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Love, The More Excellent Way

September 4, 2022 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Growing in Grace

Topic: Love Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Sermon Text:

Today, we continue our journey through 1 Corinthians in our series Growing in Grace. We are working our way verse by verse through the letter seeking God’s wisdom. Seeking to be increasingly transformed by God’s grace to live according to the new identity we have received in Christ Jesus.

This letter of First Corinthians is like a chain of pure gold, with each passage a link adding priceless wisdom and truth. Chapter 13 is like a brilliant diamond pendent hung upon that chain. For 12 chapters,

Paul has addressed issue after issue of disunity and pride in the church and now in a powerful crescendo of truth expressed with poetic beauty Paul unveils the logic that connects everything he has said. This pinnacle of revelation also sets the stage for the rest of the letter.

The main point I want you to see this morning is love is better than gifts because to love is to be like God.

If you have a Bible, please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13. If you are using the blue bible in the pew, it is on page 1197. If you do not own a Bible or have need of one, please take that one as you leave as our gift to you. The last thing Paul said in chapter 12 was that he would show us a more excellent way. He begins in verse 1,

 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

We can be gifted with the most elevated command of the language and the most precise articulation of the truth and yet be of no use to the Kingdom. Paul says even if we have the vocabulary of angels and share the deepest mysteries of the faith, if we do not have love, it is useless. Whatever great doctrines we think we proclaim, if we share them without love, it is just noise. Paul says we are like clanging cymbals. You can imagine the effect of this…{every word we speak without love jars the spirit of the one to whom it is directed.}

Yes, we must stand boldly for the truth of the Gospel and proclaim it fearlessly but sadly, it is not difficult to find professed Christians who seem to take pleasure in brutality. But we are not simply concerned about truth as an abstract principal. We are concerned about the truth so that people may come to God. Our goal is not to win arguments, but to share the grace we have received. It makes no sense to share the greatest message of God’s love unlovingly.

James 3:17 tells us 17 …the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere and in Ephesians 4 Paul says we should speak the truth in love. I am afraid it would have been better for some of our souls had we been born before the invention of the internet and social media.

The Corinthians incorrectly thought the gift of tongues was proof of great spiritual status, but Paul says even if we exercised that gift to the extreme, it is worthless without love. Paul is not saying those who speak in tongues are speaking angelic languages. He is using hyperbole, an exaggeration to make his point. The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in unlearned languages. Paul is saying, even if we could speak in the highest conceivable form of language, the very language of heaven, which no human does, it would still be nothing without love.

He is showing that even if these gifts were exercised beyond what anyone can claim, they still take second place to love. Paul’s use of exaggeration continues through this entire section. Look at verse 2.

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.

Nobody has the gift of prophecy such that they understand all mysteries and all knowledge. Again, he is saying, even if we had the prophetic gift to the uttermost level possible, which nobody does, without love it is still nothing.

It is the same with the gift of faith. This isn’t saving faith by the way, but a special gifting of faith for certain circumstances. But Paul says even if we had enough faith to move mountains, without love we are nothing. Well, so far as I know, all the mountains are right where they have always been. Google has never had to update its maps program after a prayer meeting. Paul is using extremes to show how superior love is. He continues in verse 3,

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

What more could any person give than everything they have and their own life? How is it possible to show more commitment than to invest every possession and indeed your own life? That is the limit of extreme commitment. Paul says even then, you profit nothing if it isn’t done in love. A loveless martyr is of no use to the kingdom of God.


The Corinthians issues were not due to a lack of gifts. They were blessed with every spiritual gift. Back in chapter 1 verses 4–7 Paul says,


I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledgeeven as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

What they lacked was something more essential. They lacked love. They were like first year music students with professional level instruments. Here they are showing off their fancy trumpets and clarinets, but still learning the most basic scales. They had all the equipment they would ever need to perform at the highest level, but not yet able to use them well.

That is often the way it is with us too. We need to shift our attention from our gear to the goal. It is better to have meager gifts and great love than great gifts and meager love. Love is foundational. It is indispensable for any spiritual progress. A person who excels in teaching, preaching, study, prayer, serving, or whatever but who does not do those things out of love is like a Ferrari with an empty gas tank. It may look powerful and impressive, but it isn’t going anywhere. Paul could not be clearer about the importance of love.

OK, but why? What does all this really mean? What even is this thing called love that Paul is so concerned about? There is a lot of confusion these days about love. People say they fall in love as if it is a hole in the ground. Then I guess they can fall out of love like rolling off a bed or something. Others say it is a force, like being struck by cupid’s arrow we go from reasonable people to becoming overcome with irrational passion and all resistance is futile.

The world has reduced love to an emotional fluctuation or an impersonal force. We are told that love is love and love wins as if truth and justice have no part in it. Love has become disconnected from God and is now even an excuse to ignore what God says. But that isn’t really love. That stuff has nothing to do with what Paul is talking about.

