First Corinthians 13.4-7


1. First Corinthians 13.4-7 is our text for tonight. For the last two weeks we have slowed to a snailís pace in our study through Paulís first Corinthian letter.

2. In chapters 12, 13 and 14, Paul is answering their questions about spiritual gifts. Incidentally, they are the same kinds of questions that many of you have had from time to time about spiritual gifts.

3. In chapter 12 Paul dealt with gifts in a general way, emphasizing Christian diversity and the fact that God does not want all Christians to have the same spiritual gifts or to serve Him in exactly the same way. Would to God people would understand that!

4. In chapter 13 Paul moved on to something more important than spiritual gifts. "What? You mean thereís something more important than spiritual gifts?" Sure. If youíd been here for the last several weeks youíd realize that Paul emphatically stated that there very definitely is something more important than spiritual gifts . . . even the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. And what is it thatís more important than these things? Love. Or, to use the term thatís translated for love in this chapter, charity.

5. As we have seen, for all the running around that some people do, and clamoring for gifts, let us not forget that itís charity, itís love, which leaves its mark for Christ, not gifts.

6. With that again in mind, letís return to First Corinthians 13.4-7, and resume our study of charityís refusal. Shall we stand together and read Godís Word?

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.

7. To reiterate from last Sunday night, we are examining the eight things that charity will not do. Charityís refusal. There are certain things that love simply will not do.

8. Have you found yourself short of the mark in this area? Well, this evening I have several more things for you to consider that charity will not do.


In First Corinthians 13.5 Paul wrote, "Doth not behave itself unseemly."

Attention potential young lovers, this is one you will want to pay close attention to.

1B. First, A Definition

1C. The phrase "doth not behave itself unseemly" actually represents only two Greek words, one meaning "not" and the other meaning "unseemly," which is to behave disgracefully, dishonorably, or indecently.

2C. The root word from which "unseemly" is derived means "shape." So we can see the logical development of the root word from its literal reference to a shape to the meaning of our word in First Corinthians chapter 13, which is a reference to something that is morally and ethically out of shape. Charity is not out of its proper moral and ethical shape.

3C. This teaches us that love, contrary to the Hollywood notion of sexual love, is tactful, is not rude, and is never contrary to Godís will or contrary to that which is in good taste.

2B. Now, Two Biblical Examples

1C. Turn to Acts chapter 23, where weíll observe the apostle Paul demonstrate genuine love in the face of real adversity. In the passage we are about to read Paul is under arrest in Jerusalem for simply preaching the Gospel, and he now faces those who falsely accuse him of wrongdoing. Notice what leads up to Paulís demonstration of genuine love.

1D. Paul is struck by the direction of the high priest, Acts 23.1-2: "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth."

2D. From Deuteronomy 25.1-2 we know that the high priest violated the Mosaic Law when he ordered men to strike Paul: "If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number." So, Paul was denied due process of the Law of Moses.

3D. Back to Acts 23. Paul, who didnít know the identity of the man who had ordered that he be struck, immediately responded, verse 3: "Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?"

4D. Whereupon he is informed that he has done wrong to the current high priest, verse 4: "And they that stood by said, Revilest thou Godís high priest?"

5D. Realizing his error, Paul shows real charity in verse 5 by correcting himself: "Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."

6D. Here is an example of love holding its shape and honoring Ananias instead of saying, "Well, if he hadnít hit me I wouldnít have said those things about him."

7D. Because of his documented vision problems, Paul probably did not recognize who he was speaking to as the high priest. But does he attempt to justify what he did? No. Did he withhold his demonstration of love for the manís position, knowing it was an evil man who held the position? No. He simply showed that real love is expressed no matter what the circumstances of the situation happen to be.

2C. In Romans 1.26-27 we see an opposite example:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1D. Referring to lesbian behavior in verse 26 and homosexual behavior in verse 27, Paul categorizes this type of behavior as "unseemly."

2D. But hold on a second. The Bible says that "charity doth not behave itself unseemly." Conclusion?

3D. Homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual perversion, sodomy, "gayness", call it what you like, is not and cannot involve genuine love. Why not? Itís unseemly, and love is not unseemly.

