“The Greatest of These is Love” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
Listen to the Sermon:
Hear now the word of the Lord from 1 Corinthians 13:8-13,
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.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13, ESV
This is the word of the Lord that is given to us. As we start our study this morning, I want to read one more verse, it’s a parable that Jesus spoke to us gave to us in Matthew 13:44, that I think gets a key principle in this passage. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus said,
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44, ESV
What our Lord tells us in that parable is to get it a contrast, a contrast between what is temporary and what is eternal. So, he gives us this example of a man who finds treasure that we’re meant to understand is eternal, enduring, abiding treasure. So, what is this man willing to do? Well he’s willing to leverage, to expend himself of everything that he possesses, to sell all of his possessions in order to lay hold of this enduring treasure that he finds in this field.
Well the treasure that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 13:44 is himself. He’s talking about giving up everything we have in this life in order to lay hold of Christ. When we’re talking about gaining Christ, we’re talking about admittance, entry, into his kingdom, his world. A world that is governed according to his principles. A world of love when we are with Jesus forever. When we are conformed to his image perfectly, we will love in the way that he has first loved us.
What Paul is saying here in this passage as he’s saying there is wisdom to trade on, to leverage, to expend what is temporary in this life. He’s particularly talking about the spiritual gifts in order to gain what is permanent and perpetual and enduring. Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr to the Huaorani people, said it probably best he said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” There’s no foolishness if we give what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose. There’s a contrast between what is temporary and what is eternal.
So, our big idea today is this; Spiritual gifts will pass away, but spiritual graces are permanent.
So, three points this morning.
1. Spiritual Gifts Will Pass Away
2. Spiritual Gifts are Partial Not Perfect
3. Spiritual Graces are Permanent
Spiritual Gifts Will Pass Away
So, let’s start in verse 8. Our first point is that spiritual gifts will pass away. Paul gives in verse 8 what I have learned is a military acronym B.L.U.F., the bottom-line up front. It’s very helpful that’s what he’s doing here in verse 8.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8, ESV
He says love never ends. That’s what’s permanent, that’s what’s enduring. Then he talks and contrasts that against what is partial, what will pass away. So, right there we have the main idea that spiritual gifts will pass away, but spiritual graces are permanent. Now when Paul says that love never ends, the word for ends we most commonly translate this in the Bible as the idea of falling to fall. Leon Morris, a commentator on this passage, says we might capture the idea of what Paul is saying here by saying that love never collapses. You think of a bridge or a building collapsing, it’s disastrous. Love will never be that way, love does not have a fleeting temporary purpose. Love is rather a grace with permanent, eternally, enduring purposes. It will never fail, it will never fall away, it will never collapse, it’s permanent.
In contrast Paul says that the gospel gifts must pass away. Now we talked a little bit last week that this word for pass away that Paul uses twice here, and then again at the end of verse 10. The word here for pass away is a word that’s very important for Paul in the ways that he talks about the history of redemption, the way that God works in redemptive history to save his people.
We saw this particularly last week when we looked at 2 Corinthians chapter three. In 2 Corinthians three Paul talked about the passing away or fading away glory of the Old Covenant ministry of Moses. He said it had a glory for a time, but then that glory had to pass away to give way to what is permanent. What word for permanent in 2 Corinthians 3:11 is the same word that Paul uses here in 1 Corinthians 13:13, abide, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;”
The same word that Paul used to talk about the permanency of the enduring New Covenant ministries, Paul here talks about the permanency of the gospel graces, the spiritual graces of faith, hope and love. We have to ask then, why is Paul using this word pass away for New Covenant spiritual gifts? Why is he saying that these New Covenant spiritual gifts of prophecies and tongues and knowledge will pass away and cease if this is part of the enduring ministry of the New Covenant? Why are these things going to pass away at all?
Well it’s important to understand when Paul uses this word for pass away, it’s not a contrast between what is bad versus what is good or what is false versus what is true. He isn’t saying, you know back in the day when we were doing all of this Moses stuff, we just had no idea what was going on. We had no clue we were totally in the wrong, but now thank goodness Jesus has come to sweep all of that away so that we can be in what is now finally good and true. He doesn’t put it that way.
