I Corinthians 13:1-13

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Text: I Corinthians 13

THE SUPERIORITY OF LOVE

INTRODUCTION:

We find an emphasis today in charismatic circles that the gift of tongues is very desirable. In fact, many are teaching that it is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that without it, the person is not even saved. Therefore, they urge people to begin uttering a few sounds over and over and let the Holy Spirit take over in order to speak in tongues. They claim to pray in tongues and to sing in tongues.

I Corinthians 12:31 - But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

According to verse 31, if one were able to choose which spiritual gifts he would be given (even though he cannot), he should desire the best gifts. Paul introduces the idea that there is a better way for believers to go. Rather than desiring certain spiritual gifts, they should desire this more excellent way. It is the way of love, which is described in chapter 13.

In I Corinthians 13 we see that love is the best gift and is to be sought whereas speaking in tongues is the least of all the gifts and is not to be sought.

I. LOVE IS SUPERIOR TO THE NINE SIGN GIFTS - 13:1-3

The nine sign gifts are listed in I Corinthians 12:8-10

I Corinthians 12:8-10 - 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

I Corinthians 13:1-3 - 1 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. 2 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. 3 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.

Charity is the sort of love which gives itself completely on behalf of someone else without expecting anything in return. This sort of love was demonstrated by God when He sent Christ to die for our sins.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 5:8 - But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

I John 4:10 - Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1. Love is better than speaking in tongues - 13:1

I Corinthians 13:1 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.

A tinkling cymbal is a clashing cymbal.

2. Love is better than the gifts of prophecy and knowledge - 13:2a, c

I Corinthians 13:2 - 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; . . . and have not charity, I am nothing.

3. Love is better than the gifts of faith and of miracles - 13:2b, c

I Corinthians 13:2 - 2 . . . And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

4. Without love, charitable acts are worthless - 13:3

I Corinthians 13:3 - 3 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.

II. LOVE IS SUPERIOR TO THE NINE SIGN GIFTS BECAUSE OF ITS INHERENT EXCELLENCE - 13:4-7

I Corinthians 13:4-7 - 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

I Corinthians 13:4 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

1. Love suffers long (i.e. is patient) - 13:4

2. Love is kind (i.e. gentle) - 13:4

3. Love does not envy (i.e. is not jealous) - 13:4

4. Love does not vaunt itself (is not braggart) - 13:4

5. Love is not puffed up (i.e. arrogant) - 13:4

I Corinthians 13:5 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6. Love does not behave itself unseemly (i.e. indecently) - 13:5

7. Love does not seek its own (i.e. its own interests) - 13:5

8. Love is not easily provoked (i.e. is not irritable) - 13:5

9. Love does not think evil (i.e. it does not keep an accurate account of the evil done so that revenge might be taken later) - 13:5

I Corinthians 13:6 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity - 13:6

11. Love rejoices in the truth - 13:6

I Corinthians 13:7 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

12. Love bears all things - 13:7

Beareth is covers, passes over in silence, keeps confidential, i.e. it throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person

13. Love believes all things (i.e. is trusting) - 13:7

14. Love hopes all things (i.e. does not despair) - 13:7

15. Love endures all things (i.e. is persevering) - 13:7

It is apparent, however, that the Corinthians in the use of these spectacular spiritual gifts were "impatient, discontented, envious, inflated, selfish, indecorous, unmindful of the feelings or interests of others, suspicious, resentful, censorious." The possession of spiritual gifts did not make them spiritual.

III. LOVE IS SUPERIOR TO THE NINE SIGN GIFTS BECAUSE IT IS PERMANENT; WHEREAS, THEY ARE ONLY TEMPORARY - 13:8-13

I Corinthians 13:8-13 - 8 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.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

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

11 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.

12 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.

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

1. Love will never cease - 13:8

I Corinthians 13:8 8 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.

Charity never faileth suggests not at any time.

Faileth suggests fails or weakens. In this context it suggests that love never ceases to exist or never goes out of existence.

2. The nine gifts of the spirit will cease when the New Testament is completed - 13:8-12

I Corinthians 13:8 - 8 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.

But introduces a contrast.

Prophecies, they shall fail, means they shall be abolished (i.e. wiped out or set aside). They are going to cease to be given. It does not mean that they will fail in the sense that they will not come to pass because these prophecies are from God Who is omniscient and knows all things. The mood of shall fail and its tense indicate that this will definitely occur at some point in the future after I Corinthians was written.

It does not necessarily mean future to the time in which we live. For example, during World War II, the Korean War was in the future. However, it is no longer future to the time in which we live.

Tongues, they shall cease, where they refers to the gift of tongues and shall cease means that the gift of tongues will eventually no longer be given, indicates that the gift of tongues will go out of existence. The mood and future tense of shall cease predict that something will actually happen at some time future to the time in which Paul wrote I Corinthians.

Knowledge, i.e. the spiritual gift of knowledge mentioned in the first group of sign gifts in I Corinthians 12:8 , shall also vanish away. Shall vanish away is the same term translated they shall fail in this verse. It means they will be abolished (i.e. wiped out or set aside). The future tense of shall vanish away and its mood indicate that this will actually take place at some time which was yet future at the time Paul wrote this epistle.

