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Feb 12, 2012

Love, A Singular Occupation

Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Series: Objects for Worship--1 Corinthians 8-14

Category: Love

Keywords: love, valentines, day, corinthians, fellowship, church


Why does Paul interrupt his discourse on the use of spiritual gifts within the worship service with a poem about love? Is it an interruption, afterthought? No. Read the sermon and find out why.


1 Corinthians 12:27–30 (NASB95)

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?

All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

but especially that you may prophesy.

For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.

One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. [1]


Paul has a great flow of thought and teaching here. He talks about roles in the church and then right to particular gifts in the context of worship. And the passage goes on to speak of the best way to practice these gifts. That’s not what I want to focus on this morning. What I want to focus on this morning is what’s missing. There’s something missing from this text, not just words but content. It’s important, too. If you were to go on and put his teaching about gifting and appointments within the church to work, it would fall flat without a certain element that’s missing here. Indeed any ‘how to’ instruction about how to do church from Scripture or from without it, falls flat. What’s missing? Look at your Bibles. Right! Where’s the love?

In the eighties, Wendy’s had a ad campaign with a very catchy slogan. Anybody remember it? Right, “Where’s the beef?” It became a catch phrase for anything that John Q. Public thought was lacking.

Where’s the love? There’s a whole chapter missing here. The Apostle Paul didn’t leave anything out here. I did. I cut that chapter out to make a point, to draw attention to what was missing as opposed to just glossing over it. Let’s actually read the snipped text:

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NASB95)

31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

And I show you a still more excellent way. 

As you can see, Paul does actually segue into the chapter:

1 Corinthians 13:1–13 (NASB95)

The Excellence of Love

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NASB95)

Prophecy a Superior Gift

1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

And then Paul segues out of the love chapter smoothly as well. When it is all put together it seems to all connect as if it was supposed to be there all along. And it is supposed to be there, it’s God’s Word. But I do wonder if Paul wrote the whole thing out with all the instruction on prophecy, tongues and what all and then he just says, “this isn’t right.” He crumbles it and tosses it away and starts over again. Or rather, told the guy who was taking dictation to start over again.

You see, Paul didn’t have Microsoft Word back then, he had Microsoft Tertius. See, scholars believe that Paul actually had some serious eye disease.

Galatians 4:12–15 (NASB95)

12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong;

13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time;

14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.

15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.

Later on in this same letter, he comments:

Galatians 6:11 (NASB95)

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Why would he say “with my own hand?” Apparently, because of his illness it probably wasn’t as common for him to write with his own hand.

The book the Romans is another letter that Paul wrote, an epistle but at the end when he is giving greetings to everybody, there’s this:

Romans 16:22 (NASB95)

22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Tertius was, what is called an Amanuensis,

So, if you can imagine Paul dictating to poor Tertius and he stops and say, “You know something Tertius, you’re going to hate me for this, but I uh, I think I left a whole chapter out.’

Tertius is like, “Really? Again, man? My hand is already cramping up here. We can fix this. Look,I know this great eye doctor on the island of Crete, yeah, he’s a bit foul mouthed and can’t keep his pants on but he does great work.”

I say all that to point out, I just don’t think it happened like that. Back in those days because you didn’t have word processors or the instant communication gratification of e-mail or cell phones, one had to really think about what they were communicating through the written word.

And I think Paul was a very thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate writer.


Now, when I started to think about teaching about this passage, I made the error that many of us make with this passage, I took it out of context. I assumed that I would be preaching a sermon about love and how we practice love in life toward the people that we would claim to love. I had mapped out in mind that I was going to review the attributes of love, find Biblical modeling of these attributes by both God and famous figures in the Biblical narrative. Then, I was going invite you, patient listeners, to find ways to apply this template of love to your life and relationships. And of course, this all makes sense in the context of a certain cultural holiday we have coming, even Valentine’s Day.


That certainly seems like a complete treatment of love doesn’t it? I’ve certainly heard this verse quoted out of context many times and it looks great on a Hallmark card, sounds good in a commencement speech, and if you do put these attributes in practice in loving other people, I think it will foster healthy relationships.


So maybe some would ask, “What’s the big deal, anyway?” Love is love, right? That may be, but the love that Paul is talking about here, has a specific context.


Here’s the problem. I’m going down this list of the attributes of love. Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous…love does not…whoa, whoa, whoa! My little theory and teaching plan came to a dramatic halt.

Love is not jealous. And we know from another part of scripture that:

1 John 4:7–8 (NASB95)

God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

So, we know that God is love from John, we also know that Love is not jealous from Paul. What does God say he is:

Exodus 20:4–5 (NASB95)

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Exodus 34:14 (NASB95)

14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—

If you were to put this in syllogism it could look like this:

If Love is not Jealous, and God is jealous, then God is not love.


