1 Corinthians 13:4a ~ 20141102 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/02 1 Corinthians 13:4a Long-Tempered and Kind; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141102_1cor13_4a.mp3
4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται,
1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]
12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 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. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
We are in the love chapter, and we are studying the nature of biblical love, God's love. We saw from the first three verses that someone may do what we would consider loving acts, even to the extreme, and not have love. We learned that there are different words in the Greek language for different kinds of love. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love. A person may do loving acts of self-sacrifice out of a romantic love. Someone might do heroic loving deeds out of a deep friendship love, and we honor and recognize as noble someone who sacrifices self to nurture those in need out of a paternal type of love. But Paul says:
Even extreme acts of charity and self sacrifice not born of biblical agape love earn nothing for the one who does them. Although they may be a resonance of the created image of God in humankind, they profit us nothing. Jesus gives us one example of this kind of loving act that gains nothing in Matthew 6:2.
Some do charitable deeds for praise they receive, and Jesus says they have received their reward in full. Some do charitable deeds because of how it makes them feel, and they too have their reward. The love Paul praises in this chapter is of an entirely different type. 1 John 4:19 makes it clear:
This agape love comes as a response to God's love demonstrated to us. 1 John 4 teaches us that God's love was demonstrated to us by Jesus dying in our place on the cross. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We can love like this only after we have been transformed or born again by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces this kind of love in the believer. This kind of love is evidence that we know God and belong to God.
God is Love
This love finds its source in God because God is love (1 Jn.4:8). We can easily substitute God's name in place of love in this chapter, and it would read very well. But as John says,
We look to Jesus to better understand what the Father is like. Because Jesus is, as Colossians 1:15 tells us, 'the image of the invisible God' and as Hebrews 1:3 tells us 'He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature'. We can see the character of Love incarnate in the person of Jesus. We could substitute the name 'Jesus' in place of 'love' and nothing would seem out of place. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, Jesus does not envy or boast, Jesus is not arrogant or rude...
Imitators of Christ
1 Corinthians 13 is not a beautiful sentimental poem, this is a wrecking ball that will level us if we listen to what it says. It was originally intended as a scathing rebuke to the loveless Corinthians, and it is strong medicine that will do us much good if we are willing to swallow it. Try this this afternoon: plug your own name in to this chapter. Read it out loud and see how it sounds. Read it to your spouse or to a close friend who knows you well. Look them in the eye and see if you can do it with a straight face. Some things may fit. Others may sting like lemon juice in an open wound. In 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1, Paul invited his readers to 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.' We are to be conformed to the image of Christ. This chapter can serve us a helpful indicator of where we are in the process of becoming Christlike.
Or put the name of our church in for love. Ephraim Church of the Bible is patient, is kind, does not envy or boast... The character of the church is made up by you, each one of its members. I look in the mirror, see how far I fall short, and cry out, God transform me by your Spirit!
Verses 4-7 give 15 phrases that describe this love, 2 that describe what it is, 8 that describe what it is not, one contrast, and 4 of what love always does. English translations struggle to bring out both the meaning and the beauty of form in this literary masterpiece. Most English translations structure these sentences beginning with the noun 'love', and the present tense of the verb 'to be', love is, and an adjective that describes a characteristic of love; love is patient. But this is not the structure of the Greek phrases. The verb 'to be' is not found here, instead, each descriptor of love is a verb. The King James does well here where it translates 'Charity suffereth long'.
It is critical that we have a clear understanding of what Biblical love looks like, so that we understand what the goal is. We want to be more Christlike, we want to be more loving. So we are going to take our time working through this passage. We will take the first two verbs today, patient and kind.
Patience, or longsuffering, the Greek word μακροθυμέω, is a compound verb made up of macro and thumos. Macro means long or large; we use a microscope to zoom in to the details, but we take a step back to take in the macro big picture. Thumos means passion, fierceness, indignation, or wrath, it paints the picture of breathing hard. In our language we have the word short-tempered, and we might say 'he has a short fuse'. This word means to be long-tempered or to have a a long fuse.
