1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
We continue through 1 Corinthians 13 this morning, getting now down to verse six, which says, “it [love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” We will take the first part of verse six this morning and the second part next week, Lord willing. It might be good to take them together, but for the sake of time we will split them up. But in splitting them up between two messages, I want to be sure we see them as really connected.
There is a principle of Scripture that we talk about often that goes with these two phrases of verse six, which is to put off and put on. Or you could say, putting off by putting on. There is a balance that we can pick up on in God’s Word that shows a need for us as Christians to put off unbiblical ways of thinking and acting and for us to replace those with biblical thinking and acting – that is the put on. Put off unbiblical thinking and acting and put on biblical thinking and acting.
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)
As we live life, as Christians we are in this constant state, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, of putting off what is displeasing and offensive to God, and putting on what is living for His glory. We, all who have believed, are in this.
If we love Christ, our expression of this love for Him is made clear in how we live. In our living, do we love what He loves? By how we live? None of us have arrived at this perfectly, and if we have not arrived then I’m sure there are ways we need to think and act differently. Do we want to be like Christ, our Savior, our Lord, the perfect One who has rescued us, saved us? Do we want to be like Him as much as God desires that we be like Him? Do we want to be holy as He is holy? If so, then what do we need to put off and what do we need to put on? In other words, what are the things, practically, that need changing?
The Bible, God’s Word, helps us to know what these things are, what to put off and what to put on. We lay aside old, torn, soiled garments and replace them with those garments that best reflect Jesus Christ. What is offensive to Him we take off, we put off, and what is pleasing to HIm, what He delights in, we put on. We learn to find joy and delight in what we are to put on, and learn to loathe those things that we must put off.
Sometimes we may get off balance. What I mean is sometimes we may only focus on those things that we are to put off. When this happens we may think of Christianity as a list of “don’t”s. Don’t do this, don’t do that. “Well, I can’t do this thing that I want to do, I can’t go there anymore, I cannot listen to this or watch that, what has brought me pleasure in the past, it’s off limits in the present.” And sometimes, in some circles, that is all we get. That becomes the sum of Christianity a big list of “don’t”s.
If Christianity comes down to that alone, then we have sorely misrepresented the Gospel. If that is where we stay, we have missed the glory of not just dying to self but of living for Christ. Change must include not just putting off but putting on. What we are being changed into looks like something, it is to look like what? Not really something, but someone! The change in us is to result in a better view of who Christ is.
Another thing about this principle of putting off and putting on is that we need to recognize it as growth. We could put off some things and put on some other things, and spiral further downward into sinful behavior and thought, right? I mean depending on what we are putting off and putting on. Spiritual growth is putting off what God wants us to put off and putting on what God wants us to put on. God does this in us and He causes our spiritual growth.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Change is never for change’s sake, growth is not for the sake of just doing something different or better, but for the Christian it’s all about one thing: being like Jesus Christ. Growing into more of who Christ is. That is what we can be excited about!
So when we are shedding unbiblical thinking, motives, actions, no matter what it is and no matter how long we have held onto it and loved it in past, we can do so with joy in our hearts, with a song on our lips, knowing that we are headed in a direction that better identifies us with Jesus Christ in our own souls and in the eyes of others for His glory!
And so in every area of life we can embrace and love the right kind of change by remembering the end result – an image of Jesus Christ in us, a better representation of Jesus Christ in us. If we think of spiritual growth in this way, there is no area in our lives that is off limits regarding change.
Let me give you some examples of this:
Think about marriage, if you are married this example will work better for you, but if you’re not married you can still follow and imagine your own personal circumstance. Marriage, a gift of God, given to us for His glory. Does your marriage need some renovation? Some change? There is a certain amount of the population that would say, “No, not really, things are pretty good.” Maybe even some who would say, “You know, my marriage is at a better place than ever before.” Some might even say, “It doesn’t get any better than this, I wouldn’t change a thing!” I’ve heard some say that.
