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A More Excellent Way

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Spiritual gifts are beatiful, but love will outlast them all.

Notes & Transcripts
1 Corinthians 12:31–13:13 ESV
But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 13:13PRAY

PRAY

With the mess that we have seen at Washington and Green Bay, many of us have been talking about different routes to get where we are going. There were many different routes that could be taken to get around it, but we weren’t looking for just another route, we wanted the best route. But we don’t limit looking for the best way to places we drive. We ask about the best way to do things around the house or even in the church. We want a more excellent way.
The church in Corinth was no different. They thought the had found the most excellent way to be a Christian through the use of their spiritual gifts in the church. Paul tells them that he is about to tell them a more excellent way. There are so many times in my life when I would like for someone to tell me a more excellent way. In our passage today, Paul will show us three characteristics of the more excellent way of love.
I need to tell you that the love spoken of through the entire chapter 13 is agape. It means affection or good will or benevolence. In other words, it is a giving kind of love. So many times, in our day and age love, is about getting. Agape, however is about giving. It is about giving of yourself. Jesus described agape best when He said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. This love is the love that Jesus demonstrated when He died on the cross. It is this idea of love that leads to the King James translation of charity. It is more about giving than feeling.
1 Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church he started in Corinth. In this section of the letter, Paul is answering a question put to him by the church regarding spiritual gifts and their use in worship. And right in the middle of his discussion regarding spiritual gifts, Paul pens this beloved chapter. The one we usually call the love chapter. And in it, we will look at three road signs of the more excellent way of love.

A More Excellent Way

I. The first road sign of the more excellent way is the necessity of love.
A. We are looking for the superiority of love. Paul tells us about it in
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
B. In these verses Paul tells us that love is necessary with all the spiritual gifts by saying that the spiritual gifts are meaningless without love. Paul takes an almost mocking tone in these verses. He is making a deep contrast between the use of gifts with love verses without love. Let's look a little deeper.

A More Excellent Way

B. In these verses Paul tells us that love is necessary with all the spiritual gifts by saying that the spiritual gifts are meaningless without love. Paul takes an almost mocking tone in these verses. He is making a deep contrast between the use of gifts with love verses without love. Let's look a little deeper.
i. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. The gift of tongues without love is just noise. There is not much communication possible without love. Would you not agree? Think about it. If tongues is to be used like it was in , love would be necessary. It is a way to communicate the gospel. And communication of the gospel must be motivated by love.
ii. If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. All the visible and powerful gifts that exist are nothing. Nothing. He didn't say they were just small or insignificant, but rather, nothing. Not-ah. Nill. Without love. Love is necessary especially in displays of God’s power.
iii. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. I can look like someone who is living right by doing things, but if it is not flowing from love. There is no good that can come of it. Paul is not saying that we should give in order to get when he says there is no gain. Rather, he is saying there can be no gain for someone who gives with the wrong motive.
C. The point of all three of these is that the absence of love renders the gifts empty. If someone claims they are using a spiritual gift and is not loving in it, they are not exercising the gift properly. Remember that this love is a giving love. To exercise a gift in an agape fashion would be to think of how that gift could benefit others. It is not about calling attention to ourselves. It is not about receiving anything. The exercise of the spiritual gifts is to be used to give. Therefore, if a gift is bringing attention to the exerciser of that gift, it is false. It is noise, or nothing or of no profit. The proper use of spiritual gifts is in the giving to others. The first road sign of the more excellent way is the necessity of love.
II. The second road sign of the more excellent way is the character of love.
A.
B. Let's look at all these terms and think about how these terms describe the giving kind of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