This was not true of the Corinthians. They were not patient. They were not long-tempered. They are characterized by quarrels, jealousy, dissension, and strife. They were eager to be thought spiritual and mature, but Paul calls them infants in Christ (3:1-3). They were impatient for the promised blessings of the age to come, insisting that already they have all they want, already they have become rich, already they have become kings (4:8). They were impatient to get what was coming to them, so they brought their brothers to court (6:1-8). They were more interested in the instant gratification of a meal than in the long term joy of bearing with the weakness of their brothers. In coming together to celebrate the Lord's supper, each one would go ahead with his own meal, and Paul had to command them to wait for one another. They had no patience in the exercise of their gifts, where they would interrupt one another and even talk over one another. The Corinthians were not patient with one another. They were not slow to anger.
The Wisdom of a Long Fuse
The proverbs hold up the wisdom of a long fuse.
The Patience of God
In the Old Testament, this word translates 'slow to anger', a dearly loved characteristic of God. God, in his self-revelation to Moses,
Our God is a God who is slow to anger. 1 Peter 3 refers to:
God patiently endured the wickedness of man 120 years while the ark was being built. Methuselah, the man with the longest lifespan in recorded history, 969 years, died the year the flood came. God is slow to anger.
In Nehemiah 9, God is praises for his great mercy and patience in spite of the persistent disobedience of the people.
The whole history of the biblical record is a history of God's patience with his disobedient people. God is a God who is slow to anger. This does not mean he is lenient or lets things slide. He does get angry, he is a just judge, and he 'will by no means let the guilty go unpunished'. But he is overwhelmingly patient.
Peter tells us
Jesus will inflict his vengeance in flaming fire on those who do not know God, those who do not obey his gospel. But he is very slow to anger.
Jesus told a parable to describe his patience in Matthew 18.
Notice in the parable that the servant pleaded with his master to have patience with him to repay his debt. What is staggering in this story is the magnitude of his debt. A talent is the equivalent of 20 years wages. He owed his master 200,000 years wages, a debt he could never dream of paying back. The master, who is a picture of God in the story, goes beyond patience and is willing to free him and forgive him, willing to absorb the entire debt himself. The servant, however, was not patient with his fellow servant, and demanded immediate payment of a debt. The servant was owed by his fellow servant 100 denarii, the equivalent of 100 days wages. A significant amount, but infinitely less than what he owed his master. He who had been offered love was still operating in the currency of debt, and so demonstrated that he had failed to receive the love he was offered. That kind of love necessarily converts a person who truly receives to operate on an entirely different currency.
Paul says that love is kind. This word appears nowhere else as a verb. It is possible that Paul coined the term here to focus on the active nature of love. The root of the word means useful or suitable or fit for the intended use. Jesus uses the adjective this way in Matthew 11
The word translated 'easy' is this word kind or good. It fits well. To be kind is to be gracious, generous, upright, useful, gentle, friendly, mild, and helpful. Patience and kindness often go together. Charles Simeon combines the two as “The suffering patiently all kinds of evil, and doing cheerfully all kinds of good” [Simeon, 1833, Horae, p.329].
The Corinthians were anything but kind. In setting themselves above others, suing a brother in the courts, defrauding a spouse by withholding sexual relations, destroying a weaker brother by violating his conscience, humiliating those who have nothing, saying to another brother 'I have no need of you', they were acting in ways that were anything but kind.
The Kindness of God
The kindness of God is often related to his being slow to anger.
Jesus points us to the kindness of his Father specifically toward those who don't deserve it.
God's kindness, his gracious generosity, is seen most clearly in Christ Jesus.
Paul combines the patience and kindness of God in Romans 2.
God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. To presume on the riches of his kindness and patience is to store up wrath for the day of judgment. We see God's kindness, his gentleness and mildness and his slowness to anger come together with his righteous justice at the cross.
God cannot be kind in a way that overlooks sin. He cannot be patient in a way that violates justice. By not immediately punishing our sin with death, God allowed a question mark to hang over his own righteousness. Would he let sin slide and fail to be just? That question mark was removed at the cross, where the righteous demands of the law were fully satisfied by the blood of Jesus. God's patience and kindness is meant to turn our eyes to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God.
God displays his great love for us in this generous kindness.
He holds his own kindness in the cross up as a model for us to follow.
Because God has so loved us, as a response to his goodness and mercy, to his slowness to anger, out of the fullness of his love for us, we must allow this love to overflow from us to others.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org