“[LOVE] HOPES ALL THINGS” (1 COR. 13:7).

Love refuses to take human failure as final.

Even when faith falters, hope comes to the rescue. It is that long rope that keeps us linked to the sovereignty and power of God.

The apostle Peter wrote to believers who were experiencing severe trials. To encourage them he began, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Our hope is a living hope because our God is a living God. No matter how bleak your situation might seem, God is at work to accomplish His purposes. As Christ hung on the cross, it seemed as if sin had finally triumphed over righteousness. But sin’s finest hour became its death knell when Christ arose from the grave as Lord of life and Redeemer of His people. Now “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal [body] through His Spirit who indwells you” (Rom. 8:11). Trials and death have no power over you. They simply bring you closer to Christ.

When ministering to others, hope gives you confidence that as long as there is life, human failure is never final. God refused to accept Israel’s failures; Jesus refused to accept Peter’s; and Paul refused to accept that of the Corinthians. When your attempts to cover the sins of others have failed or your righteous expectations have been shattered, hope says, “Don’t give up. God can still work this out for good.”

Hope is illustrated in the true story of a dog who was abandoned at the airport of a large city. He stayed there for over five years, waiting for his master to return. People at the airport fed and cared for him, but he refused to leave the spot where he last saw his master. If a dog’s love for his master can produce that kind of hope, how much more should your love for God produce abiding hope?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for His sovereignty and power, and for the hope that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

  • Read Psalm 42, noting how the psalmist related the distressing circumstances of his life to his hope in God.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“[LOVE] DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN” (1 COR. 13:5).

Love transforms selfish people into self-sacrificing people.

From the time of Adam and Eve, replacing God with self has been at the root of all sin. Our first parents had only one restriction: “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But Eve believed the serpent’s lie that God was trying to keep her from realizing her full potential (Gen. 3:5). She ate the forbidden fruit, gave some to Adam, and together they plunged the human race into sin and death.

Christ changed all that when He came, not “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Unlike Adam and Eve, He didn’t seek His own comfort or gain, but made whatever sacrifices were necessary to redeem lost sinners.

It is reported that the inscription on a tombstone in a small English cemetery reads,

Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares.

How tragic to spend your entire life enslaved to your selfishness. In contrast, a tombstone in the courtyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reads, “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.” The first tombstone testifies to the futility of greed and selfishness; the second to the glory of generosity and self-sacrifice.

Christ is the perfect example of self-sacrifice. If you love Him, you should be characterized by the same quality. Then others will see your genuineness and commitment to them, and by God’s grace be drawn to your Lord.

What epitaph might your family and friends write about you? I pray it is one that glorifies God for the selfless love He demonstrated through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for those who have made significant sacrifices toward your spiritual growth. Seek to imitate their love.

For Further Study

  • List the fifteen qualities of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, then determine how self-sacrifice relates to each one.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“LOVE IS PATIENT . . . KIND . . . NOT JEALOUS . . . DOES NOT BRAG . . . IS NOT ARROGANT, DOES NOT ACT UNBECOMINGLY . . . DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN, IS NOT PROVOKED, DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A WRONG SUFFERED, DOES NOT REJOICE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH; BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS” (1 COR. 13:4-7).

Love is difficult to define, but it can be described by the behavior it produces.

Paul painted a portrait of the kind of love Jesus wants to produce in every believer. It is, in fact, a portrait of Christ Himself, who is love’s highest expression. Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

Set against the backdrop of the Corinthians’ self- promoting behavior, Paul’s words are a strong rebuke. He says in effect, “Love is patient, but you are impatient. Love is kind, but you are unkind toward those who disagree with you. Love is not jealous, but you envy those with certain spiritual gifts. Love does not brag, but you are proud of your theology. Love is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly, but often you are rude and ill-mannered toward one another.

“Love does not seek its own, but you are self-centered. Love is not provoked, but you quarrel among yourselves. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, but you hold grudges against each other. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but you delight in one another’s failures. Love rejoices with the truth, but you distort and disobey God’s Word.

“Love bears all things, but you are defensive and resentful. Love is eager to believe the best about someone, but you are quick to assume the worst. Love never gives up and can tolerate incredible opposition, but you are weak and intolerant.”

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see the deficiencies in their love in light of the truth and make the needed corrections. You and I must do the same. So as we explore each of love’s characteristics, ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart so others will clearly see Paul’s portrait of love on display in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting “Jesus” for “love.” Then praise Him for all His excellencies.

For Further Study

  • What does 1 John 3:13-18 teach about love?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“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” (1 COR. 13:1).

Love distinguishes true communication from useless chatter and meaningless noises.

Paul begins his discourse on love by stating the futility of languages without love. The Corinthians were enamored with the showy spiritual gifts, apparently to the neglect of those they deemed less spectacular (see 1 Cor. 12:12-31). One of the gifts they prized most highly was tongues, which was the Spirit-given ability to declare God’s truth in a language unknown to the speaker but known to others who heard.

Tongues were a sign to provoke unbelieving Jewish people to consider the gospel (1 Cor. 14:21-22). Its first occurrence was on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit enabled those assembled in the upper room to proclaim the mighty deeds of God in the native languages of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem at the time (Acts 2:4-11).

The “tongues of angels” Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:1 isn’t the gift of tongues, as some suppose. He was simply using an exaggeration to emphasize his point, saying in effect, “If I had the ability to communicate with angels, it wouldn’t do any good without love.”

In Paul’s day, the worship of Cybele and Dionysus, two pagan gods, incorporated speaking in ecstatic languages accompanied by blaring trumpets, smashing gongs, and clanging cymbals. I believe Paul was drawing from that well-known practice to say that whenever Christians attempt to minister apart from the Spirit and His love, it’s no different than a pagan rite. It may look and sound like the real thing, but it’s meaningless and useless for any spiritual benefit.

You should take advantage of every opportunity to minister your spiritual gifts to others. But as you do, be sure it’s with love, in the energy of the Spirit, and in accordance with God’s Word. Then you’ll have a maximum impact as Christ uses your efforts for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to convict you whenever you attempt to exercise your spiritual gifts without love.

For Further Study

  • Read Romans 12:1-21.
  • What does Paul say about spiritual gifts?
  • How are Christians to express brotherly love to one another?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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