Aughgh. That’s not working for me. When does any syllogism or logical argument not work? Generally speaking? Right when one of the statements is not true. So, let’s retry this working backwards:


If God is love, and God is jealous sometimes, love must also be jealous sometimes.



And I’m sure there’s some hermeneutical acrobatics one can do to get out of this awkward predicament like examine the original Greek word for jealousy and cross reference it with its normative usage in other parts of scripture, etc. For instance, we know that in general, jealousy is something that has a negative connotation, right?


Even in scripture:


Galatians 5:17–21 (NASB95)

17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,

20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,

21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What’s the difference between good jealousy and bad jealousy? Ownership. God bought the people with his deliverance. They consented to this. Therefore, if they run after other gods, He is entitled to be jealous. Marriage is also mutual ownership. I own my wife and my wife owns me. We have jealousy rights.


What one shouldn’t be jealous about is something they don’t own? That’s what was going on at the church Corinth. It’s members were jealous over the material and spiritual gifts of others. That’s why Paul points out that love isn’t jealous to Corinthians. He’s not referring to romantic love nor is he referring to God’s love for us.


So, we could count how many time jealousy is used in the Bible and examine every single context or we could do something much simpler, examine this passage in this context to get its meaning.


The context is this: Paul is in the middle of a discourse about exercising the use of spiritual gifts, in particular, the sign gifts—tongues, miracles of healing, prophesying, words of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, etc.


He ends chapter 12 with:

1 Corinthians 12:29–31 (NASB95)

29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?

30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

And I show you a still more excellent way.

He says, “Look you little children, not everybody gets to be an apostle, not everybody gets to be a prophet. Not everybody gets to be a teacher or a worker of miracles? Billy, you got to be that last week, Simon gets to be the miracle worker this week? I saw that Simon, don’t stick your tongue out!” And stop being jealous over the gifts that other people have and use.


What do we know about the church at Corinth from earlier in the book? They were some messed up people. There was a lot in-fighting and jealousy and division over ridiculous matters.


Just by reading the book you get a flavor of some of the dialogues that were going on at the time:


In chapter one we have, “I was baptized by Cephas” “I was baptized by Apollo” “I was baptized by Paul” etc. to which Paul says, Love does not brag.


In chapter 3 Paul points out that these Corinthians are full of jealousy and strife to which Paul answers, “Love is not jealous.”


1 Corinthians 4:18–19 (NASB95)

18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.

In chapter 4, he warns them against being arrogant and follows up on it in chapter 13, love is not arrogant.


Picture it though, the Holy Spirit comes down and people start doing supernatural works and wonders. But not everybody gets those gifts. Just some, some get others, some don’t have any supernatural gifts but they are really great at organizing a banquet. “How come he gets to speak in tongues, I want to speak in tongues, I’d like to be able to heal people. I want to be used by God that way. I bet she doesn’t even have that gift, I’ll bet she doesn’t even really have that gift. Probably faking it, you know also hear she’s sleeping with an elder.”


In chapter 5, he rebukes them for their open immorality. To this in chapter 13 he says Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, love does not act unbecomingly.


In chapter 6, Paul admonishes them for so easily taking their disputes to court showing the world that the church is no better than the world at getting along with each other, to which Paul also says in chapter 13, love is not easily provoked, does take into account a wrong suffered, does not seek its own


In the matter of the Lord’s supper in chapter 11, the Corinthians are being selfish, rude, obnoxious and piggish.


Basically, the Corinthians were on the whole behaving very childishly all around to which Paul says, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.


Is it starting to make sense now, this context thing? Paul is saying, “Grow up, will you. Jesus said, this is how they will know you are mine, that you love one another. You guys aren’t loving one another, grow up in the faith already.


1 Corinthians 3:1–2 (NASB95)

Foundations for Living

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.

2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,

Where’s the beef? One of you says, I read the King James Version, I read the NASB, I read Today’s English Version, I prefer Hymns, I prefer praise choruses, I prefer meaningful worship and a relevant youth ministry. I like more variety like my iPhone has more variety and apps for all kinds of things whenever I want it.


And by the way, I’m not intending this to be aimed at you Mosaic in particular. I’m just ripping on a consumer mindset in today’s church—we’ve got to be bigger, better, have the sharpest technology, most dynamic preaching and be on the cutting edge of worship music trends. Maybe we want the budgets and the small group administration and capabilities of other churches. Or maybe we just covet the apparent success of other churches. And again, ‘we’ not meaning us in particular but the church at large.


I don’t know if you’ve really picked up something here. Let me put a hypothetical out there for you. Let’s say you are a stranger, a Christian, but coming to Mosaic for the first time. You walk through the door and there are people being healed and some are prophesying and some are speaking in tongues and some are interpreting the tongues that are being spoken. You might easily perceive a measure of success here, that we’re getting it right because God showed up.


