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)
Let’s continue this morning through this great chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 where God describes to us and explains for us what biblical love is. An important chapter, an in-depth chapter on what Christian love really is. Love as best demonstrated by God Himself, and love that we can demonstrate through the power of His Spirit who lives in every believer.
But a few words first before we do. We should not, we cannot take this chapter with any sense of joy unless we take it with and meditate on it alongside the Gospel. What I mean is that we can – and we will if not careful – beat ourselves down with a chapter like this if we merely take it as a list of things to do, just on our own. We can think of what we think love is, some standard that we can live up to, and then read this chapter and study it and immediately find that our standard was much too low. We find that biblical love is so much more than any standard that we can live up to in our strength. We are not always patient, we are not always kind, we are at times envious and boastful, we can often be arrogant and rude, we can and do insist on our own way, become irritable and resentful, and as we saw last week, the application associated with rejoicing in evil is so incredibly broad that we all at times, even to that, rejoice in evil.
And so there is this tension of seeing the standard, and now we are more informed of what the standard really is than maybe we were before this study, we better understand the standard, what it means to love biblically. And at the same time we know that we do not consistently keep the standard.
Let’s be honest with one another. No one here has kept the biblical standards of love for even a day. This can be depressing! It can be. So what do we do with this?
We understand that Christ Jesus came to this earth to keep the standard that we are unable to keep, that is both a confession of our weakness and of His strength. We are weak to keep the standards of holiness and righteousness but Jesus kept all of it, perfectly. So the standard that we read about regarding biblical love has been perfectly kept by Jesus Christ for you.
We must understand that Jesus died as our substitute having perfectly kept the standards of love that we have been studying about. He died because we have not kept the standard. At His death, at our salvation, His life was applied to our account. We have been justified by Him. Our inability to keep the standards to get to God has been replaced by a new account which contains a ledger that says, “Perfect.” We must understand that Jesus rose from the grave, from the dead, victoriously proving that He is God, giving us assurance of our resurrection with Him. We must understand that Jesus ascended into heaven, that He is interceding for us before the Father. His life given for our lives, His death for our sin, His perfection covering our weakness. And so we must say, “Of course you haven’t kept that standard, that is why Christ came, lived a perfect life, was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be our advocate.”
But here’s something else: when we read passages like 1 Corinthians 13 on love, and we see the heart of God in this issue of love, each one of us who belong to Him and understand what He has done for us, who we are in Christ, covered by His blood, His death, His life given for our lives, our security in Him, our future inheritance as fellow heirs with Him, our rescue, as we see that, believe that, meditate on that, what happens? We begin to love the standard. We begin to want what He wants for us. We desire to honor Him, to live for Him, to put the flesh to death, meaning to kill sin in us, and live for Him!
This is where obedience comes in as Christians, I think. We have an ever-growing bent, as a child of God, to love what God loves, and we want to obey, we long to obey in greater measure, we desire to live pleasing to Him. And so we go after truths like the instruction we have in 1 Corinthians 13, we want that, we live for that, we see the goal and we want it, because it’s His goal and we want what He wants. And so we say, “God, do this in me for your glory, make me more this way,” with a certain eagerness that it be done.
It’s not a list of legalistic activities, it’s not a tool for self-condemnation, it’s not a measure that helps us know how much God likes us. Like, if we keep it 90% God will love us, no, it’s not that at all. His love is complete for us, never changing, perfect if we are in Christ.
We must remember the Gospel, love what He has done, love Him, and long to be made more like Jesus Christ, through hearts who love Him and long for greater conformity to be like Jesus Christ.
So don’t beat yourself up. You can be properly grieved over sin, confess, ask forgiveness, repent, and then move on to live for His glory because you want to, because you want to as His beloved, honored, blessed, child.
So this morning we get to see yet another way in which we can do something that is consistent with God’s loving will for us. We can “rejoice with the truth.” Love rejoices with the truth!
Last week our focus was on the first part of verse 6: “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing.” That was what we are to put off, to put away in our lives, rejoicing in wrongdoing. But putting off sinful attitudes and actions is never enough. We must put on what is biblical, what is glorifying to our Lord. We are to put on or take up rejoicing in truth.
This is where I think we can get excited. This is what we can do that is pleasing to our Lord, what is consistent with what He loves. He is the God of truth! He rejoices in truth, and as His followers we too are to rejoice with the truth. We can get excited because we know what is pleasing to Him. He has not left us to figure that out on our own. But just because we can get excited now about rejoicing in the truth, that does not mean it is always easy!
