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The Greatest Thing in the World

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
August 4, 2021 8:00 am

The Greatest Thing in the World

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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August 4, 2021 8:00 am

A church struggles to come to terms with what it means to serve the Lord. But it's not easy. All around are greedy and debauched people. Inevitably some of sinfulness has begun to infiltrate the church. Sound familiar? This scenario is not just our own; the early church of Corinth faced many of the same problems! Dr. Boice's study 1 Corinthians reveals a striking similarity between own battles and the struggles the early church.

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Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet Ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically sometime during the last half of the 19th century a Scottish author and evangelist by the name of Henry Drummond wrote a classical sermon called the greatest thing in the world. Most people know that sermon many have read it was about love has. I'm sure you know, and it was based on first Corinthians 13, which, if love is the greatest thing in the world is certainly one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. People know anything at all about the book of first Corinthians, this is probably the chapter that comes most of their mind and any collection of great chapters. This is one that must necessarily be included. This chapter teaches in a way which perhaps is surprising to many a boss that love his greater than faith. Love is later than hope and of that is the case in first Corinthians 13 is greater. Perhaps then that magnificent 11th chapter of Hebrews that talks about faith that such length or greater than that magnificent eighth chapter of Romans that expresses Christian hope every theologian thinks this I was reading that in Charles Hodge and his great commentary on first Corinthians, and he was very concerned at this point of his exposition to defend Romans eight, he said this is a great chapter this first Corinthians 13, but it's not like Romans eight, which has the great sweep of God's redemptive plan in history.

I think he was approaching it as a theologian and may be rightly solved but by any measure this chapter to which we commoner exposition. The first Corinthians is magnificent. Whenever I think of this, and particularly the advertisement which the chapter ends now abided these three faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. I think of a better sermon that the Swiss theologian Emil Bruner preached some years ago, Bruner lived in Zürich, Switzerland. He preached often in the Frau Munster church American city and stories of his sermons with circulates in Switzerland through the newspapers and in other ways and were often talked about in Basel, some short distance away, where I spent a period of three years. One of these sermons that Bruner preached was on this text, faith, hope and love in his outline went like this. He said all of us have a variety of problems with which we deal.

And among those problems, the cheaper these three, we have a problem in our past, and the problem in our past is sin for sinners. The question is how do we get rid of the sin or the punishment that is due us for the sin and then all of us have a problem in the future. The problem that we have facing us in the future is down all of us must die.

How do we deal with that and then finally he said all of us also have a problem in the present and the problem in the present is how do we live with one another. We don't get along very well. We have difficulties in our relationships. Life is filled with estrangement's. How do we deal with these three problems. The problem in the past problem in the future and the problem in the present, and then he turned to this text and he says this is God's answer God's answer to the problem in the past that problem of our sin is faith, its faith in the work of Jesus Christ died for our sin order that our guilt might be removed and the answer of God to the problem in the future are problem of death is the Christian hope that though we die get through the power of Jesus Christ we shall live again and then finally he said, God's answer to the problem that we have in the present.

The problem of alienation and estrangement is love. Love of the Lord Jesus Christ that works through us.

I suppose it's because of the fact that this chapter has been so popular in the church we have a problem in the past, but it's easy not to be concerned about – we forget about that and we have a problem in the future, but we tend to push future problems from our minds, but we can't do that with the present because we live in the present everyday and everything we do, where we go to whom we speak. What were trying to accomplish what we fail to accomplish everyone we meet with and try to work with rings. This problem freshly to our minds so Christian people down through the ages of turned back to his great chapter of the apostle Paul and the credit as an inspired expression of the kind of life that we should each exemplify and that should be seen in a dramatic way in the church of Jesus Christ outside a hard chapter to analyze I think is our chapter to preach on simply because it's so profound that it's not hard to analyze. There's a preference in the new international version it's carried over from last chapter and printed properly with this one. Paul says now I'm going to show you a more excellent way to his introduction and he has three point send in my Bible. It's the three paragraphs very easy to follow. We talked about the importance of love what you have in verses 1 to 3 talk secondly about loves nature, what you have in verses four through seven, and then finally he talks about loves permanence. That's what you have in verses 8 to 12 and then he wraps it all up the summary the coda is the verse I've already mentioned, and which is so popular, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. When he talks about the importance of love is first point, it's evident and it should be evident to us because we been studying this in the context of the entire book is setting love over against the kind of things about which the Corinthians were so preoccupied, which I obviously thought were most important sea contrasts love with these so-called supernatural gifts gifts of tongues speaking in tongues or prophecy that perhaps part of it. Being able to stand up and declare in some special way.

