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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

GOD'S GREATEST GIFT TO HIS CHURCH

Intro: God has truly been good to His people! He has given us more than we ever deserved. Think of it! He provided a means of salvation that will save the vilest sinner. He has given us so many precious promises such as Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:19; John 10:28, etc. When a person is saved, they are given spiritual gifts so that God can use them in His kingdom work, 1 Cor. 12:7. Much more could be said about this matter, but I think it is plain to see that God has been good to us! Yet, as I was thinking about these things, I came to realize that the greatest gift the Lord has ever given to His people is His love!

The love of God for His people is everlasting, Jer. 31:3. His love is what motivated Him to send Jesus to die on the cross, John 3:16. In fact, the greatest evidence of the love of God is the death of Christ on the cross, Rom. 5:8. God's greatest gift to us is His love.

Now, He did not stop by just giving His love to us, He has also placed His love in us. Jesus said that the world would know we were His disciples by the love we have one for another, John 13:35. You see, love is the first characteristic mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23, concerning the Fruit of the Spirit. Not only did He love us, but He has also caused us to love!

Here was one of the primary problems with the church in Corinth, to whom this letter was written. They were manifesting every other spiritual gift in existence, but they were not manifesting love one to another. You see, chapters 12-14 can not ne divorced one from the other. In the original, they are one unit. It is a call more Christlikeness and maturity in the midst of childishness and fleshly living. Paul writes these great words to remind the Corinthians that of all the great spiritual things they can do, the greatest spiritual exercise is love.

The effect of these words are to remind us that we might possess all kinds of spiritual gifts and abilities, but that we are never more like the Lord Jesus Christ than when we love the right way. Now, with all that in mind, let's turn to this passage for a while this morning and talk about God's Greatest Gift To His Church.

I. V. 1-3 THE PRIMACY OF LOVE

(Ill. The whole idea of these verses is that love is superior to everything else we can be or do!)

A. V. 1 It Is Superior To The Sensational - You may be a great speaker, but that is nosubstitute for love. No matter how great your oratory, how beautiful your speech, how brilliant your rhetoric, without love you are simply a clanging cymbal.

Have you ever been to a cymbal solo? I can assure you it is not very exciting. No matter what you say, nor how you say it, nor how accurate it may be, without love it is just noise. Without love, talk truly is cheap.

You see, great oratory can move a person's emotions. Great rhetoric can move a person's mind. A great speech can move a person's will, but only great love can move a person's heart. Oratory can move one to tears, but only love can move one to Jesus.

The bottom line is this: these were the same instruments used in heathen worship. Therefore, the person who exercises his tongue in a spiritual fashion, yet does not do so with the love of God in him, that person is no better than a heathen worshiper. In fact, his worship is man centered and not God centered!

B. V. 2 It Is Superior To The Spectacular - This verse mentions several spectacular abilities. But, even if a person was able to do all of these things and he did not have the love of God in his heart, he was nothing!

C. V. 3 It is Superior To The Sacrificial - We can give away everything we own. We can even give up our bodies on the altar of martyrdom, but if we do so without love in our hearts, it is a waste of time and it does not profit us one bit.

(Ill. The emphasis is clear! When love is absent, the Christian is no better than a heath, v. 1; He is nothing, v. 2; and He can expect nothing, v. 3. Regardless of what others may think of our abilities and our gifts, without love, it ia all a waste of time!)

I. The Primacy Of Love

II. V. 4-12 THE PORTRAIT OF LOVE

(Ill. In these verses, Paul gives an in-depth description of love. He reveals all of its characteristics to us. These are truths that we need to be reminded of continually.)

A. V. 4-6 Love's Properties - Paul shows us the many sides of true, godly love. As if love were a great and brilliant diamond, he holds it up before us and reveals its many facets. As he does, the Person of God is revealed in each gleam of light from the surface of love.

1. V. 4 Suffereth Long - This word means "patient endurance under provocation." The literal meaning of the word is "long-tempered". This characteristic of love reveals the truth that love does not retaliate!

(Ill. Stephen is an example of this type of love - Acts 7:54-60. The greatest example is that of the Lord Jesus - Luke 23:34; Isa. 53:7. This kind of love endures all attacks.)

(Ill. One of Abraham Lincoln's most outspoken political enemies was a man named Edwin J. Stanton. Stanton called Lincoln a "low cunning clown" and the "original gorilla". He even said this, "It is ridiculous for people to go to Africa to see a gorilla, when they could find on easily in Springfield, Illinois." To Lincoln's credit, he never responded to these insults. Yet, when he was elected President, Lincoln chose Stanton to be his Secretary of War. When asked why, Lincoln said, "Because he is the best man!" Later, when Lincoln had been assassinated, Stanton stood by the coffin which contained Lincoln's body and said through his tears, "There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen." Patient love in action won this man over in the end!