Love and truth go hand in hand, as we see many places in the Bible. We are told that as Christians we are to speak the truth in what? Love. Ephesians 4:15.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth (2 John 11)
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (2 John 3)
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. (3 John 1)
Someone wrote, “Love and truth are inseparable partners residing in God Himself. God shares those characteristics with His people. He endowed them with love and truth which, though tainted by sin, are renewed in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”
As you probably are aware, the word “truth” is used in multiple ways in the Bible and in varying contexts. Now, if we are going to get excited about truth, rejoice in the truth, then we need to be sure we understand what this means. The word “truth” often refers to God’s Word, the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Colossians 1:5 says they heard and believed the Word of truth. God’s Word is truth, it is the Word of truth. So there is one thing for us to rejoice in: God’s Word. We are to love God’s Word, get excited about God’s Word. As a Christian let me ask, do you get excited about God’s Word? Do you open it with anticipation. “What will I learn today that I can live out? What will God show me about Himself, about myself, about my redemption and His perfections?” Did you know that we are to rejoice in the Bible? The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Is that what it is for us? A gift, a blessing, giving us an ability, a way that we can know God, and know how to love Him!
Are we passionate about the Bible? It’s the Bible that takes us to God, that shows us His person, it is where we fellowship with Him. It is where we find our Savior, our Master, and where we learn to love Him more. It is there we read of our rescue, our redemption. It is in the Bible where we learn about our future, our inheritance as an heir of the kingdom. Love rejoices with the truth. God’s Word, the Bible, is truth!
Another way truth is used in the Bible is as a reference to Jesus Himself.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Loving truth is a way of loving Jesus Himself. He is truth. It is loving Him, loving who He is. Love rejoices with the truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth!” Are we lovers of Jesus Christ? Is He our all in all, our everything?
Still another way the Bible speaks of truth is to speak of it as honesty, sincerity, accuracy of what is true as opposed to falsehood. We see this in many places, like when Jesus says in John 16:7, “I tell you the truth.” That is truth and not a lie. Or in Ephesians 4:25 where we read that we are to put away lying and speak truth. Truth can be simply honesty. We are to love honesty. Put away lying, falsehood, deception, exaggeration, telling half a story in order to paint an inaccurate picture. This is important, or should be important for Christians. We are to rejoice in what is the truth, the honest representation of things. Are we rejoicing in honesty, in truth?
Much like last week, this week’s message is a simple one for us to understand. We are to rejoice, be happy in, find pleasure in truth, God’s Word, Jesus Himself, and honesty. We are to put on this rejoicing in truth. But since it is a rather simple concept, I do want to be sure we consider ways in which we may fall short of this kind of love. And to do that, I want us to go to Mark’s gospel. Mark 10, where we see a familiar account of Jesus talking with a young man, a rich young man who was interested in eternal life. I want us to look at this because I think it may help us to understand both truth and love. And for us to see how Jesus brings them together as an example of how we too can do the same. You see, I know that at times we may favor one over the other, or even think that they are sometimes incompatible. But what we are seeing this morning is that love rejoices with the truth. Love loves the truth. Listen to the story.
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:17-31)
A fascinating account for many reasons, but our focus is on truth and love. Notice verse 21 where Jesus loved him and spoke. He loved Him and spoke what? Hard truth. We may not for some amount of time have all the information needed to speak hard truth into peoples lives, but Jesus immediately knew the issue with this man. Jesus knew the idols in this man’s heart. Jesus knew what this man needed to let go of in order to give his full allegiance to Christ. Jesus, knowing full well and perfectly what was in this man’s heart, spoke truth to Him that, as we see, greatly saddened this man, even to the point of this man turning away, walking away from eternal life.
Jesus loved people enough to tell them the truth. Jesus was not telling this man to sell what he had so that he would be miserable or because Jesus hated him. Jesus was telling him to give everything away because he loved Him. Jesus knew that this man would have everything if he would let go of such a small thing as his wealth.
Is our love a love that rejoices with the truth? Do we love people enough to be truthful with them? Sometimes loving truth, loving Christ, loving God’s Word can get us to a place where people don’t like us much. Sometimes loving the truth may get us in a place where we are vulnerable to hurt. Sometimes loving truth and speaking it can bring down a person’s wrath on us. Sometimes rejoicing in truth with other people can be really uncomfortable and seem awkward.
But to love and rejoice with the truth is what we must do. Speaking truth, though, don’t forget to love! It’s not about us, it’s about what is good for others, the right words, at the right time, spoken in the right way, with a right attitude, words giving grace to the hearer with a desire to please God! That’s Ephesians 4:29.
Are we rejoicing with the truth alongside our Savior? That is what we are called to do! Loving Christ, loving each other, loving our neighbors, rejoicing with the truth!
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. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)