1 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. 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.
I. The Necessity of Agape Love
Tonight we continue in our study of Christian love. The King James Version translates it as ‘charity.’ Many criticize the King James and state that a more proper translation would be love. It is true, the word here is love; yet there was some reason why the KJV translators used charity. What is charity? Charity is something we give or do in order to help someone who is in need. The particular Greek word used in this passage is ‘agape’ which refers to a loving others – not for what we can receive from them, but for what we can give to them.
A. Many state that there were three primary words in the Greek language to describe various kinds of love:
Eros is a sensual, erotic kind of love. Eros is a reaction of our senses.
Phileo is a friendship or companionship kind of love. We love that individual because we like them. Therefore Phileo is a response of our emotions.
But then there was agape love. Note Bible teacher and author JI Packer says of agape love –
“The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention—a new word for a new thing … it is almost non-existent before the New Testament. Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection… It is a matter of will rather than feeling … J.I. Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for March 10
Agape love is a ‘selfless, self-sacrificing kind of love.’ It is not based upon emotions or senses. It is a choice of the will to love another – regardless.
B. We learn from 1 John 4:7 that agape love is of God, and therefore it should become a characteristic of all those who are born of God. According to Galatians 5:22-23, it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer.
C. According to what we have read tonight from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Christianity without AGAPE love isn’t really Christianity at all.
II. The Nature of Agape Love
1 Corinthians 13:4 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.
A. Love Is Patient
1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind…
1. Love is Long-suffering
KJV states that agape love “suffereth long.” In other words, it is willing to suffer for a long time. Literally it refers to a – “long time until reaching the boiling point.” Rather than quickly getting angry and seeking to retaliate, agape love perseveres during difficulty.
Modern translations states that love is “patient.” Here’s something important about patience that we need to note: patience, as it is spoken of in God’s Word, is not the absence of adversity; but the manifestation of the Spirit’s fruit of agape love.
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words; therefore we need a clear example of what agape looks like in action.
(1) The Longsuffering of God
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The Bible teaches us that God is longsuffering towards us. God’s longsuffering is not an indication that He does not enjoy men’s sin, nor that He accepts it or is even able to ignore it.
Habakkuk 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:
God is longsuffering toward us because God loves us. He is not willing that any should perish, therefore He delays His just judgment, giving us as much opportunity as possible to turn from our sin and be saved.
(2) The Longsuffering of God’s Children
Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?
Warren Wiersbe states in his commentary that the rabbis of Peter’s day taught that a man should forgive three times. By increasing it to seven, Peter no doubt thought that he was being very generous. However, what Peter didn’t understand is that there is no limit on agape love. In referring to this love, Paul states –
Eph 3:18 “… what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…”
Peter made an additional mistake. In worrying about how much he should forgive others, he wasn’t taking into consideration how much he himself would need to be forgiven, both by man and by God. Therefore our Lord replied –
Matthew 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Jesus didn’t mean that 490 was the number, but that forgiveness that comes from agape love is limitless. We read in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that agape love – ‘thinketh no evil.’ In other words, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Jesus then went on to illustrate the correlation between the love we receive and the love we extent by telling a parable.
Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience <3114> with me, (be longsuffering with me 1 Cor 13) and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Wiersbe states in his commentary that ten thousand talents probably equaled a sum of around $10 million dollars in today’s terms. In contrast, the average worker earned a pence a day, therefore 100 pence was 100 days worth of work. 100 days worth of work is a considerable amount, yet nothing in comparison to $10 million dollars.
Matthew 18:29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Matthew 18:31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Matthew 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.
Through this story our Lord is trying to illustrate that there is no comparison between the amount of agape love we receive from God and the amount we might be called upon to extend to others.
What determines whether or not we are able to exhibit such love? What will enable us to be longsuffering with others?
(1) War of Two Natures
First we need to recognize that inside each of us there is a war going on between two natures: the old nature which we received with our physical birth and the new nature we receive with our spiritual birth.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
(a) The Old Nature
What is the Old Nature? It is the sinful nature that pertains to our flesh. It is a nature that is focused on self. Paul describes some of the characteristics of this old nature –
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, … 20 … hatred, variance , wrath, strife, …
By nature we are naturally selfish and self-centered. Though we might think of ourselves in that kind of way, selfishness and self-centeredness is a part of our fallen nature. Therefore, in order to love with this kind of love, we need a new nature.
(b) New Nature
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…
Agape love is an exhibition of God’s nature living and reigning in us. It is a part of the Spirit’s productivity in the life of a believer that is yielded to Him.
(2) How Do We Live by the New Nature and Not by the Old?
(a) Determine that our old nature is dead
Galatians 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Affections and lusts refers to sinful desires and passions of the old nature, which includes not only immorality, but also anger and hatred. Whenever those emotions arise in us, rather than holding on to them, we must release them and let the Holy Spirit reign.
(b) Determine that we live by the new nature
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
‘Walk’ is a present tense, active voice, imperative. Present tense means that it is something that we are continually doing. Active voice means that we must make the decision to do so. And being an imperative means that we must do it. In other words, if you want victory over your old sinful nature, you must continuously be living in the Spirit.
(3) But what if I don’t want to? What if my feelings are too hard to let go?
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another , tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
The bottom line of agape love is this – we chose to love others because God chose to love us. The more we chose to do this, the more we will become like our Savior and the easier agape love will be.