The Great Love Chapter
[Note: These are combined sermon notes from two messages: The Great Love Chapter and The Way Love Thinks, and I pray these notes prove helpful to your walk. -Joel]
1Co 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.1Co 13:2 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. 1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 1Co 13:4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 1Co 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 1Co 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 1Co 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 1Co 13:8 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. 1Co 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 1Co 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 1Co 13:11 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. 1Co 13:12 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. 1Co 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Does this chapter not stir your soul like no other chapter in the Bible? Is this chapter not one of the most amazing gifts God has given to us, a deep dive into the very attributes and nature of love itself, explained by God who is love itself?
Years ago, we did a conference on the Attributes of God. I made Hal close the conference by talking about the Love of God, and I did that because I suspected he would cry. Which he didn’t do. That turkey. But he came close to being choked up at the end. However, I remember something Hal said: “How do we know that He is love? We have to go to this book and start reading it through. We cannot understand His nature until you see the way in which it is expressed.”
And here, we have the God of love revealing to us the very nature of love, which is more valuable than all the love songs and love poems ever written.
We find this chapter in the middle of 3 chapters correcting the Corinthians about their reckless treatment of the supernatural sign gifts in their assembly. Paul closes chapter 12 by saying, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” And that more excellent way is brilliantly written in chapter 13, the preeminence of love in action in the age of grace. How many Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers would teach what Paul teaches here, that in lieu of spiritual gifts, they should pursue the more excellent way of love?
Not to mention the fact that Paul tells them in 13:8-10 that spiritual gifts shall fail, cease, and vanish away when that which is perfect is come. What is that which is perfect is come?
How can this not be the completed Word of God? Some might try to argue that this is referring to Jesus Christ, but didn’t He already come? And if Paul was talking about Christ, wouldn’t He say “come again”? Instead of that which is perfect is come, wouldn’t Paul say He which is perfect is come? Did not spiritual gifts exist so that people could hear the Word of God until they had the perfect, completed, written Word of God?
The Corinthians in their selfish carnality had not followed the more excellent way of agape love. Because if you’re living your life according to the very nature and attributes of love, then there should be no divisions among them, no carnal living, no self-indulgence, and everyone in that assembly would be esteeming everyone else above themselves just as God intended. Because love surpasses everything. The very nature of love is a reflection of the very nature of God. Love is the living expression of what God is. Love proves that His life is manifest in us because true agape love that’s exhibited in us showcases to all that we are partakers of His nature, which is love itself. To understand love and to act in love to everyone is to understand and act like God Himself because He is love itself.
The Great Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 is broken down into 3 sections:
The Preeminence of Love. 1-3. Paul says, essentially, if I speak with tongues and have not charity, I’m useless noise. If I have all these extraordinary gifts and all this faith and yet, I have not charity, I am nothing. If I live a life of doing good and being good and yet, I have not charity, all that do-gooding profits me nothing.
Love described in its characteristics. 4-7. Over the course of those four verses, from 4-7, we have no less than 15 separate characteristics of love.
The Permanence of Love, which never fails. 8-13, that now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; and the greatest of these is charity.
Love vs. Charity
There are some who go to great lengths to make a great distinction between love and charity. What we have in this chapter in the Greek is agape love. Both “love” and “charity” are used to translate agape in the Greek. It’s not that “love” and “charity” need to be distinct, but that “love” and “charity” together helps to give us a greater appreciation of the depths of agape in the Greek. Agape isn’t just love. It’s love and charity combined.
We went through Webster’s 1828 definition of both words in our previous message, and we made the point that agape love isn’t just love. Agape love isn’t just having great affection toward something. Agape love is also charity, which is not so much love in action as it is the attitude that produces the love in action, that pre-disposition in our hearts that inclines us to act in love toward everyone. So the supernatural love that God would have manifest in us, isn’t just great affection, isn’t just love in action, but it’s also having that disposition of heart that’s always inclined to act in love toward everyone.
The Attributes of Love
Verse 4. (1.) Charity suffereth long
Notice that the first quality, and arguably the most important quality, that Paul teaches us about agape love, is how love suffers and it suffers long. When you consider the idea of true agape love operating in this sin-cursed world, it’s inevitably that love will suffer. So one of the most important attributes is how love willingly suffers and willingly suffers long. The very nature of love itself is a willingness to continue to love through any and all suffering.