2. V. 4 Is Kind - This word refers to active goodness that goes forth in behalf of others. Genuine love is never hateful or mean, but it respects others and reaches out to them.

(Ill. The supreme example of this kind of love is God. He is kind to people despite their treatment of Him, Rom. 2:4.)

3. V. 4 Envieth Not - True love is not jealous over the abilities or possessions of another. Instead of being jealous when others prosper or excel, love is pleased when they do well.

(Ill. Jealousy is one of the most vile of sins that we harbor in our hearts! It was Eve's jealousy of God that motivated her to take the forbidden fruit. It was jealousy that put Daniel in the loin's den. It was jealousy that put Joseph in that pit! Yet, Godly love dies not get jealous, rather it is pleased when others do well!)

4. V. 4 Vaunteth Not Itself - Literally, this phrase means "does not make a parade". Love does not brag! It does not draw attention to itself or to what it is doing. A person who must be the center of attention and is hurt when he is not is not walking in love!

5. V. 4 Is Not Puffed Up - Love is not arrogant or proud, but it realizes that all it has and all that it is has been given to it by God. No matter how great our talents or how spectacular our gifts, everything we are is the result of divine grace.

6. V. 5 Does Not Behave Itself Unseemly - Love is never rude, but it always treats others with compassion, consideration and respect! Love controls the emotions. It is not friendly one day and rude the next. Genuine love always makes Jesus look good!

7. V. 5 Seeketh Not Her Own - True love is never selfish and self-centered, but it is actively interested in what will profit others. It never looks at itself first, but it always considers another ahead of itself.

(Ill. Jesus is the prime example of this attitude in action - Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:42. This is how each of us is to be, Phil. 2:3.)

8. V. 5 Is Not Easily Provoked - True loves keeps no record of evils done to it, but it willingly endures all slights and injuries. This characteristic of love reminds us that love does not demand its own rights! It is willing to yield to the will of another. True love only responds in anger to that which angers God! All other things are handled through forgiveness - Eph. 4:26-32.

9. V. 5 Thinketh No Evil - (Ill. Literally, this phrase means "takes no worthless inventory".) Two thoughts are in mind here. First, genuine love does not attribute evil motives to people. That is, every action is not seen in its most negative light. It thinks the best of others. Second, genuine love does not keep a record of evils done to it. In other words, it does not dwell what others may have done.

(Ill. Often what we think happened did not even take place! Most of our hurts are perceived hurts. We just think it happened that way. That is why we must learn to treat others like the Lord treats us. We must treat them with grace and forgiveness.)

(Ill. Real love does not: 1.) Remember injury 2.) Believe all it hears about another 3.) Look for fault in others! If this attitude were practiced in the church, it would solve about 90% of any church's troubles.)

10. V. 6 Rejoiceth Not In Iniquity - Love does not rejoice in sin. Whether it is its own sins, or the son of others. Love hates sin! Love does not rejoice when another falls into sin! Whether we will admit it or not, there is a part of us that is glad when another believer falls because we think it makes us look better. That is why we just have to tell someone else about it. True love does not gossip or rejoice when another believer falls, but it hurts with the injured member!

11. V. 6 Rejoiceth In The Truth - While love hates all forms of evil, it loves the truth! It rejoices when truth is proclaimed and when truth wins the victory. Love is glad for the truth, even when the truth hurts. Love is glad when truth wins the day!

(Ill. Do these things describe your life this morning? If you are walking love they do!)

B. V. 7-12 Love's Persistence - (Ill. These verses tell us of love's staying power. Love is a remarkable thing that never flags nor fails!)

1. V. 7 Beareth All Things - Love patiently endures and overlooks the faults in others. The word "beareth" literally means "to cover". Instead of parading the failures and faults of others before all the world, love covers them over and continues to love in spite of those things!

(Ill. This was the example of God and His Son Jesus - Rom. 5:8; Isa. 53:4-5. This was Peter's testimony - 1 Pet. 4:8)

(Ill. An example of this kind of live comes to us from the history of England. During the reign of Oliver Cromwell, a soldier had been sentenced to die. His fiancÚ pleased with Cromwell to spare his life, but the great ruler refused. The young soldier was to be executed when the curfew bell sounded, but when the bell-ringer pulled the rope, there was no sound. The girl had climbed into the bell tower and had wrapped her body around the clapper, thus preventing the bell from sounding. Although she was battered and her body bruised and smashed, she managed to climb down. When she stood before Cromwell and told him what she had done, he immediately commuted the soldier's sentence of the soldier. Love beareth all!)