4D. "Pastor, if it isnít love, then what is it? People who commit that sort of sin say they love each other." My friends, it is not love at all. What it is instead is reprobate lust of the most base variety . . . according to the Word of God.

5D. As well, it is God Who is love. Therefore, because He is love in His very essence it is up to Him to describe and circumscribe love for us, to tell us what is and what is not an expression of love. The creature has no business telling the Creator what is and is not love.

3B. Letís Apply What Weíve Learned

1C. Folks, if charity is not unseemly, that is, if it has shape or structure to it, where is the proper shape of love to be found? Right. The Word of God. You see, if an expression of love does not agree with the Biblical requirements for the expression of love, then it isnít really love thatís being expressed.

2C. Example. Sexual relations between a man and a woman. Is it love or is it lust? The world says that what it is depends on how you "feel" about the person, whatever that means. But for sex to be love it has to have a definite shape, it has to fit within certain guidelines. If sex fits within the guidelines of marriage, itís love. But if it lies beyond the guidelines of marriage, I donít care how you feel toward each other, itís lust acting out the sin of fornication.

3C. Another example. How about loving God? Does loving God have shape? Sure it does. And what shape does loving God have to assume for it to really be loving God, instead of deceiving yourself? Well, according to Second John 6, loving God is walking after His commandments. Itís obedience. You can sing all the choruses you want to. You can have all the good feelings toward God you want. But if you do not obey Him in such areas as giving, Church attendance, witnessing, ministering to other believers, etc., you do not love God. Period.

4C. Think of the Bible as being parallel to a gelatin mold. Now think of love, charity, as the Jell-O thatís poured into the mold. Folks, itís the mold which determines the shape and the form of the Jell-O. Likewise, itís the Word of God which determines whether or not the expression is actually an expression of love . . . or something else entirely.

5C. If itís unseemly, it isnít love. And how very important it is that this profound truth be thoroughly drilled into the value system of every child before he or she reaches adolescence, where the yearnings and desires begin to exert themselves. Amen?


1B. Shall We Begin With A Definition?

1C. No real need to define terms here. Obviously, charity does not have a problem with selfishness or self-interest.

2C. Real love seeks to benefit those who are loved, wants the best for those who are loved, and doesnít focus on self to the detriment of others.

2B. A Couple Of Biblical Examples

1C. What kind of example does Paul set for us to follow, so far as this attitude of "not looking out for number one?" I think we can see his personal philosophy summed up in what he wrote to the Corinthians in First Corinthians 10.24: "Let no man seek his own, but every man anotherís wealth."

2C. You see, itís selfishness which looks out for "number one," but itís love which looks out for the well being and benefit of others.

3C. Obviously, the best example of all of this aspect of love is the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 20.28: "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." And also Matthew 26.39: "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

4C. Do you see the whole attitude of Christ in those two verses? His love for lost mankind showed itself in His willingness to do none of those things for Himself that He might do and would deserve, in favor of doing those things which would directly benefit us.

3B. How Does That Speak To You This Evening?

1C. What things do you seek after? Do you seek your own interests, or do you seek the interests of others? What do you spend your money on, primarily? Yourself?

2C. Whose interest is sought when a husband uses his wifeís income, not to get out of debt so she can stay at home and do what God wants her to do, but to bankroll his own irresponsibility and to buy his adult toys? Whose interest is he seeking? He would have a hard time convincing that woman that he is seeking her interests. Amen?

3C. Or whose interests are sought when extra money must always be spent on what you want, what you desire, what you crave? Is that fellow seeking the interests of his wife? Is that woman seeking the best interests of her husband? Is that mom or dad seeking the childrenís best interests?

4C. How about when you are driving on the freeway and a fellow comes up the on-ramp and properly signals to move into your lane? Are you showing Christian love when you give it just enough gas so that guy has to move in behind you instead of in front of you? I donít think so.

5C. Finally, how about drinking, or doing some other non-liquid drug? Is it possible for someone to drink, even a little bit, and love? Well, it depends on your answer to this question. Does a person who drinks drink for the benefit of another person, say his wife or his kids, or does he drink because it benefits him? Same is true of drugs.

6C. People do those kinds of things, not for the benefit of others, but because it makes them feel good. They donít care what impact their drinking or drugging has on their so-called "loved ones," or they wouldnít do it. I come from two clans with lots of hard drinkers on both sides, so I know what Iím talking about.

