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February 9, 2021 3:00 am
Nobody wants to be thought of as Scripture tells us that without Christ like Laub, that's exactly what we are today untruthful life Alastair Begg explains how God's people benefit when love prevails in a message titled the church in the mirror as part of a new series called love in the local church we've gone to probably the one chapter in the whole of first Corinthians that if you like the average churchgoer may be familiar with. Indeed, even people who are unfamiliar with church are we regard themselves as distinctly unfamiliar with the Bible may, in actuality know something of it. I may be able to quote from first Corinthians 13, without actually knowing just where they're quoting from. Because this chapter is one of the best known and arguably one of the most lump passages in the whole of the New Testament.
It is a passage of singular beauty and of power. It comprises a quite magnificent song of Christian life. In reading about it this past week I discovered that one individual wanted to argue that it was probably the greatest strongest deepest thing that Paul ever wrote to the degree that is true or even isn't true. It perhaps explains why.
First Corinthians 13 pops up everywhere.
Pops up on calendars on plaques on little tracks that are given out of Memorial services invited on paper towels. You can find it on the front of wedding bulletins.
You can just about find first Corinthians 13 anywhere at all. I think that that is where most of us have encountered. First Corinthians 13. Some of us are even guilty of employing it in that way and it is very very important that to whatever degree that is our thinking on the subject. You disengage it and put a clean desk in so that your you can reformat on the basis of our study here this evening in order to apply first Corinthians 13, the Cleveland you have first to go to Corinth. This was written to Corinth. It was written to an express situation in court and we cannot simply apply it to Cleveland in any old way we choose not to forcing them to do it correctly without first understanding why it was written to Corinth and why was it written to Corinth for those of us have been studying along will know that it is set firmly within the framework of two things, two factors, more than any other factor number one division factor number two confusion it's within the framework of a local church that faces the potential of being splintered on the basis of all kinds of allegiances and all kinds of expressions of spiritual giftedness and it is a kind church that is marked by confusion in so many different realms and policies been answering question after question that is come to him from the from the environment of Corinth reaches a point where he sets this magnificent chapter in between all that he said and 12 and all that he's about to say in 14 so 111.
Once we begin to look at it through the eyes of the local church. We realize that it becomes dynamite because what it does is it uncovers all of our weaknesses.
It shows up all of my gaps, it shows up all of our failures. It shows up all of our sins in the Christian community met for surprises that it would be in this chapter that we've used so often to make us feel good about ourselves discover that it actually confronts us, cuts us down to size, humble size and begins to show us what really matters to God. Now, since it's all about love.
Let's make sure that we define our terms the word which is used here is not the word here. Ross, nor is it the word for Layla notice of the word store gay but it is actually the word I got pay. You know this well others, it's news. Therefore the patient when you know it and be kind to those around you. The word anger pay is rare in Greek literature. It's common in the Scriptures.
In actual fact the New Testament writers imported it because none of the other words that were existent in Greek for love adequately conveyed the nature of the love of God for men and women, and therefore their love for one another, and so the writers recognizing that God's love transcends all human ideas. All other expressions of love employ this word I got pay to make sure that nobody confuses it with anything else. It's all for certainly love is one of them was devalued hordes of the English language and it was a word that was represented in confused terms. In the Greek language. This love of God. Let me quote from Leon Morris is along for the utterly unworthy. It is a life which proceeds from a God who is himself law. It is a love lavished on others without without a thought of whether their worthy to receive it or not it proceeds rather from the nature of the lover than from any merit in the beloved. And it is this agape love which is basic to Christian character and, therefore, essential for the Christian community.
The problem which existed in Corinth and in this we are able to ident with this we are able to identify lay in the fact that there was an absence of this kind of love what Paul was reemphasizing was what Jesus had made perfectly clear John chapter 13, he gathers his disciples and he says to them a new commandment I give you love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.
All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another now and Corinth. It was to be the discovery and display of this kind of Christian love. That would be the antidote to the selfishness which was being expressed because you remember back in first Corinthians 12, there were a group of people with a superiority complex. Those who were saying. I don't need anybody else around here and there were those with an inferiority complex, and because I'm not him or because I'm not her. I don't matter around here.
What is going to address that in human personality. What will make sure that there is a cohesion and harmony and forward progress amongst the people of God.
Well, says Paul.
It is this.
It is the nature of Christian love is very very important for us to realize, and I think I'm quoting John start in this phrase I've used this many times I wish it were my own.
You've heard it before but let me say it again when we come to the love expressed here in first Corinthians 13.
This love is a servant of the will, not a victim of the emotion so Don let's get all messed up here what Paul is writing about is not coziness affection predisposition on the basis of attraction. He is writing about our spiritual discipline to verify that I strikes is a strange is one of the further indicators of the father were not talking about what we are often talking about when we talk about love. The love that he is expressing here is vibrant.
