Calvary Road Baptist Church

“LOVE’S REFUSAL” Part 1

First Corinthians 13.4-7

 

Did you know there was a time in man’s history when our race really understood, or at least was intimately acquainted with, love? Yes, there was a time when the race of man knew what love was. That time in our history was when mankind knew God. There were only two members of the race then . . . Adam and Eve. They lived in the Garden of Eden, as the first chapters of the book of Genesis tell us. Those two, as beings created directly by God, knew what love was because they knew God. You see, God is love.

You may be interested to know that Islamic theology is defective in many respects in comparison to Christianity, and one obvious shortfall not found in Islam that is fully developed in Christianity is love. This great shortfall concerning love in Islam results from their conception of Allah. You see, the Koran reveals Allah to be quite different from the God of Israel, the God of the Bible. In scripture, God reveals Himself a being who loves unconditionally, and who is love. The Allah of the Koran, on the other hand, is never described as love and is explicitly revealed a being who only loves conditionally.

Because scripture explicitly declares that God is love, in First John 4.8 and 16, as we study what First Corinthians chapter 13 reveals to us about love we also learn about God. As well, we learn something about what Adam and Eve must have been like before they fell into sin. Horrible word sin. Just sounds evil and wicked. Because of sin, unsaved man does not know God and cannot conceive of what real love is. Even when a man trusts Christ, thereby knows God, and is known of God, his sin still distorts his concept of love, and he must learn in God’s classroom what love really is.

This is why Paul wrote about the subject, to correct the misconceptions of his readers and to clear up their blurred vision, so they might, so we might, see what love, see what charity, really is. When we were last in this First Corinthian letter, we examined charity’s response to other people. “Charity suffereth long and is kind.” This morning we move on to charity’s refusal.

We know that wisdom can be gained from studying God’s Word, in addition to the experiences of life and in answer to prayer. As well, we discover that we can sometimes learn a great deal more about genuine love through Bible study, by coming to understand what it is not (as well as by what it is), by what it will not under any circumstances do, and how it will not ever behave. You see, there are certain things charity simply will not do.

Our text is First Corinthians 13.4-7, so stand with me and read that passage silently while I read aloud:

 

4     Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5     Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6     Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7     Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 

In our text, there are eight things charity refuses to do, eight actions real love will not ever engage in, so that by doing so you are not showing love. Examine them with me one at a time.

 

First, CHARITY, LOVE, REFUSES TO ENVY

 

Paul’s exact words are “charity envieth not.”

 

As is my practice, let me define the term we are using. The word “envieth” translates the same Greek word that our English word “zealous” comes from. It is a highly emotional word that can refer to either very good or very bad emotions, depending on the context in which the word is used. Rienecker defines the word, “to be fervent, to boil w. envy, to be jealous.”[1] The context in which the word is used here definitely refers to the bad range of meanings, and carries the idea of bitterness, of resentment, and of being upset at the blessings received by other people.

Look at some biblical examples with me.

Turn to Acts 7.9, where we read about Joseph’s experience with this thing called envy. “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him.” In this verse, Stephen describes the attitude that Joseph’s brothers had toward him, that motivated them to sell him into Egyptian slavery four hundred years before the birth of Moses. Now turn to Genesis 37.3-11 and read Moses’ account of the same event:

 

3     Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

4     And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

5     And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more

6     And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

7     For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

8     And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

9     And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10    And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

11    And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

 

Did his brothers envy him? According to Moses, in verse 11, yes, they did envy him. However, envy is what could be detected in their attitude toward him. Notice what Moses says about them in verse 5. “. . . and they hated him yet the more.” Three times mention is made of their hatred for their brother in this passage. Therefore, you see, envy is simply the outward manifestation of hatred, which is the opposite of love. If you love someone you delight in their blessings, but envy is antagonism toward someone in reaction to their good fortune. Therefore, envy really is an expression of hatred.

In Acts 13.44-45, we see Paul’s experience with envy.

 

44    And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

45    But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

 

These two verses form a part of Luke’s account of Paul’s ministry in a city called Antioch, which was in a region called Pisidia, just south of modern day Turkey. As you can tell, the blessings of God were so abundant that the unconverted Jews in the community were provoked to envy. Specifically, their envy was the result of observing the Gentile’s tremendous response to Paul’s ministry. However, when you go back and look at Joseph’s experience, we find that the same holds true. His brothers were provoked to envy by the blessings Joseph received from their father.