He says, you have to understand this is a spectrum and it’s a spectrum of progressive revelation. It’s a spectrum where what began as not bad, but not fully good, has now become more fully good in Christ in a way that will never go backwards. There is still more space to go in terms of moving forward. In the same way it wasn’t that was false, it wasn’t untrue, that Old Covenant Mosaic ministry but now we have a greater fullness of the truth and we’ll never go backwards. While we still acknowledge that there is more yet to come when the perfect comes.
Spiritual Gifts are Partial Not Perfect
So, this is where Paul can say that spiritual gifts must pass away and it leads us into the second point that Paul is going to make in verses 9 through 12, that spiritual gifts are partial. In this way not bad versus good, not false verses true, but they are partial and spiritual gifts are not perfect.
So, they’re partial but they are not perfect. Again, in verses 9 through 10 Paul tells us his main point for this passage, he says in verses 9 ,
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10, ESV
What Paul is saying here is that again, what we have is not bad, it’s not false. On the contrary what we have is partial. It’s good and it’s true, but only in a limited sense in comparison to the perfect. So, when what we have now of the partial doesn’t contain all the good there is to have, which we will have in the perfect. It doesn’t contain all the truth that there is to know, which we will learn when the perfect comes. So, there’s partial which we have now, which is good and true insofar as it goes, as we await the perfect.
Now Paul illustrates this in two ways. He uses two illustrations in verses 11 and 12.
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.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12, ESV
The first way that Paul illustrates this principle is to contrast the ways of a child as compared to the ways of an adult. Now it’s important to see here Paul isn’t criticizing children, he isn’t saying what’s wrong with these children, why don’t they just get over their childlikeness. He isn’t saying that at all. If you really think through the imagery that Paul is using, he’s saying to understand that childish ways of thinking, childlike ways of reasoning, childlike ways of speaking, these are all entirely appropriate during childhood. In fact, children cannot develop to become adults unless they go through this developmental process in childhood. So not only is it appropriate for children to behave as though they were children, but it’s necessary for them to grow to become adults.
So, here’s how Paul is talking about partial, here he’s saying there’s a development process and we have to actually go through it to get to the final end when Jesus brings the perfect. That’s the first illustration.
The second illustration is what we talked about last week and this is about sight. It’s about a face-to-face glimpse of God’s glory. What Paul is saying here is that right now we don’t have the perfect, an absolute perfect view of God face to face. What we have now is partial because we see God in a very real and true and good sense, but we see him in a mirror indirectly. That word for dimly I talked about a little bit last week, it probably doesn’t mean blurry.
Sometimes people talk about this mirror has a blurry image, but Paul wasn’t comparing his mirrors to ours today. He had never seen one of our mirrors and Corinth was actually famous for its mirror manufacturing. These were the top-of-the-line mirrors in the world and yet it was still indirect. When you look at something in a mirror, you’re not looking at someone directly face to face. You’re seeing a reflection of who they are, you see them indirectly.
We talked about this a little bit last week. The point of this illustration, as we consider all the places where the phrase face to face is used in the Bible, we see that everywhere God has been giving a progressively better vision of his face. It’s always progressively better, we’ll never go backwards. What we have, what God is always giving us is better than what he has given us before. Even so, every time that vision is always only partial and every time that vision points away from itself to the vision of God’s word until the perfect truly does come.
So those are the two illustrations we’ll talk a little bit more about that later in the sermon. After these two illustrations Paul comes back around to summarize the main point of this section. He says at the end of verse 12,
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. 1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV
So again, the contrast is not between bad and good, false and true, it’s between partial and perfect. So now that we’ve seen this, we really need to come back to this question about why would Paul talk about the passing away of these New Covenant spiritual gifts in the same way that he talked about the passing away of the Mosaic Covenant?
The short answer is, as we’ve kind of started to see but let me just summarize it here, is that while New Covenant ministries through these spiritual gifts give us a progressively better vision of God, it’s less partial than what we had in the past. It’s more perfect, but it’s nevertheless not completely perfect. It’s still only giving us something that is in part.
