There are a multitude of definitions and ideas of what love is. Songs, books, poetry, have tried to describe it. Many wars have been fought because of love or jealousy. We associate love with feelings or emotions. Sentimentality and soft mushy feelings are not love. However we cannot “fall” in love, it is not an emotion to be turned on and off.
“Love is a service rather than a sentiment.”, J. Stott.
“Love is the outgoing of the entire nature in self-sacrificing service”, W.H. Griffith Thomas.
“Christian love is the distinguishing mark of Christian life”, John Blanchard.
“Love is the leading affection of the soul”, Matthew Henry.
“Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your Christian conduct”, J.C.Ryle.
“You never so touch the ocean of God ’s love as when you forgive and love your enemies”, Corrie Ten Boom.
THE BIBLE DEFINITION OF LOVE
The Bible tells us love is in the soul. “Tell me, O you whom my soul loves…” (Song of Solomon 1:7). The soul consists of mentality, emotions, will, conscience and self-consciousness. Love is more than emotions or a mental choice it may include them but we love with our souls. You choose to love people in your soul. If God is in your soul you love him, if His word is in your soul you love it and treasure it in your heart. . The Bible tells us that love is a mental commitment, a responsible action that needs to be given to his neighbour, his spouse, and his friend and to be shown towards his enemies. Our feelings and emotions and affections are important but we must act in a loving way.
THREE KINDS OF LOVE.
- There is sexual [Eros=erotic and sexual love] love. It manifests itself in a sexual and physical way it is passion. This is the kind of love that man associates with romance. This is often the word used for passion or lust. It is used of Aphrodite, and Cupid, Venus, sex would be the word for it today but this word does not appear in the New Testament at all.
- There is love for people, friends and family, a love for man. [Phileo= brotherly love]. It is a high human and noble love. We find the root word in Philadelphia [the city of brotherly love] philosophy [the science of mankind] and philanthropist [love of mankind]. This love can be sacrificial and even to the point of martyrdom.
These two loves are common to all mankind. They have a tendency to be motivated by self-interest, self-gratification and self-protection.
- There is divine and supreme love. [Agape = God’s love] This is the highest word for love in the New Testament. It stands in contrast to the basic affections; it has not self-interest at heart. Biblical love is more than emotions and feelings, it involves the mentality and will, and it is active. It is a deliberate love that chooses its object and sticks with it no matter how unattractive it is. It is a word that speaks of self-denial. It is a definition of God, for God is love. God commands that we mirror this steadfast, trustworthy, forgiving and kind love.
THE PRE-EMINENCE OF LOVE 1 Cor. 13:1-3
The previous twelve chapters have been dealing with the difficulties in the Church at Corinth ; these were answered by the message of the cross in this chapter we find the sweet oil of healing to make the people flow without hurting each other. It shows us how to safeguard our spiritual gifts and to rightly use them. The love of God is supreme in dealing with problems and difficulties.
The Corinthians had spiritual gifts and right doctrine but love was absent. This led to quarrels and exhibitions of selfishness and pride that plagued the church. Paul tells them to desire the greatest gift of all-love. Love is essential when dealing with people in the assembly, with the exercise of gifts and talents. Paul tells us the qualities of love before presenting the function of gifts in chapter 14.
“Duty make us do things but love makes us do things beautifully” Philip Brooks.
“Suspicions subtract, faith adds, but love multiplies. It blesses twice- him who gives it and him who receives it” C. T. Studd.
As we read this chapter we can substitute and read the name of Jesus in for love. Jesus suffers long and is kind. Jesus envies not, he does not puff Himself up, He is not puffed up, He does not behave rudely, He seeks not His own, is not easily provoked. Jesus takes no account of evil, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth. Jesus bears all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Jesus never fails. All things pass away, His love is indestructible, His love lasts.
Vs 1 Love must be sovereign in the heart. This chapter does not give us a complete definition off love but it does give us a display of and show us some major characteristics of love. In Chapter 12 we see the endowment of gifts, this chapter shows us how to lovingly exercise the gifts of the Spirit. We are taught how to understand unity in Chapter 12:1-13 and diversity vs. 14-31. In chapter 13 we are taught what maturity is.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men,” though one may be eloquent and be a great orator.” This gift was the ability to speak the known languages of mankind. (Acts 2:4-12). This gift was highly abused and counterfeited. No one is to be admired who may be greatly gifted to speak in different languages or in ones own language if it is not done in love.
“And of angels,” There is no Biblical record speaking of any special angelic language that people could learn to speak.
