"THE NOBILITY OF LOVE" Part 2
First Corinthians 13.8-13
1. Turn to First Corinthians 13, where we will begin reading from verse 8. When you find that verse please stand for the reading of Godís Word:
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
2. Charity never faileth. Thatís what the apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 13.8 as he began to explain to his beloved children the nobility of love . . . Godís brand of love, not the stuff that passes for love these days.
3. Why do marriages fail? Why do friendships end? Why do Churches split? Why do relationships between young couples end so often in tragedy and heartache? Why do families have falling outs that endures for years?
4. Simple answer. No charity. No love. Not real love, anyway, for charity never faileth. Of all those things which man possesses, even of those things which the child of God receives as a part of his inheritance when he trusts Christ as His Lord and Savior, charity, love, is that which is most noble.
5. Looking at the two time frames of concern to a believer, the future and the present, the nobility of love is clearly declared in the passage before us this evening.
1A. IN VERSES 8-12 THE FUTURE ENDURANCE OF CHARITY IS DECLARED
You will remember that last week we looked at Paulís comparison of charity and three other items: prophesies, knowledge and tongues. We saw, in verse 8, that these three things shall someday end but that charity will not end: "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." Then, in verses 9 & 10, we examined prophecies and the gift of knowledge, noting that they were partial and that they would fade away as that which is perfect, the Word of God, was gradually given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: "9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Therefore, the gift of knowledge and the prophetic utterances of the gift of prophecy ceased, almost certainly no later than 100 AD.
3B. Taking Up Where We Left Off Last Week, When Paul Considered Knowledge And Prophecies, We Move On To His Final Consideration, Which Is Found In Verse 11:
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
1C. Letís examine three words in this verse before we do anything else.
1D. "Spake" refers to the faculty of speech. Paul is talking about baby talk here. Now of course, you understand that he doesnít mean goo-goo gaa-gaa, but the speech of spiritually immature Christians. Spiritual babies is what he has in mind here.
2D. "Understood" refers to a personís judgments or their opinions. Again, Paul is referring to an infantile opinion or judgment held by a spiritually immature person, as Hebrews 5.12-14 verifies: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
3D. "Thought" refers to reason and the use of logic. How logical are the thoughts of children? Of infants? You see, the precise kind of child the Greek word used in this verse refers to is a little baby. Weíre talking about baby Christians now.
2C. Having already dealt with prophecies and knowledge in verse 10, which of the three items mentioned by Paul in verse 8 do you think he is referring to in this verse? He has already dealt with prophecies and knowledge. So, he has to be talking about tongues here.
3C. Folks, with profound impact Paul is telling us that tongues is spiritual baby talking, and that it is a form of communication used by those who hold infantile opinions and who have a childlike ability to reason and use logic.
4C. And if that wasnít enough, he points out that childish things, alluding again to the gift of tongues, are simply put away as one matures and reaches spiritual manhood. Letís read it again: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." That is what Paul taught the Corinthians.
5C. Now, donít lose sight of Paulís main thrust here. Itís love. But it is quite apparent that unlike those who stressed prophecies or knowledge over love in their Christian lives, those whose fixation was on tongues had an attachment that was so very strong Paul needed to jolt them. And jolt them he did.
6C. He uses a sanctified slap in the face to get their attention off of tongues, as if to say, "Hey, itís charity thatís really important, not tongues. Grow up!" But do Pentecostals, Charismatics or members of Apostolic Churches comprehend this at all? No!
4B. Having Contrasted Love And Gifts In Verse 8, And Having Considered Love And Gifts In Verses 9-11, Paul Now Draws A Conclusion In Verse 12:
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
1C. The word "glass" is also used by James, in James 1.23, to describe Godís Word. Another piece of evidence that points to the end of knowledge and prophecies coming when the Word of God was fully given.
2C. When Scripture is complete, Paul is illustrating by drawing a parallel with a mirror, partial revelation will have given way to complete and full revelation.
3C. What Christians could see as a result of the partial gifts of prophecies and knowledge was like looking at yourself in a mirror, which in Paulís day gave a very distorted picture of what you really looked like. But the Bible was like actually looking at a person face to face, so clear and easy to see was the image it showed.
