Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Love is the Greatest Gift
Sermon: February 17, 2013

Front Cover: ESV 1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Call to Worship: Dear Lord, please teach us of your love which you demonstrated by giving your Son for us.

Opening Hymn: Oh, How He Loves You and Me
Praise Song: I Will Sing
Reading: Psalm 91
Praise Song: His Name is Wonderful
Praise Song: God So Loved The World
Scripture Reading/Prayer/Lord's Prayer/Offertory Prayer: Luke 4:1-11
Offertory Hymn #271 Love Lifted Me
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 13
Sermon Title: Love is the Greatest Gift
Closing Hymn: #343 Love Divine, So Great and Wondrous

Dear congregation,

May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.

This is the first Sunday of Lent, a time when our focus is on the greatest expression of love ever given, in that God demonstrated His love for humanity by sending His Son to be the ransom for the sins of the world so that whosoever would believe in Him would receive the forgiveness of sins. During this time of the year we are invited to focus particularly on the passion/suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying that through a deepening understanding and knowledge of this gift of God's love, we would be drawn closer to our Lord and Saviour in the oneness and intimacy that He desires to live in with us. For one is not able to understand or receive the love of God independent of understanding the purpose and the meaning of the death of Jesus on the cross.

At the end of last Sunday's text from chapter 12, there words were written: 1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

In chapter 13 the meaning of this last sentence in chapter 12 will be explained by the writer of this letter, Apostle Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In this chapter he speaks of the importance of love being the preeminent characteristic that must govern all other gifts that have been given to believers in Christ.

In the last verse of chapter twelve, we find these words written: 12:31 "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way," words which summarize the 12th chapter as well as to continue the teaching the Paul is giving to the Corinthian church which is marked by division and dissension within the congregation. He tells them to seek the best gifts, i.e useful and beneficial gifts, the list of which he has described in the chapter he is concluding. He then introduces the next chapter by writing that "I show you a more excellent way."

KJV 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.

Previously in 8:1b we read these words, , "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." It was a different question that he was applying this to, but neverthless that short statement that can be applied to many different situations. At the beginnning of this 13th chapter Paul is now pointing to love as the greatest gift of all, which without, all all other gifts, natural and supernatural are nothing.

That should get our attention, since who wants to be found in the place of speaking without edifying anyone, who wants to be found in the place of having the ability to prophecy, to understand all mysteries, to have all knowledge, to have all faith that removes mountains, and yet be found as nothing. Or who wants to come to the place where one has given all goods and possessions away to feed the world's poor and even give one's body to be burned, and still be found as having gained nothing?? Wow!!!

What is going on here? Was it not enough that we heard from Paul in the previous chapter that all gifts are of the Spirit, are given by God, are for the mutual edification of the body and that these gifts are distributed by Christ as He sees fit? That was the overall teaching, but now he found it necessary to expand on that which by the Holy Spirit abides in us (love) and which He desires that we would be reminded is the greatest gift of the Spirit.

Hearing these first three verses cause one to ask: What is this love that he is talking about? How is defined? We do not have to wonder, for Paul by the leading of the Holy Spirit, is going to describe 15 characteristics of this love that he is referring to.

This is love in its perfection, in its ideal, it is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. If one reads verses 4-8a and places the name of Jesus in the place of love, one will be starting in the right place in our understanding of love. He is love and these 15 characteristics of love put some practical meaning to us as we see love in action.
That is our starting place...Let us use the ESV in so doing....


4 Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant
5 or rude. Jesus does not insist on its own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful;(keeps no record of wrongs)
6 Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but Jesus rejoices with the truth.
7 Jesus bears all things, Jesus believes all things, Jesus hopes all things, Jesus endures all things.

We read through it again, this time putting our name in the place of love.

4 I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant
5 or rude. I do not insist on its own way; I am not irritable or resentful; (keeps no record of wrongs)
6 I do not rejoice at wrongdoing, I rejoice with the truth.
7 I bear all things, I believe all things, I hope all things, I endure all things.

A third time we read through it, this time putting "our congregation" in the place of love.

4 Our congregation is patient and kind; our congregation does not envy or boast; our congregation is not arrogant
5 or rude. Our congregation does not insist on its own way; Our congregation is not irritable or resentful;(keeps no record of wrongs)
6 Our congregation does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
7 Our congregation bears all things, Our congregation believes all things, Our congregation hopes all things, Our congregation endures all things.

Why read through it that way?

This is why... Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth in straight forward language because they were caught up in attitudes of self importance because of their fleshly (3:4) state which was due to their immaturity in their understandings of God and His ways. We refer to it as Law and Gospel, which means that in order to be built up one first must be broke down. What does this mean? Let us talk about it by bringing in what Paul write in this place:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work

God has given His Word of truth, He brings us to an encounter with His Word so that we would be taught, and since we are prone to "do our own thing," we need to be rebuked of our sin, we are given direction as to which way to go, and in order for us to grow in the knowledge of God, we are to be continually in a place of being "trained in righteousness" so that we could be fitted and furnished to be that who He made us to be.

Have we gone to a counselor? If so, we have seen that the counselor will listen to our story in order to find out "who we are in our thoughts, attitudes and actions," will then point us to what is true and godly according to the Scriptures, and then will work to bring us to grow in our understanding and knowledge of what is the will of God in the area that we are lacking. This will require honesty before His Word, it will require admitting that God is right and we are wrong, it will require repentance and a change of direction and so on.

Simply put, whether in preaching or counseling, the same principles govern: This is what God wants for us, this is where we are in our life now, and in order to move toward what He wants, we must honestly and truthfully come to see the true state of our condition. In my experience, it is not the lack of competent counseling that people are not able to get help, but rather it is the inability of one to see that they are in need of change for the better in their life. If we are not able to see that we need help, we will not reach for the help.

Jesus sets love before us by His coming into the world and by action demonstrating that He is love; as I slowly read through the "list" allowing the Holy Spirit to minister grace and truth to my heart, I find myself lacking in all these areas of love, which causes humility and repentance, and as I read through the third time with my brothers and sisters in Christ in mind also, I am caused to pray these characteristics of love into our hearts and minds so that together we would grow together in love.

God desires that we live in love: I find myself convicted of my lack of love, but grace and knowledge are given to me through this Word of teaching, of rebuke, of correction and of ongoing instruction, which by God's grace I am given a heart of repentance in humility before Him, and therefore I seek to work towards being unifying member of the larger body of believers into which it is my privilege to be a part of.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. {doaway: Gr. vanish away}
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. {darkly: Gr. in a riddle}
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

He closes this chapter by pointing out that spiritual gifts are not for eternity, for only love abides forever. When eternity comes, the temporary will pass away. He points to the importance of growth in our Christian lives, (remember 3:1-4) and that as we grow in maturity of the things of God, things that we believed and lived in will fall away from our lives already here in time.

There is a day coming when we will see him face to face, and we will then be able to know in fulness how loved we were by Him through Christ Jesus. We believe in Him, we trust Him and hope keeps us going, but when we see Him face to face, love alone will remain.........

We are one in Him and as we come to His table today, we receive His gift of forgiveness as He ministers His body and blood to us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As we approach His table of grace, may our hearts be warmed towards Him and towards those who we love and enjoy being with in His love. May we remember that:

4 He is patient and kind; He does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant
5 or rude. He does not insist on its own way; He is not irritable or resentful;(keeps no record of wrongs)
6 He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but He rejoices with the truth.
7 He bears all things,He believes all things, He hopes all things, He endures all things and He, being love, is eternal.

May His rich and abundant grace be upon us today as bask in His love....

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Cross of Christ 2.25.2018
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