Love: The Greatest Thing II - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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Bible Study 2022
Love: The Greatest Thing II
There are Christians who are just easily angered, irritated, exasperated, and sometimes defiant. But to be provoked and to be angered by little things kills love and poisons life. We have been looking at these love qualities. Verse 4, Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, and is not provoked

Love thinks no evil. This is the attitude of not holding a wrongdoer permanently accountable for some injury done. Other translations would say love doesn’t keep records of wrongs doings. This is a pardon rather than holding a grudge. Love doesn’t do that. Love always forgives. This is a word that has to do with accounting. Love doesn’t keep records of evil.

Lots of people do, and that becomes what the writer of Hebrews calls a root of bitterness. And this accounting word here is the very verb used to describe the pardoning work of God. He does not impute our sins to us. Psalm 32:2, Romans 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:19 say, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” The New Testament says, doesn’t keep a record of your sin.

What do we learn about when you come to salvation? Your sins are removed as far as the east is from the west, right? Buried in the depths of the sea and remembered no more. This is love. It doesn’t hold people accountable for evil. It doesn’t impute their sin to them and thus, it doesn’t produce long-term resentment. It’s actually the word for recording an item in a ledger. Love doesn’t keep records.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity. It’s really characteristic of human nature to take pleasure in other people’s sins. We live in a culture that is fed with salacious material about other people’s wretchedness. And in a bizarre kind of way, we like that stuff because it makes us feel good about ourselves because we’re not such extreme perverts or such mass murderers.

The sin in gossip is self-promotion by relishing the falling of others, the iniquity of others. That’s not loving. Love doesn’t do that. And controlling the tongue in that way is what is in James’ mind when he writes in James 3:2, “If anyone doesn’t stumble in what he says, he’s a perfect man and able to bridle the whole body as well.” Everybody’s going to stumble with the tongue.

Love rejoices with the truth. The Old Testament says God hates a liar. Love tells the truth and it rejoices to tell the truth. Love is honest. It doesn’t lie to flatter. It doesn’t lie to falsely protect. It loves truth, it rejoices in truth. It will always speak the truth. It will celebrate the truthfulness, the integrity of others. Is this also doctrinal truth? Sure. Biblical truth? Yes. Knowing it, living it and loving it.

But it’s more than that. We’re talking about behavior here. Loving people tell the truth because telling the truth builds strong relationships; telling lies destroys relationships. Sometimes the truth is painful, but we speak the truth in love, right? Sometimes the truth is encouraging, comforting and brings benediction. Sometimes the truth is convicting, painful and brings a condemnation.

When you lie, you either flatter people to achieve an artificial relationship or you confront people over sinful issues in a judgmental, self-serving way, you destroy relationships. But when you speak the truth with love and when you’re known as a truthful person, you will also be known as a loving person. You always have to remember a lie, but you don’t have to remember truth.

Well, we come to the last four, verse 7. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” Love bears all things means to cover with silence. Love suppresses. It doesn’t mean that love won’t confront. But it means that out of genuine, honest concern for the other person, love will do everything it can to cover the failing, to cover the sin.

Love is reluctant to drag a person into scandal in front of everybody else. It bears all things, not in the sense of putting up with everything, but in the sense of willing to cover the ugliness rather than make sure everybody knows about it. How hard we work to teach our children not to expose every evil that are done by siblings. We teach them to love because it’s hard to love because it’s not natural.

When a spouse can do nothing but broadcast the faults of his or her partner, that’s not love. Because love covers. In fact, 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Love throws a mantle over the weaknesses and failures. Love doesn’t pounce on them, doesn’t proclaim them. Love warns, yes; it exhorts, yes; it rebukes, yes; and it covers. Beautiful characteristic, and it should be part of all of our lives.

Love believes all things. Love is not suspicious; it just believes the best. Love does not always assume the worst. It goes through life believing the best because love seeks the best so strongly. You can tell whether somebody loves you. In spite of your failures, they believe what you say. You will find that what you believe about a person eventually will shape that person.

Love hopes all things. As long as the grace of God is operative in the person, you never give up. Love is fully optimistic, it just keeps on hoping. And what is that hope in? Not in the person but in the Lord. As long as the grace of God is operative, human failure is never final. And the failures may be great, but they’re never final, and the Holy Spirit is always in the process of sanctifying someone.

That’s why Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven, because we’re all in process. I’ve talked to wives who want to hope because they love a man who has literally taken the flame of trust down to a tiny flicker. They don’t know if they can, and it’s a long way to restore that trust. But there seems to be (where Christ is involved) always a flicker of hope, until the trust has been rebuilt, but love hopes.

Love endures all things. What does that mean? Endures is a military term, its roots are in the military. It sustains. It’s a quality that sustains a soldier in the face of violent battle. This is not a minor annoyance. This is a word for life and death, horrible opposition, violence, persecution, suffering. Love survives all that. It just doesn’t die. It never really gives up. It endures through everything.