7C. Folks, this matter of seeking not your own is partly a matter of how big your God really is, and whether you really believe He will take care of you or not. If you really believe God will take care of you then you wonít have to spend all your time looking out for yourself. You can give to others.

8C. But if you subconsciously wonít let people in front of you on the freeway, wonít let people in front of you at the check out stand, buy things for yourself instead of things for your mate . . . you really need to question your reasons for not loving others. It may be because you, deep down in your heart, do not realize that God will take care of you, so you donít need to be a "look out for number one" kind of guy.

9C. Charity seeketh not her own. The Christian wife who loves her husband seeks not to lead him, to make decisions he ought to make, but seeks his growth as the spiritual leader in her home. And the Christian husband who loves his wife will not allow his wife to lead him, to run him, because he loves her and realizes that itís not good for her to seek her own in that way.


1B. The Definition

1C. This phrase, "easily provoked," translates a single Greek word that means "to urge on, to stimulate, to provoke to wrath, to irritate."

2C. This is another of those words which can have either a good or bad interpretation, depending on the context in which itís used. In this case it refers to getting sharp and irritable, or even getting royally ticked off at people. In other words, charity does not have a bad temper.

3C. You know how we get sharp with people, especially our own kids sometimes? Well, when we are easily provoked, according to Paul, it isnít love weíre expressing.

4C. And isnít there something distinctly unfeminine about a woman who is known for blowing her stack and letting people have it? When I see some woman tearing into someone while her husband is standing by silently I think that their poor kids will have issues with gender identity.

5C. I remember when one fellow was running for city council here in Monrovia. Garcia is his name. I made a comment in a city council meeting during the campaign that his wife heard. So she called me up on the phone to chew me out about publicly disagreeing with her husband. My only response to her was, "Does your husband always ask you to do his dirty work for him?"

6C. Excuse me, but if there is going to be any chewing out of anyone done for the benefit of this man or his wife or his child it will be done by this man. Protecting my family is my work, and I am so glad I am not married to some Hell on wheels woman who is proud of her ability to terrorize people who cross her, or who steps up to the plate and takes pitches that her husband ought to swing at. Iíll swing my own bat, thank you.

7C. But weíre on charity not being easily provoked, arenít we?

2B. Let Me Show You Two Examples

1C. The first example is in Acts 15.39: "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus."

1D. Remember, if you will, that on the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas the young nephew of Barnabas, John Mark, for one reason or another, defected and left the missionary party high and dry to go home to his mommy.

2D. Months later we find Paul and Barnabas arguing in this verse about whether or not to give the lad a second chance. Uncle Barnabas was in favor of a second chance, but Paul, perhaps thinking the importance of their second journey much too important to risk a proven quitter, was dead set against it.

3D. Our word "provoked" is translated in this verse into the word "sharp." So, the narrative indicates a decided lack of Christian love in this dispute. The result? They no longer served God together as a team. Who was in the wrong? The Church sided with Paul. Paul went on to write a large portion of the New Testament. Barnabas slips into oblivion. Paul was right to refuse John Mark a quick second chance for such an important mission.

2C. Our other example is found in Acts 17.16: "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."

1D. Here we see the same word translated "stirred." Is Paul showing a lack of love here, as I believe Barnabas did in the previous verse? I donít think so.

2D. Here we see Paul provoked at sin and the consequences of sin. He was not provoked at a sinner. He was furious with idolatry, while still loving the idolaters.

3D. Provocation at sin does not indicate a lack of love. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that real love for sinners requires that sin provoke you, since it so harms those you love.

3B. Letís Apply This Final Aspect Of Love For This Evening

1C. Honest disagreements arise between people. They always have and they always will. Disagreeing with someone doesnít always mean you are unspiritual.

2C. But the great thing about love is that it never allows a disagreement, an honest difference of opinion, to become personal.

3C. Why? Because when a disagreement becomes a personal thing division results and, like Paul and Barnabas, even close friends who are intensely spiritual can no longer serve God in the same ministry.

4C. So, when you disagree, donít ever attack that person with whom you differ, and donít ever go for the throat, as it were, in anger. Thatís sin of such a serious nature that even the friendship of Paul and Barnabas couldnít, or didnít, survive the strain.