Let me try to apply this principle. When the context of the passage shows it to be strong emotion that is bad and improper, envy seems to be an outward display of an inner hatred. Envy also seems to be a sinful response to the blessings others have received. When understood in this way, it is easy to see that genuine love is not envious. Genuine love rejoices when others are blessed, and will not become angry and resentful just because it appears as though others are being blessed more. When you understood the matter in that light, would you conclude that you are envious? Are you teaching your children to be envious? Do not be surprised at my question. Many parents are inadvertently training their children to envy others instead of training them to love others. Have you ever seen parents throw a birthday party for one of their kids, but they go to great lengths to make sure that each of their children gets a present? Why do they do that? They want to be fair and they do not want to upset their children, not realizing that they are training their children to always expect to be blessed when someone else is blessed. However, that is not the way things work in the real world. Despite their best intentions, I fear that parents who do such things may be preparing their kids to be provoked to envy whenever someone is blessed and they are not. Moms and dads, if your child gets angry or starts crying when someone else gets something and he does not, or when he becomes upset at seeing others receive what he would like to have for himself, I urge you not to run out and try to satisfy his demands. Realize the child’s negative response to another’s blessing to be a sinful reaction, and begin training your youngster to rejoice when others are blessed. I am persuaded that if you train a kid to react in that way you are training him to love, because charity envieth not.

 

Second, CHARITY, LOVE, REFUSES TO VAUNT ITSELF

 

Paul wrote, “charity vaunteth not itself.”

 

What does the term mean? Clement of Alexandria, who was a preacher who lived about 1500 years ago, defined the term in this way. He wrote that to “vaunt yourself” was to ornament yourself with emphasis on the useless.[2] In modern day terminology, it means to brag on yourself or to brag on some useless nonsense related to you. Love does not do this.

A couple of examples from God’s Word would be beneficial for us to consider. First, the tragedy of good king Hezekiah vaunting himself. In Second Kings 20, Hezekiah, king of Judah and a wonderful man of God, asked for and received from God a guarantee of 15 additional years of life. In verses 12-18 of that same chapter, we read of Hezekiah’s bragging, and the consequences:

 

12    At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.

13    And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.

14    Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.

15    And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.

16    And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.

17    Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

18    And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

 

If you have ever read through the Old Testament, you will verify that it happened just as Isaiah predicted. Hezekiah’s boasting about things he was really not responsible for, the wealth of his household, which had been given by God, is a classic example of what it is to vaunt yourself. Now read of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s bragging in Daniel 4.29-33.

 

29     At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

30     The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

31     While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

32     And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will

33     The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

 

In a previous account in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had been warned by the prophet Daniel not to take credit for the might and majesty of Babylon, but to give the glory to God. Nebuchadnezzar, however, chose to vaunt himself, and he received the consequences he was warned about. Only the grace of God saved that king from the ultimate consequences of his sinful bragging, which would have been Hell.

How do these illustrations speak to us? Think about it for just a moment. What an utter waste of time it is to brag on your intelligence, or to brag on your beauty, or even to brag on things that you possess. Though we do not think it so, is it not bragging to drive your nice car through town for the purpose of showing off and tempting people to look at your nice car? Is that not a form of silent bragging? Of course it is. What we ought to do instead of bragging, instead of vaunting ourselves, is to realize that everything we have and everything we are is from the Lord. For that reason, if there is to be any bragging, brag on the Lord. As Paul wrote in First Corinthians 1.31, “He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.”

An example for you to consider: When your child approaches you and says, “See what I can do,” is he not vaunting himself? As cute as he may be, that is exactly what he is doing. It is only natural for a kid to do that. It is also wrong. It may be that a child receiving unsolicited praise from his parents would be less likely to commit that sin. Or how about a woman who wears tight and immodest clothes? Is she not vaunting herself? Is she not drawing attention to or bragging about some part of her physique? Sure she is. If she thinks her figure is her doing, she can just wait until God decides to give her a forty pound gift. Then see how much bragging she does about her figure. You do not see me bragging about my body do you? There is a lesson for you. Parents, be very careful not to teach your kids to do things when they are little that they will have to unlearn to effectively serve God as adults. Amen?

 

Third, CHARITY, LOVE, REFUSES TO PUFF ITSELF

 

A definition for the word “puff.” This word really needs no help. Just like blowing up an inner tube, or having a swelled head. You know what being puffed is. The tense of the word, because it is a verb in our text, shows that no one can do this to you. You can only do it to yourself. Therefore, an approximate synonym would be the word “arrogant.” When a person is arrogant, he tends to act as if he is puffed with pride.

