(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 1/17/99 a.m. I Corinthians 13:4-7
PROPOSITION: Agape love is most excellent in so many ways.
- THE church of Jesus Christ throws together in one fellowship, in one place, people of every temperament, every race, every ethnic background, every personality, different cultures, different generations....to live a life of faith together like one happy family.
- ON the surface it is a prescription for trouble any way you look at it.
- BUT what differentiates us from a club of people with common interests or goals....is that we have been transformed by God’s grace and are in the process of being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).
- THE Gospel of Christ is being written on our hearts and in our lives....read by those around us.
- WHICH makes agape love a vital component of our fellowship, our lives together.
- REMEMBER, agape love is a determined, committed pursuit of the highest good for another, without regard for what they have earned or deserve.
- IT is the kind of love that sent Jesus to the cross.
- IT is the kind of love that is the essence of the Godhead.
1. THIS agape love goes all the way back to the beginning of the church of Jesus.
- IT is one of those foundation stones of the church.
- I John 3:11 says,
“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (I John 3:11)
- IT was the “new command” that Jesus gave as a priority for the life of His church in John 13:34.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
- AND from then on...it was carried by His apostles as a non-negotiable from the beginning.
- THE apostle John continues in his next epistle in 2 John 1:5,
“And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.” (2 John 1:5)
2. THIS agape love is God’s command.
- I ALREADY read you Jesus’ command in John 13:34.
- NOW look at I John 3:23,
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (I John 3:23)
- IT is not an option in the Christian home or church.
- GOD puts the weight of a command behind it.
- LOOK at I Peter 1:22,
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22)
- SO, it is a command to be obeyed with feeling!
3. THIS agape love comes from God.
- TURN with me to I John 4:7-8.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (8) Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ( I John 4:7-8)
- THE reason that the world is so full of hatred and rage is because they don’t have God.
- THE reason you or I are full of rage is because you don’t have God....in an intimate transforming kind of way in your life.
- LOVE comes from God.
4. WE love others with this agape because God first loved us.
- TURN with me to I John 4:11,
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” ( I John 4:11)
- WHEN we were our unloveliest....God loved us.
- WHEN we were filthy in our sin....God loved us.
- WHEN we were enemies of God, shaking our puny fists in His face...God loved us.
- I JOHN 4:19 says,
“ We love because he first loved us.”
5. WE love with this agape love because it is the principle evidence that God lives in us.
- TURN to I John 4:12,
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” ( I John 4:12)
- OF course the opposite is true too....that if we don’t love it is obvious that God does not live in us.
- THAT is why Jesus said, in John 13:35,
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- THERE was a problem in the church in Corinth.
- IT was more dangerous than doctrinal error, than sexual sin, or poor stewardship.
- THE church in Corinth lacked this kind of agape love.
- INSTEAD of love, the church in Corinth was in trouble and would not last very long, because they were...
* Always arguing....it was part of their culture.
* Pulling one another down....speaking about each other behind their backs.
* Fighting and divided.
* Boasting about themselves.
* Jealousy of one another’s position or blessing.
* Proud of themselves.
* Taking each other to court to settle their disputes.
* Tearing up families and marriages.
* Insensitive to the weaker brother or sister.
- ALL of that in light of God’s command to love one another.
- SO, in the last half of the last verse of I Corinthians 12, after addressing a wide range of topics in the previous 12 chapters, Paul writes,
“And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (1Corinthians 12:31b)
- THAT most excellent way is not...
* Better teachers for the SS.
* More comfortable pews in the sanctuary.
* Expensive advertising.
* The latest technology in the church office.
* Better preaching from the pulpit.
* More guests speakers.
* Improved curriculum.
- NO! The most excellent way...is love!
- WITHOUT love, in the first three verses of chapter 13, Paul says...
* You can have speaking ministry, but you will be a re-sounding gong.
* You can have prophetic insight and miracle-working power, but you would be a nothing.
* You can engage in mercy ministry and even give your very life for others, but you would gain nothing.
- THEN, in the next four verses, Paul gives us a detailed description of the power of this agape love.
- TURN with me please to I Corinthians 13:4 (page 1137).
ii. LOVE’s excellence
1. LOVE is patient.
* It is not overly sensitive or easily put out.
* The King James translates it, “love is long suffering.”
* There were difficult people in Corinth, uncouth, rough. It would be so easy to give back in kind, or nurse a grievance and become bitter.
* Agape love is not irritable.
* It is patient. It is willing to suffer and not wear its feelings on its sleeve.
2. LOVE is kind.
* Whereas patience is self-restraint in difficult circumstances, kindness is an active expression of agape love.
* There is so much anger, so much brashness in our world....that the follower of Christ stands out by his or her kindness.
* The root Greek word for kindness is respect.