Something that they believe come from God and contrasted with that and we were just reading about that in the previous chapter, any contrasted with this knowledge of the mysteries of God.

This idea of wisdom which we saw early in the book because these people in Corinth thought they possessed unusual degrees of wisdom they were dividing up in the church over their supposed wisdom, the mark that down in the first chapter and say the only wisdom that counseled all of the wisdom of God. And it's not wisdom that expresses itself the way you been expressing it contrasts love with that man in the end, verse three contrasted with the doing of good deeds, even to the point. He says of surrendering our body to the flames actually being a martyr for the sake of something good says you see you can have each of those other things you can have the supernatural gifts you can have knowledge to an eminent degree. You can be noted in the city and among your friends for somebody who does extraordinary good works, but not love does not profit you anything you say all items on right. I mean certainly it's important to have long-range we believe it not good to have knowledge of spiritual things. We spend a lot of our time reading books, studying the Bible going to church, listening to lectures in order that we might know these things. And Paul is not saying that knowledge is unimportant quickly as Paul is writing a book filled with breast learning is not saying it's unimportant, but he says again that without love, it doesn't count for anything somebody else was a yellow one about these supernatural things about tongues and prophecies and healings, all these things they were so concerned about as I read these chapters I think Paul is not even saying that these are unimportant to recall our our analysis of these chapters.

Last week I talked about the different points he makes concerning Tom's and how many get to the end of what he says now whatever else you do, don't forget to speak in tongues. That's Paul's way of saying tongues are important enough in their place to see is saying you can have those things which appear to be evidence of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in your life when you don't have love, you don't actually have the Holy Spirit in your life and therefore counts for nothing, or you come to the end and you say, wasn't it important to do charitable things is it important to do good works, you don't do good works, which the Bible says you are ordained by God to do if you're Christian you don't do those good works are not born again but see there's a difference here. Paul says it is possible to do those things and not be born again in their 40s right when he says if you have not love, you don't have the love that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. You do all those things that it can't you, absolutely nothing at all during the Puritan age in America. The Puritans were very strong in trying to disabuse men and women of any kind of false confidence that they might have in spiritual things from my perspective and or side formed by my own culture and by those who train me. I look back and read that material that the Puritans of left behind in the seems to me that it's one-sided that it's overdone didn't seem that way to them. They lived in the culture where people perhaps the same as our culture were also ready to believe that things were right between them and God, the Almighty, so the Puritan spend much of their time just abusing their listeners of the idea that just because they knew certain things just because they could recite the creed just because they can be models of piety. Therefore, some fact, all without any question they were in a right relationship to God. They spent all their time just abusing them so you can do all those things you can be a model in your community and still be lost. Go to hell. Somebody would say at that point well if it is possible to know all mysteries so that when I speak I sound like the apostle Paul himself, and if it is possible to stand up and speak in tongues and even do miracles like the early apostles did this possible to be so noteworthy for good deeds that under certain circumstances, I might even be willing to die for my faith is possible to do all of that and still be lost. How can I know that I am lost. But I'm safe answer. The Puritans game which is certainly consistent with what the apostle Paul is saying in this chapter is that you could know your say if the love of Jesus Christ is found within your heart. You can look down in your heart say regardless of my sin, regardless of my failure to understand spiritual things properly, regardless of my failure in the area of charity, I nevertheless really love Jesus and I want to serve Jesus by his grace I find that I'm also able to love the brethren. Those in the church and also those outside of the church that you can know God is done something supernatural in you and your site in the apostle John's writings, the first of his letters he deals with ANSI dealt with a group of people in that day who were unsettled by these things people to come into their midst to as I read the book seemed probably to have been more worldly wise than they were and they said all the things that you believe so far just rudimentary you have to go on back to a greater knowledge. They were probably gnostics or lease they were in that stream of tradition that gave rise to Gnosticism. Later in the church and these Christians said, well, maybe that's true. Maybe we haven't understood things perfectly enough maybe were still outside the kingdom.

