Conclusions

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. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)

I have thoroughly enjoyed going through 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 over the last five months with you. And I have thoroughly struggled through 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 over the last five months! I have discovered that as we get to, really get to what it means to love other people biblically, the more I discover my personal inability to do it well. To whatever degree I thought I loved people around me, I have discovered that I fall way short of the kind of love we have been learning about. And what I am learning from that is that when I feel this inability to love God’s way or unable to love as Paul has described love – and I am talking about in the details of daily living – when I know I am unable, the more I rely on God and His strength, and the result of that is a greater ability to love, because it is love done in the strength and might of God, and not my own. My focus, our focus has to be taken off of ourselves and placed on God and His ability to help us love.

So what happens is that we see the depth of what it means to love, we look at our lives in an honest way, and then we do one one of two things: we fall into despair because we see how short we fall, or we acknowledge our weakness and we cry out to God, and, trusting Him, we move forward in this love. We despair or we go to God. We give up or we rely on Him. That is the crossroad, every day we find ourselves right there. 

I want to urge you this morning, today, don’t despair and give up loving others, but trust and rely on God to love through you. The cost of giving up in despair is just too great. As I have counseled hundreds of hours over the years and spoken to Christian brothers and sisters over and over again, I hear things like, “I can’t love that way! You don’t know the person I am dealing with, you don’t understand my situation, you don’t know what I have been through, I cannot love the way you have described.” Have you heard that? Have you said that yourself? I have. And what I say to that at times is, “Well then, you are in a good place! I am glad you recognize that you are weak in the area of love, because where you are weak as a believer in Christ, God stands ready to reveal Himself as strong.” And if we believe that, then we have to agree it is not that we “can’t” love biblically. Speaking to Christians who have the Spirit of God in them, it is not that we can’t love biblically, it becomes that we won’t love biblically, because in the strength of Christ we now can. The question is will we?

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

That we are loving has really very little to do with us, it has to do with putting God on display who is in us. And here is the great thing: when we really love like this, I mean, really love this way, it is God in us, it is not us, not our flesh, and people will know that! People need to see God’s love in us, we need to see God’s love in others, this is what we mean by living for God’s glory, putting Him on display, His love on display through people, through you and through me.

So if we are patient and kind, if we don’t envy or boast, if we’re not arrogant or rude, if we don’t insist on our own way, we’re not irritable or resentful, if we don’t rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoice in the truth, if we bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure our things, then that is God in us, it is Him on display! Not our poor efforts.

I mentioned the importance that we all live out this radical biblical love. It’s important because the success of our entire lives of service and ministry rides on whether or not we are doing what we are doing empowered by the Holy Spirit, Him in us, while saturated with love.

Either we love as we serve and minister or we waste our time. It’s just that simple. Either we serve in our church, in our community motivated by a love for God and a love for our neighbors, or we do works, even outward looking kind deeds apart from love, and we waste our time.

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. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

That is Paul’s point. We do what we do in love and have impact for Christ, or we do what we do with some other motive – popularity, power, pleasing people, trying to impress others for whatever reason – and we waste our time and bring harm to the name of Christ. The risk is too high to do our work, to do ministry, to serve others without love.

D.A. Carson wrote an article in which he speaks on Revelation 2:4, which describes the church at Ephesus. Listen to what he said, “They still proclaim the truth, but no longer passionately love Him who is the truth. They still perform good deeds, but no longer out of love, brotherhood, and compassion. They preserve the truth and witness courageously, but forget that love is the greatest witness to truth. It is not so much that their genuine virtues have squeezed love out, but that no amount of good works, wisdom, and discernment in matters of church discipline, patient endurance in hardship, hatred of sin, or disciplined doctrine, can ever make up for lovelessness.”

Here is the passage, the words of our Lord to the church of which D.A. Carson wrote:

2 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

All of our good works, all of our theological correctness can never make up for a lack of love. We are fooling ourselves if we think good works apart from love are helpful for the church, for the Kingdom of God, or for our neighbors.

We, as a church, are on the verge, I believe, of significant ministry and service in our community. We have all discussed some of those things. We have opportunities to work together as a church family for Christ, as His children in our community and beyond. More than fifty of you will participate in missions this summer. Dozens will reach out to young students and their families through a Christ-based tutoring ministry, our biblical counseling ministry continues to reach people with the ministry of the Word to people we would never meet otherwise. Many of you are involved and many, many helped. Evangelism is taking root, ministry to widows and orphans being discussed. God is opening doors for us, giving us opportunities, the fields seems white for harvest and avenues are opening up for us. 