But if we ask why? Why is your marriage so good that you wouldn’t change a thing? We may hear, “Well, we used to argue a lot, and we haven’t had a serious argument in months.” Or, “We used to each do our own thing, and now we are together more, spending good, quality, significant time together.” Or, “We have learned to appreciate each other’s differences; there was a time when we just tried to change each other into what we wanted.” These are all good things. But none of them rise to a level where we could say, “We’ve arrived, no more change necessary.”
Some of you may think, “Wow, if I had all that I’d be satisfied in marriage too!” But you know what? That is not enough, because the goal of marriage is not simply getting along, spending more time together, or accepting each other’s faults. Even if we had all that, there is so much more.
Marriage is to represent the Gospel – Christ and the church. And so in marriage there is to be through a change process two people who are longing to be just like Christ because of their extravagant love for Him. And these two people have come together, these Christ lovers come together in a special union in which they, living for Christ now together, represent not just Him, but His relationship with the church. So in this marriage, this growing marriage we see and others see things such as sacrificial love, complete forgiveness, godly communication, joyful submission, gracious leading, selfless pursuits, all that is wrapped up in the Gospel comes to life in the marriage for the glory of God. Marriage was not given just for our happiness, but to picture Him and His church and the gospel message.
Okay, so who is there in marriage? Whose marriage is a perfect picture of Christ, the church, the gospel? No one’s, right? So what needs to happen? Change. In every husband, in every wife, in every marriage! And we can go to any area of life, and see that we have not arrived, just as Paul said…
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)
Put off, put on, growing in Christ, changing for His glory. What an adventure, right? Change built on the unchanging truths of God. Change in us that reflects what God loves, what He delights in!
When God said to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” there are many theological truths wrapped up in that, but one thing we can take from that is God has just told us, “Here is your example. All that He did was pleasing to me.” We can then say, with that statement, “He is the one I want to be like! God, make me more like Christ for your glory, for your pleasure! Help me put off what displeases you, help me put on what will honor your name.” And so, we can evaluate all of life, all that we think about, all that we do and ask, “Is the way I think, is what I am doing, the best reflection of what is pleasing to God?”
Even in the church. What about change in the church? Can we look at anything we are doing, any ministry, and say, “Oh yeah, this is absolutely, supremely pleasing to God, most glorifying to Him ever in what we are doing and how we are doing it, we have arrived in this area to the point of being a model for all ages in how we have chosen to do this, so let’s lock in here because any change would going in the wrong direction!” No, I don’t think so. Think about the preaching ministry. We can do better, we can better reflect God’s glory and Christlikeness. What about our worship, have we arrived? No, we can better reflect the glory of God. All of our teaching ministries, our counseling ministries, evangelism, there is always a place for change if our aim is to glorify God, to reflect the person of Christ.
Here is the point: of all people on this earth, Christians ought to love change. The right kind of change, change that glorifies Him on the earth, that reflects Christ. That our change reflects the unchanging God and His unchanging truths. I say all of this because of our passage this morning. All of the messages on love show a necessity of change. But verse six states change with this idea of put off, put on.
This morning we will look at the put off. But as we do, I hope that we can keep in mind the goal. The goal is the glory of God, to represent Him and His character well, to be like Christ. If we agree that that is a good goal, then the putting off is more easily embraced. So what are we to put off?
[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing (1 Corinthians 13:6a)
We can put off instances where we may rejoice at wrongdoing! Why? Because we love our Lord, our goal is Christlikeness, our aim is to glorify Him! And we can do that, in His strength, by putting off any thing that would be rejoicing in wrongdoing. Some translations say, “iniquity or unrighteousness.” Love does not rejoice in iniquity or love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus speaks of workers of “lawlessness.” These workers of lawlessness (the same word as in verse six) are contrasted with those who do the Father’s will. Righteousness is understood in terms of doing God’s will and unrighteousness or wrongdoing as those who do what is contrary to God’s will. That is fairly simple, right? So wrongdoing simply refers to any action, speech, thought, desire or event that is not right in the sight of God. Another way to think of it is that wrongdoing is anything contrary to God’s revealed will that He has given us in the Bible.
