Love: The Bible's Simplest Description of God

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  13 : 1-3
Subject: Love; God's Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The context of this chapter and passage has to do with spiritual gifts. Paul is used by the Holy Spirit to show the need for spiritual graces to minister their spiritual gifts. Chapter 12 tells of God’s rich endowment of the gifts to His people; Chapter 13 tells of God’s energy imparted in our lives, which makes it possible for us to use the gifts for His glory; Chapter 14 gives God’s instructions for the exercise of the gifts.

It has been said that the only thing that will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ is: That which was motivated by God’s love.

That which was empowered by God’s Spirit. That which was done only for God’s glory.

Chapter 13 is inspired by God to show us that the only way to safeguard and rightly use our spiritual gifts is by administering them in the love of God. It is in this chapter that we see love declared, love defined, and love described.

“Love” is the word agape; it is from this word that we get our English word agony. It means the actual absorption of every part of our being in one great passion. It is used often in relation to God (John 3:16). The word has little to do with mere emotion; it indicates love which deliberately, by an act of will, chooses its object, and through thick or thin, regardless of the attractiveness of the object concerned, goes on loving continually, eternally.

Love speaks of complete self-denial. To love in this way means never thinking of our selves at all; the self-life does not enter into the picture. It is always used when the will is involved rather than the emotions.

When Chapter 13:4-7 describes love, every statement is applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love is the one thing, though, that is completely indestructible, while other things pass away, love lasts. It is not dependent on anything outside of itself; it is not affected by the worthiness or unworthiness of the one it loves.

The Greeks elevated what a man knew (his intellect), the Romans worshiped what a man could do (his power), but Paul stressed what a man is (his character). The pinnacle of spiritual development is to love God with the total being and to love one’s neighbor as himself.

  • WORSHIP GOD – “Love the Lord thy God…”
  • LOVE OTHERS - “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
  • SERVE GOD – Love defined and described becomes demonstrated.
  • INVITE – To come to know the God of love Who made you for Himself.

I. Exhortation Without Emulation 1-2a

One can possess great gifts without love.

A. Gift of Talking

The acid test of genuine Christianity is not language but love. He likens such tongues-speaking to a booming gong or a clanging cymbal, both of which instruments simply make a noise. Language without love is an annoying noise, almost entirely without significance.

A word to Sunday School Teachers:

With all your study of the Bible, your careful preparation of lessons, your nice feelings about all who come to your class, make sure you love your class in a way that is self-giving and self-sacrificing.

Example: "Ministry Anywhere"

You may do more for your class before the lesson than in the lesson; minister God’s love.

B. Gift of Knowing 2a

When there is exhortation without emulation, we may be saying what He is saying without loving what He loves.

Prophecy – the power to declare the things of God, the power to interpret life, the power to bring the word of heaven to bear upon earth, the power to bring eternity into time.

Oratory may command admiration, but only love can reach the heart.

This chapter mentions a lot of gifts but love is not a gift, it is grace. The first thing to happen to a person when he is saved is the melting of his heart in love.

A full hand with an empty heart is worth nothing. The power behind your tongue, your speech, is not determined by the extent of our vocabulary but by the depth of our heart by how much you love.

How can one love as this?

Thessalonians 4:9, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another”

Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

II. Comprehension Without Compassion 2

A. Comprehension 2b

“understand all mysteries” – the secrets, the deeper things of God. Refers to truths which we could never know without the special revelation of God; discernment of spiritual things; understanding God’s secrets.

“knowledge” – understanding of Scripture; is intelligence in the truth.

“Only a knowledge whose cold detachment has been kindled by the fire of love can really save me.” - William Barclay

Ravi Zacharius said that “he knows young scholars that know enough to argue down the walls but not enough love to tell them how to be saved.” We need sharp minds and hot hearts!

B. Confidence 2c

“though I have all faith” – ability to trust God to do mighty things. Means that firmness of belief, which will take a man through difficulties and problems and testings, because he trusts God.

III. Goodness Without Grace 3

A. Deals with Stewardship 3a

“I bestow all my goods to feed the poor” – what an extreme example; he goes to the limit of absolute sacrifice, yet without love, it is all worthless.

Revelation 2:2-4, "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Undoubtedly, it was cold-hearted calculation instead of warm-hearted jubilation.

Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Here, we have improper motivation. The motive is more important than the sacrifice. The people who received such generosity would be benefited but the giver benefited nothing.

B. Deals with Sacrifice 3b

“though I give my body to be burned” – unless motivated by love, no reward. This magnifies the value of love! This is a reminder that not all deeds that look sacrificial are of value. It may be the product of pride and not devotion. Such a death, divorced from love, profits a person nothing. Love is the one factor in the equation essential if the answer is not to be in the end, a distressing zero.