With all these things, we can so easily blow it, utterly fail, fall on our faces. What is that one way? To do any of these, to do all of these without love. We can work really hard, we can be a dutiful people, we can bear great responsibility, we can work really, really hard, but without love we are a noisy gong and an irritating, clanging cymbal; we are nothing, we gain nothing!

Why are we doing what we are doing? We must ask that question of ourselves, and ask it again and again and again. What is motivating our service to God? If the answer is, “I love Christ, and I love my neighbor,” we are on the right path. He has loved us undeservedly so, how is that thought impacting our motivation, what we do?

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-32, 35-39)

That is the point. His love overwhelming us to the point where we say, “How can I love you in return? Because that is what I want to do, I want to love you back, and so my life is yours, my heart is yours. How can I live for you?” When we get to that point, we go to 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and find the answer. Because He loves us, this is now how we can love others.

If we are not overwhelmed by Christ’s love for us, we will not love a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. But we can love this way, we really can.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I feel like there is at least one other thing that needs to be said as, again, as we complete this study. Look at the first sentence in verse 8 – “Love never ends.”

I have heard from many of you over the last five months. And a reoccurring thought that many of you have shared with me is, “How can I love all people all the time?” Many people cross our paths right? How can we love them all? How do we pour ourselves into other people’s lives with a love that never ends? You may say, “I meet new people all the time, and so next week I will know more people than I do this week. How can I be involved with them all? Because if I’m going to love biblically, don’t I need to be involved with them?” You may say, “I have a family, I have laundry to do, meals to cook, aged parents to care for, and there are car repairs, lawns to mow, and on and on. How can I do it all?” And I think that is a great question! So I am glad you are thinking and asking it. Honestly, that is a question that I have been really focused on lately too. I want to love biblically, I want to be faithful, and I know you do too, but how can we keep it up? Well here is where the Bible once again helps us. 

Exodus 18 – Moses had a problem. Moses was loving the Israelites, serving them, helping them in many ways. They had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, they were receiving bread from heaven, they had even won a battle. Moses was their God-appointed leader. 

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law came to visit. Jethro had heard about all that was going on with Moses and what had taken place in Egypt, and he came to see for himself what all was going on. Here is what Jethro saw.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. (Exodus 18:13-18)

What did Jethro suggest?

21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:21-23)

What was Jethro’s solution? Get other people involved, “that they will bear the burden with you.” Sometimes really loving another person will mean finding someone else to get involved with you or even in your place.

Love endures all things, and love never ends – we can love with endurance and with a love that never ends by sometimes finding the right person to be the primary contact with another, or a co-laborer in loving someone else. You may need to delegate, and that is not giving up on a person. We cannot do that. But it may be finding him or her better help than what we are personally able to provide. 

Look, we have a body of believers here approaching 250 people. If you are swamped in service, in ministry, in reaching out to other people, look around and see who can help you, see who else can be involved. Loving others may mean getting your brothers or sisters in Christ involved in what you are doing. Jesus got others involved in loving service, Paul got others involved in the churches, Peter did the same. We are to be lovers of people together. If you can’t do it alone, then pray and seek others to help you. We are to bear with each other, right? We are a family, and that is what families do.

In closing, let me summarize 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 with the help of Wayne Mack, from his book “Maximum Impact.” Here is what he says:

“Paul says that love is patient; and the truth is that if we are going to develop that aspect of love, we will have to die to the desire for an untroubled life.

Paul says that love is kind; and if we are going to develop this kindness aspect of love, we are going to have to die to harshness, vindictiveness, retaliation, and maliciousness.

Love does not envy; if we are going to develop and sustain this aspect of love, we are going to have to be willing to die to the desire for unshared affection or unrivaled attention.

Love does not brag or boast and is not proud or arrogant; that means that we must die to the desire to call attention to our successes or think of ourselves more highly than other people.

Love does not behave rudely; that means we must die to behaviors and conversations that may offend others.

Love does not insist on its own way; we must die to the dominance of our own desires and preferences.

Love is not irritable; we must die to irritability and impatience and to our desire for a life with no frustrations.

Love is not resentful; that means it does not keep records of wrong, dying to bitterness and a desire for revenge.

Love doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing; we must die to taking pleasure in our own sin or the sin of others.

Love rejoices in the truth; we must die to all lying, dishonesty, and deceitfulness.

Love bears all things; that means dying to the desire to expose the sins and faults of others.

Love believes all things; that means dying to a critical and judgmental and suspicious attitude toward others.

Love hopes all things; we are to die to a pessimistic, negative attitude toward people and our circumstances in life.

Love endures; that means dying to the desire to run away from pain of trials and difficulties that sometimes come with loving other people.”

Love never ends! I hope we all move more toward this kind of love individually and corporately as a local body of Christ. Think of the impact for the glory of God!

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. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)