So, for Moses, when Paul talks about Moses’ passing away glory in 2 Corinthians 3, he’s thinking about everything that went along with that ministry. He’s saying that ministry was true, and it was good, and it had a real glory to it. That’s his point in 2 Corinthians 3. There was a glory, you think about the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the festivals, especially the festival of Passover, of circumcision, the prophecies, and the promises. These were glorious ministries and God was using the glory of these Old Covenant ministries to give us a glimpse, an indirect picture, of Christ to come, to foreshadow the coming Messiah.
Through the glory of the Old Covenant ministries God, by his Holy Spirit, was sufficiently using these and powerfully using these to instruct and build up God’s people in faith in the promised Messiah. As they looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah, who was vaguely outlined by these glorious ministries, God was giving his Old Covenant people full remission of sins and eternal salvation.
Now this is true for us as well, but we have a more perfect vision of Christ, the glory of God in the face of Christ. When the Old Testament shadows were done, the point of those pictures was to point to a person, and when that person Jesus Christ came, they could pass away.
Now we have a similar situation with these spiritual gifts. These gifts reveal Christ to us as they prophetically teach us about who he is, as they give us knowledge and understanding of the person and work of what the second person of God in Jesus Christ has come to do for us. They give us knowledge by tongues as the gospel was originally preached to new groups of people. These were sufficient and powerful, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to instruct and build up God’s people in faith. Through that faith in which these gifts are building God’s church up, God was giving full remission of sins and eternal salvation.
What Paul is saying though is that even these spiritual gifts must pass away, they gave us a better picture of Christ than the one God’s people enjoyed in the past. This is progressively better, but they still give us this indirect picture only, it’s partial, we don’t have the perfect the face to face the full knowledge of Christ yet. So, the purpose of this picture is to point to the person and when that person comes the picture must pass away, just as the Old Covenant glories had to pass away. Just as Paul talked in Galatians 3:24 that the Old Covenant law was a tutor to the children of the underage people of God until they grew up to maturity. So, we must, like children, await our maturity when the spiritual gifts will pass away and we will embrace the perfect of Christ forever.
So, all of that is helpful to locate us in salvation history, redemptive history. This is where we are but if this is true what practical implications does this carry? Paul has a point here, he’s not just waxing eloquently about love, he really has a point that he’s trying to drive home to us. His point is this that we need to cultivate not our gifts so much, those are partial, those have a purpose, but that purpose is temporary, it’s fading away. We need to cultivate the graces which will endure and abide forever. So far as the gifts lead to the graces, that’s excellent and we should use them for that.
However, if you want to use a business idea, we need to capitalize our spiritual gifts. Investing these things, these temporary gifts that we have, in order to gain enduring permanent assets of spiritual graces. We need to sell everything we have in order to gain the love that we will enjoy forever in the kingdom of heaven, a world of love.
Spiritual Graces are Permanent
So, this brings us to our third and final point in verse 13, that spiritual graces are permanent. Paul says,
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13, ESV
What Paul is saying here is that these spiritual graces abide and endure in a permanent way that is not matched by the spiritual gifts that will pass away. We’ve talked about that a lot, but some people understand that the final phrase in verse 13, “but the greatest of these is love” to mean that love is the only grace that abides, that endures. That’s not at all what Paul says. He says that all three of these graces endure, “faith, hope, and love abide these three.” These three abide, it’s very clear that each of these graces abide into eternity.
Now certainly faith and hope play a different role today than they will in eternity to come. Right now, today we walk by faith and not by sight, is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7. That only means that our faith and our hope will be perfected when we come to embrace the sight of the perfect vision of God face to face. Faith and hope will remain important throughout all eternity, but in a different way. It will not be less faith and less hope, but more faith and more hope, deeper faith and richer hope as we embrace Christ by sight.
What Paul does say in this final phrase, the greatest of these is love, is to emphasize that faith and hope are not as great as love. They are not the main thing, they are not what we really need to be setting our heart on, to cultivate. So what’s the relationship between faith and hope on the one side and love on the other? Well faith means to trust, and hope is something like long-term faith and what Paul teaches us elsewhere is that faith and hope both help to produce love.
