Tuesday, September 28, 2021

2021.09.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 13

Read 1 Corinthians 13

Questions from the Scripture text: What kind of authenticating sign would Paul be, if he had tongues signs even more than actually existed, but was missing the love sign (1 Corinthians 13:1)? If he has prophecy, and understands it all completely and believes it, but does not love, what is he (1 Corinthians 13:2)? If he performs great acts of self-sacrifice, what might he still not have? And what will it profit him (1 Corinthians 13:3)? What does love do (1 Corinthians 13:4a)? What does love be (verse 4b)? What two things does love not do (verse 4c-d)? What is love not (verse 4e)? How does love not behave (1 Corinthians 13:5)? What does it not seek? How does it not respond to offenses? What does it not think/calculate? What does love not rejoice in (1 Corinthians 13:6)? What does love rejoice in? What does love bear (1 Corinthians 13:7)? What does love believe? What does love hope? What does love endure? Which of the authenticating signs will never end (1 Corinthians 13:8)? What were currently partial at the time that Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 13:9)? Did God’s revelation remain incomplete? When the completion arrived what happened to partial words of prophecy and knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:10)? How does 1 Corinthians 13:11 describe the age of partial revelation? How does 1 Corinthians 13:12 describe the age of partial revelation? What three things outlast the age of partial revelation (1 Corinthians 13:13)? Which is the greatest of the three?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration all come from 1 Corinthians 13, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with If I Speak a Foreign Tongue

In chapter 12, the apostle had taught that the God’s Word was authenticated by gifts to display that it was the Lord Himself who was not only working faith in individual believers, but arranging them as members of the body, and making each a necessary and effective instrument of God in the lives of the other members of the congregation.

This focus on the Word is why prophecy in a known tongue is going to get such a hearty recommendation in chapter 14. The Word is what God especially uses to build us up. But here, in chapter 13, the focus is upon what the fruit looks like in a believer’s life, when he is being built up. Even during the age when the Spirit was giving new revelation, the authenticating signs that accompanied it did not compare with love. 

Love is the everlasting fruit of the Lord’s redemption and the Lord’s redeeming Word. Love was not only a sign that the effective Word was being spoken; it was a sign that the authentic Word had already begun to take its effect. There are other things that we might be tempted to be impressed by (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), but without love to authenticate them, we realize that they’re worthless. 

So, it’s important to know what this love looks like in the lives of believers. After all, one might be shocked by the assertion in 1 Corinthians 13:3 that giving everything for the poor and giving oneself up in sacrifice are not themselves tell-tale signs of genuine Christian love. Those are grand displays, but they are not love’s proving ground. 

No, what shows that love is real, and what shows that grace is real, is found in the condition of the heart and manner of interaction in the everyday nitty-gritty of life: Patience that maintains cheerfulness through the continual provocations of sharing life with sinners (1 Corinthians 13:4a). Kindness that steadily shows thoughtfulness and expresses tenderness (v4a). Gladness at others’ receiving words of praise and desirable possessions (verse 4b). Modesty that isn’t trying to be the one that gets noticed (verse 4c) or admired (verse 4d). This steady ooze of sweetness toward those around you in your everyday life—that’s what the apostle describes as the authenticating stamp of the Holy Spirit’s actually having laid hold of a person.

Now, there is much more that we could say about love in those verses, but that section from the middle of 1 Corinthians 13:5 to the end of 1 Corinthians 13:7 doesn’t get nearly enough consideration. 

Love is most easily identifiable when it is mistreated. How does love react then?

Love is not provoked—love refuses to take offense. It doesn’t calculate wrongs—there’s no keeping of score here. It doesn’t easily notice what ill has been done because it is busy delighting in what has been true. 

Love bears all things—love doesn’t say, “I’ve had it” or “I’m done.” It believes all things—if there’s a possible explanation with a good intention, that’s the one that love chooses to believe. It hopes all things—love doesn’t say, “this will never get better” but rather “it’s worth giving him another chance.” It endures all things—love says, “It’s worth it for me to carry the pain in order to continue in this relationship.”

“NO ONE loves like that, when they are mistreated!!” Exactly. Well, not exactly. And that is why love like this functions as an authenticating sign of the work of the Spirit in a person.

Jesus loved like that perfectly. And His loving is what is counted for us, as if we had done it, when we believe in Him. And because they are being made like Him, real Christians love like this more and more and more. 

The fact that love like this is so rare is why it works as a sign. Here is the authentication of the fact that the Holy Spirit has done real work in someone by His real Word: that person has come to love like 1 Corinthians 13 describes! The age of new revelation and its authenticating signs ended long ago. God has given us everything we need for the faith and hope that remain, but greater than these is the love that will continue even after faith becomes sight and hope has been fulfilled.

What other evidences do you tend to emphasize when thinking about how your Christian life is going? In what aspect of this description of love do you think you most need to grow? Who else (hint: they probably live with you) might be better able to answer this question for you? As you pursue loving more, what comfort do you get from Christ having done so perfectly?

Sample prayer: O God, Who are love in Yourself, we adore Your glory and holiness. How marvelous it is to us that You have chosen us in the Son of Your love, and have brought us into Your own love! Forgive us for how petty, bitter, hard, and mean we often are toward each other in our hearts and even in our interactions. Count Christ’s perfect love for us as if we had done it, and continue working in us to make us like He is, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH499 “If I Speak a Foreign Tongue”

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