Calvary Road Baptist Church


First Corinthians 13.4-7


For two Sunday mornings, not counting last Sunday with our special speaker, we have proceeded at a snail's pace in our consideration of the Apostle Paul's inspired description of charity, which is another word for love.

So that we will maintain our awareness of the context in which Paul's comments are set, throughout First Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14, Paul is addressing their questions about spiritual gifts. Incidentally, they are the same kinds of questions that many of you have had about spiritual gifts. In chapter 12, Paul deals 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 both pastors and people would understand that! In chapter 13, Paul moves on to something more important than spiritual gifts. "What? You mean there is something more important than spiritual gifts?" Sure. If you had been here for the last several weeks you would realize that the Apostle emphatically stated that there very definitely is something more important than spiritual gifts . . . even the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. What is it that is more important than these things? Love.

As we have seen, for all the running around and clamoring for spiritual gifts to show off, let us not forget that it is charity, it is love, which leaves its mark for the cause of Christ, not spiritual gifts. As well, when you have grown old and fully appreciate the truly important things in life, it will be love that you cherish more than anything else. With that again in mind, return with me to First Corinthians 13.4-7, where we will resume our study of charity's refusal. Shall we stand together and read God's 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.


To reiterate from my last message from this text, we are examining the eight things that charity will not do. These eight activities are in direct opposition to genuine Christian love. This is charity's refusal. Have you found yourself short of the mark in this area? Well, today we 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 young lovers, this is one you will want to pay close attention to.

First, predictably, a definition. The phrase "doth not behave itself unseemly" actually represents only two Greek words, one meaning "not" and the other meaning "unseemly," aschmonew, which is "to behave indecently or in a shameful manner. Love is tactful and does nothing that would raise a blush."[1] The root word it is derived from, schma, "refers to something that has a pattern or form, frequently of a type that the public considers standard or laudable; to act contrary to the standard means to behave disgracefully, dishonorably, or indecently." Thus, we can see that we are referring to having a proper shape or form.[2] 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 shape. Thus, real love, contrary to the Hollywood notion of sexual love, is tactful, is not rude, and is never contrary to that which is in good taste.

Here are two Biblical examples:

Turn to Acts chapter 23, where we will observe how the Apostle Paul demonstrated 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 Paul's demonstration of genuine love. In Acts 23.1-2, Paul is struck at the direction of the high priest:


1      And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

2      And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.


If you will examine Deuteronomy 25.1-2 in your spare time, you will see that the high priest violated the Mosaic Law when he ordered his men to hit Paul, by taking the Law into his own hands. Paul then immediately responds to the person who issued the order to strike him, 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?" He is informed that he has done wrong to the current high priest, verse 4: "And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?" By the way, this exchange lends credence to the belief that Paul had very poor eyesight, resulting in his inability to recognize the high priest. 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." Here is an example of love holding its shape and honoring Ananias instead of saying, "Well, if he hadn't told those guys to hit me I wouldn't have said those things about him." Does Paul make excuses for what he said because of his poor eyesight? No. Did he withhold his demonstration of love for the man's position, knowing it was an evil man who held the position? No. He simply showed that real love is expressed in its proper shape and form no matter what the circumstances of the situation happen to be.

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.


Referring to lesbian behavior in verse 26, and homosexual behavior in verse 27, the Apostle Paul categorizes the actions of sexual deviants as "unseemly." Hold on a second! Does the Apostle Paul not tell us in First Corinthians 13.5 that "charity doth not behave itself unseemly." Yes, he does. Conclusion? Homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual perversion, sodomy, "gayness," call it what you like, is not love and cannot involve genuine love.

"Pastor, if it isn't 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. Consider the first phrase in Romans 1.26 very carefully and you will surmise that such behavior is the result of God's judgment that leads to yet more severe judgment.

Let us apply what we have learned. 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. In the Word of God. You see, if an expression of love does not agree with the Biblical requirements for the legitimate expression of love, then it is not really love that is being expressed. An 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. However, 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, it is love. However, if it lies outside the guidelines of marriage, I do not care how you feel toward each other, it is lust acting out the sin of fornication. Another example. How about loving God? Does loving God have shape? Sure it does. In addition, 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. Obedience. You can sing all the choruses you want to. You can have all the good feelings toward God you want. However, if you do not obey Him in such areas as giving, baptism, church attendance, witnessing, ministering to other believers, etc., you do not love God. Period. Think of the Bible as being somewhat like a gelatin mold. Now think of love, charity, as the Jell-O that is poured into the mold. Folks, it is the mold which determines the shape and the form of the Jell-O. Likewise, it is the Word of God, which determines whether the expression is actually a display of love ... or something else entirely. If it is unseemly, if it is according to God's Word morally out of shape, it is not love.




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

A couple of Biblical examples are in order. What kind of example does Paul set us to follow, as far as this attitude of "looking out for number one" is concerned? 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 another's wealth." The italicized word wealth was added by the translators, but I think the addition makes the sense of the verse too narrow. Paul is referring to much more than just money here. You see, it is selfishness which only looks out for "number one," but it is love which looks out for the well being and benefit of others.

Obviously, the best example of all of this aspect of love is the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 20.28 & Matthew 26.39:


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.


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.


Do you see the whole attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ in these 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.

