READ I Cor 13.12—what Paul reveals to us here is one of the deepest desires of our hearts. One of the deepest of the heart is to be KNOWN. I mean fully known. This is difficult because this requires a great deal of transparency. To be transparent we need someone else to want to truly know us no matter what comes out—good and bad. Another difficult part of transparency is we need to know ourselves. In a world full of sin and brokenness this is impossible.
What Paul tells us here is right now we KNOW in part, but one day we shall fully know and be fully known. For some of you that sounds exciting, freeing, and what your heart deeply longs for. While others that truth absolutely terrifies because you know all your deep dark secrets, insecurities will be fully known by others. We need something some that will set us free from our fear of being fully known and will allow us to fully know others.
Theme: Mature love will encourage us to dwell richly in the love of God.
1. Meaningless Love—I Cor 13.1-3.
It is important to remember that Paul is discussing love in the midst of a conversation about corporate worship or the Sunday gathering. Therefore, some of the illustrations he gives here in I Cor 13.1-3 are addressing that issue in the Corinthian church. They were emphasizing various public gifts over others. The emphasis was not rooted in love and did not communicate love.
In order to understand I Cor 13.1-3 I think we need to get outside of ourselves first. Therefore, as I was meditating on these first three verses my heart was immediately drawn toward how God fulfills this text. God can speak the language of all created beings. God is absolutely powerful with a power far beyond our imaginations. God has perfect knowledge and understanding. In all of this God is grounded in love. God used the language of the universe to express His love. God uses His power to display love to the universe. God uses His knowledge and understanding in perfect love.
When I compare myself to God I fall short of His glory (Rom 3.23). I can speak in the tongues of men, maybe angels (whatever that means), but I am cannot allows do this in love. My tongue is not always an instrument of love. I don’t have much power but even the little power I have is not always used in the most loving ways. When I am graced with knowledge and understanding it is once again not always in love. I can make tremendous sacrifices (at least in my mind) but do them to receive adoration, praise, or my own self-pleasure. I do not believe my experience is mine and mine alone. I am sure we could all get up and attest today that these truths are true for all of us.
While the love being described in this text sounds amazing I know it is not me. It is not anyone here. There is only One who can fulfill the love being described here. And the scary part is Paul tells us that if our speech, exercise of power, knowledge, understanding, and personal sacrifices are not rooted in love then they become NOTHING—MEANINGLESS. That is a VERY scary thought! I mean stop about that. The love we have for our children, parents, friends, and whoever else comes to NOTHING.
And why is that? Why will our speech become annoying? Why will our expressions of power, knowledge, and understanding become nothing? Why will our sacrifices gain nothing? I think Paul clues us in. We need a love that will never end. We need a mature love, eternal love; a love that will not pass away.
2. Mature Love Will Not Pass Away—I Cor 13.8-13.
Paul opens I Cor 13.8-13 will a weighty statement—“Love never ends.” This is a true love, eternal love, a mature love. This a love that grown into a full maturity. Paul uses the language from I Cor 13.1-3 again to show us that the power of this world, the tongues of this world, the knowledge of this world, is known only in part. It lacks clarity. He lacks a maturity. It is veiled. It is hidden from use because of sin. It lacks love—specifically the love of God.
So how do we get this love? We need a love that will never end. We need an eternal love. We need a mature love—a love that is not veiled. Paul says in I Cor 13.10—“when the perfect one comes, the partial will pass away.” The perfect One is Christ friends. Jesus lifted the veil from us and showed us true love, eternal love, mature love. He used His power to demonstrate the love of God to us perfectly. He used His language to express the love of God to us perfectly. He used His knowledge to help us understand the perfect love of God. The perfect One has come and will come again. When put our faith, hope, and love in Him we will begin to experience “true love”—the love of God. This is an eternal love—a mature love. As Paul says, “we will not talk like children, think like children, have knowledge like children”, no, we will be taught a mature love looks like and acts like by the God of the universe. The veil of sin will be lifted from our eyes and we will see people and the world around the way God does.
In II Cor 3 Paul uses an OT illustration to demonstrate this truth to us. In Exodus 33-34 Moses asked to see the fullness of God’s glory. In love God said you don’t know what you are asking for, because if I have you that you would die. God let him see a portion of Him, but the portion was enough that Moses was beaming with the glory of God. It was so much the Israelites asked to put a veil on. Paul shows how this points to Christ in II Cor 3.15-18:
Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And 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.—II Cor 3.15-18
Another way to say this is, when the love of this world is removed is replaced with a truer love, deeper love, eternal love, mature love—the love of God available to us in Christ. With an unveiled face we behold the glory of the LORD. As Paul hints at in I Cor 13.12 we will no longer look at Him in dim mirror, but we will see Jesus clearly—“face to face.” God will fully know us, and we will fully know Him. We will no longer know Jesus in part, FULLY know Him.
3. The Loving Life—I Cor 13.4-7.
Once this captures our hearts we now can dwell richly in I Cor 13.4-7. When the veil is removed, and the light of the Gospel has shown in our hearts, then and only then, can we begin to consider how we ought to love God and others. The language in these verses are read in light of the Gospel of Christ. When that happens we can consider what a loving life in God looks like.
First, let’s look clearly at the what love is NOT. Love is not envious, but love can have healthy Christ-exalting jealously. We are envious when desire something that is not ours. But the Bible describes God as jealous, and jealous happens when something that is supposed to be ours is being taken away from us. God jealously longs for our affections. We are not to be boastful, but this does not mean we cannot boast. We boast in God. When boast in something we are screaming with our souls “LOOK AT THIS! It will truly satisfy you!” No one can say that about anything in this world—it exclusively belongs to God. We know God is not arrogant or rude. God is the only one who can insist on His way, because He is perfectly loving, pure and holy. He has everyone’s best interest in mind. We cannot say that—our finite minds could not even handle it. God is not irritable with us which FLOORED me this week. Despite all my foolishness and stubbornness God is not irritable or resentful toward me because of Christ.
We can be patient and kind because God is patient and kind with because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. God is lovingly patient and kind. God will bear with us, believes in us, has hope, and will endure with us because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. Because God chose to defer His wrath onto His Son, His Beloved Son, as our substitute, we now get the eternal love of the Father. When we dwell richly in this, just take some time each week, each day, and sit under the faucet of that truth we begin to live a loving life. We become more patient kind, bearing with one another in live, believing love will make a way, hoping in love, and enduring with each in love.
Are we dwelling richly in the love God this morning friends? Is the Sunday gathering a place where you come express your love toward God and brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we here to insist on our way or God’s? Whenever we gather, on Sunday, our Refuge Communities, or just for a cup of coffee, it should be help each renew our love for God and remind each other of His love for us?