Notice also that love doesn’t suffer forever. Love only suffers long. Webster would define longsuffering as, “Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; not easily provoked.” Longsuffering is to suffer long and yet baked into the definition of longsuffering is how you suffer long. You’re not just longsuffering but you’re also patient and you’re not easily provoked, which is forbearance. So when Paul says that he’s focused on longsuffering, he’s focused upon the endurance of that period of suffering, and he’s also focused upon patience and forbearance. Longsuffering, patience, and forbearance all go hand-in-hand.
So how would you define patience? Again, Webster, it is “1. The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper...” He’d also say that it’s “2. A calm temper which bears evils without murmuring or discontent. 3. The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent.” So longsuffering is to suffer long. Patience is the calm temper with which you wait long to get through that suffering.
And then there is the third element of longsuffering, which is forbearance. Again, Webster, says, that forbearance is “1. The act of avoiding, shunning or omitting; either the cessation or intermission of an act commenced, or a withholding from beginning an act. 2. Command of temper; restraint of passions.” I like that second definition. Forbearance is command of temper; restraint of passions; it’s the restraint of acting in the flesh, especially when you’re being persecuted. So when Paul tells us here that he’s focused on longsuffering, he’s telling us that he’s focused upon enduring that hardship, suffering long. He’s also focused upon patience, the calm temper with which you wait long to get through that suffering. And he’s also focused upon forbearance, command of temper, the restraint of acting in the flesh. Longsuffering, patience, and forbearance are distinct and yet, they’re all very interconnected, because to master the art of longsuffering is to also master patience and forbearance.
Remember what the Lord said of Himself to Moses. He said in Exo 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth... In the context of His relationship to Israel, He was longsuffering. He would suffer long the iniquities of His people in order to give them a chance to repent, to change their course, and to have their sins covered through the sacrificial system, which would stay His judgment for their disobedience until all their sins would be paid at Calvary. He needed the law and sacrifices as a system of checks and balances to keep His people in line until the Lord would pay for all those sins on the cross. But when it comes to the Lord, longsuffering certainly includes patience and forbearance, but longsuffering would also take on another meaning.
With the Lord, longsuffering means that He’s willing to hold back His wrath for a long time.But notice that longsuffering is not forever-suffering. Longsuffering has an expiration date, as exemplified in the story about the flood. You remember how the Lord said in Gen 6:3 “My spirit shall not always strive with man…” The Lord will suffer long, but His longsuffering also has an expiration date. In 1 Pet. 3, he writes about the time when the Lord “preached unto the spirits in prison,” and he says in 1Pe 3:20 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” The sin was so heinous that God was extremely longsuffering those 120 years while He waited on Noah to build his ark.
Peter also had something else interesting to say about longsuffering.
2Pe 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 2Pe 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 2Pe 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Here Peter is dealing with the scoffers who are saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Peter points to Paul and reminds them that Paul already taught them all that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. Instead of God judging the world and bringing Israel through the Tribulation for the rejection of His Son, God delayed His judgment, and His longsuffering is an opportunity for salvation to all the world before He unleashes His wrath. The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. The very nature of this dispensation of grace we’re in has to do with the fact that God is withholding His wrath, and instead, He is pouring out His grace. The very foundation of the dispensation of grace is that it is a dispensation of longsuffering. We know from I Tim. 1:16, Paul is a pattern of God’s longsuffering to them who would hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. The very characteristic and nature of the dispensation of grace is centered around God's longsuffering. The time had come in Acts 2 at Pentecost when the wrath of God was ready to be poured out, and God interrupted all the pouring out of His wrath onto the world by implementing a period of grace, an age in which God's wrath would be withheld through longsuffering. God’s longsuffering with grace is the pattern for our age. And this is why Paul was focused on longsuffering when he endured hard times.
Just as God was longsuffering with him while he persecuted the church, Paul was to be longsuffering with everyone else while they persecuted him. Just as God demonstrated longsuffering, patience, and forbearance to the chief of sinners, Paul was to likewise demonstrate God’s longsuffering, patience, and forbearance to every sinner.
Even God the Father suffers long.