Well, I’d like to say, people were speaking in tongues at Corinth, being healed, prophesying, etc. God’s Holy Spirit did show up and gifts were being used but the love was missing. I was talking to a misguided man recently who was implying that the church needs to look to the stars and psychics for additional power and knowledge. That’s an example of what I’m talking about, wanting more because the tangible is a lot easier to deal with than something intangible and hard as love.


That’s what Paul is saying, you can have the abundant life, a front of success, admiration, manifestation of the gifts of the spirit, including—dynamic Bible teaching, speaking in tongues, healing, prophesy, etc. but if you don’t have love it’s nothing.


If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Beloved, the church at Corinth had some visible, recognizable, measureable success, so much so that they became boastful, proud, arrogant to the point where Paul had to come point it out.


Think about it. If you had enough faith to move a mountain, you would feel pretty darn good about yourself, wouldn’t you? I would. Hey, I just moved a mountain, what do you mean it means nothing if I’m not good at loving my fellow worshipers.


And they shall come to me on that day, saying Lord, Lord, we prophesied and did miracles in your name and I will say to them, get out of my sight, I know you not. This is how they shall know you are mine, that you love one another.

Thus says the Lord.


 That’s why it’s important to understand the context here. Jealousy, for instance as some healthy function in romantic love and even the love that God has for us. It is a negative emotion but so is anger. Anger also has a healthy function even in a romantic relationship and even in the context of God’s loving relationship with us…and you if you think that’s just an old testament thing reread Revelation and some of the things that Jesus says to some of the churches and even what Paul says to the Corinthian church in this letter.


So, this discourse on love has the specific context the local church’s worship life together.


I was reading an interesting book about the different type of temperaments we all have. This book basically broke everybody up into like sixteen to thirty two different types. But really sixteen primary ones, the ones being mixtures of the first sixteen. There’s a test you take with seventy questions on it like “Does interacting with people, energize you or drain you?” “Do you wait to get all the facts or prefer to go with hunch?” “Organized or loosey goosey?” etc.


There was four parings: Extrovert vs. Introvert; Intuition vs. Sensation; Thinking vs. Feeling; Judging vs. Perceiving.


I ended being Extrovert, Intuition, Feeling, Judging; I actually have a tendency think of myself as an introvert who has disciplined himself to be an extrovert. But what do I know?


Books like these are fascinating and useful inasmuch as they give us clues to how God may have designed us and others specifically. For instance, this book goes on say some pretty terrific things about my type and that I make up about 5% of the population. In a lot of ways, it had me pegged, it spoke of strengths and weaknesses. Basically, I’m the guy who ends up doing something like this, what I’m doing now. I tend to be better at verbal communication than written and take it for granted that I’m easily understood whether or not that is actually the case. ENFJ’s usually end up being in ministry, teaching, actors, newscasters and like that.


There are weaknesses that go along with this personality type as well, easily hurt if am misunderstood or not accepted, not very good at making logical decisions (better with hunches), have a tendency to take on other people’s baggage way too easily (co-dependency), can be domineering over wife and/or children, etc. Yeah.


Each the personality designations has a four letter code…mine is ENFJ. There are fifteen others. One ISFJ, likes play by a set of unchanging rules and gets bent out shape when others don’t play by those rules or those rules change. An ISTP on the other hand is just the opposite, they love standards to change and then not adhere to them anyway, like Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park.


Some types are very organized, other not so much, some need to play by the rules and get really upset when others don’t. Some like get things done ahead of schedule so they have more time for play and relationships at their leisure while some others have a tendency to put off tasks and deadlines in favor of enjoying play and relationships now. That’s my daughter, Kayla.


There’s another type that thrives on the anger of others, that’s the person can tell you’re in a hurry so they cut in front of you in traffic and drive 25 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, regardless of the road conditions. That personality type is called JERK


My point here is that God really did create all of us very uniquely, so much so that very often it’s not very natural to love someone who you completely don’t get.


So humor me in your minds for minute and pretend that this book here is completely accurate and there are sixteen coded personality types out there that fit everybody. Let’s even pretend that God ordained this and that the data for this book was really gleaned from the Bible. If that were true, in order to properly love everybody, theoretically we’d just have to study the sixteen types of personalities, ENFJ, ISTP, etc. and then make everybody in the church where a tag on their sleeve or forehead or whatever. Then we just like read their tag and, “oh yeah, this person has have such and such needs met in order to be loved and has to be operating in such and such tasks in order to be productive.” Then it would be easier to love them. We got them in a category and we know what makes them tick. Problem with that theory is that it doesn’t allow for sin, how were they wounded? What type of family did they grow up in? Did a domineering ENFJ father totally repress some fantastic ISTP child’s artistic bent so that they, instead of becoming the next Rembrandt, they became a very poor accountant for Enron.


