The word “love” is used more than 21,000 times in the Bible. It is clearly a major theme in God’s story of creation, providential care, and the redemption of man. It is a theme in the Bible that I wish we could receive with the awe and wonder that it deserves. I’m not sure we do that. I’m not sure that we understand it in its grandeur.
Many will not be awed by God’s love because it just seems so deserved. I mean, why wouldn’t God love me? I’m not so bad, I have some good qualities, I deserve to be loved and to be loved by God. Sure God loves me, I mean, look at me!
One of the wonders of God’s love for us is that we really don’t deserve any of it! None of it. Does your most ardent enemy, who would mistreat you at every opportunity and do evil to your children and family in unimaginable ways, does that person deserve your love? No, of course not, they don’t deserve your love. Well, multiply that by a thousand plus times and know that we don’t in any way deserve God’s love on our own. It is that bad. We are that undeserving. When we see it that way, as it really is, His love for us takes on new meaning. It is that much more precious, more humbling. And how strong is His love? Well, how much does God the Father love the Son? With full force, right? And what is God’s love for you based on? His love for His Son. So how much does He love you? With full force! No holding back, full strength. It is amazing! Incredible love, comforting love, everlasting love.
I am glad that we have spent the last few weeks talking about love. I really believe that God is using this series of messages through 1 Corinthians 13 in ways that I could never have anticipated. I’ve heard some of your stories. God is at work, God is stirring us up, I think, stirring us up in this matter of love as a congregation. I’m thankful for that, so thankful that God would love us enough to stir us to love more. Please continue to pray for a continuation of this as God moves in our lives for His glory!
This morning we get to the fifth characteristic of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4. We have seen that love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; and today, love is not arrogant.
If you have not felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit so far in this study then just hang on, because I’m thinking that this one will touch us all in some ways. And by the way, that is a good thing! It is good, it is good of God to reveal to us what is in our hearts that needs correcting. We need not despair over areas we know we need to change, but we need to know there is a path of change, a process of change, and our God who carries us through to change. When we see sin in our lives, take heart, there is a solution. Confess, repent, and move forward in the strength that God provides through Christ. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, this means we can move forward in obedience no matter what our past looks like. If God gives us tomorrow then let tomorrow come and let Christ reign in our hearts as we walk in obedience to Him, in love, in perhaps ways we have never done before. If we have failed miserably to love yesterday or this morning or in the last five minutes, then let’s confess, repent, and trust God with the next moment.
Don’t spend too much time, not much time at all lamenting over the past; instead hope in the future, love God, love Christ as you go ahead! There is always a message of hope and joy as we move forward with Christ in loving obedience to Him. So let’s do that together!
Paul adds to his list of love’s characteristics, “love is not arrogant.” If we are loving others, out of our love for Christ Jesus, we will not be arrogant. This is a tough one for most of us.
This word translated “arrogant,” or in your Bible you may see the word “proud,” literally means to be “puffed up,” to be “inflated” or to be filled with “hot air.” God is saying that an unloving person has a puffed up opinion of himself or herself. An arrogant person is one who has an inflated opinion of his own importance, which means that the arrogant person also believes everyone else should share his opinion about himself.
It is like, in some particular area or even perhaps in most areas, “I am informed, intelligent, have it figured out, I know that, and you should know it too, and you should treat me as if you know I’ve got it all together here.” That is what it means to have an attitude of arrogance.
If one is arrogant then he cannot be loving, not at the same time, they are not compatible. Where one exists, the other does not, because they are opposite. A loving person is concerned about other people, whereas an arrogant person is wrapped up in whom? Himself.
As Paul writes about love and how arrogance is contrary to real biblical love, he has a ready example of arrogance in the Corinthian church. Apparently arrogance was a major issue in the Corinthian church and can be seen as one one of the significant reasons for their many struggles as a body of believers.