So, for example in Galatians 5:6 Paul writes,
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6, ESV
Faith produces love. Same thing with hope, in Romans 5:3-5 not only that Paul writes,
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us Romans 5:3-5, ESV
Faith and hope together look forward to the acquisition of eternal, enduring, permanent love. Forever faith and hope are the roots deep down in the soil that grow up to produce the fruit of love. Or faith and hope are the foundation on which the structure of love is being built up in the church to ever increasing heights. Or faith and hope are the propulsion system that launches the rocket of love forward as it reaches ever closer to the perfection of God himself. Well that’s how these graces relate to each other.
Let’s go back to how the gifts relate to the graces, which is Paul’s point in this passage. The reason that these gifts can fall away, and we will suffer no loss is because the gifts are given to us to cultivate the graces. The gifts are the tools, the graces are the product. The gifts are the trellis, the graces are the vine that grows up on that trellis. The gifts are the means, the partial and temporary means, by which we come to possess the ends the first installment of the perfect and eternal ends of love in Jesus Christ and him crucified.
So, here’s Paul’s implication when he closes this way, again he’s got an edge. 1 Corinthians 13 has an edge that we miss when we read it in sappy ways at weddings alone. The implication here is that we should leverage our gifts as much as we can, to sell everything for the sake of gaining the treasure that will never fade, the enduring asset of love.
So, how should we apply this at Harvest?
1. Let me encourage you, seek to be useful in the church. That is the reason that Paul is talking about the gifts. He started talking about these backs in 1 Corinthians 12 and now he continues to reflect on the nature of gifts in chapter 13 and he’s going to talk about the exercise of those gifts in chapter 14. Paul’s point throughout these three chapters is to tell us that we are given gifts for a very specific purpose, to build up the body of Christ in love.
In fact, in just a few verses from here, in five verses from now and the end of the next paragraph, Paul is going to tell us how to understand which gifts are the greatest and which are not. Namely the gifts are the greatest which do the most to build up the body of Christ, to build up the church. The problem for the Corinthian church was that they praised eloquence, they loved their talking and their talkers, and they prized those who could talk well above all other people.
Paul is saying not so fast, the gifts that you should care about are the ones that, by love, most build up and edify the church. There are then two parts to this application as I apply what Paul writes here, to say seek to be useful to the church.
The first part is this is what we’ve been talking about, we’ve got to understand that spiritual gifts will one day pass away. What this means is that no Christian derives his or her value from giftedness. You are not more or less valuable depending on how gifted you are, and you should not value other people for your appraisal of how valuable their gifts are. Understand spiritual gifts are temporary, they serve a purpose and then they will pass away.
Instead recognize that God has called you to make your unique contribution. We only have individual parts of the members of the body. Right you have sometimes a couple of eyes, but for the most part you have one stomach, one liver, right? You have one of these things that we need to survive. Every person plays a unique role in their contribution to the body of Christ and you need to seek to usefully use yours.
This may be in a prominent way or it may be in a humble way. Yet as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:22, even the humblest roles in the church are indispensable. This may be in a visible role or this may be entirely invisible to the church, for example in the gifts of prayer and generous giving. Yet God has so composed the body by giving greater honor to the part that lacked it.
So, let me just absolutely make this clear, you have an important role to play in building up this congregation. I’m just reflecting on what’s happened over the last few months. COVID-19 has been, to put it mildly, a giant interruption in life at every level and especially in the church. In some places there’s been incredible suffering and I don’t want to downplay that in the least.
Everywhere else it has at least been a giant interruption in life, especially in the church. There were people who were serving in certain capacities that were interrupted because of this, who have not yet resumed them for one reason or another. We have some people who are serving right now in former capacities that it’s difficult because of specific health challenges that they face. We’ve also just had normal church turnover in life where people move on to do new things in new ways, which means that we are left with a constant need for more people to serve in new ways in the ministries of the church.
So right now, we’re at a critical shortage for children’s ministries. One of our big issues and concerns beyond just health concerns is that we don’t have enough people to staff children’s ministries right now. Can you be useful in nursery or in Sunday school? We need teachers and nursery workers.
What about in technology? We’re still scattered. Can you serve in sound and slides and streaming video, especially now that we have two services where this becomes all the more important?