Maybe we need to go a little further delve a little deeper in the knowledge in order that we might enter in the apostle John wrote to reassure people like that gave them three test by which they could know they were Christians, whether they believe the right things about Christ because if you don't believe that Jesus is the son of God and the Lord your know Christian men by whether you're obeying his commandments. He said if you love me will keep my commandments, and Johnson are you doing now you striving to obey the commands of Jesus Christ and then finally in preeminently by love. John says do you really love the Lord and because you love the Lord your really love the brethren. This is what the apostle Paul is saying here as well.

I read these different things and he talks about in dealing with the importance of love strikes me that they correspond to three kinds of Christianity we have in our day the first of these of the supernatural gifts properly and healings and that sort of thing that corresponds roughly to the charismatic people in our day and the second thing is this Molly. Should the mysteries of God. This doctrinaire theological kind of approach that corresponds to people like us Presbyterian traditions. Those who think they really know the mysteries of God. I can expound the perfectly to the charismatic and then there's the third area. This idea of good diesel corresponds to the social gospel churches, which is what most of the main denominations are. That's a fair analysis think it is up to a point when Paul say to Christians in America divided up among these different factions so the churches we have the book you can be as charismatic as you please and go to how you can be as theologically knowledgeable as you please and go to hell. You can be a social gospel oriented as you please. Go to hell. What you need is the love of Jesus Christ we not also say that the love of Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit regeneration is in our hearts so that this is what matters.

We really do say that this is the most important thing then he not also say that some of these divisions we have would appear far less important in our lives we find ourselves able to bridge those chasms and fellowship in a constructive way with those who perhaps don't just see things the way we do well in the second paragraph he talks about loves nature. I think this is the hardest thing to talk about seizing our lives uses the word on the page you know that it's great word for love. It's used in the Bible of divine love letter which were capable, by the grace of God. Nevertheless, knowledge love that has its source in God. You know, there are number of words for love in the Greek language the best known are air loss which gives us our word erotic refers to sexual love and light, all which is say intense love between people family love relational type, love, and then either pay which is from God. It's an interesting thing that the only words that the Bible and Greek culture had in common was how it's not that Bible writers did know the other words. Certainly the Bible writers knew that word Toronto gives us our word erotic, but it doesn't appear in the Bible of the reason for that becomes something based in the Greek culture of the day that it's almost as if God was saying don't want to word this is tainted as that word is in my Bible course. Sexual relationships are described quite explicitly in the Bible. So the question about it was that it become so corrupt in the Greek culture's of God's. I didn't want that in my Bible so the Greek word, the word that most form the Greek ideas about what love was not even in the Bible and then on the other hand, there's the Bibles were not to pay which you will find in the Greek culture. The only common ground.

This fellow because everybody knew that and and what the Bible to say, in effect when it uses this word is that these other Labs Have Their Pl. in God will bless them and their places but they will have their proper places.

Only when that first love is establish that relationship between the individual and God. You get that right and then the other things take their place. The Greeks would've said no you can't have any love illicit sexual God says that's important in its place, but you can have great love and deep love. Without that, above all, you can have the love of God which you have in his personal life is salvation.

Paul talks about the nature of love in these verses.

He gives a couple of negatives because a couple of positives and talks about actions breaks down like this. First of all to positive things. Love is patient, love is kind.

You know the list of the fruits of the spirit you have in the fifth chapter of Galatians. You know those two words are there. This is the fruit of the spirit. It's an expression love is also their love expresses itself in this way, patience and kindness. And then there are these negatives or eight of those it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight itself in evil but rejoices with the truth. H. Negatives then there are these final items for of them that Joe love expressing itself in action. Love protects love trusts. Love hopes and love perseveres when I read that I'm inclined to ask whether we know anybody like that. Sometimes I read that I answered a very negative way. I say we do know anybody measures up to that description. I think maybe that's not quite fair I look at it in another light.

I say yes you do see those things in Christian people talk about patients and you see many people who were patient because of the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.

I'm surrounded by people like that might affect are the only people that could manage to hang around me.

