1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
We are moving along in our study of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. In these verses Paul is talking about the characteristics of love. These few verses are filled with 15 verbs to describe how love manifests itself. Let me illustrate. Imagine if there was a wire coming out of the wall. I tell you that electricity is flowing through the wire. You then say, How do you know? Well, electricity manifests itself in many ways. I could hook that wire up to a light fixture and turn the light switch on. The presence of electricity will be manifested by the lit light bulb. Or I could challenge you to grab hold of the live wire. In that case the electricity will manifest itself by shocking you. This is how you know that electricity is flowing through the wire. Paul is answering the question, How does love manifest itself? How do you know whether you truly have love for God and love for your neighbor? Well, are you patient and kind? This is how love manifests itself. Do you envy or boast? Because love manifests itself by rejoicing with those who rejoice and by associating with the lowly.
Why is this important? Why it is important to know how love manifests itself? Turn with me to 1 John 2:9-11; 4:19-20.
2:9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
It is important to know how love manifests itself.
Love is the primary way of knowing whether you are truly a child of God or not. Many people think themselves to be saved simply because they have prayed the sinners prayer or because they simply asked Jesus into their heart. However, the Scriptures clearly warn against the possibility of possessing a counterfeit faith, a faith which cannot save (James 2:14-17). Many people think themselves to be saved when in fact they are not born again. The number one evidence that you have been truly born again is that you love God and that you love your neighbor. If you do not love your neighbor with the love of Christ, you are not born again. You see, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not just a matter of doctrine. Many people think this way though. Many think that they are truly saved merely because they have a different set of beliefs than the world.
The true evidence of whether you have truly been born again is a changed life.
If you are truly in Christ you are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and you are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. But how do you know whether or not you truly have the love of Christ in your heart? Paul lays forth the characteristics of Christ-like love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. You may claim to be born again. You may claim to be a new creature in Christ. Here is how you know whether you have truly been given new life in Christ; do you love as He loved? I am not here asking if you love perfectly. None of us love perfectly. However, do you love sincerely, truly. I can ask if you if you love your wife. You can without fear say, “Of course.” I can then ask you if you love your wife perfectly and you will say, “Absolutely not! I have much room to grow.” The same is true in the Christian life.
If you are a new creature in Christ you will love Jesus and you will love the brethren, not perfectly but truly. How do you know that you love with the love of Christ? These characteristics listed in vss. 4-7 will be evidenced in your life, not perfectly, but noticeably. We know that these characteristics will not be evidenced in our lives perfectly because Paul here in 1 Corinthians 13 is chiding the Corinthians for their lack of love. Nonetheless, these characteristics will be evidenced in your life to one degree or another if you are truly in Christ. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not just that the Christian holds to a different set of beliefs, has a different world view, or prays just a bit differently. The fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian is a new creature in Christ and is being conformed by the power of the Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ while the non-Christian remains dead in trespasses and sins.
So why am I spending so much time on this?
Because we need to think on these things. So many professing Christians assume that they are saved. However, God issues frequent warnings throughout the Scriptures to test ourselves to see if we are truly converted (2 Corinthians 13:5-6; 2 Peter 1:10; 1 John 1-5). The worst position that you can be in is to think that you are on your way to heaven when you are actually on your way to hell. This is the position of many today.
Many think themselves to be saved when in reality they are still at enmity with God. I plead with you to examine your heart in light of Scripture—let God test you with His word. I know that your pride will hold you back from letting God test you with His word. Maybe you have been a professing Christian for 20 or 30 years and you are thinking, I will look like the world’s stupidest person if I tell all my friends that I was never saved. Don’t let your pride stand before you and salvation. Let go of your pride as we study these characteristics of love. You may find that you need to be born again. Your number one goal should not be to protect your pride but to know Christ truly. If these characteristics of love are not evident in your life, you need to be born again.
How do you know that Christ’s love is truly in your heart?
Well, Christ’s love will manifest itself in patience and kindness. If Christ’s love is truly in your heart you will not envy or boast; you will not be arrogant or rude, etc., etc. It is not that you will love perfectly, but you will love truly.
Thus far we have talked about the fact that love is patient and kind, and that it does not envy or boast, and that it is not arrogant. We will now move along to the next two in our list; love is not rude and does not seek its own.
