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Oct 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 24, 2021



If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Intro: In chapter 12, Paul told the Corinthians they were body of Christ

That they should not be surprised at the diversity within the church
– they were not all the same, because they were not supposed to be same
• each person had his and her own place
• the body is a living example of diversity within unity
– after listing a variety of gifted people, Paul says,
And I will show you a still more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31)
• chapter 13 is the more excellent way for us to be the body of Christ

Until now I have concentrated on the mystery of Christian spirituality
– the transcendence of God, the hiddenness of our own spirits,
• and a “secret wisdom” unknown to the rulers of this age
◦ this mystery is the spiritual foundation underneath this letter
• now we are going to see how the hidden life of the Spirit is manifested in our ordinary world
– first, let’s look at a negative example;
• what I mean is, how can you tell if the hidden life of Spirit is not present?
Paul has told them, I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people [who belonged to this world], as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready, [because you still live as the people of this world live]. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not [people of this world] and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor. 3:1-3)
• in other words, there is physical evidence of what lies below the surface
◦ a person without life in the Spirit acts like any other human
◦ so what is the evidence points to the spiritual person?

Some assume the supernatural comes to surface only in signs and wonders

That God reveals himself to the world through miracles
– plagues, divine healing, walking on water–that sort of thing
• those spectacular phenomena are not the normal Christian life
◦ miracles are a rarity – Paul made that point clear
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? . . . Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? (1 Cor. 12:29-30)
• in the Roman Catholic Church, to be canonized as a saint, a person must have worked miracles
◦ but in that tradition, only a few people rise to sainthood
◦ at any rate, God is not limited to the miraculous
Frederick Schmidt, “What we need . . . are not signs and wonders but a deeper determination to nurture the presence of God in the midst of the commonplace.”
“When we take the miraculous and the exceptional to be the measure of God’s presence, rather than think of God as an enlivening presence throughout creation, we do not [make the world sacred]. Instead, we confine God to its margins and gaps. The key to seeing God at work in our world lies not in defining the events that reflect the movement of God but in what Paul describes as the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
– I agree with this statement up to the last line
• the renewing of our minds is interior and not physically visible (although the results may be)
• so, when Paul asks, Do all work miracles?
◦ the answer is No – but all love
◦ and love is the evidence of the supernatural working below the surface

Love is the embodiment of God’s Spirit in life of the Church

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (Jn. 13:34-35)
– any identification of Christian spirituality–regardless of how enlightened a person may seem or whether someone is performing miracles–
• falls short if there is no evidence of love like the Lord’s
• what does Jesus’ love look like? Well, it looks like the cross
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 Jn. 3:16)
◦ Paul gives more specific details of what Jesus’ love looks like here in chapter 13

He begins by exposing the emptiness of religious ambitions

There were believers in Corinth who made a big deal of speaking in tongues
– perhaps they felt special, because not everyone had that gift
• Paul tells them, without love, you’re just making noise
– others in Corinth were impressed with the gifts associated with the apostles:
prophetic power, understand mysteries, exceptional knowledge
◦ and then the extreme act of faith Jesus mentioned – faith that moves mountains
• but Paul concludes that none of these things make a person
◦ instead, he says if all this was his, without love he would be nothing
– of course, everyone is impressed by the devotion of martyrs
• but Paul says even that, without love, wins nothing

It did not take long for Christians to adopt attitude of Pharisees
– to assume their knowledge of Jesus made them superior to unbelievers
• or that acts of devotion and charity could be performed without love
• that is essentially a gesture of ugly religion
– Paul exposes the pretensions of our piety and the false piety of our pretensions
• love alone gives an action spiritual value
• love alone makes a person’s spiritual life meaningful

In verses 4-7, love is personified

It appears as an active agent: it “is,” it “does not,” “is not,” etc.
– of course, Paul is describing how love expresses itself in human lives
• it is also how love expressed itself in Jesus
• as young Christians, my friends and I found we could replace “love” with “Jesus” in this chapter and every verse was still true
– maybe Paul personifies love, because we are meant to be love personified

There may be another possible reason why Paul uses this form
– I don’t think he is telling us, “This is how you are to love”
• that would demand too much – it would set the bar too high
• rather, he is saying, “This is what God works into us”
– this is the summit of Paul’s insight into the secret wisdom
• Christian spirituality grows love and love grows Christian spirituality
Frederick Schmidt, “. . . a love of God and a romance with God nurtures in us a capacity to see God where God is present.”
• Jesus’ new command to love one another,
◦ has a different feel from “Be moral”
◦ it has a different motivational energy than a long list of rules
Love is the beautiful face of righteousness
The true face of holiness

I will limit what I have to say about verse 7
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

Love really is the essence of a mature spirituality
– love endures the lows and the lulls; the disappointments and drudgery; the unfulfilled dreams and unmet needs; the physical or emotional distance
• love persists at times when we would rather that it not
◦ and other times we’re pleased when we find that it does persist
– love has no limits – it travels everywhere, from dungeons to the stars
• love can build bridges and also set boundaries
◦ but it does not do either only for its own sake
◦ love is the most God-like expression of a human life

In verses 8-1, Paul is simply saying love will outlast all other virtues

All the gifts and ministries listed in chapter 12,
– all these things that nurture and deepen our spirits,
• all the things that hold our lives together now,
• will come to an end – they will no longer be needed
– like old toys, we’ll pack them in a box and never again pull them out
• love is infinite and eternal, because God is love (1 Jn. 4:8 and 16)
• these are the three great triads of Christian spirituality: faith, hope, and love
but the greatest of these is love

Conclusion: E. Stanley Jones was an open-minded missionary to India

He once had opportunity to read 1 Corinthians 13 to Mahatma Gandhi
– Gandhi responded that it was the most beautiful statement he had ever heard
• so what will we do? How will we get there?
◦ how will the love described here come to characterize our lives?
• I have only one word of instruction: Receive God’s love
We love because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19)

Let Jesus love you the way he loves
You let Jesus love you when:
• you accept his forgiveness and stop condemning yourself
• you walk in nature and its beauty speaks to you
• you trust him with your anxieties
• you remember every good thing in your life is a gift

Give yourself a time-out
Relax the tension from every muscle and joint
Take slow deep breaths
Feel God’s love
Receive God’s love into every particle of your body and being
Love is the energy of authentic spirituality

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