It is interesting to note that it is specifically stated that one of the gifts from each of the three groups in I Corinthians 12:8-10 will pass away. The gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the gift of knowledge will all cease. The gift of prophecy is found in the second group, the gift of tongues in the third group, and the gift of knowledge in the first group. This suggests that the three spiritual gifts mentioned are representative of the other members of the same group and that all nine of these gifts will actually pass away at the same time.

These gifts will pass away (or will cease to be given) when that which is perfect is come (verse 10).

I Corinthians 13:9 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

The spiritual gifts of knowledge and of prophecy are partial rather than complete. Believers do not receive a complete or full picture of all that God has for them from the partial gifts of knowledge and of prophesying.

I Corinthians 13:10 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

That which is perfect is that which is complete and is in contrast to that which is in part in verse 9.

Inasmuch as Christ is the only perfect One, some have concluded that this must refer to His return at the rapture. However, that which is neuter, which means that this cannot refer to any noun which is masculine. Therefore, since Christ is masculine, it cannot refer to Christ and to His coming for believers at the rapture. Paul is contrasting something which is partial in verse 9 with something which is perfect or complete in verse 10. The word translated perfect generally means attaining to an end (or purpose) or complete. Complete fits the contrast with in part, and that which is perfect is, therefore, regarded as being the completed revelation of God, i.e. the New Testament Scriptures.

Is come is comes and has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

Then is at that time.

That which is in part refers to the spiritual gifts which are partial. All nine of the sign gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12:8-10 are in part. As a result, when the Scriptures are completed (and they were completed when the Apostle John finished the last book of the New Testament), at that time these gifts which are partial shall be done away. Shall be done away is the same word used twice in connection with the gifts of prophecy and of knowledge in verse 8, where it was translated they shall fail and it shall vanish away. The tense and mood of shall be done away indicates that this is something which will definitely happen in the future, and it did happen in the future when John completed the last book of the New Testament.

Knowing in part and prophesying in part is like having a few pieces of a puzzle without the picture on the box. The one who has these few pieces can learn something about what the completed puzzle will look like by seeing part of it, but he will not see the whole picture until he has all the pieces arranged in the right order. The completed New Testament will complete the partial picture painted by the gifts of knowledge, prophecy, and tongues. The reason these sign gifts are going to pass away when that which is perfect is come is that they will no longer be needed once the Scriptures have been completed.

It has been objected that that which is perfect cannot refer to the Scriptures because this would mean that believers would know more today than Paul did. This writer believes that the Apostle John knew things Paul did not know inasmuch as he received divine revelation between eighteen and twenty-eight years after Paul died. Paul knew more than Peter. Why might John not know things that Paul did not know? Believers today have revelation God gave through John as well as revelation God gave through Paul. Therefore, they may possibly know things Paul did not know; so this objection amounts to nothing.

I Corinthians 13:11 11 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 13:12 12 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.

Now = when I Corinthians was being written

Then = when that which is perfect is come

Through a glass darkly = in a mirror in an indistinct image

Mirrors were not the same as the high quality, highly polished mirrors available in the twenty-first century in which one can see the reflection of someone or something just as well as if he were looking directly at the person or thing. Mirrors in Bible times were not highly polished and would show that something was being reflected, but the image reflected would not be sharp or precise. Small details would be difficult, if not impossible, to see.

Face to face implies that believers will be able to see clearly as if looking directly at an individual rather than seeing him through a dim, unpolished mirror.

Then shall I know = I will comprehend or I will understand. Even as is just as. Also suggests something in addition to shall I know. I am known is an emphatic word meaning I am completely known (i.e. fully known, exactly known, or known through and through).

3. Even faith and hope will pass away - 13:13

I Corinthians 13:13 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The situation is projected to the time after that which is perfect is come when the nine sign gifts have ceased to exist. This would occur within thirty to forty years after Paul wrote this epistle.

Abideth is remain and speaks of ongoing action.

Faith is trust or belief.

Hope is a looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting its fulfillment and is understood in the sense of expectation.

Charity is love which gives itself completely on behalf of another without expecting anything in return.

These three is these three things: faith, hope, and charity. Therefore, faith, hope, and charity are better than the nine sign gifts which the Corinthian believers were craving, especially the gift of tongues.

Charity or love is the best of the three, and it is the best because it will last throughout all eternity; whereas, both faith and hope will eventually come to a natural end. In this life a believer has faith in the Lord and hope in what the Lord has promised. However, at the believer's death or at the rapture, whichever comes first, he will no longer need faith or hope. His faith will have become sight, and his hope or expectation will have been realized. His salvation will have been completed, and He will dwell with the Lord forever and ever; but his love for the Lord and for all other saved people will go on throughout all eternity.

CONCLUSION:

Therefore, inasmuch as love is so superior to the nine sign gifts given by the Holy Spirit both because of its inherent excellence and also because of its permanence, believers should be seeking love rather than these nine sign gifts mentioned in I Corinthians.

Now, how can I be certain that I will obtain love? How can I make myself be this way when I am not naturally this way?

By studying the Word of God and submitting my heart and mind to it, God the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life.

Galatians 5:22-23 - 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit must produce it in our lives. It will only come as a natural result of living a Spirit-controlled life, and it will only be attained by studying the Scriptures and submitting our hearts and minds to them.