Love is Not Rude
So Paul says that love is not “rude.” The word literally means “to act in defiance of social and moral standards, with resulting disgrace, embarrassment, and shame.”
The best way to put it is to say that love is not inconsiderate of others. Love does not run roughshod over the sensibilities of other people. So we know that love is not rude, but as with the rest of these characteristics we must ask, then, what love is. We know it is not rude, then what is love? The best I can put it is to say that love is considerate of others. I have been openly opposed to what has been called the seeker sensitive movement in the past. I am still opposed to the seeker sensitive movement. Generally speaking, the seeker sensitive movement seeks to dumb down (water down) the truths of God’s word to make it more palatable to the taste buds of the culture. So, for instance, Joel Osteen will say nothing about sin, damnation, or hell. This is wrong. You cannot say that you love sinners and only tell them half of the good news! However, although I am staunchly opposed to the seeker sensitive movement, I do believe that Christ demands that we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Paul doesn’t just tell us to speak the truth, but to do so in love.
It is possible to speak the truth with a prideful, mean spirit. It is possible, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 8, to commit yourself to the truth and in the process steam roll those who are not as theologically advanced as you are.
Maybe you have heard people say something like this, “I don’t care what other people think of me.” If used in the right context this may be an appropriate thing to say. However, this should not be the heart attitude of the Christian. Christians should care what people think. Christians should be considerate of others. Christians should do as Paul says in Romans 12:18.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
We should seek to live at peace with all men. We should never live as those who cold hearted to others. We should seek to bend over backwards and accommodate others. We should, as far as we can help it, never offend another unnecessarily. However, many Christians have adopted a heard-heartedness toward others. They say with a chip on their shoulder, “I don’t care what other people think of me.” They live carelessly without a thought for others and all for the sake of the truth! And I elaborate on this because I know that church’s far and wide have given Christians license to live in this self-centered way.
I know that some people in the church are endlessly picky. If you are in that number, knock it off. But some people are endlessly picky. This just highlights the fact that it is not always possible live at peace with all men. Although the Christian should seek it—the Christian should seek to never unnecessarily offend another. However, a faithful Christian cannot avoid offense. We do, after all, preach an offensive message. But even when we speak this offensive truth we should speak to win and not to alienate. The truth is offensive enough—God doesn’t need your help when it comes to offense.
Your job as God’s ambassador is to get out of the way and let the cross be cause for offense (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). And let me say that there is a world of difference between not caring what others think and not being a slave to what other people think. Love demands that we be considerate of others, not offending them unnecessarily. However, if we are to be faithful to Christ, we cannot be a slave to the opinions of men. I never want to be a slave to the opinions of men, but I also don’t want to be one of these heartless, careless Christians who speak the truth without a concern for the sensibilities of people (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8). Love inconveniences itself for the sake of others. If you have this mindset that you will never be ‘put out’ or that you will never bend over backwards for the sake of another, you are not loving. Love is not rude. Love is considerate of others.
Love Does Not Seek its Own
Next we see that “love does not seek its own.” In other words, love is not selfish. Or to put it in a positive sense, love is selfless. Paul puts it like this in Philippians 2:4:
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Love does not seek its own, it considers the interests of others. If you remember way back when I laid forth my definition for love, you may recognize that this part of the very foundation of Christ-like love. I said that love is when you desire the good of another so much that you are driven to act on their his/her behalf. At its most foundational level love is selflessness in action. Selfishness and love are about as polar opposite as you can get. Love seeks the good of another. Love does not insist on its own way. So if we put love is not rude and love does not seek its own together we can say that love is considerate of others and then further that love actually pursues the good of others.
One of the greatest examples of this is parenting. When your infant cries for food at 3am yet set aside your interests, sleep, and feed your baby. You put the interests of another, your baby, before you own. This is how we should treat and serve one another in the body of Christ. Parent who refuse to get up to feed their child are not a loving. Loving parents forego sleep to meet the needs of their child. Do you love the people of God like this? Do you let go of your own agendas and interests for the sake of meeting the needs of other people?