There are numerous examples of this behavior. Remember the example of the praying Pharisee? Turn to Luke 18.10-13:

 

10    Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11    The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12    I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13    And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

 

Here we have the Lord Jesus Christ showing two different men praying. Completely different in their approach to God. Know what the Pharisee was doing? He was puffing himself. He was puffing himself in front of God, no less.

Then, of course, we have the infamous Corinthian Christians. Three things to notice about them. Read First Corinthians 4.6-7:

 

6      And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

7      For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

 

Here we see that to be puffed up is to have feelings of superiority toward other people. Folks, we need to realize that we are all different, but that in God’s economy differences have nothing to do with better or worse. No person is superior to another. Now read First Corinthians 5.1-2:

 

1      It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

2      And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

 

Want to know what puffed up is in this situation? Dealing with sin in a manner that is different from the way God said to deal with it. Just think about it for a moment. Is it not the height of arrogance to try to solve a sin problem in a way that is different from the way God said to deal with it? Sure, because when you try to deal with sin in your own way you are acting as though you know more about sin than God does. That is puffed up if anything is. Finally, read First Corinthians 8.1-2:

 

1      Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

2      And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

 

Here we see that a person is puffed up when he thinks he knows more than he really knows. The Corinthians knew many facts, but their knowledge of God, that can only be gained through intimacy with Him, was sadly lacking.

How do we make practical use of what we have learned about this aspect of love? Think of the variety of ways in which we Christians can puff ourselves. Do we not do it by creating our own yardsticks of comparison so that we can esteem ourselves more highly than others? Here is where the difference between being puffed up and vaunting yourself can most easily be seen. When you vaunt yourself, you are trying to elevate yourself in the eyes of others. You are promoting yourself in one way or another. However, when you puff yourself you are magnifying your importance in your own eyes, often by diminishing others in your opinion. How is this done? Oh, oftentimes we will hold private little contests between ourselves and other people. The goal of the little contest is to declare yourself the winner, thereby puffing yourself in your own eyes. “Well, at least I don’t . . . .” The only problem is that you never inform anyone else of this spiritual competition. You compare yourself to other people, making it possible for you to declare yourself the winner in the contest. Then you can mentally demean others and boast in your heart. Is that love? I do not think so.

 

We do not have time to look at all eight things love refuses to do, but these three examples have been helpful, I think, in a number of ways. As I predicted, our study has helped us know more of our great God Who is love. Consider God’s great love.

Since God is love, God cannot envy. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. God, Who is all-sufficient, does not really ever receive blessings. Instead, He gives blessings, He bestows blessings. Therefore, if envy is at least partly the reaction of a person who does not get blessed as he wants to be, then we see that it is impossible for God to envy, since God only gives and has no need of receiving blessing. Since He already has everything there is to have, since He is the Possessor of all things, and the Creator of all things, how could He react negatively when someone else gets something? You see, when someone gets something, it ultimately has to come from Him. Next, since God is love, God cannot vaunt Himself. Why not? To vaunt yourself is to elevate yourself in the sight of others. However, God, Who is already high and lifted up, Isaiah 6.1, has no need to vaunt Himself. Finally, since He is love, God cannot puff Himself up. To puff yourself is to magnify yourself in your own sight. However, remember, in Jeremiah 23.24 God points out that He fills heaven and earth. How could Someone Who fills heaven and earth puff Himself? Alternatively, why would He feel the need to? No, God does not do any of those petty, sinful things. He loves us. He will never envy us because He wants us to be greatly blessed. He will never vaunt Himself, because He seeks to lift up those of us who will humble ourselves in His sight. Moreover, He will never puff Himself. On the contrary, He so wants to convince us of our importance to Him, that He sent His Own Son to die for our sins. God loves us.

He showed us He loves us when He sent His Son to die on Calvary’s cross. Jesus showed us He loves us when He willingly suffered the death of the cross for our sins. The Holy Spirit shows us He loves us by creating love in our hearts by His indwelling presence. Oh, don’t you see my friend, how you can be loved, and then how you can love? You must come to Christ. In Christ, you will know the love of God, and as a Christian, you will become a fountain of love toward others. Let me challenge you to examine that void in your life that only God’s love in Christ can fill. Come to Christ. Come to Christ today.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 432.

[2] Cited by I. D. E. Thomas in The Golden Treasury Of Patristic Quotations, (Oklahoma City: Hearthstone Publications Ltd, 1996)



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