See the Corinthian church is not unique in being so messed up. The thing is we in the church should, if nothing else, have one major distinction from those who are not of the church. And that is we KNOW we’re messed up and need a savior—who is making us better and recreating us into his image.


Jesus, our savior, died on the cross for our sins and through his resurrection we also become new creations in him. We were the walking dead, zombies, spiritually speaking and we are being changed into the likeness of Christ. That is a work in progress, we are under construction.


When we come to Christ some changes happened right way, even miraculously. There areas of our live that completely changed and resembled Christ. There are other areas that are going to some time to change, even a lifetime. And you know that’s OK because an inheritance quickly or cheaply gained will not last in end.


So, because we are all so different and then even our good differences are maligned, warped by the effects of sin, simply trying to understand another person or trying harder to be understood isn’t going to be the answer.


For instance, let’s pretend that maybe I’m one of these introverted types who just doesn’t like to be around people at all and the wounding or sin performed against me is so severe that I just know in my heart that I cannot be around other people let alone love them. I know that I am unlovely and unlovable and I don’t even want to try. That is just who I am. To which Jesus says two things, “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”


That is that self or type, that is “not able to love” must die to that identity in order to follow Christ. “But God made me that way, why would God want me to die or get rid of something that is supposedly good?” Does God ever do that? Does God ever ask us to give up something good? Sure he does but why? To give us something better.


But that’s unreasonable, I have very serious issues and can’t just love people until I get my stuff fixed.


To which Jesus lovingly says,

Matthew 11:28–30 (NASB95)

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

What is a yoke? Is he talking about an egg yolk? No, he’s talking about the yoke that’s put on oxen. Why would somebody put one of those on an ox? So they can pull a load, so they can work. What is this singular occupation that Christ would have us do?

Change the world, of course. “Go ye, therefore into all the world and make disciples of men.” And how we going to do that? Through love. I would say that in itself is a singular occupation—Love. Not that we forsake the work given until we get Love mastered. Because that’s the laboratory where we learn how to love—even within these four walls with each other.


So I say, I can’t do it and Christ says, I know, come to me and I’ll help you be able to. Only take that step, do what you need to do so you can do what I need you to do.


If you were trying to put together a decent three man basketball team for hoopfest, would you pick your members from those who were currently patients bed ridden up at Sacred Heart. No? If you were looking to set up a pharmacy or medical mission that administered various controlled therapeutic medicines, would you go to a drug rehab clinic and recruit the patients from there? No? If you wanted to change the world for Christ would your natural inclination be to go to place full of sinners? Jesus seemed think that was a good idea. To those who thought otherwise, Jesus said, “prostitutes and corrupt IRS agents will enter into heaven before you do.”


So, what I’m saying is: personality profiles aren’t, by themselves, going to help you love people at a church full of recovering sinners. Because, face it, this isn’t the only book like this out there. There are others, Love languages, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. There are so many documentable, categorical, even lamentable differences between us just in the church, that God’s solution to love another looks an awful lot like what Paul has for us here in 1 Corinthians 13. There is another version of this in Galatians:


Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.




Love is patient it drives the speed limit, love is kind and greets you with a smile and a bulletin as you walk through the door, love is not jealous of Jess because he plays the guitar so well, love does not brag about how many times the Bible and in what language they’re trying to do it in, love does not act unbecomingly and waits until the end of service to correct the pastor of his sloppy hermeneutics, love it does not seek its own pew or row of seats protecting itself from people it doesn’t want sitting by it, it is not easily provoked by opposing political views, love does not take into account a wrong suffered from the person who didn’t smile at it within five seconds of making eye contact, love does not celebrate the misfortune of people on talk shows, love rejoices in the truth. It bears all the inadequacies, including the bad breath or flatulence of the person sitting next to them, it believes all the best about the God’s work in and through this church, it hopes for all things related to the mission of this church in Christ to come to pass, it endures all the setbacks, failings, venue changes, construction, schedule conflicts and perceived sleights.

Love weathers the storm, but where there are guitar strings, they will break, if there is eloquent speech, the podcast recorder will be missing it’s chip, if there is a revival there will be backsliding, if there be miraculous healings, there will also be more sick. We a know a little and we speak it, but when Jesus comes back, we will be speechless,

When we were kids, we asked for, fought about, and were satisfied with things that kids are, we understood things like kids, and we reasoned with each other like kids, as we become adults, we put those kid things aside.

Now, we don’t get it, completely, it’s almost but not as bad as looking at fun house mirror, but later we’ll get it and know in the same way that we are known by Jesus.

So, because we don’t get it completely, because in this lifetime, our dreams won’t be realized completely, because we never will be perfect on earth, the three things we hold onto are faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.


And those three words my friends are sermons unto themselves, shall we pray.