There was a very very patient so I can vouch for that. Personally, love is kind. I look around the Christian church. I see Christian people who are eminent for their kindness. I'm delighted that their kind. They show great kindness. Other people specially people that need it. They take them in life, they comfort them. They minister to them in a personal way because their kind deal with them harshly, even though they brought terrible things by themselves because of the way they live. Christian people are able to do that so I read this and I say yes there are people like this are those who don't envy you don't blow those were not proud.

That's true, but the difficulty you see is in getting all of these things together. I know people who were patient but they don't persevere there to so laid back, nothing really gets to know.

Not even the job order were kindness, but there really very hopeful.

I say well we must be nice to so-and-so. But you know it's too bad no goods ever get a come of that promise getting them altogether. When you begin to say is anybody like that anybody that's a common term of that's getting it all together right talk about that spiritually. Is anybody was really got it all together. I think that point we begin to say no. There's a standard which we all fall short, except Jesus Christ is this portrait of Christ take out the word love.

Put in the name of Christ and reason is a perfect description of his character is why so lovely is why we love him look Jesus Christ is patient, all Jesus Christ and so patient is patient with us. You know what we're like we produce anything but patient's the reaction of other people in your Jesus Christ is so so patient with us.

He doesn't give up when we do the same thing over and over again when we said again and again when we fall again and again were so thick that are in a spiritual lesson on how patient he is Jesus Christ is kind of found Jesus Christ to be kind know there's anyone who knows your heart is anyone who can expose what you really are. Is anybody you can point the finger and say that sin.

Jesus Christ I've had people do that with me and even though it hurts. I find myself internally that they only see the surface.

Jesus Christ sees below the surface and yet he doesn't do that is Jesus Christ point the finger at you to see mock you. Does he say all that he doesn't do that carefully works with us says. In Scripture, bruised reed he will not break the smoking flax. He will not quench the works and what you are kindly to bring out the character which he himself has placed within Jesus Christ is not in the Jesus Christ is not boast Jesus Christ is not proud.

Jesus Christ is not rude. Jesus Christ is not self-seeking. Jesus Christ is not easily angered Jesus cripes keeps no record of wrongs. Aren't you glad of that Jesus Christ is not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, Jesus always trusts Jesus always JESUS always perseveres. I think that's absolutely marvelous. You see, it's a recognition that our God is like that our Savior is like that. It's the knowledge of Latin. This is the nature of reality.

This was what life is about everything else, envy them posting the pride, the road is patient that's not what God intended. That's not what life is all about reality. Is this the character of Christ is a knowledge of the draws also want to be like it by his grace.

No Henry Drummond room I mentioned earlier I reread his sermon, just to see what he said that something I shouldn't of done is very discouraging because it's so good it's probably reading a classic. You just can't match it. Henry Drummond has a great wine here. He looks at all those things he analyzes him very carefully. This is a long sermon gets to the end. He says this.

This is really worth a sermon all by itself.

He says get these ingredients in your life, then everything that you do is eternal about that sea of love is going to abide if love is not going to die of love is not going to fade.

By the way, then these things which are the expression of love going to die either.

So what you do is characterized by patience and what you do is characterized by kindness what you do. Pulling from Bob protects trust, hopes, and perseveres in what you do, not only matters but endorsed and endorsed for all eternity.

Why is it that we spent so much time trying to do the opposite. You know, here's a smattering of knowledge is what we Presbyterians are so proud of. We spent so much time acquiring knowledge because we want to be thought lines.

We want people to say all he certainly knows the Bible you want to hear his exclamation of irresistible grace. That's really marvelous and we say when someone praises for laughs, I have made my mark. I'll be remembered bosses pass away or you say all you know I I'm not much. The theological type II don't have a great my but all I want to do something supernatural. I want to be able to speak in tongues. I want to be able to be endowed by God with the gift of healing.

All I can only do facts. All that I be remembered on on matters that would be significant pauses. I will pass away. I don't know the people used by God and healings today is supposed possible. I've not seen it, but you know even if you are the person you is going to die, you say well how about these good deeds I want to be known as somebody who is so good in dealing with other people that I am so good.

People will remember me after I'm gone.

