1Corinthians 13

Sunday Evening Bible Study

March 19, 2000

Introduction

Paul continues to deal with specific issues that have been raised by the church in Corinth.

Heís been talking about the church as if it were like a human body. Each of us is a part of the body, we each have a function.

1Corinthians 12

:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.

best Ė kreitton Ė more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous; more excellent

more excellent Ė huperbole Ė a throwing beyond; metaph. Ė superiority, excellence, pre-eminence; beyond measure, exceedingly, preeminently; beyond all measure

Paul is talking about love being a "more excellent" way. But what is it a more excellent way for?

The Corinthians had struggles with learning to get along with one another. One of the things Paul has brought out is how they all need each other. Each personís contribution to the whole is important and necessary. They are a single body with different parts.

Itís important to see how each of our gifts are important to the functioning of the entire church. But even more important is learning how to love.

At first, we can be very excited to learn about and to receive spiritual gifts. But once you got spiritual gifts, itís even more important to learn how to use them.

1Corinthians 13

:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

It seems as if Paul is saying that a tongue may be a human language or an "angelic" language. Without love, tongues is just a bunch of noise. It is possible to exercise this gift and there be no benefit because of my lack of love.

A common way that tongues can be abused in this way is the "Iíve got it and you havenít" attitude. When you receive a supernatural ability itís easy to get excited about it, but if youíre not careful, you can develop a "superiority" complex.

:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

More spiritual gifts. Without love, these gifts are worthless. Could it be possible to have a gift of prophecy and use it incorrectly? Yes! Thatís the point here.

God isnít just concerned about whether you have and use spiritual gifts, Heís VERY concerned that you learn HOW to use them.

Itís not just important to get a message from God, but itís important to know how to deliver the message.

:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Could it be possible to do something so wonderful as feeding the poor or even being a "martyr" for the wrong motives? Yes. We can do it for attention.

:4 Charity suffereth long

 

suffereth long = patient.

patient Ė makrothumeo (long + burning) Ė to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart; to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles; to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others; to be mild and slow in avenging; to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish

This is specifically patience with people. Itís learning to put up with people who bug you, people who get on your nerves.

There is no greater example of patience than that of Godís patience towards His people.

God gave them a warning that if they did not obey the Lord, they would experience Godís judgment (Deut. 28:15,36)

The warning was given around 1500 b.c., and all through the history of the nation of Israel they did just what God warned them not to do, they disobeyed. But God waited until 586 b.c. until He finally allowed the judgment to fall.

1000 years of patience!

How long do we give people before we "lose it" with them?

Patience means that we learn to put up with and wait for others.

2Pe 3:8-9 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering (makrothumia) to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Godís patience not only means putting up with us, but waiting for us to "come around".

As some of you begin to grow in spiritual gifts, be patient with those who arenít quite there yet. Donít rush off and leave them in the dust. Iíve seen this in other churches where some people start getting very excited about the Lord, but then as they realize that others in the church arenít there yet, they leave to start their own group of "very spiritual people". Itís my desire that we not only be "very spiritual people", but that we have a heart of love to be patient for the others to keep up with us.

:4 and is kind

kind Ė chresteuomai Ė to show one's self mild, to be kind, use kindness

The idea of usefulness directed toward others. Doing kind, gracious, good things for other people. We should not only be patient when others hurt us, but do kind things for them.

Too often we have our eyes focused on ourselves. We know what we want out of a relationship, we know what we expect the other person to do for us to keep us happy.

But itís not too often that we turn it around and start focusing on the needs of the other person, trying to figure out what theyíre struggling with and then helping them out.

Love means that we pay attention to doing good things for others.

Jesus not only told people amazing things, He also washed their feet. He blessed the children.

:4 charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

not jealous

envieth Ė zeloo Ė to burn with zeal; to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger

The idea is of an inner boiling or burning that starts inside you when you see something another person has and you want to have the same thing for yourself.

When you love the other person, instead of being angry for what theyíve received, you rejoice with them for their blessings.

When someone else receives and begins to move in a spiritual gift, perhaps even begins to be in the spotlight at church, are you happy for them, or jealous of them?

does not brag and is not arrogant

vaunteth Ė perpereuomai Ė to boast one's self; a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one's self excessively

puffed Ė phusioo Ė to inflate, blow up, to cause to swell up; to puff up, make proud; to be puffed up, to bear one's self loftily, be proud

Love is happy enough without recognition.

Iím not usually that way. Whenever I finally get around to helping my wife with some housework, after Iím finished, the first thing I do is to make sure she realizes what a wonderful job I did.

Illustration

Keeping Yourself Out of Sight

A little country boy was out fishing with only a switch for a pole and a bent pin for a hook, but he was catching many fish. A city fellow who had spent much time fishing without any success, though he had the best of fishing outfit, came across the boy with his long string of fish, and he asked the boy the reason of his success. The boy said, "The secret of it all is that I keep myself out of sight." We must keep ourselves out of sight if we desire to be a blessing to others.