What about in college ministries? Our college students are coming back, welcome back college students. We now have two people who are members of our church who are serving at Creighton and at the University of Nebraska Omaha. This is an exciting time in college ministry. Can you serve in reaching out and loving on college students?
What about hospitality? I’ve heard incredible stories about people who’ve sought out the most shut-in in our congregation to try to do something, anything, out of doors. What about inviting someone who maybe doesn’t have high risk or health concerns to a meal in your home? The practice of hospitality must continue. We need to seek to be useful in the church and whatever our gifts are.
2. See the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. See him by faith in the Bible through the Holy Spirit. Brothers and sisters, we do have a face-to-face view of God right now, God’s people have always had a face-to-face view of God. However, it’s always been partial, it’s always been indirect, it’s always pointed away from the sight to faith in the word of God. We have today a clearer vision of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ than God’s people have had at any point in history.
We have a better vision than Jacob did who saw God face to face when he wrestled with him in the shadows of the night in Genesis 32:30. We have a better vision of God face to face than did Israel who spoke with God face to face in Deuteronomy 5:4. When God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. We have a progressively better vision even than Moses who spoke with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend, in Exodus 33:11, but who is not permitted to see God’s face in its full glory, Exodus 33:18- 23.
In fact, we’re told that we have an even better clearer vision of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ then did Peter, James, and John on the Mountain of Transfiguration. If you don’t believe me, believe the one who is an eyewitness to his majesty. The apostle Peter, who writes in 2 Peter 1:19,
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Peter 1:19, ESV
Which means that we see so clearly that we have an even better vision than did the earliest church. They were learning about Christ, they were seeing Christ by the occasional exercise of these spiritual gifts. They would have an apostle who would come into the church and would preach and would try to build up and plant a church and they would move on to plant another church. That was the nature of apostolic ministry.
If you had a prophet in your congregation, that prophet may get the word of the Lord on a given Lord’s day and stand up and prophesy that word from the Lord. We’ll read about that in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, but you weren’t guaranteed that on any given Sunday.
What about, trying to tie it all together with your knowledge? Well they had people who were gifted in knowledge to try to make sense of all of these individual revelations from God’s Spirit. It was harder then than it is now because we have the complete final revelation of God in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, it’s progressively better. Because God is still working in the same way he always had, we will never go back.
We don’t need to continue to exercise the gift of prophecy and tongues and knowledge in the way that they were exercised before. What was more perfect came to us, the scriptures of God. Even still as perfect as the scriptures are the only problem, and I hesitate to even use that word, is that they are partial. We see here indirectly and not clearly face to face.
So now as people who are gifted the extraordinary mercy of God in having the completed word of God in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, hear the gospel. This is what it’s all about. This is what God’s been revealing, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This gospel of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is that he came into this world to suffer the full weight of the curse of God’s wrath against your sin. He took your sin and he promise to give you his righteousness.
For those who receive him by faith you may see his glory now in the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit. To do that is to see God face to face, albeit still partially and still only by faith not by sight.
This is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6,
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, ESV
See the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by believing in Christ for your salvation.
3. Let us see every temporary part of our lives, everything that is temporary in this life as an opportunity to cultivate the permanent graces. Every temporary part of our lives, we need to see as an opportunity, a battlefield, an exercise, a playground where we can train and develop as children to full mature adulthood by seeing these opportunities to cultivate the enduring permanent graces, especially of love.
Right now, our society, and even the church of Jesus Christ, is ripped apart and deeply divided by temporary concerns. As a pastor I will tell you there is nothing right now that grieves me more than this. It’s the division in the body of Christ where we have people who see two parts to this discussion and you’re somewhere on this spectrum. There are some people who see the value of safety, of life and they’re very concerned about this and fear is driving a lot of how they’re looking at things around them. Then on the other side of the spectrum there are people who see their rights as the most important thing, not their life but their liberty and the desire to preserve and protect their liberty has become the most important thing in their life.
As we all navigate together this COVID-19 crisis the problem with this and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum, as long as my focus is on one of these temporary concerns because both my liberties and my life in this world are temporary. As long as my focus is on a temporary concern of either life or liberty, what that means is that I’m focused on me and cannot focus in love on you. If all I’m thinking about are these temporary concerns, I can’t focus on you to cultivate love.
