Times are perilous. Persecution is on the rise. Mass confusion seems to be the norm. The world is dying from a lack of true love and the Word of God is under heavy attack. Rest assured that the promises of God remain forever true and never change with the times, cultural trends, or popular opinion. Love is mentioned approximately 310 times in all of Scripture contained in a total of 280 verses. I’m convinced that this issue runs so deep that to even to catch a glimpse of it on this side of eternity will radically change our lives, our worship, and all of our dealings.
When I say love, I don’t mean the butterfly feeling your girlfriend gives you. I’m not referring to romantic love. This is not meant to be another cheapy that talks about unconditional agape love and fails to answer any real weighty questions. This is not about love “winning.” This is not a series to send to the girl at church that you have a huge crush on, to convince her how great of a husband you’ll be. There’s far too much of that. The point is missed every time we make the issues of the faith about ourselves. We’re going to quickly find that the reason for all that we do, is in every moment intended for His glory.
This discourse will likely take many years to complete. My goal is to provide an exegesis that will require us to re-examine all that we think we know and surrender whatever is required to make us into intense and passionate lovers of God. I will attempt to answer the following questions:
- What is love and how is it biblically defined?
- What are the components of love?
- What is the urgency of bridal love?
- How does love relate to marriage?
- How is love obtained and given?
- How do justice, judgment, and mercy fit in?
Today we will be discussing the issue of patience. We will begin in 1 Corinthians 13 and expound the first four verses. In verse one, Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Today we have more evangelistic means than ever before. We have more books, lectures, sermons, and seminars than we could ever read, watch, listen to, or attend. There are so many writings and teachings that go out every day. How much of this equates to noise?
Since this is our entry point of the text, we don’t yet know the definition of love. We do know, without it our speaking is noise that lacks authenticity and serves no kingdom purpose. We will soon see that love is central to the authentic Christian life that is walked in the Spirit.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the word love? Is it a heart? The first part of this series will deal with the components of love. Then we will be able to biblically define it. As we go through this study I want you to imagine a diagram of the human heart and its many chambers, arteries, and valves. We’re going to peel back the layers and examine the anatomy of the heart. The heart is a very complex organ. Without it, it is impossible for the entire body to operate, let alone sustain itself for the very functions of life.
Paul continues in verse two, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” The intensity is only increasing. Understanding all mysteries and knowledge may make you the greatest theologian but it cannot make you a child of God. And to have all faith, every last mountain could be “taken up and thrown into the sea.” Even then, without love we couldn’t move a single soul a millimeter closer to Christ. In fact, even in the right spirit, we’re completely unable to even do that! We can only be faithful workman who rightly divide the Word. The redemptive saving work of the new birth can only be done by the Holy Spirit.
Verse three says, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” There are many people giving their lives to many causes in this world. Some are willing and even required to die for the things that they believe in. Here, Paul makes a subtle claim about suffering and death. Death is a final and ultimate statement. Even to die a martyr’s death and never be radically joined with love gains nothing and serves no eternal purpose.
Three times this conditional statement is used, “..if I..but have not love.” Without love:
- Our speaking is noise
- Our faith is nothing
- Our life will count for nothing
Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” The house must be formed by very God himself. If it is not, then the labor, regardless of how lofty it may stand, is done in vain. If you can imagine a skyscraper with all of it’s scaffolding reaching into the clouds, you’d know that every piece was drawn out and hand-selected by a master builder who called to order everything needed to complete the job. Why would anyone want to build where God has not laid a foundation? Because many of us are building our own little kingdoms that serve our own purposes, rather than His costly ones. God is seeking men and women in this hour who are content to never be noticed, receive recognition, or be honored for their work in the ministry. What are our motives? He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)
Just like our heart has many components contained inside the whole, so too does love. If any of these elements are broken, we end up with a distorted perspective of what love looks like. Then, not only will our visual perception of love be off, but also our ability to operate functionally in it. As we look at the components of love defined by Scripture, we will see that each part is like a piece of a stained glass mural, exhibiting the nature and character of Christ. All of the pieces must come together into one harmonious arrangement with each other. Then and only then can the image be seen in full array as the artist intends.
In verse four we capture the first glimpse of what love is. “Love is patient.” When the text tells us that love is patient, it is not prescribing to us an attribute to mechanically adopt into our living. It is revealing the character of the Son. You see, we have a pattern that God is conforming us to. So we must always look to Jesus the Pattern Son to be changed.
Patience is central to the gospel.
Before the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus existed preeminently knowing the depth of our need. Revelation 13:8 tells us that he is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. From Adam’s fall, to the cross, even to the end of time we see how slow to anger God is. Make no mistake. God is going to vindicate all sin and a day is coming when the door of grace will be forever closed to the sinner. That is why today is so important. Salvation is still available! The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Hebrews 2:17 tells us that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” But the next verse is even more profound. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. To know our every struggle. Oh the immense compassion in that!
Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The Creator of the universe left His throne in heaven to put on the flesh of a man. He walked the earth for 33 years and was mocked, beaten, ridiculed, despised, and nailed to a tree to satisfy God’s righteous demand for justice. Love is truly patient. Patience prepared the way to endure suffering for the sake of mercy. You are loved with an unimaginable love.
Patience reflects worship.
As we hold fast to His promises we must learn to patiently wait on the Lord as we mature into a people who are about the father’s business. Patience is so difficult because it is a supreme issue of trust. The things that we are unable to immediately see are incredibly difficult to surrender to. This is not something that comes naturally or automatically, especially in this now generation.
Romans 8:24-25 speaks to this nature. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Do you see the connection between waiting and patience? One word. Hope. Psalm 147:11 says, “The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” This truly reflects how we worship God and worship is a lifestyle of utmost importance. Why? Because God is seeking true worshipers. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. That lifestyle begins on the day of your entry into the kingdom of God where everything is made alive.
Patience reveals fruit.
The fruit of the Spirit reveals the legitimacy of our faith. This is God’s litmus test. Galatians 5:22 tells us that, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” The smallest seed that falls into good soil will produce fruit in due season when watered by God. There is a time of waiting and pruning until the day that the tiny seed grows into a fruit-bearing tree in God’s harvest fields. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)
There is a holding fast to the Word of God in the life of every true believer. At times this is very difficult as we are so easily persuaded by lesser things. Yet God remains faithful and delivers in due time. 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 says, “Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Rejoice in the promise that the same grace that saves us, secures us to the very end. You can believe that whatever God calls to life will spring forth firmly rooted in Christ. The birds of the air cannot devour it, the scorching sun cannot wither it, and no thorns can choke it out.