Rom 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: Rom 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Rom 9:24 Even us, whom he hath called…
Here we have put on display for us the longsuffering of God the Father. What if? I wonder if the Father asked Himself that. What if? What if he chose to suffer long and all those unbelievers on a path to destruction because of their rejection of Him, what if, He were to implement a period of grace in which all those vessels of wrath fitted for destruction could become vessels of mercy to make known to the world the riches of the glory of His grace? The point is, longsuffering has an expiration date, but longsuffering also has an endgame in mind. Longsuffering isn’t pointless. Longsuffering isn’t meaningless. Longsuffering has an endgame in mind, and that endgame to longsuffering is salvation of souls. One could easily say of this verse as it was said of the Lord, the longsuffering of the Father and the Son is an opportunity for salvation.
Even the Holy Spirit suffers long.
Gal_5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
One of those nuanced flavors of the fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering--the capacity to endure, to suffer long with patience and forbearance with a view to perfect love toward everyone around us. And you realize the implication of the Holy Spirit producing longsuffering in us. It’s not about God taking that problem away from us. It’s about God empowering us by His grace to be able to suffer long with patience, forbearance, and love.
Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 1:11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 1:12Giving thanks unto the Father…
The emphasis is the empowerment we have from within according to what God’s made us in His Son. When we study His Word, when we realize how empowered we are by His grace, when we increase in knowledge in the will of God, when we get to know the person of Christ and His Father, we, through that process, become strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, which is His knowledge made alive in us by the Spirit. And so we learn that we’ve all been designed to be able to exhibit all patience, to exhibit all longsuffering, and to do it all with joyfulness. We are “strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph.3:16). We become strengthened by the Spirit when we study His Word in which we reckon all that we are in Christ, all the ways in which we’ve been blessed spiritually, and we get to know Christ and His Father, all of which manifests His life in us, all of which strengthens us, all of which makes us able to walk worthy of His Son, which makes us able to not only cope with any extremity of life but also to become longsuffering with all joy just like Christ. Patience and longsuffering are hallmarks of the entire Godhead’s empowering grace to us.
Us suffering long with joyfulness and love puts on display to everyone the fact that His life is manifest in us, and that we intimately know God because we are exhibiting an attribute common amongst the entire Godhead - the capacity to suffer long with joy and true agape love. And we know that longsuffering isn’t meaningless. It isn’t without purpose. Longsuffering has an endgame in mind, and that endgame is the salvation of souls or the spiritual growth and betterment of life for believers. Just as this dispensation is characterized by the longsuffering of the Lord, just as Paul taught Peter and the Jews that the longsuffering of the Lord IS salvation, so too our longsuffering may lead to the salvation of those we know.
Which brings us back to the very nature of love. Love is willing to suffer long. But the “longsuffering” of love isn’t forever suffering. Just as longsuffering has an expiration date, so too, the longsuffering of love has an expiration date. That doesn’t mean that when you’ve reached your expiration date, you stop loving that person. You should always love. This simply means that love is willing to suffer long but not forever. What does that mean exactly? I think it means that if, for example, you are in an abusive relationship, you get out. You can and should still love that person, but love is not forever suffering. Love has a long mind and a lot of patience, but love doesn’t have to suffer in that situation forever.
Additionally, it doesn’t matter what type of suffering it is. Love suffers long. Love suffers all the weakness, al the ignorance, all the errors, and all the infirmities inflicted upon it by believers and unbelievers alike. Love suffers long through all of that.
All of this means that if His love abides in us then we must love all and suffer long because that’s the very nature of love itself, which is also the very nature of the entire triune Godhead.
(2.) Is kind
Well, you might think that saying “love is kind” is stating the obvious, but let me ask you, how do you define kindness? What does it mean exactly to be kind? Can you define it? Webster said that to be kind is to be “disposed to do good to others, and to make them happy by granting their requests, supplying their wants or assisting them in distress; having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; benignant…” Kindness is “proceeding from tenderness or goodness of heart; benevolent; as a kind act; a kind return of favors.”
To be kind is both a tenderness toward those with whom you have interaction but also the good things you could do that’d bring happiness into their lives. I’d also suggest that kindness is not just doing good for people but sometimes it’s also not doing the bad. Showing mercy. Further, kindness isn’t just tenderness to people, isn’t just showing mercy, isn’t just doing good things for other people, but kindness also means that you’re predisposed to do all those things that are good. How is that possible? How can we make that a reality in our lives? Through the study of His Word, God’s love becomes shed abroad in our hearts and one of the natural results of this transformation of heart is becoming a model of kindness through love. Charity is being submissive to the needs of others just as Christ was submissive to our needs when He humbled Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross in order to meet our deepest needs.
