Wednesday Night Lesson: ‘Love Is Not Selfish’

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We continue tonight in our study of the subject of love. The Greeks had three words to help describe the various facets of love:

  • Eros – which is a sensual, erotic kind of love that is a reaction of our senses
  • Phileo – which is an friendship kind of love that is a response of our emotions
  • Agape – which is a selfless love that is a choice of our will. We choose to love others because we desire to help meet their needs.

I.  The Necessity of Love

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul goes to great extent to try to teach them the importance of agape love.

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.

We can summarize Paul’s teaching by saying that Christianity without agape love really isn’t Christianity at all. That should not surprise us for we read in 1 John 4, that agape love is a part of God’s nature, therefore it becomes the nature of everyone who is born of Him and who has His Spirit living within them.

II. The Nature of Love

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind;

A. Love is Patient

The nature of agape love is that it is willing to suffer for a long time with the object it loves. Patient is the word used in most translations and it describes something that happens to us inwardly. Inwardly we are patient because we love that other person.

B. Love is Kind (Benevolent / Outwardly)

The word here means to be gentle; to keep an open spirit; to seek to be useful to the other person; and to be considerate and compassionate of their needs.

Here is a bit of truth that may be hard for many of us to swallow. Often the reason we are unable to be kind and patient with others is because we really don’t love them. Or, as we will see tonight, we love ourselves more than we love others.

C. Love Is Not Selfish

1 Corinthians 13:4 … charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

One translation says – “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

1. Love is Not Envious

Some translations say – ‘love is not jealous.’ The jealousy that is being referred to here is not necessarily a jealousy that someone might have ‘for’ someone else, but rather a jealousy someone has ‘of’ someone else. A sin closely akin to this would be the sin of covetous – wanting what another person has.

Jealousy is an emotion that surfaces whenever we are more concerned with ourselves than others.

The jealousy and envy spoken of here is an intense emotion. The Greek word means to be zealous. To be zealous is to burn with passion. Scripture teaches us that there is a good zeal and a bad zeal. Let’s consider.

a) A Good Zeal

Do you remember the story of Jesus driving out the money changers out of the temple? We read in John 2:17 The zeal <2205> of thine house hath eaten me up. Christ’s passion for His Father’s honor and glory caused Him to become angry with those misusing the house of God. Paul uses this same word in his second letter to the Corinthians –

2Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous <2206> over you with godly jealousy:

When the Lord commanded the children of Israel to not make any graven images and worship them, He said –

Exodus 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…

God is passionate about His people and therefore He desires that His people be passionate about Him.  In His letter to the lukewarm church of Laodicea, Jesus said –

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous <2206> therefore, and repent.

In other words, be on fire for the things of God!

b)  A Bad Zeal

The Bible says in Galatians 4:18 that it is ‘… good to be zealously affected <2206> always in a good thing…’ There is a good zeal that causes us to be passionate about good things. We should be passionate about God and His will for us. Yet there is also a bad zeal or passion. A bad zeal or passion occurs whenever we lose sight of God’s will and begin to focus upon ourselves. Often this kind of passion produces emotions such as: jealous, envy, anger, and selfish pride. When it gets into the church it produces hatred and division.  Consider these passages of scripture –

1Corinthians 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying <2205>, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

James 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying <2205> and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying <2205> and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

In contrast Paul writes –

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

A perfect example of the contrast between true love and selfish love is seen in the Lord and His disciples. Note these portions of scripture –

Luke 22:21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! 23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. 24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Rather than recognizing their own weaknesses and becoming fearful that they might be the betrayer, they got into an argument about who was the most spiritual. Take heed ye that think ye stand, lest ye fall!

Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Afterwards Jesus demonstrated what true spiritual greatness is –

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Note –

3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments…

Do you know what makes us so susceptible to pride and boasting? It’s not because we feel superior to others, but because we feel inferior to others. We do something radical to call attention to ourselves so that others will think that we are important. Yet if we were secure in our relationship with God, we wouldn’t need to do many of these things.

2. Love is Not Boastful

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

Literally the word here means to be boastful or brag about ourselves. John MacArthur has some important insight into this matter – “Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up.”

Some have described this word as –

Putting self on display
Being a windbag
Showing off
Parading ourselves before others as though we were superior

From this description it’s not hard to see how the Corinthians, who were selfish and self-centered, could misuse such spiritual gifts as tongues.

 3. Love is Not Arrogant 

A third sin that Paul includes is arrogance.

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

This is the sixth time in this same letter that Paul has warned them about becoming ‘puffed up’ with pride. (1 Cor. 4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4)

The thought here means to become inflated by our own ego. It means to be haughty in spirit. To be conceited in our opinion of ourselves. At this point other portions of scripture come to my mind –

Proverbs 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look…

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Js 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5)

I remember something that I once read in the writings of Warren Wiersbe – “If you are easily inflated by praise, you’ll easily be deflated by criticism.”

CONCLUSION

1)    True Love  (that is of God)

a. Is Not Selfish

b. It is Selfless

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…

‘Strife’ – electioneering for office   ‘See me!’  ‘See how great I am!’
‘Vainglory’ – glorifying self without reason

… but in lowliness of mind

‘Lowliness of mind’ – humble opinion of self

… let each esteem (consider) other better than themselves. 4 Look (pay attention) not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant …

2)    True Love  

a. Mind of Christ

b. Produced by the Spirit of Christ

As I have said at the conclusion of each week’s lesson, agape love is not natural. We’re not born with that kind of disposition. Because we’re born with a sin nature, we are born with a selfish attitude. Agape love has to come from God and it does so as we continuously yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit. In the moments when we don’t want to love selflessly, we need to pray and ask God to fill us with His love. We have to ask the Lord to enable us to do what we can’t do ourselves. We have to let the Lord love others through us. Can He do so? Scripture says that He can.

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