A More Excellent Way

B. Let's look at all these terms and think about how these terms describe the giving kind of love.
B. Let's look at all these terms and think about how these terms describe the giving kind of love.
i. Love is patient and kind– It does not lose its cool easily.
ii. Love does not envy or boast – it is looking to build others up and not itself.
iii. It is not arrogant or rude – this agape love is not inwardly focussed, but outwardly focussed. It is thinking of others first.
iv. It does not insist on its own way – which is another way of saying it seeks for others. It is seeking to benefit others.
v. Is not irritable or resentful – agape love in action will not get upset, because it would hinder the giving nature of the love. no score keeping. This love doesn't hold past hurts against people.
vi. Does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Agape love only looks for the good and doesn't enjoy or revel in the evil.
C. In a way, the next three are giving a description of Christ. You could almost substitute “Jesus for subject.”
i. Love (Jesus) bears all things – agape love endures. You will not have a pity party if you are truly working on agape love.
ii. Love (Jesus) believes all things - the faith that Jesus demonstrated on earth as He accomplished all that His Father desired is what characterizes true agape. This phrase could just as easily be translated love always believes.
iii. Love (Jesus) hopes all things – Likewise, love always hopes. Our hope is not in things that will pass away, but in our eternal God!
iv. Love (Jesus) endures all things – loving the persecutor. The Bible is clear that persecution will happen. Paul here says that agape love will endure it.
D. Now, a quick application for you on verse 7. Here is your goal. Since being a Christian is living as much like Christ as we can, put your name in front of each of those things. Tony bears all things, Tony believes all things, Tony hopes all things, Tony endures all things. Say it as a prayer. And then, when God shows you all the ways you do not measure up, repent and work at living up to the standards of Christ.
E. Agape love is a tall order. To truly show agape love is be called to a higher standard. It is to live in a way that is characterized by a focus on the needs of others more than ourselves. It is doing the work of loving our world.
F. The first road sign of the more excellent way is the necessity of love and the second is the character of love.
III. The third road sign of the more excellent way is the permanence of love.
1 Corinthians 13:8–13 ESV
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
A.
B. This is an interesting set of verses. And there is a lot here. We begin by noticing Paul wrote Love never ends. The rest of the passage is written in the context of love never ends. Love will go on.

A More Excellent Way

B. This is an interesting set of verses. And there is a lot here. We begin by noticing Paul wrote Love never ends. The rest of the passage is written in the context of love never ends. Love will go on.
B. This is an interesting set of verses. And there is a lot here. We begin by noticing Paul wrote Love never ends. The rest of the passage is written in the context of love never ends. Love will go on.
i. As for prophecies, they will pass away. Love never fails even when prophecy is no longer needed. When we are in the Kingdom, we no longer have need of gifts like prophecy. Can you imagine prophecy in heaven? It would be a little silly. Perhaps we could think about it like a weather report. Today, we will worship almighty God. Tomorrow, we will worship almighty God. Your extended prophetic forecast is for continued worship. There is no need for prophecy, but remember we started this section with Love never fails.
ii. As for tongues, they will cease. Just like prophecy, it is not required in heaven. So when it passes away, love is what will last.
iii. As for knowledge, it will pass away. And one more time, special knowledge from God will stop, yet love will endure.
iv. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. Even the Old Testament prophets were not given the full plan of God. They got a part of it, but not the whole thing. With our complete Bible, we still do not have a full knowledge of God. That is all God has chosen to give us this side of heaven. We don't know it all. Therefore, we cannot speak as if we do. We cannot prophecy that we fully comprehend God, because, this side of heaven, we cannot fully comprehend Him.
v. But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. Who would the perfect be? Jesus Christ is the perfect. When He comes back to claim his bride, the partial will be done away and we will no longer prophesy in part. We will see all there is to see in Christ. We will know all there is to know in Christ. Therefore, when Christ returns, the partial knowledge of God we have today will pass away.
vi. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. Why? Because a child does not know it all. Frankly, we adults don’t know it all. But as a child we would do things because we didn’t know better. When we grew up, we gave up those childish ways. We put them behind us. Just like that, when Jesus comes again, we will give up some things that seem so important right now. Yet, in light of the coming of Jesus, we will know our thinking was based on partial knowledge. We didn’t know better, but when Jesus comes, we will. And we will give them up. Specifically, Paul is talking about the visible spiritual gifts. Those things that are easily seen by others. They were given to edify the church. But when Christ returns, the church as we know it today will be one of those things that we give up for the wondrous glories of the risen Jesus!
vii. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known. We don't fully understand God or His plan for the redemption of the world. This verse tells me that we will know it when Jesus returns. When the perfect comes. We will know those things as well as Jesus knows us. Do you see? We are known fully by God and on that day when this world passes away and we see Jesus return, we will know everything with the same kind of knowledge that Jesus has for us. We will know fully even as we have been fully known.
viii. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. All things considered then. There are three great parts of the gifts of the spirit. They come from faith, they bring hope, and they demonstrate love. But the most important thing is love.
C. Above everything else there must be love. There is no gift, there is no ministry, there is no church that can somehow supplant or overcome love. Love is permanent.
D. We know that Paul was answering the question of which are the better gifts and their priority in the church's worship service. He puts this beautiful passage about love right in the middle of his answer. Is it out of place? No. rather, he wanted us to see that love must be the first thing we concentrate on because it is the thing that will outlast all the rest. In other words, Love is permanent and that is the third road sign of the most excellent way.

