I Corinthians 13: Part 2- Love Defined
The American Heritage Dictionary defines love as: “An intense affection for another person based on family ties or personal ties.” Notice the phrase- based on: this means there is a condition for this love or affection. You have an intense affection based on family ties, parents; or based on physical attraction or how another person makes you feel, etc. All are based on conditions. This love we are studying in this chapter, agape love, defined in the KJV as ‘charity’ is unconditional love. It is a love that is not based on a condition.
How does the Bible define love? “God is love.” I John 4:8. His love is unconditional, sacrificial, and never-ending. God’s love transcends all other types of love. Romans 5:8 tells us: “God demonstrated His love for us that while we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We did not have to meet any requirements, standards, or conditions. In fact we were deplorable, self-centered, puffed up, rude and delighting in sin. Prodigals who wanted to do what we wanted to do.
Charles Stanley in his Life Principles Bible lists 30 Life Principles. Guess what he listed as the number one principle? “Our intimacy with God is God’s highest priority for our lives and determines the impact of our lives.” This is what God’s greatest and highest priority is. It is the first and greatest commandment and the second greatest is like the first. We are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, mind, souls and strength. And secondly, we are to love our neighbors as our selves. We are in fact to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Which is exactly what Jesus, God personified, did on the cross, where He paid the great price for my sins and your sins. O, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us.
Our greatest need is to know we are loved. This is how God designed us. God created us for a personal, intimate fellowship with Him.
God did not create the universe because He needed it. He created the universe as an expression of His love for us. Read I John 4: 7-11 and 18, 19. John 3: 16, the most well known verse in the Bible speaks of this unconditional love, which is sacrificial. “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son…’ He did not withhold His only Son, but gave Him up freely for us… And since God the Father and God the Son are one- this means He gave up everything for us, while we cared not for Him. ‘Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified, knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, there my burdened heart found liberty- at Calvary.’
Now still speaking of this type of love Paul writes the following:
“Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” My first question is these instructions for us as to how we are to behave? Or is this a description of this agape love? I believe it is both. This is how is should reveal itself.
Bears is a word which can man protect or cover. The word of God tells us love covers a multitude of sins. It means when we learn something unpleasant about someone, something they have done, we do not scatter it about with gossip, we may go to the person individually about this problem but we do not broadcast it. God does not want to embarrass you- He wants to forgive you and love you. God is not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentance.
When Paul writes of this love believing all things, does this mean we believe all things God tells us in His word? Certainly. When dealing with others, it does not mean we are gullible, but we are ready to believe a person. We are not skeptical or cynical. Americans have such a reputation for bragging, when I was in Australia giving seminars, I asked an attendee what did he think of the seminar. He said, “It was good, but we only believe half of what you ‘yanks’ tell us!” He laughed, but I could tell this was what they believed in general about Americans, that we were boastful and exaggerated the truth. Having and exhibiting this type of love also implies we are ready to trust someone, even if they have not always been reliable. We are willing to give them a second chance. This type of love grants 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances- for this is what God has done for us. This is why we are told to forgive our brother- 70 times 70.
Paul tells us this love ‘hopes all things.’ Love will find a way in what appears to be a hopeless situation to never give up hope. Abraham found this hope which does not disappoint because Abraham believed all things God told him regarding the birth of a son. Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy said, ‘man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Man can live without food for weeks, without water for days, but can only live minutes without oxygen. I believe hope is the oxygen of our souls. Hopelessness is one of the most devastating emotions one can experience. God is the God of all hope. It is hope that does not disappoint. God’s love found a way to forgive us of our sins and give us eternal life, while satisfying His justice. It is a love which hopes all things, and tells us all things are possible to those who believe. When our faith is in a loving God, this faith in Him who loves us unconditionally and eternally is the link to hope. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for…” You realize only faith in this type of love provides ‘sure hope’, hope that does not disappoint. Now you might say, well I have hoped for things, prayed for things, asked God for things, I hoped He would give me, but He did not give me. I understand this disappointment, but if what you hoped for was not in God’s will or timing, why would you hope He would give you something which He in His wisdom knows is something which would harm you not help you? It is like the disappointment of a child who asks his father for a loaded gun, which his father knows would be something which could be very harmful. We will discuss this childish view of God in a few verses.