This is the crescendo of love. Love bears all hurts and wounds and disappointments, believing the best about others in spite of the wounds, gently throwing a mantle over their faults. And when the believing is betrayed, love still hopes because God is still God. And when hope seems lost, love still endures with triumphant confidence that the God who is still God is still sovereign and still able.

Let’s read verses 8 - 12, on the permanence of love. Love never fails. The rest of this chapter is the reason for and the nature of unfailing love. Love will outlast everything. Love will be the dominant relational reality throughout eternity in the presence of God. Someday love will be the only thing left. Verse 13, “Now abides faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

It is the greatest because it is that which is eternal. Faith will disappear when all is in sight. Hope will disappear when all is fulfillment. Love will never disappear. It is the one great thing that even eternity can’t change. There are people who think that this has to do with human love that indicates to us that when you’re having problems, love always triumphs over trouble.

That’s not God’s and Paul’s point. Some people think this means love will always succeed, it wins out in every situation. Well, it is true that love is the best of all virtues within the framework of human relations, but that’s not what God is talking about. Even Jesus didn’t find love always successful on a human level. He treated everybody he met with unfailing love, but it didn’t always win.

Many a husband and wife can bear testimony to the failure of love. Many a mom and dad could bear testimony to the failure of love, having poured out love to their children and having their children turn on them, rebel against them, shun them and embrace everything they warned them against, severing the family. True Christian love is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t always succeed.

Paul is simply saying that love as a reality lasts forever, not that it always wins, but rather that it will never disappear in contrast to other things that will disappear. And in order to make that contrast clear, he picked verse 8, “If there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away. If there are tongues, languages, they will cease. If there is knowledge, it will be done away with.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. Gifts are temporal; love is eternal. That is to say, those marvelous things, preaching, proclaiming the revelation of God, giving people the knowledge of divine truth, the miraculous gift of languages, those things are only for a limited time. Love is indispensable in the use of those gifts.

In fact, the gifts without love are useless. Love would bring those gifts into their proper use for their proper time. Well, some are gone and some are present. The ones that are still present are the ones that function in the life of the church in a non-revelatory way but are expressions of the Holy Spirit by which He guides and leads and nurtures and ministers to His church.

Something will stop prophecy, something will stop this knowledge of all the mysteries, but tongues will cease by itself. Prophecy and knowledge, they’ll be stopped by something acting upon them. Why is this distinction made? Well, there’s only one possible reason. Go to verses 9 and 10, “We know in part, we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

This is a speaking gift because it is called the word of knowledge. It could also have referred to the word of wisdom. No scripture exists yet. How do they know what God wants them to know? How do they have the revelation of God before it’s written down? It comes to the church through prophets who give prophecy, speaking for God. And sometimes they are revelations.

Anybody who stands up now to proclaim the Word of God is exercising a gift of prophecy. There are scholars and there are those who speak to the church by way of exhortation, consolation, comfort and instruction, thus wisdom. Prophecy, this ability to speak the Word of God, is a preaching gift. But they’re not forever. Now, these gifts also are not only temporary, they are partial.

Verse 9, “We know in part, we prophesy in part.” Verse 12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face-to-face. Now I know in part, then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” Prophecy and knowledge, they will go on. Do you know what that’s saying? Compared to what you will know when you get to heaven, you know nothing now. It’s all partial.

Why do we have such limited revelation? Because we have limited minds. And whatever Adam’s mind was like, ours is significantly diminished from his, right? That’s what the fall did. The fall corrupted our minds. Our corrupt minds, even aided by the Holy Spirit and exposed to the revelation of God, can only come so far. So preaching or prophecy, as essential as knowledge is, is just partial.

Verse 12, “Then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” Someday you will have full knowledge. You won’t need a preacher, you won’t need a teacher, you won’t need any books, there will be no reading in heaven there will be no necessary path to follow to gain more knowledge. That’s why he says in verse 10, “When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

Perfect is used in Matthew 5:48, “Be you perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” There will come a perfection that will preclude the need for prophecy and knowledge. Verse 12, “Now we see in a mirror dimly.” But one day we will see face to face. Christ Himself and all His living representatives in heaven and even the glorified church that comes back and proclaims the truth.

That is the eternal state, the final new heaven and new earth. That’s the perfect thing. After the millennial kingdom, when the eternal heaven becomes the abode of God’s people, then you have perfection, then you have the end. When that time comes, and this planet implodes, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the universe as we know it goes out of existence in a reverse of the big bang.

This is really a parenthesis, verse 11, “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man, I did away with childish things.” This is a personal word from Paul to illustrate his point. At that day, only one thing will be left - love. Love is the most exalted human emotion. We will enter into the glory of heaven and forever live in perfect, supernatural love.

Verse 13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Pursue love.” It’s the only eternal thing. Your gifts, temporary. Your abilities, temporary. Your talents, temporary. Your relationships, temporary. Your ministries, your possessions, your faith, your hope, temporary. Love links you to eternity, so follow love. Let us pray.

© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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