You may know that Greek has several words to describe different kinds of love. There is a word for the kind of love friends share and a different word for erotic love, a different word for our love for self, and so on. These various Greek words overlap some in their usage but the word for love that Paul uses here is ἀγάπη and in most contexts it refers to a sacrificial kind of love. We can define this love as is a deep affection that expresses itself in selfless devotion.

Love is not an emotion it is a devotion. It is not an impersonal force or chemistry it involves our mind. It is an affection. It a commitment of our heart that includes our intellect as well as our feelings and directs our actions. Affections are what makes up the core of who we are. Emotions come and go but affections influence how we think and the motivation for our choices.

That is why many pastors say that biblical love is verb rather than a noun. Our actions, what we do and what we say, reflect the desires of our heart. They are evidence of who we really are at the deepest level. Therefore, in the Bible there is a deep connection between love and obedience. If we want to know who we really are. Or to put it another way, if we want to know what we really love, all we have to do is look at the law.

The Ten Commandments are really a summary of what true love looks like. A righteous person who loves God will desire what is good and therefore have a life that fulfills those commands. In Matthew 22:36–40 a lawyer questions Jesus and says,

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


The law is a standard. It is a measuring stick and what it ultimately measures is our love for God. Those Ten Commands reflect the holy character of God and if anyone is like God they lead lives of holiness and obedience from the heart. That is why Paul says to believers in Romans 13:8, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. In John 14:15 Jesus says simply, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

But friends, in all of history, nobody has. Psalm 14:2-3 says,

The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

The reason we sin is that every one of us have loved something else more than God. John 3:19 says,

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

We may not feel evil because we use our own standards. We think we have made mistakes, but how can we say that we loved darkness rather than light? Are our works evil? Well, what do we find when we use God’s standard?

  1. Have we ever have placed other loves ahead of God?
  2. Have we ever failed to worship God as He deserves to be worshipped?
  3. Have we ever treated His holy name with contempt and invoked it carelessly?
  4. Have we have ever failed to make time for serving Him a priority in our life?
  5. Have we ever failed to consistently appreciate and honor the parents He gave us?
  6. Have we ever hated others thus committing murder in our hearts?
  7. Have we ever been unfaithful to our spouses in our thoughts or more?
  8. Have we ever taken things that do not belong to us, or that we did not work for?
  9. Have we ever said or repeated things that are false, or we do not know to be true?
  10. Have we ever been jealous of the blessing’s others have received?

There are none who can claim we are righteous according to this standard. These are not mistakes or oversights. They are evidence of a sinful heart that loves darkness more than light. These sins reflect what we really love, which is ourselves. If we loved God, it would express itself in a deep affection and selfless devotion that would make any of these sins disgusting to us.

And the real bad news is how naturally we do these things. They show us how broken we really are, how defective and warped our love really is. Very soon each of us will stand before God and must give an account for our lives and not even one of us will be able to point to any righteousness or goodness of our own. Because we loved darkness, if we get what we deserve, we will be cast into the utter and everlasting darkness of hell away from the love of God.

But in an amazing act of undeserved love, God has provided a way of salvation. God sent His son Jesus who lived a life of perfect love, fulfilling every requirement of the law perfectly. Then Romans 5:8 says, … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God’s Son gave His life to pay for the sins of all who repent and put their faith in Him.

Jesus experienced God’s wrath upon sin on the cross so that those who accept his sacrifice do not have to experience it in hell. Then three days later He rose again. Sin had been overcome, death had been defeated, and the justice of God had been satisfied. If we believe in Jesus as our substitute our sins are paid for by him and we are free from the penalty of the law.

Believers have received the perfect righteousness of Jesus as our testimony before God. Our acceptance by God is based solely on the perfect work of Jesus. But that isn’t the end. Jesus does more than just free believers from the penalty of sin. Having justified believing sinners, he is also at work to sanctify us. Believers are born again, receiving a new heart and new affections. Before being united to Jesus we were slaves to sin, spiritually dead and unable to do please God in any way. But in Christ we are new creations.

The great early church father Augustine said it this way,

The law was given that grace might be sought; and grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.

Saving grace is not just deliverance from punishment, that is merely mercy. Saving grace is also the transformation of a sinner into a child of God. Just as most natural children resemble their father as they grow to maturity, so too with supernatural children. Having been born again we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says,

18 … we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.


This transformation ending in our perfection in glory is the hope of the believer and Romans 5:5 says … hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Most of us have probably experienced a dead car battery at least once in our life. You get in the car and turn the key, but nothing happens. It is dead. There is no power there to make anything happen. But if you connect that battery to another battery that has power, the power can jump bringing your dead car to life.

That is a bit like what happens when we connect our dead heart to the loving heart of Jesus Christ through faith. Faith is like a set of jumper cables that unite us to Jesus, so we receive new life and power from him. He is the source of the power that charges the heart of the believer with love.

