(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 1/24/99 a.m. I Corinthians 13:8-13
PROPOSITION: The gifts of the Spirit, knowledge, childishness, and self-understanding are temporary and passing away, but love remains forever as the essence of the family of God.
- THE Gospel of Christ is being written on our hearts and in our lives....read by those around us.
* Our children are reading it in us.
* Our spouses read it in us.
* Work associates read it in us.
* Neighbors read it in us.
* The people we do business with read it in us.
- WHICH makes agape love the single most important 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.
- NOW there are a lot of other things in the Christian life that are important....make no mistake about it.
* Reading the Bible for example.
* Being stewards to the Lord of the tithe, and offerings.
* Using your ministry gifts.
- BUT there is only going to be one thing when the lights have been turned out on your lifetime....
* And all your stuff has been given to the relatives or Salvation Army.
* And your contribution to this world has started to blend in with everything else.
* And the dirt has started to settle on your grave.
- THE last few verses in I Corinthians 13 tell us that there will only be one thing that remains forever.
- THE first phrase of 1 Corinthians 13:8 says,
“Love never fails.”
- THE Greek word for “fails” means falling away like petals on a withered flower.
- SOUNDS mushy, even sentimental, doesn’t it?
- LOVE never falls away.
- BUT there is a sound theological reason for the permanence of love when everything else has been stripped away....and that is that love is the essence of who God is.
- I JOHN 4:8 says,
“God is love.”
- SO, if after everything else of life is gone, dissipated, evaporated....the only thing left is love, the essence of God....then doesn’t it make absolute sense that you and I would make love our goal?
- THE Corinthians hadn’t gotten hold of this yet.
- THEY were still too busy duking it out over....ego, ministries, position, titles, offenses, and spiritual gifts.
- SO, in these last few verses Paul makes the sharp contrast between what is temporary and what is eternal, permanent.
- TURN with me to I Corinthians 13:8 (pg. 1137).
- FOR the next few verses Paul is going to examine the scaffolding surrounding the Body of Christ.
- THIS is an important analogy.....scaffolding.....imagine with me this morning the aluminum scaffolding that surrounds, supports, provides access to the building as it is being constructed.
- IN fact, I am going to do more than ask you to imagine this scaffold within which God is building His church....I am going to ask you to help me set up some scaffold.
- FOR the next few verses we will be looking at the scaffolding of the Christian life (start putting the scaffolding together).
* The gifts of the Spirit....tongues, prophecy, healing, words of knowledge.
* Ministries.....Royal Rangers, Women’s Ministry, Youth ministry, Regional Missions, Worship, 20’s.
* Abilities....singing, preaching, helping.
(Now we are going to need the “church” inside this scaffold)
* Pastors, teachers, prophets.
* Organization, administration.
* Choirs, orchestra.
- ALL the scaffolding, within which God is building, growing the Body of Jesus Christ.
- IN Corinth, the believers that made up the church there were fussing and fighting over the bars of the scaffold....acting as if it was the scaffold that was the MAIN EVENT!
ii. SPIRITUAL gifts are temporary
- SO Paul tells them in I Corinthians 13:8,
“....where there are prophecies,
• Prophecies are those authoritative declarations of the voice of God speaking.
• Sometimes they are in a specially anointed message, sometimes a prophetic word in a worship setting.
• We need prophecies for encouragement, exhortation, for the strengthening of the church.
• Prophecy builds the Body of Christ.
• But prophecies are not the main deal.
• There is coming a time when the construction of the Body of Christ will be over and the scaffolding will come down.
• Prophecies “will cease”....says the next phrase of verse 8.
(TAKE OUT SCAFFOLD BAR)
- LET’S read on,
“...where there are tongues,”
• Tongues is the anointed speaking of an unknown language in worship or in intercession.
• It is a spiritual gift given for the edification of the individual believer, unless it is spoken for interpretation, then it is for the edification of the whole church.
• Wonderful gift! It builds up the believer through communion with God.