But there is more. Paul says, we are not to “rejoice” in this. Or love does not “rejoice” in wrongdoing. The word rejoice literally means to be joyful or glad or delighted or to find pleasure in something. We see an association in Scripture of rejoicing with joy and gladness.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
We are to find joy, pleasure, and gladness in Christ. There is a sense of fulfillment in the word, satisfaction and I would add happiness. So when God tells us that love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, He is saying that love will not be glad in or happy in or take pleasure in or find its satisfaction in evil or in unrighteousness. Romans 12:9 says, “abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.”
John MacArthur said, “Love never takes satisfaction from sin, whether it be our own or the sins of others. Love will never make wrong appear right.”
Now I think this is fairly straight forward. Love does not rejoice, delight, find it’s pleasure or contentment in what is evil, in what is an offense to God. We are to put off rejoicing in evil. I imagine our minds have grasped that okay. So now the question is, what will we do now? How will we interact with this word?
In our study, in our study here this morning, or in our private study at home, we must decide what will we do with this! Because right now we are just at, “Okay, I understand I should not rejoice in evil, or I should put off rejoicing in evil.” We have only gotten there so far, we have enriched our minds. But that is never enough. There is more. How will we having obtained knowledge? In what way must our actions change, or our thinking change, or our motives change? If we don’t get there, we have not really been helped at all, we will just stall out, we will not be moving closer to Christlikeness. We must keep going and decide, with the help Christ, how now will I change?
I want to help you, and me, with that by giving some examples of what it might mean in real life to not rejoice in evil. As I go through these examples I want to challenge you to take at least one thing, choose at least one way that you can change by putting off rejoicing in evil. Much of this list is from Wayne Mack. So here we go! Ready?
Love does not rejoice in personally doing what the Bible would call evil or sin! This is personal acts of sin that we may enjoy or find delight in .
Love does not enjoy doing evil to others. This can include putting undue pressure on others, making unreasonable demands, cheating others, not keeping our promises, gossip about others, or enjoying listening to gossip about others. We may say, “I would never enjoy doing evil to others.” And yet how quick are we at times to make fun of another person, or enjoy telling of other people’s sin to make ourselves look better. How often do we lash out at others, as if we have a right to do so, and feel justified in doing it? Doing evil to others can involve many things: purposefully ignoring someone, embarrassing them, or just not putting them first. Why wouldn’t we put them first? Because we enjoy putting ourselves first. Love does not enjoy doing evil to others.
Love does not encourage others to do what is wrong in God’s eyes. Do we encourage others to sin?
Love does not enjoy watching others sin or do evil. Are we entertained by others’ sin, do we rejoice in others’ sin?
Love is grieved by the wickedness that is going on in the world. Do we become complacent about wickedness in this world? Love is saddened by cruelty, brutality and crime that is glorified and made to look to be something that is good and right in the media, movies, and music. Are we appropriately grieved when the weak are taken advantage of with cruelty and brutality?
Love avoids being abusive in any way, whether physical, verbal, or emotional. Do we justify abuse toward others because we think we have some right to do it?
Love does not take pleasure in pornography or sexual immorality. Again, love does not rejoice in evil.
Love can say with Job when something unpleasant happens to someone else, “I have not rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him” (Job 31:29). Love does not hope someone will make a mistake, suffer loss, or fall into sin.
For me, I find way too much joy and pleasure at times simply putting myself first. Putting myself first is a sin against God, and rejoicing in evil. That is sort of broad, and there are hundreds of ways I’m sure I do this, so this is what I’m going to focus on and dig deeper into personally. What about you? How will you make this a part of your life? Where will you make application?
God is passionate about our continual change, our growth. Part of that change is putting off all that is inconsistent with Christlikeness. So here we go. We can, by God’s strength and for His pleasure, and for our good, and as an expression of our love for Him, we can put off rejoicing in wrongdoing.