1 John 4:7–12 says,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.


The more we love the more we are like God. Not in the emotional shallow or selfish ways the world loves but in the profound selfless devotion of those who have the sprit of God. The more like God we are the more clearly our love will be seen to differ from the world. Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6:35,

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.


I see many posts on social media expressing the idea in one form or another that if you aren’t there for me, don’t be surprised when I am not there for you. The advice is that we shouldn’t put any energy into loving and caring for those who do not love and care back. There are certainly appropriate boundaries we need to set with people but if we want Christ to be seen in us we will love other ungrateful sinners just as he has loved us.

That is what he calls us to do. It is love that distinguishes believers from unbelievers and it is through love that the church shows itself to have the spirit of Jesus. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says,

34 … just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


It is love that testifies to the world that we are his. It is the essential and fundamental ingredient of the Christian life. In fact, if we must summarize Christianity in one word it could be love. All our theology and teaching begins and ends with love because God Himself is at the center of our theology and God is love.

Paul is helping the Corinthians and us understand that these various supernatural abilities that God gives to believers are important, but they only function properly in a context of love. Love is the fuel that powers the gifts. Without love, the others won’t make any progress. The purpose of the gifts is to build up the body of Christ and the highest expression of Christlikeness is love. That is the main point. Love is better than gifts because to love is to be like God.

Paul tells us what that looks like. He says,


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Isn’t it disturbing how easily the devil can use even good things like truth and service and gifts to get us pointed in the wrong direction? Paul gives us a checklist to evaluate our own heart to see if we are walking in the Spirit of love or the flesh as we interact with each other.

This is a famous passage that is often used in wedding ceremonies. Even the world, at least in theory, looks at these words as a model of what the best relationships should look like. It is therefore interesting, and I think useful, to realize that this passage is not talking about the love between a husband and wife. In fact, it is not talking about romantic love at all.

This is a description of how we are supposed to love our brothers and sisters in church. Take a second and look around you right now. Yep, those people. This passage describes the kind of self-sacrificial devotion we are to have for each other in Christ.

Are we being impatient or unkind to our brothers and sisters? If so, that is not coming from God and whatever end we have convinced ourselves is of a greater good than loving them is an idol.

What about our attitude to what we or others have? If we are envious or boastful that comes from our old nature and not from the work of Christ in us. It is scary how often I find myself working certain things into a conversation that are just subtle boasts or subtle ways of expressing my jealousy. Does that happen with you?

We are living through a pandemic of arrogance and rudeness among those who claim to be believers. We have put an unbiblical wedge between truth and love. If someone disagrees with the finer points of our theology or our politics, we don’t hesitate to belittle them with a tone of sarcastic superiority. When we speak that way, we do so not with the voice of God, but with the hiss of the serpent.

One of the best ways to really know how mature we are is to see how we act when we don’t get our way. Some of us are as pleasant as pie when we get what we want, but if things go the other way, watch out! But God says love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It is not love but pride that leads to these things.

In verse 6 where Paul says love …does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth, he is transitioning from the first part of this list that focused on negative behavior to the second half that focuses on positive behavior. Wrongdoing refers to all unrighteousness that comes from a lack of love such as those things he just mentioned and rejoicing with the truth indicates the truth of the Gospel and those things that proceed from love.

Love looks to the future with an intense trust and hope that allows believers to endure and persevere now. Love bears all things in that it can withstand anything as it looks forward with belief to the fulfillment of God’s promises. It never gives up believing and hopes in the promises leading to perseverance until the end. Paul is talking here about belief and hope in what God has revealed and his promises.


We have said a lot about love this morning and we will have more to say next week but before we finish, I want you to see a scriptural truth about this love that is absolutely mind blowing in how profound it is.


In John chapter 17 Jesus is praying for his church. He is praying for his disciples and all those who will believe through them. He is praying for us. In verses 24–26 he says this,

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Do you see it?

Jesus wants all those who come to him to see that glory that was given to him by the Father because of the eternal love the Father has for him. Because Jesus desires for believers to be with him and see this glory that comes from the Fathers love he makes known the Father to them. He takes them out of darkness by making God known to them. He reveals the Father so that they come to know that Jesus is sent by God and be with him.

But now look at verse 26. Why does he do it? Jesus Christ does this SO THAT those redeemed people could become partakers of the love the Father has for the Son and the Son has for the Father. In his prayer the night before he was crucified, our Savior says he is making God known so that the love the Father has for the Son would be in us and that Christ himself would be in us.

The crucifixion of Jesus is the greatest demonstration of love that has ever happened, and it happened so that those who believe can share in the perfect love that God has within himself.

Friends, I know that the church doesn’t look like much to the world, but they are in darkness. I know sometimes our flesh pulls us away from fellowship in other directions. But when we recognize what it is that God is doing in his people, I don’t know how we could ever want to be anywhere else. I pray this week that God will bless each of us with the wisdom to see Christ in our brothers and sisters, and with a full measure of his love so that we can love them more like he does.



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