I’m reminded of how Solomon, talking about mothers, wrote in Pro. 31:26 “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” The law of kindness is another study in and of itself, but personally, I think what is meant in this verse is that the virtuous mother only speaks kind words like following a law. She will not stray from her own strict principle for herself to only speak words of kindness about everyone. And I love that verse. Of course, there’s also Eph. 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
(3.) Charity envieth not
We’ve made the point on a podcast that envy is different from jealousy. Whereas God is never envious, He can become a jealous God. The same is true for love. Love can become jealous, but love is never envious. So what’s the difference between the two?
Jealousy is a person who is suspicious; apprehensive of rivalship; uneasy through fear that another has withdrawn or may withdraw from one the affections of a person he loves. And in the Bible, jealousy is used to explain how God feels when our hearts are turned away from Him by Satan unto some kind of idol. Our love to Him has been turned away because of His rival, the devil, and as result, God becomes jealous. He is hurt by that loss of love and He is concerned about our well-being away from Him.
But then you have a verse like 1 Cor. 11:2 in which Paul says For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy. He’s basically saying that he is “suspiciously vigilant; anxiously careful and concerned for” those Corinthians.
But to be envious is a different matter. To be envious is “To feel uneasiness or discontent at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to express discontent about some else’s prosperity; to fret or grieve yourself at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate that person because of that perceived superiority.”
So love isn’t intimidated by anything. Love is happy about the superior excellence or the happiness of someone else! Love wants to see that! This talk of envy here was an open rebuke of the Corinthians, because he says in 1 Cor. 3:3 “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” And he’s reminding them here in chapter 13 that this is not the way love operates! Envying was often listed as a characteristic of what we were before salvation. Tit. 3:3 “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” The love of God never behaves this way. Love is not jealous of someone else’s wealthy, or intellect, or spirituality. Those who have God’s pure love rejoice at the happiness, the honour, and the comfort of others. They are ever willing that the good fortune of others should be preferred over their own. Love does not envy. God does not envy. Envy is of Satan, as part of the course of this world, and all self-seeking has its origin in pride, which is the crime of the devil:
1 Tim 3:6: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
Rom 13:13: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.”
(4.) Charity vaunteth not itself
What does vaunteth mean? It means to boast, to brag. Love doesn’t brag about itself! Love doesn’t make a vain display of its own worth. Love doesn’t make a vain display of the things it has. Love does not speak with an air of vain ostentation. Love does not brag. Love does not set itself forward, does not desire to be applauded. Love vaunteth not itself. Love never seeks the applause of others. Self-display is self-love, which is diametrically opposed to true love. Love at its very nature is never about self but always about others. Love is outward, never inward. Love is directed toward others, never to seek to bring admiration to itself. Love doesn’t need anything because being loving is sufficiently satisfying in and of itself. Gal. 5:26 “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Of course, this leads to the “love yourself” question. I did a Google search for “Love yourself,” and do you know how many results came back? Over 2 billion. You have people on media and social media saying ‘You need to love yourself.’ Psychologists and preachers pound the airwaves with such advice. Love yourself. Esteem yourself. Honor yourself. You are worth it. But the experts forget Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? The Bible lays bare who you really are: a dirty, lowly sinner in need of redemption.
And you consider the characteristics of men in the last days of grace. In 2 Tim. 3:2 Paul says For men shall be (what?) lovers of their own selves (and what is the result of this excessive love of self?), covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God… It’s the sinful inclination of humanity to love self more than God and other people. And the idea of love of self is so powerful that ‘lovers of their own selves’ naturally turn into ‘lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.’
Some pastors might point out, “doesn’t the Bible say to love they neighbor as thyself?” Yes, it does. That expression finds its origin in the law of Moses in:
Lev 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
You also find it in Matt 22:38 in which the Lord repeats this law.
The point in those passages isn’t that the Jews would love their sinful selves or their sin-corrupted bodies. The point was that they loved themselves because of who and what they were, of what God made them to be as His chosen people in a covenant relationship with Him.
Paul himself would say that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
Rom 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Rom 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
So for us, who are our neighbors? I would suggest that Paul means everyone, every believer and unbeliever alike. The heathen and other gentiles are our neighbors. We are to love everyone as God has loved us and gave His Son for us as a sacrifice for all our sins.
