HOPE CHAPEL Sunday Service Notes
Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church - Let's not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world every day!
Teaching Series: “Be Different” based on 1 Corinthians
Today’s Topic: “Week 8: Love” (Chapter 13)
For further study:
Article - “What Does Agape Love Really Mean in the Bible?”
Book - “New International Biblical Commentary: 1 Corinthians” (Marion L. Soards, 2004)
Article - “Bible Odyssey: The Love Passage (1 Cor 13)” by Gordon Fee
1 Corinthians 13 appears to be plunked down in the middle of an unrelated topic that Paul is discussing regarding our interconnectedness as believers and the Gifts of the Spirit. Next week we will examine chapters 12 and 14, but I don’t think it’s an accident at all that chapter 13 comes in the middle of his teaching on gifts and how believers are to relate to one another. He wants to highlight the value of love against all else, which takes up the entire thirteenth chapter. He again feels compelled to address issues that the believers are using to elevate themselves over others–the use of gifts–and to address their times of worship–are they there to worship God or is it all about me, me, me? He makes it very clear that without the motivation of love for God and others, anything they attempt will have no lasting value.
The early translators of the Bible who created the chapter and verse division recognized the interconnectedness of these three chapters. Chapter 12 ends with, “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all,” and Chapter 14 begins with, “Let love be your highest goal!” This demonstrates that while ‘love’ is the theme of chapter 13, it is directly related to the arguments Paul is making in chapter 12 and 14.
“ If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
This chapter can be broken down into easily discernible topics: “Paul establishes the necessity of love in his opening paragraph (1Cor 13:1-3). Paul then follows this (1Cor 13:4-7) with a description of the character of love. Finally, Paul ends with the permanence of love and establishes agape love as a mark of true Christianity by asserting, “the greatest of these is love” (1Cor 13:13). Immediately following (1Cor 14:1), Paul literally challenges the Corinthians to “pursue love;” to put others’ needs before their own... In Paul’s description of love, he leaves no room for it to be anything less than attending to the needs of others...Paul makes it clear that love begins when someone else’s need supersedes one’s own.” (Gordon Fee)
In the Greek language a variety of words are used to describe the many forms of love, but Paul is here speaking of God’s unconditional agape love. Depending on who you talk to, the Greeks had seven words/concepts that we lump into the one English word ‘love.’ We can ‘love’ our family and ‘love’ certain food groups, but the ‘love’ being expressed is not the same (at least I hope not!). ‘Love’ of self and ‘love’ of others can lead to very different responses, even contrary in nature. So what is the ‘love’ that Paul is telling us to make preeminent for living a Christ-centred life? The kind of love that Paul is talking about is agape love...God’s kind of love.
But how are we to define this kind of love in order to distinguish it from other forms? What are the characteristics of agape love? The best place to get the answer is the Bible. As Christians, love is to be a primary motivation for life, which according to the above quotation by Gordon Fee, means that our life’s purpose is to serve others.
The kind of love required by God of us, His kind of love, has been defined as, “a choice, a deliberate striving for another’s highest good, and is demonstrated through action” and it is entirely selfless according to chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians.
Agape love, as well as our faith and hope, are the only thing that are eternal. All else will one day pass away and no longer be of concern; but not just the things of this earth. Faith and hope, which become fully realized in heaven–our belief of God will be replaced by His presence and our hope of heaven fulfilled by our actual residency! The love of God will be ours to enjoy forever without end!
Paul adds that just as immaturity gives way to maturity, so too the Corinthian church’s concern for gifts should give way to the need for love. A lack of love is nothing less than the hallmark of a Christian’s lack of maturity. But what does agape love look like with ‘skin on?” In real life, not just in nice platitudes, how is God’s love demonstrated in the life of the believer?
My grandmother, my dad’s mom, attended church faithfully, taught Sunday school for years, made baby clothes for a shop in downtown Brampton, and was quick to donate items for church events. My grandmother, however, was also one of the most unloving women I have ever known. She had come from a very difficult childhood background, had lived through the starvation winter in the Netherlands under German occupation, had made some poor choices. As a young adult she had emigrated to Canada in 1951, with the man she had married, but who was not the man she loved. When mom and dad told us we were going to visit grandma, the first question out of our mouths was, “Which one?” The one who gives us stuff (dad’s mom) or the one with ‘Aunt Sharon’ (mom’s mom)...and we had a definite preference. Time with my mom’s mom was always preferable. There might not always be cookies to eat, and if you were thirsty, water replaced juice, but we all knew which home was more loving. My mother’s mom was the epitome of ‘grandma’...and you never had to wonder where you stood in her books. She loved us! Our other grandmother left us feeling like unwanted guests that she was required to put up with so she could visit her favourite son.
Our love, and lack of, are easily spotted by others...even children. It’s one of the reasons I love the stories of Jesus; His love for others is undeniable.
“ As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
17 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.
18 “Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.”
This story of Jesus is a story of agape love in action. What news had Jesus just heard? John the Baptist had been killed by Herod.
What caused him to set aside His obvious desire to be alone? His compassion.
Jesus’ response stands out. How many of us would rather have headed back out across the water in search for a secluded spot to grieve?
Sharing Time - What does agape love look like in my life?
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!