1. Let me conclude this message with a single, far-reaching, application involving the three aspects of love weíve just examined.

2. I want to apologize in advance for stereotyping. Hereís the situation. Two young adults are dating. John is 21 and Jane is 20. And I use this illustration even though I am personally opposed to dating. I donít think itís wise and I donít think informed and spiritual young people should date. But I use this illustration because so many do date.

3. They tell each other that they are in love. They actually think they are in love. There is no doubt that each finds the other both emotionally and physically exciting. But do they really love each other?

4. Using the Word of God as our guide, letís see if they love each other. Remember, since God is love He knows much more about what love is and isnít than any human being. And since His Word is without error of any kind, the Bible will help us to discover whether or not John and Jane really love each other.

5. When they began seeing each other John made advances to Jane, attempting to persuade her to submit to his desires. Now, since love seeketh not her own, John, at this point in time clearly demonstrated by what he attempted that he did not love Jane. At least not really. Thatís one mark against John.

6. If Jane was a spiritual young lady and interested in Godís best for her, this is all it would take for her to stop seeing John. Why? Because the more she is around John to be subject to such persuasion by someone she is attracted to the more likely she is to give in to the temptation in the future.

7. After dating awhile and fogging up the car windows, Jane finally, inevitably, gives in and gives herself to John. At this point she demonstrates her lack of love for him, because love refuses to behave itself unseemly and fornication is unseemly. Amen? His fornication is also unseemly, and he also does not love her. So, we now have one mark against Jane and a second mark against John.

8. Feeling appropriately guilty for having sex with a man not her husband, Jane later refuses to fulfill Johnís recurring desires. After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade her to submit to his desires John now becomes quite provoked, indicating in yet another way that he doesnít really love her. A third mark against John in our tally.

9. Sound familiar? For all I know this may describe how most married couples for the last thirty years got their start with each other. But it also describes reality from a Biblical perspective. Jane doesnít love John and he certainly doesnít love Jane. She is trading affection for sinful sex and he is trading whatever is necessary for sinful sex.

10. They say itís love, but Scripture says itís not love at all. The result? Short term it may be marriage. But long term it will likely be divorce, or years of loneliness and bitterness in a frustrated marriage. Not always, especially if both Jane and John have very low personal standards and goals for marriage, but usually.

11. "Pastor, what do I do? Youíve described my marriage. Youíve described me!" Start from scratch. Ask for your spouseís forgiveness if thatís how the two of you started. Admit past sins. Admit past wrong motives. And begin to build real love in your marriage. Make Christ you third marriage partner.

12. What if youíre not married yet? Stop committing these sins. Repent of these sins. Begin to do right. And if youíre a parent of a young person who is still living at home, have enough native intelligence to realize that as a parent you are supposed to keep your kids out of these situations to begin with.

13. If you expect your child to have any long term respect for you then you wonít allow that kind of sin to be committed by anyone living under your roof. How terrible it is that some parents are more concerned about a high school diploma or a college degree for their kid than showing their kid what their absolute standards are concerning sexual purity.

14. Parents, love means setting a godly example of spirituality and obedience to God, as well as continuing to rule your children so long as they live in your home. And donít be a moron who allows your child to get into compromising situations. Thatís not love, mom and dad. Thatís dumb.

15. Hey girls, are you going to continue to see some clown who says he loves you but simply wants to take advantage of you? Then youíll wonder why he mistreats you after youíre married to him.

16. Hey pal, you going to keep company with a girl whoís hot blooded and lets you know it? Go ahead and play married games. Then Iíll remind you when she cheats on you while youíre at work that she committed sin to get sex before she was married, so thereís no reason to not expect the same behavior after sheís married.

17. And parents, give your kids a break. If you climbed into a small car and spent hours with some attractive member of the opposite sex, what do you think would eventually happen? Then what causes you to think something different will happen with your kid? Theyíre made of the same stuff you are.

18. Iíve focused on sexual purity because of the potential for long term damage that is caused, but letís not forget that behaving not itself unseemly, and refusing to seek her own, and refusing to be provoked applies to many other areas of our life as well.

19. I ask you again, do you love people? Letís start acting like we love people . . . Godís way. Amen?

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