The Most Excellent Way

As I wrap things up this morning, we have looked at three road signs of the most excellent way of love. We have seen the necessity of love over any spiritual gift. We have seen the character of love in its desire to give above all else. And we have seen the permanence of love as Paul tells us of the things that will last, love is the greatest. Jesus is the perfect demonstration of that kind of love. And when He returns, so many of the things we are clinging to will pass away. Or, as Karl Barth put it, Because the sun rises all lights are extinguished. In the light of the glories of Jesus, everything else will pail and even die.
is one of the most cherished passages in all of Scripture. The love that is described here is a beautiful thing. It is something that should be desired. It is what our world wants. They don't know about the greatest example of love ever. They don't know about Jesus. I believe that the picture of love is at its heart evangelistic. If we love people the way this passage describes love, we will not desire to see them remain lost and going to hell. I believe this love is exactly the love Peter was describing when he wrote that God is not willing that any should perish in . We also should not be willing that any should perish. The love as described here in should compel us to do all that we can to keep people from perishing.
Let me ask you a question. Do you have a real heart for people who are lost? Do you really comprehend what lost means? If we truly understand that to be lost is to be condemned to eternal suffering and we wish to have our lives modeled after this kind of love, why are we not sharing our faith? Our very motivation for sharing should flow from the kind of love I have described this morning.
Perhaps this morning I haven't spoken to you in a clear way. Perhaps you are wondering about this agape love thing. Perhaps you are one of those lost folks I was just describing. You don't know how to love others in such a giving way that your own wants become secondary. I think I know why. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us. Jesus loved us first and because of His love we are able to love others in a similar way. You can not demonstrate a love that has not been demonstrated in your life. The Bible also says that God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. As I have said, Jesus loved us so much He gave His life as a payment for our sins. You see, we are all sinners, which means we rebel against God. That sin in our life becomes a barrier between us and the love that God wants to show us. That separation from God is awful, but we also know from the Bible that the wages of sin is death. It is a bleak picture. But Jesus died on the cross in order to cover our sins. And it was this demonstration of love that give us the ability to love today.
This gift of love that Jesus provides is offered to you this morning. The only thing about a gift is that it must be received. A gift is not yours until you take it. The Bible teaches that Jesus offers salvation to everyone, but we must receive it. Would you like to receive this gift? Simply ask God for it. He is waiting for you. Pray to Him right now.
Christian, we are called this morning to a higher standard. The way we understand the workings of church will pass away. The things that we have always done will pass away. The only thing we can count on remaining is love. So remember the goal and ask yourself the question. As I seek to serve Jesus: Do I bear all things? Do I believe all things? Do I hope all things? Do I endure all things? If not, what would God have you change today?
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