A Study of 1 Corinthians 13 : Part 1

Several years ago I wrote up a study on 1 Corinthians 13. I decided to revisit it and make a few changes and share it with you this month. I have broken it down into three parts. I hope this will be something that you can enjoy and glean from.

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Once upon a time in a far away land there lived a spoiled prince. One stormy night a peasant lady came to his door begging for shelter. Heartlessly he turned her away. She warned him not to do so, but he slammed the door in her face. As soon as the door slammed shut the prince turned into the hideous form of a beast. The whole castle became a twisted wicked looking place. The peasant lady told the prince that to return to his former self he would have to learn to love.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church. They had forgotten their first love. Paul was telling them that they needed to learn to love again Adam Clarke says,”At the conclusion of the preceding chapter the apostle promised to show the Corinthians a more excellent way than that in which they were now proceeding. They were so distracted with contentions, divided by parties and envious of each other’s gifts, that unity was nearly destroyed. This was a full proof that love to God and man was wanting; and that without this, their numerous gifts and other graces were nothing in the eyes of God; for it was evident that they did not love one another, which is a proof that they did not love God; and consequently, that they had not true religion. Having, by his advice and directions, corrected many abuses, and having shown them how in outward things they should walk so as to please God, he now shows them the spirit, temper, and disposition in which this should be done, and without which all the rest must be ineffectual.”

There is a song that says something like, “We will show them we are Christians by our love.” This is what Paul was trying to point out in this chapter. In verses 1-3 he starts with giving us some examples of what life is like without love, verses 4-7 talks about the qualities of love, and verses 8-12 talk about lasting love.

In a life without love, speech becomes worthless. Adam Clarke says, “We may understand the apostle thus: ‘Though I possessed the knowledge of all languages, and could deliver even the truth of God in them in the most eloquent manner, and had not a heart full of love to God and man… my religion is no more to my salvation than the sounds emitted by the brazen trumpet, or the jingling of the cymbals could contribute intellectual pleasure to the instruments which produce them; and, in the sight of God, I am of no more moral worth than those sounds are. I have, it is true, a profession; but, destitute of a heart filled with love to God and man, producing meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, &c., I am without the soul and essence of religion.”

Basically, what Clarke was saying, is that even if someone preached the gospel to others and did not himself have God’s love in his heart his preaching would be point less. John Wesley, before his heart was strangely warmed at Alters Gate, was a missionary to the people of Georgia. At one point in his work here he wrote, “I have come to save the heathens, but who will save me?”

In a life without love, knowledge would be pointless. King Solomon was one of the wisest people on earth. Yes, his wisdom was God-given, but when he strayed from God and stopped loving Him with his whole heart that knowledge did him no good. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2 how all his wisdom when not used right brought “vexation of spirit.”

In a life without love, works become meaningless. I am sure most of y’all have either read the poem or heard the song, Richard Corey. For those of you who don’t know it is about a young man that is the son of a wealthy banker. He grows up in the lap of luxury, and has, “everything a man could want.” The song says, “He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch, and they were grateful for his patronage, and they thanked him very much.” The rest of the story is that “Richard Corey went home that night and put a bullet through his head.” His works were meaningless. He did not put love behind those gifts he gave, he did it all for applause and recognition.

In verse 4 the Bible says love is patience. I know patience is not something that comes naturally to most of us, but it is something we must work on. There are a couple of aspects patiently loving that I want to point out. The first one is that we should be patience with each other. The second is that we should be patience in waiting on God’s time.

We should always strive to have patience with other people. I know it is not easy. I was the youngest of two. I remember growing up several times when Graci or I would loose patience with each other. It was not a pretty picture. A lot of times she would end up on top of me beating me or twisting my arm or whatever. (You know sisterly fighting with dad and mum intervening before I died!!!)  How many times have we lost our fuse and blown up at the drop of the hat? Because we are to love people we should learn to be patient. Just think of how many times we did some thing that God should have said, “Ok that’s enough” and blown up on us, but because of His love for us he did not. Instead, he lovingly and patiently guided us back to the right way.

How many times have we lost our fuse and blown up at the drop of the hat? Because we are to love people we should learn to be patient. Just think of how many times we did something that God could have said, “Ok that’s enough” and blown up on us. Because of His love for us he did not. Instead, he lovingly and patiently guided us back to the right way.

We should also strive to be patience with God’s timing. How many times have we tried to push God to do something instead of waiting on him? Adam Clarke says, “It (patience) also waits God’s time of accomplishing his gracious or providential purposes, without murmuring or repining; and bears its own infirmities, as well as those of others, with humble submission to the will of God.”

Waiting is never easy. If you are single you are waiting to be married. If you are married you are waiting to have children and buy a house. We get impatient and sometimes even angry when what we want does not happen right away. Keep in mind that God’s ways are not our ways and His plans are not our plans.

Verse 4 also goes on to say love is kind. It does not envy. Adam Clarke put is nicely by saying about kindness, “It is tender and compassionate in itself, and kind and obliging to others; it is mild, gentle, and benign; and, if called to suffer, inspires the sufferer with the most amiable sweetness, and the most tender affection. It is also submissive to all the dispensations of God; and creates trouble to no one.”

About envy, Clarke says, “Is not grieved because another possesses a greater portion of earthly, intellectual, or spiritual blessings. Those who have this pure love rejoice as much at the happiness, the honour, and comfort of others, as they can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.”

Verse 4 also goes on to say that love is not proud. The opposite of pride is humility. The greatest example of humility was demonstrated by Christ when he died on the cross. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Gods love for us was so great that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

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Next week we will be covering verses 5-7

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