If weíre going to stay useful to the Lord, we need to learn the secret of being used by Him, letting Him work through us, and not drawing attention to ourselves.

The problem isnít when we initially start letting Him use us. The problem usually develops after we start to thinking that we didnít quite get enough recognition for what we did.

I think we donít need to go overboard and put a paper bag over our head, or simply stop doing things so we donít get recognition. But I think we should be careful about not tooting our own horn.

:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly

does not act unbecomingly

unseemly Ė aschemoneo Ė to act unbecomingly

This refers to doing things properly, doing things politely, not dabbling in shaming other people with rude behavior.

Illustration

A boy received a parrot for his birthday. This parrot was fully grown with a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every other word was an expletive. Those that werenít expletives were, to say the least, rude. The boy tried hard to change the birdís attitude and was constantly saying polite words, playing soft music, anything he could think of. Nothing. He yelled at the bird and it got worse. He shook the bird; it got madder and ruder. Finally, in a moment of desperation, the boy put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird squawking and kicking and screaming expletives, then suddenly there was quiet. Frightened that he might have actually hurt the bird, he quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto the boyís extended arm and said, "Iím sorry that I might have offended you with my language and actions and ask for your forgiveness. I will endeavor to correct my behavior." Astounded at the birdís change, the boy was about to ask what had brought this about when the parrot continued, "May I ask what the chicken did?"

In the church, being "unseemly" could extend to how we treat others, not being considerate of others.

(1 Cor 14:29-33 NLT) Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. {30} But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. {31} In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. {32} Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn. {33} For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches.

When weíre waiting on the Lord, donít hog the spotlight. Give others a chance. Keep your prayers to the point and donít go on and on. Let others participate.

:5 seeketh not her own

does not seek its own

Being more concerned about the other personís rights than your own. Not asking what life owes you, but what do you owe life. Being more concerned about the edification of others rather than your own edification.

PHI 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

A situation Iím finding difficult is when one person claims that theyíre not seeking their own agenda, but theyíre seeking Godís agenda.

Iíve seen this in marriages where a wife claims that the husband is not doing what the Lord wants, so sheís going to take things into her own hands and make sure that Godís way gets done.

Iíd be real careful about that.

There are times when God wants us to be willing to stand up and rebel against authority, such as when the apostles decided to rebel against the Sanhedrin and go preach the gospel anyways (Acts 5:29).

But many times, God would rather that we say what we think needs to be said, and let it go.

(1 Pet 3:1-2 KJV) Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; {2} While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

Wives are to submit to their husbands, even if the husband is being disobedient to the Lord. The Lord can use that submission to turn the husband around.

:5 is not easily provoked

is not provoked (to anger)

KJV - "easily provoked" - "easily" is not in the Greek text. You canít get away with being angry by justifying it saying, "it wasnít easy, but Iím angry".

:5 thinketh no evil;

does not take into account a wrong suffered

thinketh Ė logizomai Ė to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over. And accounting phrase of entering up in a ledger an item so it wonít be forgotten. Keeping track of when people hurt you.

This is evident when you have your fights.

If you start pulling out old laundry lists of things the other person has done over the last two centuries, youíve missed the point here. When phrases like, "You always do that," show up, some wrongs have been kept track of.

Keep short gripe lists.

EPH 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

We would do well to follow Godís example.

Illustration

Hole in the pocket

F.W.Boreham tells of the happy soul whose home is the Other End of Nowhere. He has two pockets. One has a hole in it and the other is carefully watched that no hole develops in it. Every thing that he hears of a hurtful nature - insult, cutting remark, gossip, unclean suggestion, or any such thing - he writes on a piece of paper and sticks it into his pocket with the hole. Everything which he hears that is kind, true, and helpful, he writes on a piece of paper and puts it in the pocket without the hole.

At night he turns out all that is in the pocket without the hole, goes over all that he had put into it during the day, and thoroughly enjoys all the good things that have come his way that day.

Then he sticks his hand into the pocket with the hole and finds nothing there, so he laughs and rejoices that there are no evil things to rehearse. Too many of us reverse the other, putting the evil things in the pocket without the hole so that we can mull over them again and again, and the good things in the pocket with the hole so that they are quickly forgotten.

:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness

Thereís something in us that just loves to hear bad things about people. Itís what makes gossip fun. Oh that we would get to the place where we are grieved if we should hear bad news. Oh that we would get to the place where we would recognize gossip when we see it and learn to stop it.

:6 but rejoiceth in the truth;

but rejoices with the truth

Truth is what helps us grow. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes we donít want to hear what people have to say to us, especially if weíre sensitive and have a hard time with criticism. Is there anybody here who DOESNíT have a hard time with criticism?

Donít be quick to throw out criticism. What if itís the truth?