“And have not love” any preaching that has not love as its goal, any conversation any words are nothing without love. Self-giving love is more concerned with giving than receiving. “Many love at their tongues end, but the godly love at their fingers’ end” Anon. “Nobody will know what you mean by saying “God is Love” unless you act it as well” L. P. Jacks.
“But have not love,” unless the speech of the Corinthians was done in love, it was no better than gibberish or pagan ritual. This love gives rather than receives it is unselfish.
“ I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” or like a noisy bell, a noise without melody. Honouring pagan deities such as Cybele, Baccus, and Dionsius included ecstatic noises by gongs, cymbals and trumpets. Paul is telling the Church that unless speech is done in love, it is no better than all this gibberish of pagan ritual. Chatter without love is sound without soul. You may sing like an angel but without love it has no real meaning any depth and reality. The highest expression of worship, the gift of music, of a beautiful voice, a talented group, and great praise meetings are nothing if we have not love. It is all just a big noise.
Your speech, your strong convictions, your teaching, what is communicated out from your mouth is worthless if it is not from love of God.
Vs 2 “And though I have the gift of prophecy.” This gift is the most essential one as it brings God’s truth to people but must be ministered in love or it is worthless. Love must be sovereign in our intellect. The first verse speaks of love as it was coming from the heart. This is from the mind, from the intellect. Spiritual gifs were present in Corinth (1:7). Right doctrine was even in place (11:2). But love was absent. This led to quarrels and pride and selfishness plagued the Church. mainly in the area of spiritual gifts ( 12:14 -31). Paul is now showing them they should not desire for outward showy gifts but should peruse the greatest thing of all-love for each other. This chapter comes between the bestowal of gifts in chapter 12 and right practice of gifts in chapter 13 to point out that the attitude and way they function is of greater importance. Paul names five spiritual gifts.
Prophecy by itself is sterile, even though it brings God’s truth to people. It may have the power to bring heaven into men’s hearts and minds and interpret life, but if it is not from a loving heart, it is nothing. Some great preachers may leave you breathless, they may stir the deepest emotions, create the most wonderful thoughts, but without love it is useless. You may walk away thinking it was magnificent and he will get great rewards but it is all wood, hay and stubble and will be burnt up when he meets God if it was not done with a heart of love.
“And understand all mysteries and all knowledge.” This encompasses the gift of wisdom, knowledge and discernment, which are to be exercised in love. Knowledge alone is not sufficient it is zero. Wisdom and discernment would be included. You may understand great secrets. Discern spiritual matters, unravel great mysteries but without love it is nothing. You may be a wonderful Pastor, a gifted youth worker, and a dedicated Sunday school teacher, gifted with great intelligence but without love it is worthless.
“And though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but without love it is nothing.” Faith alone is not enough; genuine believing faith is weak without love. You may be able to give an account of how you had faith in God and He did the miraculous but without love it is nothing. You may move mountains but you do not impress God or minister to people without love.
Sacrifice alone is insufficient, volunteering to give up your possessions; your life in the service of Christ is worthless if you have not love. You may be a great missionary and gave up all to serve your King but without love it carries no weight
Martyrdom alone is not enough; you need a melted heart for God. You may give everything to the poor, give your body to be burned, but it is useless unless it is done out of love. You may fight and die for your faith but you miss the point of it is not done in love.
Love must be added to it, without this ingredient it is worthless. Love must dominate our emotions, our will, our intellect, our service, and our motives. There are many Bible believing Churches and people today, they have a lot of knowledge but lack love. How sad today to find many churches filled with gossip, bitterness, hatred and not love, ministry without love cheapens those who minister and those who are ministered to. Spiritual gifts, no matter how wonderful and exciting are useless and even destructive if they are not ministered in love. The evidence of maturity is a growing love for God and for people.
Remember the context of Corinthians Paul is dealing with divisions in the church, divorce in the church, gifts in the church, envy of gifts in the church, selfishness and lawsuits, impatience with one another in public meetings, and behaviour that was disgraceful in the Lord.
Any service you do for the Lord, any work you do around the church must be from love. If you are always complaining about having to do it, it is not from a heart of love, it is from necessity, bitterness, reluctance but not done lovingly.
Vs 3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor…. it profits me nothing”. Volunteering to give up all your possessions means nothing if it is not from a heart of love. One may give from a sense of duty or guilt or be coerced to give because of false prosperity teaching it does not profit. This love is intelligent it involves the heart [vs1] the mind, [vs. 2] the will, [vs. 3]. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; the Gifts of the Spirit are only to be exercised through the fruit of the Spirit, which is love.
“And though I give my body to be burned…it profits me nothing”. There is no spiritual benefit to be martyred if it is not because of love.
Everything one does is empty without love.
