The Love of God

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul has been teaching and correcting the Christians in Corinth about spiritual gifts—which they were putting above everything else in their church.

At the end of the chapter he stops and says, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.”—1Corinthians 12:31b

Paul stops his teaching on spiritual gifts to talk about something far superior—something he called the “more excellent way” or in other words “something that goes far beyond the gifts in importance”.

In Chapter 13 he tells us that love is the most important thing we can have in our lives and in our churches. The Greek word is ‘agape’, a word that characterizes God’s love which is, selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional.

This love does not come from us—it’s not inherent in our nature—we can’t ‘make it or fake it’.  This love is only found in God Himself and so the only way for agape love to fill our hearts is for God to fill our hearts, and the only way for that to happen is for the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts through the New Birth.

Even as Paul the apostle said in Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  It’s important to understand that God’s love is not a feeling, it is selfless action toward others in need. (John 3:16).  That’s why nothing is more powerful, nothing is a greater witness to the world that God is real and lives in us than His love flowing through us who are His people.

And this is what Paul is saying here at the end of 1Corinthians 12 and into chapter 13. He is saying that love (agape) is better than speaking in tongues. It’s better than healing the sick. God’s love is even better than raising the dead—because those things are only beneficial for this life.

And while the exercise of these gifts can be exciting and emotionally moving—for the moment, only the love of God can soften the hardest heart and change a person for eternity.

And now starting in v.4 and continuing into v.8 Paul is going to define God’s love by giving us 15 little descriptions of what God’s love is all about. This is the most comprehensive definition of God’s love in the Bible.

v.4 “Love (agape) suffers long and is kind (acts kindly)…”

“Suffers long” is one word in the Greek and it literally means “long-tempered” or the capacity to be wronged over and over and not retaliate.

Notice how Paul couples being ‘long suffering’ with ‘acting kindly’ in his definition of God’s love.  It’s one thing to be wronged over and over and not retaliate against those who are mistreating you—but God’s love not only accepts the wrong but returns good for the evil.

“Love does not envy”—v.4

Love does not envy, which means that love is content with what God has given to me and the place He has ordained for my life.  Love doesn’t begrudge the blessings of God in the lives of others but rather it is pleased when others are honored and exalted.

“Love does not parade itself”—v.4

God’s love isn’t showy; it doesn’t do something nice for someone and then parades it before others for them to see how wonderful we are—in other words it doesn’t brag.

“Love is not puffed up (proud or arrogant)”—v.4

Agape love realizes that whatever gifts and talents we may possess—they have been given to us by God and therefore there’s nothing for us to get proud or puffed up about.|

“Love does not behave rudely”—v.5

People who are proud and arrogant always behave rudely towards others they think are inferior to them. This is characteristic of the people of the world but should never characterize God’s people who should be courteous, considerate and respectful to each other—even when we disagree.

“Love does not seek its own”—v.5

The opposite of God’s love is self-love. Self-love got its start in the Garden of Eden and is at the core of man’s sinful fallen nature. It always ‘seeks its own’—or in other words puts self first. God’s love esteems others better or more important than self.

“Love is not provoked”—v.5

The word means to “arouse to anger”. It is a sudden outburst of emotion or action.  Paul is telling us that God’s love never displays itself in outbursts of anger at others when they say or do something that irritates us or when they prevent us from having our own way.

“Love thinks no evil”—v.5

The Greek word literally means—“Does not keep a record of the wrong done to it”. In other words God’s love not only forgives it forgets.

Holding onto the wrongs and hurts that others have done to us is not only forbidden by God since He has forgiven our sins through Jesus and has “drown them in the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more” as the Bible teaches—but holding on to these things is harmful to us spiritually, physically and emotionally as well.

“Love does not rejoice in iniquity”—v.6

We are living at a time in our nation’s history where many are rejoicing in iniquity. They are calling good evil and evil good.  God’s love never rejoices in wrongdoing no matter what—like some Christians did when George Tiller the abortion doctor was gunned down a few months ago. Many Christians rejoiced in this man’s death because he had so much innocent blood on his hands. And while I believe that abortion is one of the greatest evils in our country today–God’s love still doesn’t rejoice in sin and evil of anykind.

God’s love never says, “Let us do evil that good may come”. God has said, “Vengeance is Mine I will repay says the Lord. Therefore if you enemy hungers give him something to eat, if he thirsts give him a drink…don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

“Love rejoices in truth”—v.6

So Paul first of all said that God’s love doesn’t rejoice in evil—it doesn’t rejoice when sin is exalted but rather it rejoices when God’s Word—His truth is proclaimed and exalted.  And now Paul begins to wrap up his description of God’s love:

“Love bears all things”—v.7

The word bears may also be translated “covers.” Love patiently hides or conceals the faults of others—it doesn’t go around advertising the imperfections and mistakes of others, as Peter said, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.'” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Love believes all things”—v.7

Love is not suspicious or cynical.  Love always gives the benefit of the doubt or in other words love believes in the innocence of another until they are proven guilty—and even then it forgives and forgets.

“Love hopes all things”—v.7

Love hopes all things in the sense that it earnestly desires that all things work out for the best.  God’s love never says of another, “They’re hopeless; they’re a lost cause; they’ll never amount to anything!”  God’s love never writes off a wayward child, an unbelieving spouse, or a backslidden brother or sister in Christ.

Love never gives up on anyone but prays and believes that with God all things are possible—and so love hopes all things and therefore verse 7 says:

“Love endures all things”—v.7

God’s love refuses to let go of others and keeps hanging in there even in the face of overwhelming opposition and personal persecution. When your family and friends are telling you, “Dump that unbelieving husband” or “give up on that wayward child” love refuses to give up believing and hoping.

As one author said, “Love bears what otherwise is unbearable; it believes what otherwise is unbelievable; it hopes in what otherwise is hopeless; and it endures when anything less than love would give up.”

“Love never fails”—v.8

Now that doesn’t mean that love never fails to produce a happy ending and that everything will always work out for the best when we apply God’s love to a given situation. Jesus showed God’s love to the whole world by dying for it that people would not have to perish in hell but would have everlasting life.

And yet for most of the people of the world there won’t be a happy ending because they refuse to accept what Jesus did on their behalf and therefore they will be judged and sent to hell.  When Paul says that ‘love never fails’ he means that no matter how it is treated and no matter how hopeless a situation looks—love keeps on loving—it never gives up.

And even if the marriage isn’t healed or the sinner isn’t saved or the friendship isn’t salvaged—God’s love keeps on loving these people.  In fact, out of all the things that the Corinthians were putting so much emphasis on in the way of spiritual gifts, Paul says that out of all of these love is the only thing that will never fail or end—because it is eternal.

Remember that this kind of love only comes from God through the New Birth (repenting of your sins and receiving Jesus into your heart as your Savior and Lord) and is a fruit of our abiding in Christ.

When we abide in Jesus everyday God’s love, which is a fruit of the Spirit, will begin to grow and blossom in our lives for the world to see; as Jesus said, ” 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 (agape) for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

May the Lord richly bless you in the coming New Year as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil


(Originally posted 12/28/10)