Love endures all things. Love doesn’t quit. It never gives up on anyone. To be conformed to the image of Christ is to become a more loving person and all those attributes of love which are the byproduct. Jesus gave this commandment on the night before His arrest; Love one another, as I have loved you. Paul also wrote in Ephesians we are combine the truth with love. You will find this hard to do sometimes. We err in two areas- we speak the truth bluntly and cause pain. Or else we to not tell them the truth for it would hurt their feelings and we do not want to hurt them. This is as bad as the other, for because of our lack of courage, the person is not told the truth which will help them. Love must be persistent, consistent and permanent.
Verse 8 tells us this love, agape, (charity) never fails. This love keeps coming, it is never used up, the more you use it spread it, the more you have.
Paul then contrasts this type of love with three popular spiritual gifts: the gift of prophecy, which he says will fail, the gift of tongues which will cease, and the gift of knowledge which will vanish away. When do they vanish? When get to heaven, they will have no place. There will be no need, for we will now see the face of Jesus, and when we see Him, we are promised we will be like Him.
THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light and there was light.” Do you see the transforming power of God’s Word? This makes the verse which says the Word of God is alive and powerful more real to you. Understanding God spoke the universe into existence, is one of the most contested truths in the world. And it is one of the most important truths to believe. The enemy who understands how powerful the Word of God is has attacked God’s Word from the beginning. He has questioned its authorship, its authenticity and its acceptability. He continues to attack it with an all out assault to this day. The enemy knows the power of the Word of God to transform. Isaiah 45 tells us God created the earth to be inhabited. Remember, we are earthen vessels. Created by Him to be inhabited by Him. God is telling us I created all of this for you because I love you. I created you to have an intimate fellowship with me. I wanted your heart to be my home. I want to abide with you. I want to be your best friend. What a friend we have in Jesus.
I was born without form and void. My life was meaningless. My life was in darkness. I was created by Him and for Him. So we all came into life into a story which we had to discover was not about us, but about the God who created us. Rick Warren’s bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life” begins with this statement: “It’s not about you.” Warren goes on to tell the reader: “If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose. So the quest and the question begin – ‘what on earth am I here for?’ And so begins the journey. But all journeys must have a map and directions, which way do we go. There are two quests in life: the quest for happiness and the quest for truth. They will bring you to a crossroad. Jeremiah 6: 16 says: “This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls. But you said I will not walk in it.” In the early days, Christianity was simply known as “The Way.”
John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John tells us this is the true light that gives light to every man which came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus Christ the Son of God had become a man, born a babe in Bethlehem. “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God- children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision, or husband’s will, but born of God. When we are born again we begin the sanctification process which is ongoing. At salvation a once and forever process of justification was declared by God. For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of ourselves it is a gift of God, not of works. Oh what manner of love is this the Father has bestowed (lavished) upon us, that we might be called the sons of God. This is why I interjected this information and scripture to show you what manner of love the Father has poured out on us.
Now the sanctification process which is ongoing is pictured as being on the Potter’s wheel. We are the clay, God is the Potter and He shapes us as He desires us to be. Remember what S.H.A.P.E. Stands for: Spiritual gifts: Heart, our passion and desire: Abilities, natural talents; Personality, the expression of our temperament; and the Experiences. God uses all of these to shape us to be the earthen vessels which He will inhabit. For He formed the earth to be inhabited. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
“For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ.” We are being transformed into His likeness.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. “
Now some would say is this a contradiction to what Jesus said in Matthew 18? There we read Jesus said: “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I would submit to you, the childish things we are to put away are not this simple trust a child has for their parents. Being a child in that context of having complete trust in one’s parents completely dependent upon them is a picture of believing faith, trust without doubt or worry.
So there is being like a child and acting like a child. Ever say to an adult or teenager who should know better, ‘you are acting like a child.’
Children are selfish, inconsiderate of others, want what they want, and want it now. When the Christmas gifts are opened and there are many- they begin playing with one, and then set it aside to play with another. But when someone picks up what they have set aside, they want it back. Children are childish, and this includes at times exhibiting temper tantrums, selfishness and even hurting others. Remember we are born with sinful natures. No parent has ever had to teach their children to lie, they are natural born liars. Their childish behavior and actions reveal the sinful nature they inherited from Adam. Acting like a child is not desirable, yet being like a child in the sense of complete trust in your parents is a desirable trait.