It is strong, it is not the capitulation to the lowest common denominator is not a lot of folderol and soon silly talk and and cuddling and coziness in it, and assuming that as long as that is there. We have genuine Christian love in our fellowship. All right, well then let's look at this focusing on these first three verses which is all that will have time to do tonight were going to discover that life in the Christian community. Devoid of this love is not just nothing is worse than nothing. The bottom line is this, let's summarize it and then will discover it and then will number will wrap it up. What Paul is saying is this the most extravagant exercise and display of spiritual giftedness cannot compensate for the lack of law as a sobering thought, especially when we have grown used, to quantifying our viability and our place on the basis of our gifts. That's what was going on, or gift you have your gift is good as mine are you native people are people, is impressed with what you are able to do is with what I'm able to do and so they're vying with one another. They were putting one another down. They were feeling a sense of isolation and in that they were not unique. It happens in the church all the time. Let us understand the kind of people God uses ordinary people, ordinary people that he makes extraordinary by his spirit now while the application may be difficult to accept the instruction is not hard to understand. Paul makes three strong statements about the nature of things. When love is absent here they are pre-seed paragraph as it were, by myself, but I think you'll find that here. The first one is this without love.
I am a noisy nuisance. Nothing else without love. I am a noisy nuisance. We already learned back in chapter 8 and in verse one that love edifies.
He said there that knowledge puffs up by that love builds up so when we exercise spiritual gifts from a heart of love and within the framework of love that it edifies God's people.
When love is lacking.
The impact is negative and so he says listen if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, all of my best sure with that. He says cannot be compared with the practice of love. I would see more than likely, given the context, again that his emphasis here is upon ecstatic speech in very many times we've been in fellowships where a group of people who have come in and they have made much of the fact that they quote speak in tongues.
Whatever they mean by that, and whatever that means to them in the public expression of things. As a result of that, they have introduced confusion and chaos amongst the people of God and the reason is been because they have not understood the necessity of love and often on the part of the recipients of such people.
They neither have understood the necessity for low so you gifts minus love equal scale's now not only ecstatic speech, but also eloquent discourse can surely be included in this if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, you know, we may be very gifted with our tongues. We may be able to make cogent arguments. We may be able to speak helpfully to our colleagues and our neighbors about the things of Jesus.
But when love is missing, we might as well bang away on a gong or clang away on a symbol another background to this is very straightforward. Again, you need to understand Corinth the people and Corinth worshiped all kinds of things.
Remember we spoke about the daily offering of sacrifices that have been offered to demons and so on.
Many of them worship Dionysius who is the God of nature side belly, the goddess of wild animal and in their worship of these pagan deities. The use a thing called a Chagas which was a gong, a piece of copper and akimbo lawn which was a symbol, a single toned instrument and he used to take these things in their pagan worship and they banged on them to invoke the God or to drive away the demons or to rouse the worshipers.
So says Paul, you might as well sound out these on melodious measures as utilize language, devoid of love without love your noisy nuisance. Secondly, without love, I am zero.
I am 05 the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Zero in the first instance, Paul addresses the significance of the absence of love within the framework of spiritual gifts. He says when we exercise gift without love is and it is offensive to people and so the biggest problem facing the local church in terms of its effective witness is not the absence of spiritual gifts.
It's always going to be the absence of love without love. We have evacuated our usefulness before the watching world. And we have evacuated our significance before God turned by just for a second. First Corinthians 3 in verse 14. Surely this is some kind of cross-reference where he says you know if any man builds on this foundation.
First Corinthians 312 using gold, silver, costly stones would hair straw his work will be shown for what it is because the day will bring it to light.
It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 40 is built survives, he will receive his word reward. It is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames, so everybody will of said goodness gracious. What a wonderful fellow.
He was what a lady she is all boy they must be really heading for a big spot in the kingdom. They must be way out there. Well, maybe, maybe not because the test which God applies to our ministry to our gifts is the test of the motivation of our heart and some of us look at verse one and we say all is good. I don't have a problem with verse one. Therefore, I'm not a resounding gong. I'm not a clanging symbol. I don't do. I don't have any of this. This ecstatic speech or I'm not really that good at talking and I don't like to talk very much. But what if you got the gift of prophecy and you're really good at feathering the mysteries and you don't allow no matter how well it's received. There's nothing of real and lasting value. What about he says if you have insight and knowledge and ability to grasp the truth of God's word.
Without love, no matter how it is admired how it is applauded.