2. V. 7 Believeth All Things - Love always places the best possible interpretation on everything that happens. It does not always seek the most negative answer, but it believes that good will triumph in any situation. Basically, love trusts, love believes and love has confidence in the one loved.

3. V. 7 Hopeth All things - Love always expects the best possible outcome. Love refuses to accept failure. Love always holds out hope that things will work out right in the end.

(Ill. Many have lost loved one and backslidden loved ones. Love does not give up on them. Love believes the day will come when they will come to God and things will be made right. Love just does not give up!)

4. V. 7 Endureth All Things - This is a military term and means that love does not give up the fort! It stands its ground and continues in spite of everything that can be thrown against it. It continues in spite of persecution and ill treatment. Love bears the unbearable, believes the impossible, holds on the incredible and never gives up. The word stop does not exist in the vocabulary of love!

5. V. 8-12 Charity Never Faileth - When everything else in this world has passed away. When everything that is held us such high esteem is gone. When knowledge and gifts no longer matter, love will still exist. It is the great constant throughout eternity. There are times when love may lose a battle. In that the object of one's love may never return that love. Yet, while it may lose a battle here and there, love has already won the war. The idea here is not on success. The idea is on endurance. When other things have been removed from view, there will still be love! It does not give in, give up or give out. Love that is real is love that lasts!

I. The Primacy Of Love

II. The Portrait Of Love

III. V. 13 THE PREEMINENCE OF LOVE

A. Ill. The Bible says that three things abide: Faith, Hope and Love. Yet, faith and hope are encompassed inside of love, v. 7. Therefore, the greatest of all things a believer can possess is love! If our love is right, then faith is no problem! If our love is right, then our hope is in the right place. When our love is right, then we are right!

B. What makes love so great? Well, love is the defining characteristic of Who God is, 1 John 4:8. When the Bible wanted to describe God in one sentence, it said, "God is love." God does not have faith! After all, who would God place His faith in? God does not have hope! What would One Who controls everything possible have to hope for? Yet, God is love! Therefore, we are never more God-like than when we learn to love like God.

C. To be like God, we need to learn to love like God! When we can do this, our world will be altered for His glory!

Conc: Ill. There was a man who only had an eighth-grade education. But this man wanted to be a soul-winner. God had laid a brilliant attorney on his heart. Obeying the Lord, he went to talk to the lawyer about Jesus Christ. But no sooner had he begun when the attorney used his legal training and brilliant mind to turn the man inside out.

The man finally apologized for coming and for taking the attorney's time. He left with tears in his eyes as he said to the lawyer, "I just want you to know that I came because I love you.

Dejected, he went home to his wife and said, "I don't want to be bothered. I don't want to talk to anyone the rest of the day. I just want to go to my room and be left alone; I feel such a failure.

About an hour later, the lawyer came and knocked on the man's door. He told the man's wife he would like to see her husband. She said, "I'm sorry, but he is not seeing anyone today."

"Oh," he said, "I think he will see me. just tell him who I am."

So the husband allowed the attorney to come into his room. He said, "Why have you come? Have you come to make fun of me? Have you come to argue with me again?. You know I cannot argue with you."

The lawyer said, "No, I haven't come to argue with you. I have come to ask you to tell me how to be saved." The man replied, "I don't understand. What changed your mind? Every time I tried to tell you about Jesus you came up with an argument that I couldn't answer." The lawyer said, "Yes, I did. But you came up with an argument that I couldn't answer."

This soul-winner looked at him and said, "What was that?"

The lawyer replied, "When you looked at me and

told me you loved me, I couldn't argue with that."



Nothing will win the victory over others and over circumstances like love! It is love that makes the difference.

My friends, taking every other thing you hold in great value this morning and placing them aside. That is, forgetting about your talents, and your gifts, and you potential, and you positions, and anything else you want to mention, how is you love life? Do you love like God? Did this chapter leave you with the feeling that you were loving the right way? Or, did you get the feeling that there was room for improvement?

I think we need to learn to love like Jesus so we can reach our world and so that we can have the right kind of atmosphere in His House. How is your love life this morning?

Of course, if you aren't saved, you must take that first step before you can ever hope to love like God. You must be saved by Him before you can love like Him.

This altar is open for all those who need to find help with their love life today. Will you come!

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