GETTING BACK YOUR FIRST LOVE. REV. 2: 2-4
These saints had many wonderful qualities that many of us lack. These saints were busy, sacrificial, involved, and hardworking for the Master. They had holiness, and righteousness, discernment, patience, and endurance. They recognised false apostles and avoided their influence. However they lacked the one thing that matters-love. Their passion and zeal had grown cold. Their service became cold, orthodox and mechanical. They left heart out of their service. They believed and did all the right things but did them coldly. You may have all gifts, all knowledge, do all things but what use is it without love. You may have made a name for yourself in this world, in the church, you may be a prominent person but in eternity it is all worthless without love.
REKINDLE THE LOVE IN YOUR HUMAN RELATIONSHIP
How would you feel if your husband or wife told you they did not love you anymore and yet they still planned to live with you, sleep with you and that nothing would change, they receive all the benefits but did not love you? Many churches and believers do that with Christ today. They come to church and serve, sing, give and worship but do not love Him anymore? They compromise with sin, evil, the world, the flesh and the devil and still come to church. The intense love is gone. A true Christian will not want to do any thing to dishonour Christ. They will fall upon Christ’s mercy and grace to for give them their sins. You can follow the same following procedure to get your marriage together again.
When you pass into heaven the only currency that is recognized is one that is wrapped in the love of God’s Spirit. The one thing that matters is Jesus and His love. Loving the Lord Jesus Christ is what the Christian life is all about. We are not to ignore Him or let our relationship grow cold. We are to cultivate a deep intimate, rich, loving relationship with Him have communion with Him. We ignore Him by being too busy or by our falling in love with the world’s culture.
HOW TO GET BACK THE FIRE OF LOVE AGAIN
1. “Remember”, when you were without hope and without Christ in this world, just look back and remember how it was when the Spirit of God first lit the fire in your heart. Do you remember those love-filed days when your mind flooded with His love and kindness? Spiritual defection, coldness or indifference begins with forgetting the first days. Has the first generation love and zeal gone. The candle went out at Ephesus , the church is not there any more, their right doctrine and living was devoid of a passion for loving Christ. This can happen to any believer, any good sound church, stop now and “remember”.
- Remember when you were first converted and the thrill of what Christ meant to you?
- Remember, the days of excitement and you were willing to sacrifice all?
- Remember, the days when you couldn’t get to church fast enough?
- Remember, the time you reached out in evangelism?
- Remember, when you discovered your spiritual gift and began to function in the church?
- Remember, when you loved to come to Bible study?
- Remember, when you first began to pray and love d the prayer meetings?
- Remember, when your faith was a thrilling adventure?
2. “Repent” is “metaneo” to change your mind, purpose or opinion. Change your moral and spiritual thoughts, reflect and change your attitudes and opinion about sin, about your selfish attitudes and concepts. It is a turning away from the wrong thing. It is also necessary to forsake these things. Sorrow and contrition should follow this act of repentance. Coldness is a sin; you need to repent of it. We need to break the shell of the self-life. We need to be honest with ourselves and break the crust of conceit. We need to deal with our sophistications and complications and simply repent. The false life of being a Christian actor, acting out the drama but it is not true.
Repentance for the unsaved man is not an emotional thing, it is knowledge that he has broken God’s law and is in need of forgiveness, which only comes through the work of Christ on the Cross. Will you make a conscious not an emotion start today, repent today and be saved?
Christian’s will you repent of your sin, your wrong and coldness. “Godly sorrow worked repentance”, as you reflect upon your first love for Christ has it gone, do you need to be refired? Yes, today believers need to repent. Before we go tell the unsaved to repent we need to do so ourselves, let’s be honest. The church doesn’t want to hear this today, we drift on in our new experiences, our laughter charade, our deceitful user-friendly evangelism, our false prophecies and teachings, our material prosperity doctrines, our hypocritical lives, our love of pleasures, our fake happy marriages. Yes it is time for the church to be honest and real.
“Or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of its place”. Many churches are closing their doors, the Word is no longer being taught and acted upon. Christ is still watching the candlesticks today, he doesn’t mind trimming the wicks or using the snuffer to snuff it out. Let Him relight your candle, your life.
3. “Do the first works” – recapture the thrill of those early days. The service of love is of great importance to Christ. Remember the days when you were giving and forgiving and shared your life with others. Now you are selfish. Perhaps you have become withdrawn because some Christian or church hurt you, perhaps you have felt used and abused, but did He ever do you wrong? Why go cold in your love for Him, why let your relationship with Him grow cold it wasn’t His fault. Go back to Him. Get back into harness- do what you used to do. Get right now