Love and Order

October 24, 2017 at 10:25 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I Corinthians 13:1

The reference to speaking with the tongues of angels appears to be hyperbole, which is a common device used in Paul’s letters, although it is taken by some as evidence of a heavenly language spoken by angels and unknown on earth except by people with a gift for ecstatic utterances. The mention of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals is a warning against the cacophonous sounds and the disorder that would result from people speaking different languages all at once. It is also an allusion to the pagan practice of using percussive sounds or instruments in worship.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

I Corinthians 13:2

Paul, being an Apostle, surely did have the gift of prophecy, but he continued in the vein of hyperbole when discussing the understanding of “all” mysteries, “all” knowledge, and “all” faith. Even if someone had all these gifts, and all this wisdom, it would be useless without Christian love (“charity,” agape).

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 13:3

The gifts that he went on about in Chapter 12 are important, but they must be handled with maturity, and the definition of maturity in New Testament Christianity cannot be separated from grace, knowledge, and love. Christian love puts up with wrongdoing for a long time, and it is not puffy with pride. It is not rude or impolite or discourteous, and it is not overly touchy. It gives the benefit of the doubt; it doesn’t assume the worst; it makes charitable judgments. It does not get happy when it is proven wrong and finds iniquity when it was hoping not to, and it rejoices in objective reality with a contagious joy, because things are being done out in the open and are being given value because of their truthfulness.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

I Corinthians 13:8

Christian love is shown to be superior to the spiritual gifts because of its endurance.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

I Corinthians 13:10

The “perfect” which is to come could be referring the completion of the canon of Scripture, although this is rejected by most recent scholars. It could be referring to the complete maturity of the Church – the Body of Christ. Or it could be referring to the return of Christ for His Church and our entry into Heaven. We tend to associate the term “perfect” with the idea of being sinless or faultless, but usually in the Bible it means “complete” or “lacking nothing.” Certainly the Church will not be “perfect” in either sense of the word until we are glorified with Christ at our departure from this world.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians 13:11

This indicates that “sign” gifts like tongues and healing were “childish” gifts in the sense that they were needed for a very young church. It was anticipated that the Church would “outgrow” the need for signs and wonders.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

The image of looking through a glass, darkly, might mean that we see things now the way things are seen through a dirty window, but, more likely, Paul means for the reader to imagine a “looking-glass” (mirror), which would not have given as accurate a reflection in those days as mirrors do in ours. This analogy is often misinterpreted, but the correct meaning is that, once we see Jesus face to face, we will know Him “immediately.” We will see Him personally, the way He is able to see us now.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I Corinthians 13:13

Christian love is not the only Christian grace that will endure, but it is greater than these others because faith will become sight, and hope will be fulfilled. Love (I John 4:8) will still be needed in Heaven. Christian maturity equals Christian love, and we can “grow” and become more spiritually mature by practicing it (even when we might not necessarily “feel” it) NOW.

Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 2

April 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Marriage | 9 Comments
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Last time I showed that Christians are supposed to love their spouses the same way that Christ loves His bride, the Church. The Greek word for the type of love wherewith Christ loves the Church is agape. Agape love is Christian love because it operates in truth and not just in feelings.

Where will the right kind of marital love come from if God is not central to the marriage? Agape is the giving of self.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved [agape] me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20, emphasis and parenthetical agape added

“But,” some have replied, “my spouse is just not worthy of that kind of love.” What better way to show agape love? We should seize opportunities to love the unworthy.

Will agape love always be reciprocated? Not always, but more often than not, it will.

We love him, because he first loved us.

I John 4:19

If it is not reciprocated, Christ is still glorified when we love selflessly.

Agape love is antithetical to cruelty. Cruelty is caused by bad feelings. But will there ever be a time in marriage when we don’t have some type of bad feelings? Cruelty is bad feelings untempered by love.

In marriage will there get to be a time when there is never a lack of affection? Lack of affection is not the result of bad feelings as much as the result of an absence of feelings. Lack of feelings means an absence of motivating love. Resentment; selfishness; an unjust sense of entitlement: these things are inescapable in a marriage. But they are not really a major problem unless they outrun love. True Christian love – agape – is just that: actively loving the one who does not deserve love.

For the person who is married, here is a good working definition of “love” to always keep in mind: True love is a giving of oneself for someone else with two main goals in view:

1. That the person being loved receives grace and mercy.
2. That the person being loved is directed more toward righteousness (toward conformity to Christ).

Remember what Jesus told the woman who had been caught in adultery after all her accusers had left because none of them had been willing to throw the first stone at her. Jesus told her to “go” (grace and mercy) and to “sin no more” (directing her toward righteousness). This definition makes sure that our understanding of the 4 “S”s of marriage does not lead us to the conclusion that we should be hard to live with on purpose in order to help the other person be more like Jesus.

Agape is not getting. Agape is giving. We must be willing to give up things for our spouses, even if they won’t give up things for us. We must make sure we are giving to meet our spouses’ needs, but not in order to get our selfish desires met as trade-offs for what we are sacrificing. Loving someone who does not want to be loved is hard. Crying babies hate it when Mom scrubs their face with a washcloth, but we would not think that a mother who never wiped food, snot, and dirt off her child’s face really loved that child.

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Perfect Unbreakable Love

November 20, 2009 at 10:52 am | Posted in Eternity | 5 Comments
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True Christianity is so difficult for the unregenerate person to comprehend. People are born with an innate understanding that there is a God, and that, because of the hidden wickedness of their own hearts, they are not righteous before this God. So far, so good. But here is where the problem appears. Unregenerate sinners are blind to spiritual truth. Therefore, they grope about in the dark, and come up with this plan: “I will do enough good things to make up for my bad things, and God will be pleased.”

This flies right in the face of God’s revealed truth, which is found in the pages of the Holy Bible (Ephesians 2:9), but it makes a certain type of worldly, humanistic sense. After all, are not people supposed to do good things? The answer is that people are supposed to do good things, but not as a way to make God our debtor. Instead, God, in His grace and mercy, and for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32), forgives us our sins when we trust in Him, and that motivates and empowers us to do good things.

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Colossians 3:13

Notice what comes first in that verse. Christ forgives me first, then I am able to forgive others. Not the other way around: I do not earn Christ’s forgiveness by first forgiving others. The following verses shed even more light:

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

Colossians 3:14

Charity (self-sacrificing, giving, Christian love) is first the act of God. And it is the bond of perfectness. We are to love others because Christ loved us first, and gave Himself for us (Ephesians 5:2). Christ’s love is so perfect and its bond is so unbreakable that the natural result is for me to want to emulate it after I have experienced it. However, even when my love fails, Christ’s love is still effectual. For Christ to reject the regenerate would make His love less than perfect, and His bond weak and breakable. These things simply cannot be.


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