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. 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. 8 Charity never faileth…
The Greeks had several words to describe several different kinds of love. They had a word for sensual, passionate love. They had another word for the love between two friends. They also had a third word that they almost never used. It’s a love that be described as being kind and caring. It’s a love that is even sometimes sacrificial.
The Greeks almost never used this word. But when the New Testament was written, everything suddenly changed. There was an explosion of the usage of this word. You never find the word for sensual love used in the Bible and it’s not often that you find the word for the love between two friends. But the third word is used repeatedly.
Jesus used this word when He said,
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (see John 15:13)
Perhaps the reason this word is used so much in the Bible is because this kind of love describes the nature of God. The Apostle John wrote, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) John also wrote, “…love is of God…” (1 John 4:7) One Bible resource says that this love “flows from God.”  It’s as though God is a springhead of this kind of love and it flows from Him like water flows from a well.
So what exactly is agape love? For the next two weeks we’re going to be examining Paul’s description of this love in what is often called ‘the love chapter.’ Many of you know that chapter is 1 Corinthians 13.
I. Love is Essential to Our Christian Life
Last week we took a brief look at these verses and I told you that agape love is essential to our Christian life.
1 Corinthians 13:1Though 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.
If I had to boil Paul’s opening words down into one sentence, it might be this – “A Christian who is without love is of no benefit to the cause of Christ.” Though they may possess all kinds of talents and abilities, though they may know many things, though they may be involved in many ministries, if they do not have this kind of love in their heart, they are useless to the cause of Christ. Paul said that they are nothing. Their ministry is fruitless and there will be no eternal reward for their effort.
But let’s turn this around and look at it from the positive side. Let’s suppose that a believer does have this kind love. Let’s suppose that love is the reason for everything they say and do. What could God accomplish through such a person? This individual would be tapping into the very heart of God.
Agape love is a part of the new nature that is put in us when we become a child of God. Jesus said that we are “born again of the Spirit.” The term ‘born again’ could be translated as ‘born from above.’ We receive a heavenly nature.
Consider how this new nature should affect us.
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38 ESV)
The Christian life should be like a river of gushing water flowing from his inner most being. Jesus said that this living water is the Holy Spirit. Imagine the Holy Spirit gushing forth from a person’s heart. What would this mighty river of the Holy Spirit look like? The Corinthians thought that it would be the demonstration of certain spiritual gifts. They thought it would be tongues or mighty acts of faith. They thought it would be a knowledge that made them superior to others. Yet Paul said that it would be love. Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians –
Galatians 5:22 …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control… (ESV)
A Spirit-filled life is a life of: love, joy, patience, kindness and Christlike gentleness.
II. The Nature of Agape Love
In order to help us distinguish between agape love and the other types of love, Paul gave us a description of how this love acts.
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 7 Love never ends. ESV
Isn’t it amazing how much this description of love looks like the fruit of the Spirit?
A. Love is Patient and Kind
1. Love is Patient
The King James Version says, “Charity suffereth long…” Most modern translations use the word ‘patience.’ What is patience? There are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament.
a. Patiently Endure During a Difficult Situation
There is the patience that enables us to endure during a difficult situation.
James 1:2 …when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. (NLT)
The word ‘endurance’ refers to this kind of patience. It’s the ability to remain strong, even while we are carrying a heavy load.
b. Patiently Endure With Difficult People
But there is another word found in the New Testament for patience which means to ‘put up with difficult people.’ That’s what agape love is. The term ‘long suffering’ refers to the ability to use self-restraint and to put up with difficult people for a long time. Literally, it means to go for a long time before our anger boils over. It’s a long-tempered person versus a short-tempered person.
Paul is not saying that if we put up with people, we will love them. He’s saying that if we love them, we will put up with them. Sometimes we say that we need more patience and what we actually need is more love. Love is patient. We speak with the tongues of men and angels, we move mountains with our faith, and we give our bodies to be burned; yet we don’t love people and therefore we’re missing the whole point.
The greatest example of how true love is patient is God Himself. Peter writes –
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is … patient …not wanting anyone to perish, but all come to repentance.
Why is God patient with mankind? Why does God put up with a world that is in constant rebellion with Him? I read the story of an atheist who said, “I’ll prove to you there is no God. ‘God, I hate You and I’ll give you 5 minutes to strike me dead.’ Five minutes passed and the atheist was still alive. ‘See’, the atheist boasted, ‘there is no God or else lightening would have fallen from heaven.’ But then his friend, who was a Christian said, ‘Do you think you can run the well of God’s love dry in only 5 minutes?'”
Do you know how God spells the word love? J-E-S-U-S
2. Love is Kind
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind…
Patience and kindness go hand in hand. Patience is agape love on the inside. Kindness is agape love on the outside. Patience is how agape love affects us. Kindness is how agape love affects others through us. A Christian who is experiencing the love of God will have patience in their inner man and they will demonstrate their patience by the way they treat others.
The word ‘kind’ refers to a spirit that is mild and pleasant, versus a spirit that is harsh and bitter. We should note also that this word refers to a spirit that is useful and beneficial. No doubt this is why Paul wrote –
1 Corinthians 13:3 ‘Even though I might give everything that I have away to feed the poor, and offer my body to be burned as a sacrifice, if I have no love I have actually gained nothing. I have not experienced God.’ (author’s translation)
B. Love is Not Self-Centered
Time will not allow me to go into much detail in this next section, but I think it will be beneficial if we take even a brief look.
1 Corinthians 13:4 …love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…
In other words, love is not self-centered. Self-centeredness was at the heart of the problem for the Corinthians.
Paul begins his letter by saying –
1 Corinthians 1:4 …Through him, God has enriched your church in every way… 7 you have every spiritual gift you need… (NLT)
It is very likely that the Corinthian church was a very affluent church. Corinth was a major seaport on the northern Mediterranean Sea and therefore there were probably some very wealthy people in the membership. In addition, the Corinthian church seemed to possess every spiritual gift the Spirit could give. But rather than their affluency making them more loving, it only made them more selfish, both physically and spiritually.
Paul was telling them that their selfishness and self-centeredness revealed a lack of love. Agape love does not encourage us to be in rivalry with others. Instead it makes us want to be their servants.
I close today with an example from the life of Jesus.
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.
What motivated Jesus to wash their feet? I’ll quickly give you four reasons:
1) He genuinely loved them.
2) Their feet were dirty.
3) Jesus had nothing to prove. His relationship with His Father was strong and secure.
4) He understood that this was the way to true happiness.
John 13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
If you and I want to experience the joy of the Lord, we need to stop waiting to be served, and we need to start serving. We need to let God use us as a channel of His love.
 Vincent’s Word Studies