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Sunday, January 1, 2017, 11:30 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Wonderful Peace.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV).

Love Conquers All (vv. 1-3)

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

What is love? The Greek word for love, in this context, is agape, which “centers in moral preference” and “typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers)” - Strong's Greek: 26. ἀγάπη (agapé) -- love, goodwill. Agape love is self-sacrificial. It is God-like love. “Agape is love which is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself.” “Sacrificial love is not based on a feeling, but a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own.” “This is the love which ‘has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us’ when we became His children (Romans 5:5)” - http://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html.

So, in order for us to have this kind of love, one for another, we must first of all be in intimate relationship with the one who is love, i.e. be at peace with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, God the Son. We must be crucified with Christ, by the Spirit of God, via death to sin, and be resurrected with Christ, by the Spirit, to new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20; Ro. 6:1-23). This begins when we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, yet it is also a daily process of dying to sin and self and of following our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives (See: Lu. 9:23-25; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:3-14). Thus, to love others in this way, we must be indwelt by and surrendered to the ONE who IS LOVE.

It seems to me, if we are truly operating in the power of the Spirit of God in the exercise of the spiritual gifts given us by the Spirit of God, that the love of God would naturally flow through us to others. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Perhaps this is not speaking of times when we are empowered by the Spirit in the exercise of these gifts, but of times when we operate in the flesh and do not yield control to the Spirit. Yet, what is clear is that we can have wonderful gifts of the Spirit of God and still not exercise the love of God toward others in the execution of those gifts, and thus the carrying out of such gifts ends up just being a bunch of noise.

Yet, this all goes back to the definition of “agape” love, for some people might think we are NOT being loving when we confront sin, call for repentance, expose lies and false gospels, and warn of judgment and of the dangers of a false faith, based in a lie, which gives people false hope. As well, some of them may think they ARE being loving by diluting the gospel, telling people what they want to hear, saying only pleasant things which tickle itching ears, and/or by avoiding speaking the truth in love so as not to “offend” people with the truth of the gospel. Yet, lies are never kind, and they definitely are not loving. In the same respect, truth can be told in ways which are unkind and unloving, so we must submit ourselves to the control of the Spirit of God, allowing the love and peace of God to flow through us in all that we do, while resisting the temptation to give in to the flesh.

Agape love, thus, is self-sacrificial. It gives of itself to meet the legitimate needs of others, and will lay down its life so others can go free, even if it means we are hated, rejected, mistreated and falsely accused in return.

Love Is (vv. 4-7)

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Agape love is patient (long-suffering). It doesn’t quit. It doesn’t give up on people, even though they may be difficult or even hurtful towards us, because God never gave up on us. We persevere in loving them. Love is kind. It is thoughtful and demonstrates a desire to help others. Yet, again, telling people lies just to make them feel good is never kind. Speaking the truth in love is kind, because it cares more about what the other person really needs than it cares about itself. Love is not jealous (or envious). This word translated as “jealous” can be used in both a positive and a negative context. So, jealously is not always bad or unloving, in other words. We can be jealous for others with a godly jealousy, hoping to see them forsake their idolatry (adultery) and to return to their “first love” (See: 2 Co. 11:1-4). Envy, on the other hand, is bad, for it incorporates such terms as “greed, bitterness, resentment, spite, and hatred” etc.

Love does not brag (boast), it is not arrogant (proud). I think those speak for themselves. Love does not act unbecomingly. In some translations this is translated to say that love is not rude (impolite). Yet, rudeness can be defined by the culture in which we live and/or by tradition, and it may or may not agree with what scripture teaches. In some cultures, it is polite to lie to people, but lying is sinful. In some cultures, it is impolite to speak the truth in love, yet that is what scripture teaches us we must do. The gospel of our salvation is an offense to those who are perishing, and so the world (or worldly church) may consider us as being rude (impolite) because we preach the gospel, because it offends people. Yet, we must preach the gospel, and that is agape love. We must never compromise the truth of God’s word or what Jesus teaches us we must do in love, in order to not to offend people. Rudeness, as well, must be always be defined by scripture and not by culture (not by the world). A better translation of “does not act unbecomingly” would read that love is not dishonorable (shameful; vile; wicked) or indecent (crude, impure, vulgar). That makes more sense.

Love does not seek its own. In other words, love is unselfish and it regards the legitimate needs, i.e. what is in the best interest of others above oneself. It willingly gives of oneself to meet others’ needs, and is self-sacrificial, giving of time, money, resources, energy, etc. for others. Love is not easily provoked (not easily angered). If we are hot-headed, we can’t be acting in love. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. This is much like “tit for tat,” i.e. it has to do with keeping books (like a score sheet or a ledger) for the purpose of retaliation, i.e. for evening out the score, i.e. for getting even with others for what they do to us.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness (does not delight in evil). We should get no pleasure out of the evil things people do or out of seeing evil done to others, and this includes watching TV shows and movies where we are entertained by such evil and even rejoice when people are killed or get their “just due.” We should grieve over such evil, not find pleasure in it, and definitely not provoke or encourage it in others. Instead, we should rejoice with the truth, even when the truth cuts straight to the heart.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Again, what this says here must be defined by scripture and not by culture. This is not talking about believing lies or being tolerant of sin or trusting in a false hope or enduring false teaching. This is agape love, so it must be defined by how God loves, by his character and nature, and by his holiness and righteousness. It prefers what God prefers, so it bears, believes, hopes and endures only as God does, and as he requires of us. This does not refer to anything outside the scope of what would be approved by God and for God and for the ultimate good of others. Our beliefs and hopes must always be centered in God and in his Word. We must endure trials, hardships, troubles and unjust suffering and persecution for the sake of his name, and for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Love Never Fails (vv. 8-13)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In all things we must love God and love others as God loves us and gave himself up for us. All of our gifting, schooling, knowledge, etc. means nothing if it is not led (directed and motivated) by agape love as its driving force. The gifts of the Spirit are not for our own glory but for the glory of God and for the mutual benefit of one another within the body of Christ, that we all may be edified, instructed, encouraged, strengthened, comforted, healed and built up in the faith and reach maturity in Christ.

One day, when Jesus (perfection) returns for us, all these gifts of the Spirit will be done away with, for they will no longer be necessary, for we will be delivered from these flesh bodies and we will be perfect in Christ. Right now we do not have complete knowledge or understanding, but when Jesus returns, we will know fully as we are fully known. So, we should stop behaving like children, being selfish, prideful, envious, impure, and hot-tempered, etc., and we should become mature in our thinking, reasoning and behaving, putting on love above all else. We do this through submission to the Spirit of God, in which we experience his perfect peace and his fathomless love sweeping over us, and being lived out daily through us.

Wonderful Peace / Warren D. Cornell / William G. Cooper

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rings a melody sweeter than psalm;
And in heavenly strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

O dear soul, are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept now this peace so sublime!

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!