Paul says, I too will pass away to see if what's you do is characterized by patience and kindness brought by rudeness or self-seeking or any of these things and what remains remains and remains eternally because it's the work of God, we just say that I suppose that one thing alone would so radically transform us in our churches that the world would actually sit up and take notice say there is something which really is supernatural and that the world doesn't have that leads to the last point, of course, because that's exactly what Paul himself is going to talk about the importance of love in the nature of love and he says if you understand the importance of love in the nature love follows doesn't not love ever fail all these other things are going to fail.

Prophecies will cease.

Tongues will be still knowledge will pass away because all these things are partial where there's love love will not pass away. When he sums it up. He puts faith, hope and love together and he says these three remain. I guess he means they remain for life, and they remain for eternity but I can think of at least one situation in the Bible where faith which was genuine and hope which was also genuine died, at least for a time and love alone remain I referred to it before often when I've been preaching at Easter time because it grows out of the Easter stories at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Those who had gathered around and began to scatter because, well, first of all, they had had faith in him Peter and expressed his faith art the Christ, the son of God.

Thomas expressed his faith. John, all the other apostles promise especially in the case, the death of faith they thought Jesus was the son of God, the Messiah, in a certain idea of how that southern bottomless I was going to function when Jesus died on the cross. I just didn't get their idea and something died, and when the disciples came Thomas after they had seen the resurrected Lord and he is not. They said the Lord is risen, said I just don't believe in clear expression of the death of faith, would you have. I just don't believe it. He said I'm not going to believe it unless I can see him and actually put my hand in the wound in his side and my anger's in the print of the nails in his hand. Faith die in them. When Jesus died, and hope died to my favorite example of that is the example of the Emmaus disciples were on their way home after the crucifixion, and for that matter after the resurrection about which they had heard reports they didn't have any hope of those things die in dead men don't come back.

And so when the Lord himself came to them along the way and said what is it what's been going on why you so sad they told of all the story about Jesus and then they said we had hoped that it was see should redeem Israel. We hope Once upon a time we had no more hope was gone. Hope died when Jesus died and one thing didn't die and that was lovely still loved Mary is a great example of that. Mary, who loved him almost to the point of distraction. No doubt that he was dead. All she had in mind. She went to the tomb on that Easter Sunday morning was the body and expect to see Jesus alive.

Just wanted to minister to the body because he loved and she denied any hope that there was going to be anything like a resurrection she doesn't once breathe. Any idea that when Jesus appeared first. She thought he was the gardener really think you can ask him was tell me where you put him as his body and I'll bear it away. She was offering to do the impossible.

It was a body of a full-grown man had been wrapped up in 100 pounds of spices. She couldn't move that body matter how hard you tried, but she wasn't thinking about that. She loved it all. She was thinking about the fact that she loved one of did not die so Jesus spoke her name and she recognized her name from the lips of him. She loved the other things just came along.

Hope revived and faith revived and is the story of the resurrection pass to the company of the disciples, all of them came alive in these other ways. But it was chiefly because of love. So I close by asking whether you really know anything about love you experience something of the love of Jesus Christ. Can you say I love him to go preacher was preaching on love for Christ and afterwards a little girl in the congregation came up to him and said I don't know that I really can say that I love Jesus, how can I love them and he had very wise words. He said when you go home. I just want you to keep repeating over and over.

Jesus loves me.

You know that don't you know that little song Jesus loves me this I know she said yes she did well. He said you keep repeating it over and over. You keep thinking about that you keep singing about that Jesus loves me this I know Jesus loves me this I know, and so the little girl did that next week when she came back. This was her testimony. She said you know I I I went home and I kept saying that over and over again Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me.

And you know the first thing I discovered that I had begun to love him so that's why God commends his love toward us, God commends his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. Jesus loves you is my understanding that the Jesus loves you like this makes you begin to love him where that is happened. Salvation has crashed into your heart you been made alive in faith and hope and love forever more spray our father we read a chapter like this, we confess we have to confess we know so little about it. We talk about love everybody talks about love and it's glib with us understand so little about our father. We believe that by the grace of Jesus Christ, and through the channel of his love for us. We do know something of this love.

We want to grow in it. We do ask that you would so change our perspective about things that will no longer find ourselves thinking primarily is the world thinks looking for importance in the world's terms instead might learn to love and learning to love expressed patience and kindness hope and perseverance and all these other things and thus do that which by your grace endures everlastingly to the praise of the glory of him who gave himself for us you were listening to the Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview.

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