But where do we believers today find our love of self so that we may love our neighbors as ourselves? I’d suggest that the idea is similar but different than Israel. Our love of self is also wrapped up in our identification with Christ. We love ourselves because of who and what we are, because of what God had made us in Christ: dead, buried, and risen with His Son, all that we were in Adam now gone, literally freed from sin’s dominion, forgiven all trespasses, a new creature, an heir of God with a seat of glory in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
(5.) Is not puffed up
Love is not inflated with a sense of its own self-importance. For we know that we deserved nothing that we have received by God’s grace. Every man, whose heart is full of the love of God, should also be full of humility. True humility arises from a sense of the depths of your spiritual ruin before you were saved compared to the heights of His grace afterwards.
To understand the depths of the riches of His grace showered upon you is to see the depths of His love toward you, which inevitably keeps your mind in a permanent state of humility. A renewed mind is a humbled mind. Paul had a lot to say about arrogance, about being vainly puffed up in our fleshly minds, but he wrote even more about having humility.
Php. 2:3: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
He said in Col. 3:12-14, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
Php. 2:5, talking about humility, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”
So you consider that God is love. We have seen the humility of Christ on display in the Word. So it would go without saying that the nature of love itself is never ever puffed up evidenced in the manifestation of Himself in the flesh. God is love. God is humble. Thus love is humble. Of course, you can’t help but think of 1 Cor. 8:1 “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”
Verse 5. (6.) Doth not behave itself unseemly
This was yet another rebuke of the Corinthians because they had all kinds of unseemly behavior going on in their congregation. But love never acts out of its place or character. Love observes good decorum and good manners. Love is never rude. Love is never bullying. Love isn’t depraved in its thinking. Love doesn’t jump to the most depraved thought in a conversation. Love is never insulting. Love is ever willing to become all things to all men for the sake of their edification. I suspect “unseemly” might also be fake, insincere, and hollow compliments.
Love doth not behave itself unseemly. Love doesn’t offend. Love exhibits the finer ways of modesty, unobtrusiveness, and meekness, which is strength under control.
(7.) Seeketh not her own
True love or charity is not selfish, does not strictly care for one’s own physical or spiritual welfare only, but also of others. Love is never satisfied but in the welfare, in the comfort, and in the salvation of everyone else. True love worthy of reward is a Christian who looks past himself to the well-being, salvation, and edification of others. Love seeketh not its own. Love is expressed in its devotion to others over itself.
Consider these verses.
1 Cor. 10:33 - “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
Gal, 5:13 - “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
Php. 2:3-5 - “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
(8.) Is not easily provoked
Love is not irritated, made sour or bitter or given to wrath. It is generally said that, though a man may feel himself highly irritated against the sin, he may feel tender concern for the sinner.
If love is provoked in any manner, it should be provoked to extend more love. Patience in the midst of trial a is a key attribute of love, which shows true kindness instead of harboring a vindictive thought.
As love does not indulge in envy or jealousy of another, so there is no self-display (or, as some think, forwardness), nor does love spring any form of arrogance. Hence indecorum, or rude behavior, is incompatible with love, as love is characterized by a slowness to anger and by a readiness to forget the wrong that is done.
A verse my grandfather quoted me:
Jas. 1:19-20 - “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
(9.) Thinketh no evil
Another great point to be made here is how love directs your thinking. Whereas Paul identifies here how love thinks, this entire chapter is about how the principles of love should guide all of our thinking. This entire chapter is as much about the mind as it is about the heart.
We’ve made the point before that the heart and the mind operate closely together, and in many passages, you’ll find that the heart is a thinking heart. In Eph. 4:18, Paul says that the unbelieving Gentiles have their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. When one is in a state of alienation from the life of God because of their willful ignorance, the heart becomes darkened being cut off from His light, which leads to a corruption of your emotional life, and as a result, the corruption of all your understanding soon follows. The corruption of the heart leads to a corruption of the mind because the two operate so closely together. The mind is ignorant because the heart is blind being cut off from His light, and the mind soon becomes darkened and blind as well.
Of course, when it comes to hearts, we often think of Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I have a theory that the unregenerate man is guided by his corrupt heart over his mind, but the believer is actually guided by a renewed mind over the heart, enlightened by His wisdom in His Word, which then gives direction to the emotional life God intended for us to experience. Paul would write in 1Co 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection… The whole corrupted body is to come under subjection to the regenerated soul and the emotional life of the believer in the heart is directed by a renewed mind.