It just is. As you see the Corinthians, clearly thought is a fundamental mistake made then and made now that the possessors of certain gifts must inevitably be extremely important. Persons. But, says Paul, without love, not only are the unimportant, the amount enough seat. When we look at ourselves in the mirror of comparison, whereby we look at the way that God has gifted us amongst one another irrespective of which wrong we believe ourselves to be on the latter. There will be one or two below is in one or two above us, but we will be able to retain some measure of self-esteem and validity on the strength of our gift.
But what if our gifts don't mean in what if they mean nothing. See God is aware is not driving up and down Aurora Road looking for churches with spires, United press with the numbers in the building is not impressed with any of the considerations we tend to focus on the givers validity and context in our world is judging at all as he judge the Corinthian context on the basis of one criteria, namely the expression the reality, the possession of genuine Christian okay with me without love on nothing more than a noisy nuisance without love.
I am zero thirdly and finally, without love, I can make it if I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Is Paul going up in the these three verses.
He starts down here with tongs and anglers on the mysteries of moving mountains and everything else in any it's the high spot and he says now for those of you who are into self-sacrifice. Let me tell you what's going on if with one great sweeping gesture you were to give away everything now. Can you imagine that we read of it. Interesting biography. We haven't done it approximated to it at some point in our life for most of us have never done it them so says Paul imagine that for a moment you decided as of this evening we going to empty all the accounts were going to sell all that we have we going to go somewhere were going to give it all away to the poor as you would be headlines in the newspaper you would be on talk shows. If you played your cards correctly and he would say. Now there is somebody there's a real genuine Christian vestibule dialysis a will you know genuine person is somebody who doesn't have anything in it gives it all away and since you're not giving away.
And since you buddy can be a genuine question while we were to follow follow that notion in one sweeping gesture. Give it all away. Then we would've hit the bull's-eye when wepart without love being the motive, it may be nothing more than an act of pomposity and active bravado, or even the response of a guilty conscience because on the basis of feeling guilty about what we've God. We could decide that the only way we can deal with the guilt is to give it all away and so on the basis of guilt. We give it all away and it was said goodness me. There is a wonderful person. God looks from premises at imagine a hill of beans because the motivation in the action was not lab it didn't prevail with God wouldn't avail us anything more than what if we were to endure a martyr's death. What if we were to die for our faith. While such activity could be nothing more than an expression of foolishness and even be an expression of selfishness. If it was not marked by love.
One thing is needful and nothing can make up for his lack or one of us tonight.
Some of us are cozying up to our gifts as a source of our significance and our security we make a big noise, but we might be no use. Others of us find our worth and R-value in our knowledge and in our influence.
We are to be careful.
Others of us are relying on our sense of self-sacrifice and yet we may be driven by pride or by fear and we have a zero balance. I'm nothing else to say those of the first three verses three or most challenging verses that I have read for some time, applying it personally.
One has to say that one may be well spoken off, abused, considered highly given positions of opportunity and of influence, and in the eternal reckoning get to heaven like a shipwrecked sailor. Some pastors will end in heaven just like that, no matter the people were impressed. No matter the people got saved, no matter the gifts were effect. There isn't love and for congregation upon whose ministry God has kept his hand we need to remember that it is hereby this great quantifier that he assesses the significance of all our giftedness and if any of us say that we love God while at the same time hating our brothers or sisters. Then we make ourselves out to be less than truthful, and we diminish the ongoing development of God's plan and purpose in our lives are my actions. Love to question you and I have to continually ask ourselves as we seek to apply today's message for our lives listing to Truth for Life with Alister bag. If you are a regular Truth for Life listener, you know, we take our role to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance very seriously and as a supplement to Alister's studies on this program. We carefully and prayerfully recommend two resources each month that are designed to help you dive deeper into a topic and to grow in your faith when you support the mission of Truth for Life by becoming one of our monthly truth partners. Both of these monthly resources are yours by request is our way of saying thank you for your ongoing financial partnership. The book were recommending today is a book called an ocean of grace. This is a six week devotional designed to help us focus our hearts on Jesus death and resurrection as we prepare for Easter. In this book, an ocean of grace will learn from short daily reflections that explore key elements of Jesus redeeming work.
The book draws from Scripture and from prayers and writings from well-known historical Christian authors. You'll find that these insights from believers from past generations will renew the way you think about the saving power of the cross. Would love to send you a copy of the book an ocean of grace. When you become a monthly truth. Partner your regular gift will help bring Truth for Life to listers all around the world without any cost to cure or to share Alister's messages so you can sign up today and request a copy of an ocean of grace will request the devotional when you make a one-time donation, visit Truth for Life.org/donate. We could also give us a call at 888-588-7884 from Bob Lapine. Thanks for listing. Hope you can join us again tomorrow as we continue our new series titled love in the local church by studying the characteristics of Christian love. The Bible teaching of Alister bag is furnished by Truth for Life learning is prolific