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The Sunday Sermon – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7


Love’s Facets!  1st Corinthians 13:4-7

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

In our last study we saw a little of the theology of the special agape love of God, both in the way that God loved us, and sent His Son to die for us when we did not deserve it, and in pouring out that love into our hearts, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, when we come to Christ as Saviour.  We noticed that without this special kind of love, our worship is empty and hypocritical, and our Christian service is meaningless and pointless.  We asked ourselves the important question, “What am I without love?”    I read recently that you should never marry a tennis player, for to a tennis player, love means nothing at all! 

Now there is a definite progression in this chapter.  J.I. Packer, writing in ‘Your Father Loves You’ notes that in the first three verses we see the primacy of love.  In the verses we are presently dealing with we see the profile of love, and in final verses of the chapter we see the permanence of love.

But now we must enquire about the characteristics of this love.  How will we recognise it in others, and differentiate it from the other types of love that we learned about before, and, perhaps most importantly for the practical application of this doctrine, recognise it (or the lack of it!) within our own lives and Christian experience!  For agape love is love in action!  And let us remember that the purpose of Paul’s writing was to point out the characteristics of agape love for the benefits of the Corinthians, who distinctly lacked them!  So, let us notice then fifteen recognisable qualities of agape love:-

1. Agape Love is Patient!

Charity suffereth long.  The Greek word here is makroqumei. Vine tells us that this word means to be ‘long-tempered.’  It always refers to our patience with other people, not just with circumstances.  It indicates a patient bearing with provocation, however long that may persist!  You can see how this kind of attitude would derive from God’s love for us!  How patient our Lord was with us when we were in rebellion against Him!  What great insults He bore at our hands!  What blasphemies, what injustices, what wrongdoings!  And yet He patiently, and with great longsuffering wooed us back to Himself.  And think how long God, with great tenderness, made entreaty to Israel to stop following after other gods and to be faithful only to Him.  This is how the Christian will deal with others.  He will exercise loving patience!  Col. 1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

2. Agape Love is Kind!

 and is kind  I wonder how kind we are to each other?  This is a really practical aspect of Christian love!  Sometimes an act of kindness costs so little but means so much to the recipient!  Sometimes an act of kindness speaks volumes about the depth of our faith, and the opposite is also true!  When unbelievers see unkind actions by Christians, their testimony is totally ruined!  Ephes. 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.   A story is told about an elderly lady who used the same post office every week.  One day the queue was particularly long and the elderly lady was at the back of the queue and all she wanted was two first class stamps.  One of the assistants pointed out to the waiting people that if anyone just wanted stamps they could use the stamp machine outside.  The woman, standing at the back of the queue shouted back, “The machine’s no use!”   Someone asked her “Why not, is it not working?”  “Oh, it’s working all right, but the machine never asks me about my arthritis!”  You see, simple kindness makes a big impression!

3. Agape Love is not Envious!

charity envieth not.  Now one of the great curses of modern society is jealousy!

  • It ruins homes.  People get into this awful rut of ‘keeping up with the neighbours.’  They see the Jones with a new car or a new greenhouse, or a new computer or a new telephone, and all of a sudden they have to have one!  And sometimes people will go into awful debt, just to assuage their envy of other people.  How many married couples have begun a family, just because their friends all have children, and they must have a baby too?  Even children have become designer accessories for some people, a ‘must have’ item.  The Bible warns us of the dangers of covetousness,   Exodus 20:17  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
  • It ruins society.  For our whole society today is based on covetousness, greed and consumerism.  The advertising industry thrives on telling us that we must have whatever product they are peddling at that particular time.  Children are bombarded with subtle messages telling them that if they want to be acceptable (cool?) then they must have a certain brand of shoes, or a particular designer label on their clothes.  Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
  • It ruins churches!  How many Christian churches have been destroyed by jealousy?  Because Mr Somebody has been preferred in the deacon’s election.  Because one church has been doing numerically better than another, and for some reason someone has decided that numbers are what really matters, instead of faithfulness and obedience.  Paul wrote, Galatians 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

The godly Scottish preacher Andrew Bonar always seemed overshadowed in his ministry by his friend Robert Murray McCheyne.  Bonar once wrote, “This day 20 years ago I preached for the first time as an ordained minister. It is amazing that the Lord has spared me and used me at all. I have no reason to wonder that He used others far more than He does me. Yet envy is my hurt, and today I have been seeking grace to rejoice exceedingly over the usefulness of others, even where it cast me into the shade. Lord, take away this envy from me!”

4.  Agape Love is not Boastful!

charity vaunteth not itself,  God’s love within us does not seek recognition from others.

 I recall a special service a few years ago at which I was the convener and preacher.  By the very nature of the service, quite a few guests were present from other churches.  A soloist was also invited, and he sang two very beautiful hymns, which contributed greatly to the service.  After the first piece that this soloist sang, a number of visitors began to applaud him.  I felt constrained to intervene.  I asked them to cease, pointing out that such applause was very inappropriate in a service of worship.  The man was singing for the Lord’s glory, not for his own self-satisfaction!