How does that speak to you this morning? What things do you seek after? Do you seek your own interests, or do you seek the interests of others? Whose interest is sought when a husband uses his wife's 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. Yet such behavior is common these days. Or, whose interests are sought when a spouse desperately wants to quit smoking so he or she can be an effective witness, but the other spouse insists on inhaling burning weeds, making it that much harder for the spiritually minded one to quit? Is that husband or wife seeking the interests of his or her spouse? Is that mom or dad seeking the children's best interests? How about when you are driving on the freeway and a fellow comes up the on-ramp and 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 do not think so. 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 the 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. People do those kinds of things, not for the benefit to others, but because it makes them feel good. They do not care what impact their drinking or drugging has on their so-called "loved ones," or they would not do it.

Folks, this issue 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 will not have to spend time looking out for yourself. You can be generous toward others. However, if you subconsciously will not let people in front of you on the freeway, will not 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 reason for not having love. It may be because you, deep down in your heart, do not realize that God will take care of you, so you think you need to be a "look out for number one" kind of guy. Charity seeketh not her own.




Definition. This phrase translates paroxunetai, a Greek word that means "to irritate, to promote to anger, or to be irritated, or to be touchy."[3] This is another of those words, which can have either a good or bad connotation, depending on the context, but which in this case refers to getting sharp and irritable, or even getting royally ticked off at people. You know how we get sharp with people, especially our own kids sometimes. Well, when that happens, according to Paul, it is not love we are expressing. So you see, sometimes we pass off as righteous indignation what is actually the absence of love.

Let me show you two examples: 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." Remember, if you will, that on the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas the 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. In this verse, recording a conversation that took place after they had all returned home and were planning their next trip, Paul and Barnabas are arguing 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 against it. Our word "easily provoked" is translated in this verse into the word "sharp." The narrative indicates that neither man of God is showing Christian love in this dispute. The sad result? They never served God together as a team after that clash.

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." Here we see the same word translated "stirred." Is Paul showing a lack of love again? No. The context in which the word is used shows that here the word is used in its good sense. For here we see Paul provoked at sin and the consequences of sin. He was not provoked at sinners. He was furious with idolatry, while still loving the idolaters. Provocation at sin does not indicate a lack of love. In fact, I am convinced that real love for sinners requires that sin provoke you, since it harms those you love so very much.

Let us apply this final aspect of love for today. Honest disagreements arise between people. They always have and they always will. Disagreeing with someone does not mean you are unspiritual, unless you disagree with me. The great thing about love is that it never allows a disagreement, an honest difference of opinion, to become personal. Why not? Because when a disagreement becomes a personal thing a division oftentimes results and, like with Paul and Barnabas, even close friends who are intensely spiritual can no longer serve God in the same ministry. So, when you disagree, do not ever attack that person with whom you differ, and do not ever go for the throat, as it were, in anger. That is a sin of such a serious nature that even the friendship of Paul and Barnabas could not, or did not, survive the strain.


Let me conclude this message with a single, far-reaching, application involving the three aspects of love we have just examined. I want to apologize in advance for stereotyping. Here is the situation. Two young adults are dating. John is 21 and Jane is 20. 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. However, do they really love each other? Using the Word of God, let us see if they love each other. Remember, since God is love, He knows much more about what love is and is not than you or I do. As well, since His Word is without error of any kind, the Bible will help us to discover whether John and Jane really love each other.

When they began seeing each other, John made advances to Jane, attempting to persuade her to submit to his advances. Of course, since love seeketh not her own, John, at this point in time, has clearly demonstrated that he does not love Jane. Not really. If Jane was a spiritual young lady and interested in God's very best for her, this is all it would take for her to stop seeing John. Why? Because the more she is around such persuasion in the future the more likely she is to give in to the temptation. Being spiritual, she ought to avoid that. The Bible tells us to flee fornication. However, after giving him a second and third chance, and dating awhile longer, 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. Feeling guilty, Jane later refuses to fulfill John's 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 does not really love her.

Sound familiar? For all I know, this may describe how most married couples for the last thirty years got their start with each other. We say it is love, but Scripture says it is not love at all. The result? Short term it will be marriage. However, long term, without God's intervention, it will be divorce eventually, or years of loneliness and bitterness in a frustrated marriage.

"Pastor, what do I do?" Start from scratch. Ask forgiveness of your spouse if that is how the two of you started. Admit past sins. Admit past motives. In addition, begin to build real love in your marriage. Make Christ your third marriage partner. What if you are not married yet? Stop committing sin. Repent of the sin. Begin to do right. Stop hanging around the wrong person and begin to hang around the right people. In addition, if you are the mom or dad 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 this kind of situation to begin with. For you 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. Do not be so foolish as to allow your child to go out on dates with just one boy and one girl. That is not love, mom and dad. That is just plain unwise. That is why we encourage groups of young people to spend time together, rather than to pair off and date.

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 you will wonder why he continues to mistreat you after you are married to him.

Hey buddy, you going to keep company with a girl who is hot blooded and lets you know it? Go ahead and play married games. Then I will remind you when she cheats on you while you are at work that she committed sin to get sex before she was married, so there is no reason to not expect the same behavior after she is married.

Parents, give your kids a break. If you climbed into a car and spent hours with some attractive member of the opposite sex when you were younger, what eventually happened with you? Then what causes you to think something different will happen with your kid?

Let us not forget that behaving not itself unseemly, and refusing to seek her own, and refusing to be provoked, applies to many other areas of life. Love does not only have to do with romance. I ask you again, do you love people? If you do not really and truly love people, perhaps it is because you have never experienced the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus, my Lord. Perhaps it is because you are not truly born again. Perhaps we should talk about this important matter in private. Come and see me as soon as we are dismissed.

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

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 147.

[3] Rienecker, page 432.



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