And so we have this case study, right here in this book of 1 Corinthians, of what arrogance can do in relationships and in a local church if it goes on and is not replaced by biblical love. I want us to take some time and I want to ask you to go with me through some passages in 1 Corinthians to see how deadly arrogance can be to relationships, and even to a church if it goes unchecked. I hope as we do that each one of us can see how important it is that we, with the strength of Christ, resolve to fight against such arrogance for the sake of the church, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul uses the word translated “arrogant” three times in 1 Corinthians 4. In the ESV it is translated “puffed up” in verse 6 and translated “arrogant” in verses 18 and 19. As we look at these verses in their context, we get an idea of how damaging arrogance is and how counter it is to true, biblical love. You may not have thought of arrogance in this way before. Arrogance, as we will see, drives a stake in the heart of true Christian love, love that we are to have for each other, because of our unity with the Savior.
So follow with me beginning in 1 Corinthians 4:1 and we will just track through a few verses together, considering the dangers of arrogance. In 4:1 we catch a glimpse of arrogance among the Corinthians believers as we see them question whether Paul really was a servant of Christ and questioning whether or not he really was presenting truth.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
In verse 2 we see they had been questioning Paul’s trustworthiness.
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)
In verse 3 we see they were looking for faults in others and being critical and judgmental.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself (1 Corinthians 4:3)
In verse 4 we see they were arrogant by condemning anyone who did not agree with them.
For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4)
And in verse 5 we see they thought they could peer into another person’s heart to determine what they were thinking or what motivated their behavior.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
And then verse 6 tells us that they went beyond what was written in the Scriptures to make their judgments.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another (1 Corinthians 4:6)
And so what comes together here is a group of people who had very high opinions of themselves, so much so that they could look into the hearts and minds of people, make judgments about them, know what is motivating their behavior, and further determining whether these motives, behaviors, thoughts were pleasing to God or not, based not on the Bible but based on what they thought was best or right. In fact verse 6 describes those who usurp the role of God by accepting and spreading ideas that are not substantiated in the Scriptures.
Think of this regarding arrogance. Think about this. Think about elevating one’s own ideas above clear teachings of God in His word. And relying on these ideas rather than on God’s Word. This is the ultimate arrogance! The danger is when a standard is born out of one’s own opinion. And that opinion is enforced in the lives of other people through judgments. Judgments are then made not based on God’s standards but on one’s own standards. Based on traditions, likes, dislikes, biases, fear, a desire for safety, or to control, and so on.
This loveless arrogance was causing all kinds of problems for the Corinthians. In chapter 1:10-12 and chapter 3:3-8 we see some of those problems. This arrogance was producing jealousy, strife, cliques, factions, hero worship, where God’s servants were pitted against each other and sides were taken. And in doing so the cause of Christ was being hindered.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)
This arrogance is sometimes like, “I will have my way and I’ll have it by convincing others that God is in this with me! That God agrees with me, that of course God agrees with me on this!” It is almost like the school yard bully. One trying to get his way, based on his preferences, by convincing others that God is on his side. Who can stand against that, against God?
Do you see the absence of love in that? How is that loving my neighbor? That sounds like loving myself, my ideas, and my preferences! But it’s worse even than that, it is using God for one’s own personal desires, trying to make God a puppet in the hand of man. That is scary! Don’t do that! Be careful, here.
Let me throw out some issues that divide based on preferences:
“The King James Version is the inspired English version of the Bible”
“Age graded Sunday School classes are wrong”
“Instruments in church are evil”
“Shorts and flip flops in church are irreverent to God”
“Reading books written by non-Christians is bad”
“Alternative medicine is demonic”
“Having insurance is not trusting God”
“Possessing a credit card is wrong”
“One should never go to the movies”
“All video games are evil”
“Long hair for men is a sign of rebellion”
“Only proud women wear makeup”
This can be a frightening topic, I know. For some it’s like, “You are pulling my foundation from under me.” But really, if your foundation is not based on God’s Word its not very steady anyway. We need foundations, we need a foundation that will not be moved and we have it in Christ, we have the sure foundation in Christ, and in His word, we don’t need to go looking for it in other places. We have God’s Word; it’s in our arrogance that we look elsewhere.