The one who serves the lord will never do so for the applause of men!  Recently, it has become the custom in some parts of the visible church for not only singers to be applauded, but for preachers to be applauded!  Where does all this lead?

We have some precedent in church history.  In the early church there was a Bishop called Paul of Samosata.  He planted his admirers throughout his congregation, and when he mounted the pulpit he would wave his handkerchief at the congregation, and all his admirers would begin to applaud, all whistle and cheer!  Eventually, Paul became so conceited that he erased all references to Christ from his hymnbook, and instructed that all praise in the church should be addressed to him!

Is this an isolated extreme case?  Not at all!  Consider the lifestyles of some of these ‘televangelists’ from the USA!  Where is the humility and the agape love, that does not boast?  Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Philip. 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.


5. Love is not Proud!

 is not puffed up    There should be no such thing as a conceited Christian!  It is contrary to the principle of God’s agape love being poured into our hearts!  Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6. Agape Love is never Arrogant!

Doth not behave itself unseemly.  Now, if God’s special undeserving love has been shed abroad in our hearts, how could a Christian ever be rude to another person?  Have you ever seen a discourteous, bad-mannered Christian?  2 Thes. 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you.  A Christian always ought to be gracious, courteous, polite, considerate!

7. Agape Love never demands its Rights!

seeketh not her own  Now there is danger that we will behave as if we had never been redeemed at all!  One of the characteristics of modern mankind, is the self seeking attitude of people today.  We see it in our children, as they demand their own way, and very often are given it, just to keep them quiet!  Of course, mush of the misbehaviour problems that we see in modern children is the consequence of a complete lack of discipline in the home!  And consider the burgeoning ‘claims culture’ that used be confined to America, but which has become a growing industry on this side of the Atlantic as well.  The true Christian never demands his own rights, especially when that is injurious to others!  1 Cor. 10:24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

8. Agape Love is not ‘Touchy!’

is not easily provoked  Are Christians touchy and volatile today?  The word literally means ‘to become exasperated.’  To lose our temper with others!  Do you know any Christians like that?  We used to have an expression; “You couldn’t look at him sideways!”  It just meant that the person in question was so sensitive that he took offence at every little phrase or that he drew mischievous inferences from every stray word!  Temperamental or easily offended Christians are not displaying that agape love that Jesus demonstrated for them on the cross, when He freely forgave them!  James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

9. Agape Love is not Resentful!

 thinketh no evil.  There are some people who make long lists, catalogues of grievances that have built up over a number of years.  They have a build-up of resentment against others.  I only heard recently about couple of men who were working out in a field, and one of them was noticed to be waving his hands at the other!  Someone enquired of an observer just what he was doing!  “Oh, that’s two Christians out there.  They haven’t spoken to each other for years, so he is telling him where to put the hay he is raking!”   A true Christian will never do such a thing!  Agape love not only forgives sin, it forgets as well!  Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 1 Thes. 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

10. Agape Love never takes Pleasure in Sin!

Rejoiceth not in iniquity.  Well of course, you would already know that true Godly love will never find expression in wrong doing!  But of course the text here implies much more than that, it implies that someone actually might go beyond wrongdoing and take delight when wrong is being done!  Could you imagine a Christian who would see some harm or some wrong being done to some poor victim or even some enemy, and they would say, “Serves you right!”  “You deserve everything you get!”  But do you know, this kind of reaction is almost second nature!  I let myself down in this way once!  A certain bookseller had imported some pencils from America, and had been caught out, for the pencils he had received could never be sold in his shop!  I laughed and said, “Serves you right! – Trying to cut us out!”  I was immediately ashamed of myself!

11. Agape Love loves the Truth!

but rejoiceth in the truth  Well this is the opposite of taking pleasure in sin.  Taking please in the truth, and believing in truth.  Believing in absolute truth as found in God’s Word.  We are to take our stand for truth.  Ephes. 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

12. Agape Love bears up under all circumstances!

 Beareth all things  Agape love will not buckle under whatever circumstances!  Whether it is neglected, abused, ridiculed, persecuted, whatever befalls it, it will endure…  As did Christ on the Cross for sinners!

13. Agape Love thinks the best of others!

believeth all things  This is imperative!  Don’t we tend to think the worst of others?  Shouldn’t we give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes, and take them at their word?  I know that would be hard, when it come to some of our great political leaders!  Col. 3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

14. Agape Love brings great hope!

hopeth all things  The Christian, of course, already has hope, for he believes with all his heart that the Lord will come again, that good will triumph over evil, that the Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth!  Indeed Paul tells us inRomans 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

15. Agape Love endures all attacks!

endureth all things.  The Greek word for endures here is ‘upomenei a word which implies a military strategy, to deliberately withstand all attacks!  This is one of the outstanding characteristics about agape love.  It is STRONG LOVE!  No matter how much the temptation to be unloving my persist, agape love will overcome it!  Matthew 10:22   And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

From → Sermon Notes

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