I also think we have new hearts that have to be renewed like the mind. I’d suggest that there has, in fact, been a change in our hearts that took place the moment we believed, because it’s “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). Paul also tells us in Rom. 5:5 that “the love of God is now shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Eph. 3:17 tells us that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. We learn in 2 Cor. 1:22 that God “hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” In Gal. 4:6 we also learn that “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” We have Christ, the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father, in our hearts.
Yet, Paul’s letters seem to indicate that there is also a kind of renewing of the heart that takes place when we study His Word. In 1 Thess. 3:13, Paul’s prayer request is that, through study, the Lord may “stablish our hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” There is a process of study by which our hearts may be stablished. 2 Thess. 3:5 talks about the Lord directing our hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Also, through study.
So coming back to the love chapter, Paul told us that love thinketh no evil. Love isn’t simply what you do. Agape love is also the pre-disposition of heart that’s inclined to act in love toward everyone. Love also directs your thinking, which has been renewed through the study of His Word. Just as, after you fell in love with someone, your thinking and actions were guided by all the love you felt toward that person, the same should be true after you become a believer, because through the study of His Word, your thinking and emotional life should gravitate toward pure agape love toward everyone you know, both believers and unbelievers alike.
The questions we should ask ourselves:
How can I act in love toward that person?
What can I say and do to show love to that person?
Why? Because love does not think of evil. Love does not imagine bad things happening to someone else. Love doesn’t spend its days obsessing about how an unbeliever did a wrong to it. Love doesn’t wish for evil or hope for evil upon someone. Love thinketh no evil. Love “does not impute evil.” Love wants good things to happen to people. Love doesn’t imagine or desire bad things happening to unbelievers. Love wants that unbeliever to become saved.
Of course, one can’t help but think of 2 Cor. 10:5 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” If God is love, and your mind is guided by the principles of love articulated in 1 Cor. 13, then you are naturally bringing your thoughts into captivity unto Christ because Christ’s thoughts Himself likewise operate on these same principles of love. To think in ways that embody the principles of agape love is to think like Christ.
Verse 6. (10.) Rejoiceth not in iniquity
Love never celebrates sin. Love doesn’t rejoice in knowing or seeing sin take place, which is a contrast to the lost. Rom 1:32 “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Love will have no part of that.
(11.) But rejoiceth in the truth
Truth makes love happy. Love wants to come to church and listen to grace message because love rejoices in truth. Truth makes love rejoice. Rom 12:9-10 “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another…” 3 Jn 1:3 “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.”
Verse 7. (12.) Beareth all things
Love is the strength that bears the weight of all things. Love has its source of strength within; which is Christ Himself, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness even when it comes to love. Love can still shine in circumstances where it might not seem possible. Love acts according to its own nature in all circumstances, guided by the Spirit, exemplified by Christ, graced to us by God the Father. Love is its own motive made possible by renewing the mind and putting on the new man. Communion with God Himself alone sustains love through all the difficulties. This love is the opposite of selfishness and of self-seeking, seeking the good of others, even as God has sought us in grace (Eph_5:1-2). “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Rom 15:1 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
(13.) Believeth all things
Does this mean that we’re to believe everything we’re told? Love is ever ready to accept truth, especially in His Word. This is in stark contrast those during the tribulation in which Paul said that 2Th 2:10 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
(14.) Hopeth all things.
Two views about this. One: there is the sense here where one hopes for the best, one anticipates the restoration of a saint or the salvation of an unbeliever. But there is also the fact that love has hope, the sure confidence, in all the promises of God. Rom 8:24 “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”
(15.) Endureth all things.
Remember the list began with love suffering long and we made the point that it’s the suffering that has the expiration date, not the love. We just a few minutes ago talked about how love bearing all things is the strength that bears the weight of all things, but here we have that love endureth all things. Even though it has all the strength to bear all things, even though the duration to suffer is long, the point in this expression is the love never ends no matter the circumstances, because love itself can endure everything, exemplified by Christ who bore the weight of all our sins on that cross of Calvary, who suffered long but not forever, and whose love for everyone shall, in fact, endure for all time.
Love is abiding eternal, the greatest of all.