In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul continues to deal with arrogance by asking three questions, all of which expose their lack of love. The first question is: “Who makes you different from anyone else?” One mark of arrogance is that a person thinks they are different or superior in their thinking to other people. This person believes he is in a class by himself. He lives outside the boundaries that other people need. If I believe that about myself in any area of life then I have put you somewhere below me and will treat you as if you are. That is arrogance. To love is to realize that if I am different in a good way, it is only because of God’s work, it is nothing I have done, I am not deserving of where I am.
The second question that Paul raises is this: “What do you have that you haven’t received?” The obvious answer is “nothing.” “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” However the arrogant person doesn’t think that way. He may realize that what he has comes from God, but too often in subtle attitudes we can take them as our own accomplishments. This is arrogance.
The third question Paul asks is: “Why do you boast is if you had not received it?” Again the obvious correct response is, “I have no reason for boasting at all!” But apparently the Christians in Corinth and we today have a tendency toward bragging, boasting, being arrogantly proud of what we have as if we earned it or obtained it by our own efforts instead of giving all the glory to God. When arrogance is present, love is absent.
For example, as we get to chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians I think we see a striking example of how arrogance, when present, is clearly counter to love. It’s in chapter 5 where we see the familiar situation of gross immorality taking place within the body of Christ, and we see how the church was dealing with it. We read in verse 1, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”
Paul here reprimands the Corinthians from allowing themselves to be arrogant or puffed up with pride when such a grievous and flagrant sin was carried on right under their noses by some within their own congregation – and they tolerated it. Paul even says that the non-Christian pagans would not even accept this the way they had.
This is a case where the church leaders had made a decision. They had decided either formally or informally, we don’t know, but they had decided to handle this sinful situation in a way that suited them and their congregation, no matter what God had said about the matter.
You see, Jesus had taught clearly in Matthew 18 that this sin should be dealt with in a very prescribed way. One should go to the unrepentant sinner and help that person see his sin and need for repentance. If the sinner refused to hear, then more should be taken. If they still refuse to listen, the church is to be told.
In other words, God has spoken in the realm of how we are to relate to each other regarding sinful practices. We are to go to one another in love in order that a rescue might take place, that loving restoration takes place. But instead of following this, they had decided to do something different. They apparently had a better plan than God’s. That is going beyond what is written, doing their own thing, their own way, arrogantly proclaiming their own opinion.
We can’t do that, we don’t have that as an option. God is love and God has given us His word and in His word we are told many ways that we are to relate to each other, and as we relate to each other as God has prescribed, then we are exercising love. If we create our own ways then we are not loving, and we are arrogant.
If we don’t parent as God has instructed us then we are not loving our children but are arrogantly choosing our own way. If we don’t admonish a sinning brother or sister in Christ then we aren’t loving them, because God has instructed us to; we are arrogantly choosing our own way. And it goes on and on. If we are not doing all the “one anothers” of Scripture in our Christian relationships then we are making our own standards, our own way. God calls that arrogance.
Love is not arrogant. We don’t choose our own standards, God has given us standards and as we follow them we will be loving each other as Christians ought.
When we think about people around us, in our church, in our homes, and beyond, do we primarily think of how to treat them as Christ would want us to? You walk through the front door, you see a child, your spouse, a neighbor, what drives your next move, your next word as you see them? Is it your mood, does your stressful drive home set the pace for your conversation and actions, does the amount of sleep you have had determine how you will engage those people, does the news that your checking account is overdrawn, does that drive how you will treat your loved ones?
What drives our words and our actions toward others? If it is not God’s Word then there is an element of arrogance in what we do, because we are saying, “Right now I’m going to do this my way, I will have my way in this, I’m not interested in God’s way right now.” We make those decisions all the time, in split seconds we decide. What do we choose? God says love, true love, biblical, Christian love. Love is not arrogant.
We cannot go beyond what is written, we cannot make our own way, our own judgments, we cannot usurp God’s wisdom for living, not if we are really going to love. We need Christ in this matter, desperately need the power and strength of Christ, we need to walk with Him in this, cry out to him for help, that we may truly love others biblically for His glory.
It’s easy to pick on the Corinthians, right? “What were they thinking, tolerating sin in the church and not doing what Christ clearly asked them to do? What is wrong with those arrogant people?” It’s easy to do that, but how are we doing living God’s way with those we interact with every day? Love is not arrogant.