• In the next chapter Paul thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than any of them.
• But tongues is not the main deal.
• Scaffolding that one day will not be needed.
• The next phrase in verse 8 says that some day tongues “will be stilled.”
(TAKE OUT SCAFFOLD BAR)
- LET’S read on,
“...where there is knowledge,”
• The knowledge referred to here is supernatural knowledge, like the gift of knowledge from chapter 12.
• Wonderful gift.
• So important when it comes to cutting through the unbelief of the world with something only God could have known about you and your circumstances....and He reveals through someone who couldn’t possible have known otherwise.
• This gift builds faith. Releases faith responses to God.
• But words of knowledge are not the main thing.
• Scaffolding that one day won’t be needed when God is done building the Body of Christ.
• The next phrase in verse 8 says that some day knowledge “will pass away.”
(TAKE OUT SCAFFOLD BAR)
iii. knowledge is partial
- ON the best day that these spiritual gifts are in operation, they are temporary scaffolding, they are only part of God’s plan for the Body of Christ.
- VERSE 9,
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part,”
(TAKE OUT SCAFFOLD BAR)
• You see, there is the element of our frail humanity that comes through in all we do.
• So on our best day in the gifts we have only a partial understanding of who God is and what He is saying.
• And our prophesying is not the whole revelation of God, nor is it perfect because the vessel is not perfect.
• It is just the scaffolding, it is not the building.
• We can’t afford to act as if we have the final word, like we are the final authority on the things of God.
• We only know and prophesy in part.
- VERSE 10.
“...but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
(TAKE AWAY SCAFFOLD BAR)
• The word perfection comes from the Greek word that means destined end or aim.....consummation.
• When God calls time for this world and established His eternal kingdom, then we will know as we are known.
• There will be no need for scaffolding.
iv. actions are elementary
- WAIT, Paul has more on the subject.
- VERSE 11,
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”
• The things we do in this life are really at such an elementary level from God’s perspective.
• Our talk frequently lacks the wisdom of God, and sometimes doesn’t make sense in light of eternal things.
• Our thinking can be so childish sometimes, jumping from one subject to another.
• Our reasoning is illogical and scattered.
• Its is why we need the scaffolding to keep us within bounds and growing.
(TAKE SCAFFOLD BAR AWAY)
• But there is coming a day when we reach our destination, that we won’t need the scaffolding any longer, because the construction will have been completed.
- PAUL puts it this way.
“When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
v. self-understanding is indistinct
- ONE last thought on the impermanence of our life inside the scaffold.
- VERSE 12,
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;”
• Our spiritual sight is blurred, obscured by our humanity.
• We don’t understand ourselves, much less others around us.
• The mirrors in Paul’s day would have been beaten, polished metal....hard to see anything clearly.
• Which is why we need the scaffold.
(TAKE LAST SCAFFOLD BAR AWAY)
• But there is coming a day when our sight will be 20/20
- PAUL puts it this way,
“...then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
- NOW the scaffold is gone.
- ALL we have left is the body of Christ that the Father has been working on....for over 2,000 years.
- ALL the bars have been stripped away, and what is left behind is the bones, and sinew, and muscle and flesh, the head, and liver, and blood vessels, and heart pumping life blood all through the body.
- AND the one thing that hold this body together with the scaffold gone is love!
- THE single source of its life and animation is love.
- GOD’S love.
- IT is the essence of who He is.
- IT is the essence of what He is making us to be.
- LOVE never fails.
- EVERYTHING else of the scaffolding will be taken away, not needed any more, served its purpose.....except love.
- WHICH is why Paul ends the chapter with,
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
- GOD is still building His church here.
- WE have need of some of the scaffolding. In fact, He has given it and is using it to complete His work in us.
- BUT we can’t forget that the scaffolding is coming down eventually.
- AND when it does, the only thing that will last into eternity is LOVE.
- SO it only makes sense then to make love our priority here, now.