4C. Though it had not been accomplished in Paulís lifetime, the Bible has since been completed and we now "know even as also I am known."
5C. So, looking back over verses 8 through 12, Paulís point is well made. When looking at love from the point of view of future endurance, and when comparing the same with spiritual gifts, especially those gifts, charity certainly has been shown to be more noble than spiritual gifts.
There are two frames of concern to the believer in which the nobility of love is declared by Paul. We have just seen the first, in which the nobility of love is declared by its future endurance.
2A. NOW, IN VERSE 13, WE SHALL SEE THE NOBILITY OF LOVE DECLARED BY ITS PRESENT EXPERIENCE.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
1B. Donít Get The Impression, From Verse 13, That Faith And Hope Will Not Endure For As Long As Charity Will, Because Both Faith And Hope Will Endure.
1C. "But pastor, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. How can there be faith in heaven, when we will see everything?"
2C. In one sense faith will end when we are in Godís presence, but even in heaven there will be that aspect of faith which is simply trusting God. The redeemed will not cease their trust in God just because they are in heaven. No, there will be at least certain aspects of faith even in heaven.
3C. "But how about hope? If hope is the confident expectation of future blessing, will not all our expectations be fulfilled once we get to heaven?"
4C. Friends, when dealing with this subject of hope, remember that Godís ways are past finding out. For that reason, we will always have the hope of blessings not yet experienced, even after the blessed hope of the Lordís coming to take us away from here has been realized.
5C. Make no mistake about it. Faith and hope are just as eternally abiding as charity is.
2B. If All Three Of These Endure, Then Why Is It That Charity Is Greater?
1C. In First John 4.8 it is written, "God is love (charity)." God is not faith and God is not hope, but God is love. Now, love is certainly not all that God is, but He is love.
2C. Charity, therefore, love, is superior to faith and hope because charity is one aspect of the very nature of God, while faith and hope are not.
3C. I say this reverently: When the believer truly loves he is Godlike. When he truly loves he is manifesting one of the so-called communicable attributes of God, which is an attribute of Godís nature that He gives to His children.
4C. Second reason for maintaining the superiority of love over faith and hope: Who benefits when I have faith? Who benefits when I have hope? Those around me indirectly benefit, but I am the one who directly benefits.
5C. But who receives blessings in a direct way when I have charity? Others . . . then me. Truly, now abideth faith, hope, charity, but the greatest of these is charity.
1. Notice what the apostle Paul has done in First Corinthians chapter 13. He has taken our eyes off of ourselves. He has deftly persuaded us that Christianity is not self-oriented. Itís others.
2. How very easy it is for a believer to become so absorbed with the discovery and use of spiritual gifts that he completely forgets their purpose.
3. You see, a spiritual gift is a divine ability. It is a tool which God gives at the time of salvation that through which, when properly used, you love people.
4. And though spiritual gifts are convenient and nice to use, they are not required. How do I know? Because they are temporary.
5. What is required is love. And why is that? Love is required because love is what really accomplishes things. Love is what really builds and strengthens. And because love benefits others as well as yourself.
6. But remember, love is what God says it is. Love is what God defines it to be. So, if what a person expresses does not meet Godís criteria for love, it simply isnít love, and it doesnít benefit anyone, really.
7. But the nobility of love, genuine love, real love, has been well established by the Word of God. And how could we have a more appropriate subject in Godís Word to deal with as we approach the Christmas season than this subject of love?
8. Think about it. Was it not love that motivated God to send His Son to be born into this world on that Christmas night so long ago? Was it not love that prompted the Son of God to willingly leave behind heavenís glory for poverty, shame, degradation, and ultimately crucifixion?
9. Unsaved person, it was love that sent Christ to die for you that you might have life. It was love that moved someone to pray for you to be saved. It was Godís love that brought you here this evening.
10. So, approaching the time of year when we will give and receive gifts of various values and qualities, decide to receive the gift of eternal life which Christ gives to those who will but trust Him to care for their soul.