When we become adults, mature in our faith, we are to put away those childish traits which come from a sinful, unredeemed nature. We become mature by understanding the Word of God. Scripture tells us the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. A child comes to understand what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not and will cause them to be disciplined by their parents. For if we spare the rod, we spoil the child. And God our Father disciplines those He loves.
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then fact to face: now I now in part; but then shall I know even also as I am known.”
The night of the Last Supper, Jesus took on the role of the bond servant and took up the task of washing the disciples’ feet. When Peter balked and refused the Lord performing such a lowly task on him, Jesus tells Peter and us a great truth: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Sometimes when we look back we can understand how something happened in our lives, which we did not understand, but later we realized God was working all the time. Joseph realized this and told his brothers. Although they meant it for evil, God meant it for good.
In the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, Meg Ryan, the heroine sees her book store shut down by a giant chain store owned by Tom Hanks. She goes on to be a successful writer and sees when looking back, it would have never happened if she had not been put out of business.
God seemingly turns His back on us for a while in our lives. This is how it appears and feels to us when something harmful or upsetting occurs in our lives. When it appears He has turned His back on you, let me tell you what the Lord Jesus tells us: “My Father (which is also your father) is always at work.” “You do not realize what He is doing now, but later on you will.” We see through a glass darkly now. Sometimes we will see later on in our life how this turned out, and sometimes we will not see until we are in heaven. There we are assured when we see Jesus face to face, we will understand in full, what now we only understand in part. This why we walk by faith and not by sight. We are to put our eyes on things above.
God is love. This love of His is perfect. And perfect love casts out fear. Ask 50 people what would make them happy- give them the most satisfaction and they will come up with a variety of answers: money, fame, power, and many other predictable answers. But beneath those wishes is someone saying these things would make my life better, even wonderful and this is what they want. They want a life free of trouble, anxiety and fear and they believe these ‘things’ would make their dreams of ideal life come true.
The Lord Jesus invites you to take hold of His Hand and assure you of His love for you and give you the gift of peace which comes from His love.
We live in an increasingly fear-filled world; people want to not be afraid. To live in peace. To have someone to love, and someone to love them and something to look forward to. Tomorrow morning, many people will wake up filled with fear, dread, anxiety and despair.
Yet within each believer is the God who controls all things, who is present in your life, who is called the God of Peace. That is one of His Names: Jehovah Shalom, God of Peace. And we can have not only peace with God but the peace of God. This peace transcends circumstances and our understanding. It is not a denial of reality. There will be problems and trouble and we must face them with productive concern as to how to best deal with these problems. I Cor. 10:13 tells me God will never place more on me than I can bear. James tells me these trials and tribulations have a very important role in refining, enlarging and strengthening our faith.
In your childlike faith in your parents, you never worried about anything for you had unshakeable faith your parents could provide all your needs.
I want to remind you what God thinks about you and me. “I know the thoughts I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon ME and go pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29) Why do we surrender? Because we must love Him with all our heart.
Do you understand why God wants you to love Him with all your heart and worship Him? Because God knows we adapt ourselves to the things we admire, and devote ourselves to the things we idealize. This is the law of worship. And we are transformed by what we worship and love. God knows, since He created us to love and worship Him, anything else we worship will lead us to destruction.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. WE glorify Him when we bear fruit. We bear fruit by abiding in Him. We abide in Him through obedience. We obey Him because we love Him. We love Him, because we know Him. This is why Paul came to the point where knowing Jesus was the most important thing.
This love is not self-centered. It is other centered. It is a giving love. ‘Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over …”
Anne Graham Lotz tells of a time in her life when she had so many concerns to pray about- her parents health, a son with cancer, family with problems, her ministry and her husband’s health. She became so overwhelmed in asking God for so many things, she just cried out for Him to give her what she needed most, she cried out: “Just Give Me Jesus!”
Verse 13 states: So faith, hope and love abide, these thee; but the greatest of these is love. And I Cor. 14:1 says to make love your aim-pursue love. Why is love the greatest? Because God is not faith, nor is God hope, although He is the source of all hope and gives faith as a gift- but we are told this truth: GOD IS LOVE.