* It is a kind word, a touch, a visit, a listening ear, a smile.
* Convincing evidence that God is at work within.
3. LOVE does not envy.
* Envy is pain at the sight of someone who is superior in some way.
* It springs from selfishness and gives birth to hatred and leads to strife.
* Agape love rather rejoices at the sight of someone with superior attributes, giving glory to the God who is the author of every good and perfect gift.
4. LOVE does not boast.
* Some of the Corinthian believers were boastful of their spiritual gifts, flaunting their superiority and importance in the faces of the rest of the fellowship.
* It was actually a sign of their terrible insecurity and uncertainty.
* So Paul had to remind them several times that if they were going to boast at all...to boast about Christ.
* Love is not comfortable being center stage, so it refuses to boast.
5. LOVE is not proud.
* In fact, agape love is so keenly aware of its own weaknesses and past failures and God’s kind grace that it resists pride in every form.
* Agape love refuses to think more highly of itself. It is too busy looking out for others, willing to accept the humblest of duties or assignments.
6. LOVE is not rude (vs. 5).
* Manners are an index of the condition of the heart.
* How gently and respectfully Jesus dealt with the woman who touched the hem of His robe in public.
* Agape love considers others and the circumstances and acts in such a way as not to stand out by being rude.
* Paul was troubled by the disorderly and rude conduct of the Corinthian believers in the communion service....and brought strong correction for their being rude.
* Rudeness can show up in language, clothing, countenance, at table meals.....and generally are used to show disdain for others.
* It is a spiritual virtue of agape love....to have good manners because agape is concerned with the good of others even at the expense of your own self-expression.
7. LOVE is not self-seeking.
* This is a summary of all of the above, because arrogance, pride, boasting, are evidence of self at the center of your life.
* Love is too busy looking out for others.
8. LOVE is not easily angered.
* How many of us have been hurt at some time or another? I imagine everyone here.
* It is really vanity that says, “You can’t do that to me,” and gets angry.
* Anger is the outward manifestation of pride and self-love.
* We need a love that is centered on God, not on self so that we can be patient in suffering and not easily angered.
* It makes for so much more harmony in the family of God....especially since each of us has also taken our turn being the irritant in someone else’s life.
9. LOVE keeps no record of wrongs.
* Love is not keeping score.
* We each have the ability in Christ to put those wrongs under the blood of Jesus’ forgiveness and love.
* We have the ability to focus on the good attributes in each other.
10. LOVE does not delight in evil (6).
* It takes no delight in the failure, fall or sin of another, but is rather grieved at the report.
* Love could never be involved in gossip over another’s failure, spreading the story no matter supposed reason.
* That is because agape love lives too close to the humble recognition of its own weaknesses.
11. LOVE rejoices with the truth.
* Another translator renders this phrase, “love is always eager to believe the best.”
* It was Jesus who saw the potential in those rough fishermen from Galilee....and made disciples out of them.
* It was Jesus who saw the “lady” in the woman at the well in Samaria...the one how had four husbands and was living with her current boyfriend....and His love drew her out of her sin.
12. LOVE always protects.
* Love covers a weakness that it discovers in a brother or sister rather than expose it in any way.
* Another verse in the Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins.
13. LOVE always trusts.
* Love accepts people at face value and refuses the cynical temptation to be suspicious.
14. LOVE always hopes.
* That is because loveless people are hopeless people.
* Love hopes because love believes in God.
15. LOVE always perseveres.
* It refuses to give up, even when all the evidence is going the opposite direction.
- THE ultimate example for this agape love in the body of Christ is Jesus.
- IF you want to know what this kind of love looks like, look at the life of Jesus.
- I AM convinced that Paul got this list from the life of Jesus.
- IT is a God-like love.
- IT is the standard for the church of Jesus.
- BUT don’t for a moment believe that it is a love without a backbone.
* There are times when discipline is the best way to love someone and shape them for God’s highest and best.
* There are times that love must be tough, like Paul demanding that the adulterer be cut off from the fellowship.
* There are times when love must be discerning, like the times Paul calls the Corinthians to judge between right and wrong in the lives of the fellowship.
* There are times when love has to bring correction, or it is not love at all. In fact, much of Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians is string correction.
- SO this is not the kind of love that Dr. Spock prescribed for America’s children thirty years ago...and almost destroyed an entire generation of self-indulgent Babyboomers.
- THIS is God’s love, the kind that always has our best interests in mind....including the discipline that Hebrews says is proof of His love for us.
- IT is a safe, secure, firm love that molds and refines us into the likeness of His Son.
- THAT is the kind of love that He requires of us.
- IT is one of the evidences of revival.
- IT certainly is evidence that we know God.
- IT is the most excellent way.
- HOW about it Westgate Chapel?