Paul is pleading with us. In his context what was ripping the church apart were their exercise and showing off of their various giftedness in the spiritual gifts. For us it’s an invisible microscopic virus. Paul is pleading with us in 1 Corinthians 13, and has an edge, Paul is getting at something. He’s pleading with us to remember that all of these concerns are temporary, and they are passing away. He’s pleading with us to trade on, to expend ourselves, of what is temporary to gain eternal graces, especially the eternal grace of love. Can we see this as an opportunity to work together toward love?
So, to those of you who are deeply concerned with life, on this side of the spectrum, I’m talking to you who are still at home. We love you. Do you recognize that we are not whole until you are here? We miss you. We are the body of Christ that’s ripped apart, where we’ve left a limb behind and we can’t be whole until you are here.
We recognize that there are extreme medical cases, but we would plead with you come worship with us. We will do everything in our power to keep you safe, we will bend over backwards. Our promise is that at the 8:30 service, where we are all masks all the time, every security precaution is taken. Please come so that we can worship together as we work through this step by step, until the body can be whole again.
Then to those of you on the other side of the spectrum to those of you deeply concerned with liberty. Do you recognize that love calls us to give deference and honor to others rather than making demands of them? I mean think about Jesus. Although it was deeply inconvenient and uncomfortable for him, the Son who existed in the form of God from all eternity, took the form of a servant and humbled himself in obedience to the point of death, even death at the hands of unjust men to pursue us and our salvation.
Although it was deeply inconvenient, Paul just a few chapters ago talked about how he has become all things to all people so that all means he might save some, that some might come to know Jesus.
If we want the whole body back in worship, shouldn’t the strong do everything necessary to welcome those who have been weakened by fear, whether you think that’s legitimate fear or not? Shouldn’t we do everything for the weak? What if we began to see COVID-19 not as an opportunity or a platform for us to quarrel over our opinions, but instead as an opportunity a platform to outdo one another in showing honor to each other as Paul commands us in Romans 12:10.
I don’t do this often, I can’t remember I’ve ever done this, but I’m going to give you an assignment that I really want you to do. I’m going to give you assignment that’s backed by every bit of a pastoral authority I have, because I’m going to command you to read the Bible. I want you to read Romans 14.
In Romans 14 Paul is dealing with a division in that church in Rome. It was a difference between the strong who had knowledge, who recognized that they were no longer burdened by the ceremonial law, in keeping the festivals of the Jewish Old Covenant, in keeping the food dietary requirements. Then those who were burdened by the desire to keep those were afraid, they were fearful. They thought that they had to keep them, they were afraid of being punished by their Lord, by their master.
Paul is saying to the strong and to the weak, these instructions that are incredible. We are not in the same situation, but we are in a classic struggle, a classic conflict two different visions, two different values between the strong and the weak. The strong who value liberty, that’s exactly what the strong are pursuing in Romans chapter 14, verses the weak those who are fearful.
Read the Bible, read Romans chapter 14 and as you read through it prayerfully, consider Lord what does this say about my actions? What does it say about my attitudes? What does this say about what I say in my conversations, what I post on social media? What does this say about my general demeanor and outlook to others who have a very different view of this than I do? How should this shape me and transform me, whether I’m strong or whether I’m weak, to interact with my brothers and sisters who are on the other side of the spectrum?
If you want to talk more with me about that I would love to talk with you more about that. Brothers and sisters, I don’t know of a time when we have more needed to hear 1 Corinthians chapter 13, and God providentially has given us this passage right now as there are so many things that would seek to divide us. Can we see this as an opportunity not to fight, not to quarrel about opinions, but to welcome one another, to outdo one another in showing honor.
Now Father, I ask that you would give us love. God, we want love, but it’s nothing that we can produce. So we look to your Holy Spirit to take your word and to conform us to Christ’s image, who went so far out of his way for us who suffered and risked his life all the way to giving it up at the point of death as he was pushing away every privilege and right that he had as the Son of God. Father, Jesus Christ is the one who unites us, and we pray that it would be, so much so now. We pray that we would come through this stronger as a church united by love in Christ. It’s in his name we pray. Amen.