly love, Philadelphia, this is brotherly love/affection and is often used in scripture as it refers to man's love one to another. This like the others can be a very strong and powerful love, one that motivates and cares but the highest degree that man is capable of on his own. ❤ Agape- This is the way that GOD loves and is described as an unchanging , uncompromising , unconditional love that gives without expecting or demanding repayment. ✔It loves even when rejected ✔It loves the unlovable or unappealing ✔It gives and loves because it wants to, not has to ✔It gives not to receive ✔Not based in emotion, circumstance, or convenience IV. LOVE greater than HOPE????? ✔ Now having an understanding of the importance of love, and the use of the word, let us look to verse 13 and look at the Apostles concluding statement, that Love is greater than Faith, and HOPE. This may be hard to imagine given the importance and significance of Faith and Hope . He is not saying that the others are inferior or replaceable, He is not saying that one may have faith, and another hope and another love and the one who has love is the greatest. He is not saying that love is a replacement for the other two either. We are not to suppose, for a moment, that love can atone for our sins, or make our peace with God. Nothing can do that for us, but the blood of Christ; and nothing can give us a saving interest in Christ's blood, but faith . SO then Paul is not degrading Faith, or Hope, after having written so much about the importance of BOTH, but rather is putting the emphasis on the greatness of love here which he also says is the first fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). These three are inextricably linked in that they all stand together or fall together and yet LOVE is said to be the greatest, WHY?? ❤Love is called the greatest of graces, because it is the one in which there is some likeness between the believer and his God . Genesis 1:26-27 We have been made in the image and likeness of GOD, a likeness that is restored at salvation and so we imitate GOD as we love like GOD loves, which is not easy, but should be our aim. ✔ God has no need of faith . He is dependent on no one. There is none superior to Him in whom He must trust. ✔ God has no need of hope . To Him all things are certain, whether past, present, or to come. But "God is love" and the more Agape love His people have--the more similar they are to their Father in Heaven. ❤ Love, for another thing, is called the greatest of the graces, because it is most useful to others . Faith and hope, beyond doubt, however precious, have special reference to a believer's own private individual benefit . These may be a blessing through testimony and other secondary ways but the primary objective is the individual . ✔ Faith unites the soul to Christ, brings peace with God, and opens the way to Heaven . ✔ Hope fills the soul with cheerful expectation of things to come , and, amid the many discouragements of things seen, comforts with visions of the things unseen. ✔ L ove is pre-eminently the grace which makes a man useful . Love made apostles spend and be spent for souls. Love raises up workers for Christ, and keeps them working. Love smooths quarrels, and stops strife--and in this sense, "covers a multitude of sins." ( 1 Peter 4:8 .) Love adorns Christianity, and recommends it to the world. A man may have real faith, and feel it--and yet his faith may be invisible to others. But a man's love cannot be hidden. ❤ Love, in the last place, is the greatest of the graces, because it is the one which endures the longest . In fact, it will never die. ✔ Faith will one day be swallowed up in sight ✔ Hope will be swallowed up in certainty. ✔ Their office will be useless in the morning of the resurrection; and they will be laid aside. But love will live on through the endless ages of eternity! Heaven will be the abode of love. The inhabitants of Heaven will be full of love . One common feeling will be in all their hearts, and that will be love . V. Conclusion- A. So then the greatest of these is love, not that we must choose between them, as Children of GOD we have all three, but it does show us the importance of love, and our need to emphasize it in our lives. Are we loving like God loves, are we emphasizing it in our lives like God does in our own. Its certainly is true that GOD is LOVE, and HIS love is unconditional, are you an object of this love today? How can you tell? Love is shown by action, are you a recipient of the loving actions of GOD as your heavenly father. John 3:16 tells us that this action is. If you have not received this action then are your loved by GOD? Trust in Christ by faith today and feel the LOVE of GOD rush over you with the forgiveness of sin and being made his child. Remove all doubt from the equation and rejoice in the love of GOD.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.