I want to point you to the two most important biblical examples of selfless love in the Bible; The love between the persons of the Trinity and the love of Christ for the world.1 The love between the persons of the trinity. Often times we refer to this as the intra-Trinitarian relationships. That is, the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity. Just so I am not speaking over anyone’s heads, let me give a brief explanation of what I am talking about when I talk about the Trinity. God is the Trinity. The Trinity is an explanation of who God is at the very root of His being. This is what the biblical doctrine of the Trinity states: God is three in one. There is only one God, but this one God is a complex one (Carson).
This one God exists in three persons; Father, Son, and Spirit. Each person in the Trinity is fully God. That is to say that the Father is 100% God, the Son 100% God, and the Spirit 100% God. However, there is only one God. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all one being. Yet they are separate and distinct persons. One being, three persons. And what we see in the New Testament (in particular) is that the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity are characterized by selfless love. In fact, I would say that all true love ultimately finds its origin in the intra-Trinitarian love between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Who did God love before He created the world? Well, although God is one, He exists in three separate persons. Infinite love flowed between the Father, Son, and Spirit before God created the world. This love between the persons of the Trinity is the source and foundation of all love. Let me give you some examples of selfless love within the God-head (Trinity).
Jesus, God the Son, did not seek His own glory; He sought the glory of God the Father. Jesus, in other words, did not seek His own. We see in these passages as well the commitment of the Father to glorify the Son.
John 8:49-50; 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge… 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…”
John 14:13; 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 17:1, 4-5; 1 Father, the hour has come; glorify your son that the Son may glorify you… 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Jesus did not seek His own glory.
The goal of His life was to deflect all glory to the Father. His goal was to exalt His Father. We find in other places that the Son came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39; John 5:30; 6:38). Jesus did not seek His own, He sought the glory of His Father. That was His mission and that was His concern. We see the same sort of a thing in regard to the Spirit.
John 15:26; 26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
John 16:14; 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
This is selfless love for the Father. Jesus did not seek His own.
Here we see that just as it was the mission of the Son to glorify the Father, it is the mission of the Spirit to glorify the Son. This, by the way, is how you discern whether a person is truly full of the Spirit or not. You turn on the t.v. and see all sorts of preachers speaking in “tongues” and healing and doing all sorts of things that look hyped up and supernatural. One of the ways you know that much of this is not truly the work of God’s Spirit is because the Spirit does not call attention to Himself. The Spirit’s work is to shine a light on Christ. A Spirit-filled ministry is a ministry which puts the spot light and focus on Christ. The Spirit points away from Himself to the Son, just as the Son points away from Himself to the Father. This is selfless love. The Father, Son, and Spirit all seek to exalt each other. Love does not seek its own. To behold the intra-Trinitarian love between the Father, Son, and Spirit is to see perfect love.
Jesus’ love for the world.
The second greatest example of selfless love is the love of Christ for the world. Jesus truly did not seek His own. He evidenced perfectly selfless love. If Jesus was seeking His own we would still be in our sins and on our way to hell. However, the glory of the Gospel is that Jesus set aside His glory, His rights, and His riches in order to redeem us from the condemnation and guilt of our sin. This is just what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Jesus set aside His riches and became poor so that we though His poverty might become rich. This is the ultimate act of selfless. He left His glory and became a curse, sin itself, before God in our place. God poured out His infinite wrath on Jesus. Jesus underwent it all for our sake. He became poor that we might become rich.
This is the standard. Jesus sets the bar.
As you behold the love of God toward you may you seek to reciprocate that love to others. This is in fact what Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians 8. He points to Jesus’ selfless giving of Himself for our sake as the motivation for us to selflessly give of ourselves to those who are in need. Love does not seek its own.
Do you live your life only for yourself? Do you live for the sake of attaining for yourself and for yourself alone? Do you inconvenience yourself or go without for the sake of others? Do you let go of your own things for the sake of others or do you hoard and consume for yourself? Paul says that love does not seek its own. Love considers the interests of others. And I hate to say it but sacrificial love is sacrificial by nature. Do you love sacrificially? Do you love at your own expense?
The only way you can love in this way is if you drinking wide and deep from the fount of His love. The only way you can love in this way is if you are walking in the Spirit.
For our next session we will consider the next few characteristics listed by Paul. Till then, keep your eyes on Christ, seek conformity to His image by the power of the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
1 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (758). New York: United Bible Societies.
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
Visit pastor Snowden’s Blog