(Prov 27:6 KJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

:7 Beareth all things

bears all things

beareth Ė stego Ė deck, thatch, to cover; to protect or keep by covering, to preserve; to cover over with silence; to keep secret; to hide, conceal

Love will never drag into the light of day the faults and mistakes of others, it would rather quietly mend things. Love can bear any insult, any injury, any disappointment.

Itís not uncommon to hear men gripe about their wives at work, and women about their husbands. But you should never take part in those conversations. Even if youíve got some great stories yourself to tell.

1PE 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Love doesnít air dirty laundry.

When a husband meets his wifeís friends, he should be greeted with exclamations like, "Oh, so youíre Mr. Wonderful!", not, "So thatís what the snake looks like".

:7 believeth all things

believes all things

I think this is talking about the ability to "believe the best" for someone.

Itís giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Itís allowing them to be innocent until proven guilty.

Wesleyís Covenant

In 1752 a group of men signed this covenant concerning their friendship:

1. That we will not listen or willingly inquire after ill concerning one another;

2. That, if we do hear any ill of each other, we will not be forward (quick) to believe it;

3. That as soon as possible we will communicate what we hear by speaking or writing to the person concerned;

4. That until we have done this, we will not write or speak a syllable of it to any other person;

5. That neither will we mention it, after we have done this, to any other person;

6. That we will not make any exception to any of these rules unless we think ourselves absolutely obliged in conference.

Wouldnít that make for a great friendship?

:7 hopeth all things

hopeth

Illustration

I remember hearing about tests done with laboratory wharf rats. These are the rats that live under the piers along the waterfront.

One group of rats were placed in a large container of water, in the dark, with no place to stand on, they had to keep swimming. They all drowned within fifteen minutes.

The second group were placed in a similar container, yet every ten minutes the lab technician would open the container, take the rats out, stroke them a few seconds, and put them back in the water. They didn't have time to rest, they just got a little encouragement. These rats went on swimming for over 12 hours (or something like that...).

Donít lose hope for those you love.

:7 endureth all things.

endureth Ė hupomeno Ė remain; "remain + under", to stay under the tough times and not run;; to tarry behind; to remain i.e. abide, not recede or flee; to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ; to endure, bear bravely and calmly: ill treatments

Itís not uncommon when we want to run away from our difficult times. But thatís when God is molding and shaping us. Donít run.

:8 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.

As wonderful as the gifts of the Holy Spirit are, they will one day stop. Love will be around forever. Keep in mind here, the context is that of spiritual gifts. So "knowledge" here probably refers to the "word of knowledge", not just knowledge in general.

:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

We donít know everything, at least not yet.

I think in the context, since we are talking about spiritual gifts, Paul is probably talking about the "word of knowledge" being partial.

When God gives a word to someone, they donít always know exactly all that is meant.

When a prophecy is given, itís not always crystal clear just exactly all that is meant and what all the implications are.

:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Things like "knowledge" and "prophesy", which are partial, will be done away with when the "perfect" thing comes.

There are those who teach that the "perfect" thing is Godís Word.

Their reasoning goes like this:

1. Godís Word is perfect.

(Psa 19:7 KJV) The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

2. When the entire Bible was complete (at the completion of the "canon"), then there was no longer any need for these spiritual gifts. We have all we need in the Scriptures and we donít need anything further.

Though I agree that in a sense we have all we need in the Scriptures, I donít think we can say that we donít need anything further. We need all that God has for us.

Problems with this view:

1. Using Ps. 19:7 involves an error in logic. If David says that the "Law of the Lord is perfect", then itís already perfect, and doesnít become perfect at some later date, such as when the canon is complete. David writes that the Law of the Lord is perfect around 1000 BC. Tongues hasnít even occurred yet, let alone ceased somehow.

2. There is something else meant. The "perfect" is when Jesus comes back.

: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.

Again, the idea is that just as "partial" things arenít needed when the "perfect" comes, so "childish" things arenít needed when we grow up.

The point is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are "childish" compared to seeing Jesus face to face.

: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.

glass Ė mirror. The ancients didnít have mirrors made of glass, they were made of polished metal such as brass.

When shall we see "face to face"? When we see Jesus at His coming. That is when we shall be known and shall know all things.

To say that the "perfect" is the completion of the canon would say that we now know everything. Iíd hate to be in a position to have to support that!

We donít know everything! Not until Jesus comes back.

Right now we only know the Lord dimly. We only know Him from a distance. So we use everything He gives us to help us know more about Him, including prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.

But when we see Jesus face to face, we'll no longer have any need for gifts like prophecy or knowledge, because we'll know Him perfectly, we'll be able to speak with Him face-to-face.

(1 John 3:2 KJV) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Illustration

Telephones are handy devices if you need to talk with somebody across town. But if they're standing right in front of you, it's much better to talk with them face to face, rather than using a telephone.

:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Faith, hope, and love will go on and on. Love is the greatest.