The Most Excellent Way
Key Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“Love is the greatest thing” has got to be the most optimistic and simplistic view of what love actually is. Love is risk, it is terrifying, it is surrender. Love is allowing someone else to have the center of your life to become your most precious thing; essentially love is venerability.
I am talking about real love, not puppy love nor, infatuation, I am talking about selfless love that has another person in mind over yourself. It is the kind of love that you have when you hold your child for the first time, or when you finally commit to be with someone for the rest of your life.
This kind of love costs and is heart-wrenching, it is difficult and painful, it sticks it out even when it is hard, and it is what we were made for! You and I were meant for love; to be loved and to love with this kind of love.
Now the thing about this kind of love is that firstly it is an expression of who God is in himself and secondly it is a gift from him to us.
What do I mean by this?
Well, God is love. He forever exists in Trinitarian love with himself; Father, Spirit, Son; for all eternity living in selfless divine love with each other.
It is only in the doctrine of the trinity that love precedes creation. If God was only one, then when he created us would be the first time that love existed. Therefore, love would be a product of creation. However, in the Trinity love exists for all eternally perfectly within the Godhead itself.
God is love! He perfectly expresses love within Himself and He gives us love as a gift.
We receive His love as a gift in what Christ has done for us on the cross. In this this God is the originator and fulfilment of need for love.
I say this because we are always so tempted to replace God (who by nature is the originator and fulfilment of our need for love) with other things. And in this we become controlled by these things and they destroy us.
So I want to talk about this-this morning.
Paul mentioned this in 1 Corinthians 13 (starting at the end of verse 12 Paul is speaking to the context of a church that thought it had it all together; it was practicing in the gifting of the Holy Spirit and by its own judgment of itself thought itself to be a great church! However, from the letter Paul writes we can see that all was not right with this church in the city of Corinth. In fact, things were very, very wrong!
Just before our passage this morning we see Paul talking about the unity in the body of Christ and each person using their gifting’s in order to build up the church. Paul is encouraging this church to live for each other and in this he reminds them of the greatest gift that they have; love!
So let’s read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 starting at 12:30b
1 Corinthians 13New International Version (NIV)
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Paul speaks to this congregation and reminds them out of all the gifts and all that they have;
One gift is better
Does Not Envy
Does Not Boast
Is Not Proud
Is Not Rude
Is Not Self-Seeking
Is Not Easily Angered
Keeps No Record Of Wrongs
Does Not Delight In Evil
Rejoices With The Truth
One Gift is eternal
This gift is love! Paul reminds a church that had become obsessed about gifts that the only gift that matters is the gift that God gives us; love!
Paul makes it obvious to this church; if I fill my life with miracles, with abilities with power, but have no love I have lost it all.
To use Paul’s own words; I gain nothing!
Church without love; a love that reflects God’s own love for Himself and His creation; a love that demonstrates itself in the selfless act of the death of Christ on the cross; without that love church we are nothing our lives are nothing; all we have gained is nothing everything we are is nothing.
You were made to receive and give this kind of love for all eternity; but because of sin we run from this kind of love our entire lives.
You see most of us know deep down that we were made for love, the love of God! However, sin has separated us from God, and sin keeps on separating us from God.
Because of this, we run to other things making them the point of our love and worship trying to gain meaning from them, however, we are not made for those things and so they eventually consume us and destroy us.
The church in Corinth had replaced love with gifts; not realizing that the greatest gift we can have the only thing we are made for is the love of God in Christ Jesus.
They thought; like many people today; if I am doing the things of God then I have the love of God. Paul says this is nothing!
Unless we have love, a love that starts from God and then expresses itself to others we are nothing!
You see church God is love! Love is not God but God is love; it makes up who he is; for all eternity God is love, so if we want to know what love is we have to look to Him and know Him.
And I want to encourage you thins morning; I believe that experiencing this love and then living in it is the sole reason that you are alive today! You were made to receive love from God and to love back, and to live in love with others around you!
Paul goes to describe this in the next part of the passage; what this kind of love is; and church, I want you to realize that in Christ; because the wrath of God has been dealt with on the cross; the following is what we experience from God!
It is here that we see God and the way that we treat others
So church God is patient with me and I live in this and live patiently with others
Again God is kind to me and I respond with kindness to others
We experience no envy in our love from God or to others…
You get the point. You were made for this church! God “So loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes…”
I am amazed that in Christ I receive fully the love of God; his patient, kind, non-envious, non-boastful, forgiving, pure love that protects me trusts me hopes, perseveres and never fails!
This is ours in Christ! Nothing comes close to anything that we can get! And Yet, you and I are so tempted to make other things the focus of our love, worship and adoration!
Maybe gifts or ability are not your thing; maybe your love is invested here, which is why Paul reminds us church;
Paul reminds the church that everything will pass; this worlds, its gifts, your abilities; your families all these are fading realities that cannot love; only faith hope and love will remain.
The greatest of these is love!
I hate to get morbid this morning; but every relationship you build this side of eternity will end! Even the closest ones; even the most precious!
Even the sacred love between parent and child; this too is severed by the inevitability of death.
So then what is the point of life? Well there is one relationship; one gift that will remain forever! The love of God in Christ Jesus!
Paul says in Roman 8:38
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The love of God in Christ Jesus is the only eternal thing you have in this life and in the life to come!
It then stands that this gift of love is all that matters! Gaining it should be your only task living in it should be your only reason for existence!
But we don’t; we allow our own importance; our own success; our families; the love of another the strengths we have the wealth we have amassed; these become the focus of our existence these become what we spend our energy on and all the while we run from the very reason for our existence.
Church; if your own ability is your love(or focus) then you will spend your life in fear of being found out that you are faking your talents (that people will see you as less that talented), if intelligence is your love; what if people find a fault in your knowledge. If your family is your first love; you will live in fear of losing them; if wealth is; your wealth can be taken away!
You see nothing in this world can fill the void we feel for love; we long to fill it; to be truly loved; so we fake it; we pretend to be who we are not; so that someone might accept the image we created so that we might find love!
We never do! Why? Because the love you long for, the hope you have to be loved, is not found in this world.
God made you to be His! And the love you long for can only be found in Him! Our opposition to this is that this calls for us to let go! To reconcile our own brokenness and live in our need. We have to accept that we cannot be with Him because our sin has taken us from Him! We have to accept that we can offer nothing; ever to make amends for the things we done!
And so we have to fall on our knees in surrender to the finished work of Chris on the cross and trust Him to forgive us; and then in faith receive His love!
It is in Christ that we find the true love that our hearts long for! It is in surrender to his grace that we discover the true reason for our existence; we are loved!
Church God loves you! He longs to love you eternally; just as He is in a community of love within Himself. However, the only way you will discover this love is in surrender to His grace!
So I want to ask you this morning; what is keeping you from the love of God in Christ Jesus; is it your desire to be seen; to matter; to achieve? It is your wealth; is it your family; is it your own Christian walk?
What needs to be surrendered to the love of God so that He is all you have and you are fully in Him? Nothing else matters church; after everything the only way to live is to live in love of the one who made you to love Him!