Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Corinthians 13


Over the phone, we went over the love chapter. If, 'believe all things,' means to give some one the benefit of the doubt; what about the rest? Would you please expound on 1 Cor. 13. 4-7?

thank you for your time,


Wow. Some instant exegesis, eh?

First of all, I want to point out that the list in the love chapter is pretty close to the list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit IS love and love, when properly defined, is all of these things-- joy, peace, patience, etc.

Secondly, note that the context of both passages is community living, not solitary. Love is supposed to be the expression of the church, the action of the person toward the group, not something one feels within oneself.

Thirdly, both passages are dealing with conflict in the church. Galatians is dealing with doctrinal disputes and I Corinthians 12-14 is dealing with disputes regarding worship.

One last thing about the context is that Paul is correcting each church's misunderstanding of the manifestation of the Spirit. The church at Galatia assumes that one's doctrine or relation to the law is the true manifestation of the Spirit. The church at Corinth assumes that displaying great signs and miracles from God is the true manifestation of the Spirit. Paul says "no" to both of them, saying that the true manifestation of the Spirit is loving relation to one's brothers and sisters.

Okay, now let's do a verse-by-verse.

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. 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. 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.

In this section, Paul is basically saying that all of our religious activity, all of our zeal and devotion to God, is pointless without love of others. Everything we think is important in our Christian life is shit unless we care for others. 'Nuf said about that.

In the next section, it is assumed that Paul is defining love. Well, not really, because Jesus really defined it. Agape love is acting for the benefit of the other, no matter who they are, no matter what they've done to you. That's the definition we need to remember as we explore Paul's explanaton. He is really describing what love looks like in the context of others, especially the church.

Love is patient
The term "patience" is better translated "long suffering" as in the KJV. It means we are sticking with it no matter what difficulties arise. In the context, this doesn't mean patience in general-- it means patience with those around us. As they give us problems and difficulties and irritate us and enact sins and complain about stupid stuff-- in all that, we are still to act for their benefit. Nothing they do should change our attitude of trying to figure out how we can best do good to them.

Love is kind
The opposite of "kind" is "harsh" or a negative impact. Thus, we are to act in a benefitial way, and in gentleness.

Love is not jealous
We shouldn't look at the people around us as competitors, who are getting the things that we deserve. We should be looking at people as our allies, our mutual supporters, so a benefit to our brother or sister is a benefit to ourselves, even if not directly.

Love is not arrogant
The term is "puff up" or pride. But it is not pride in the Greek sense, hubris. It is rather the act of making ourselves significant-- one of the great sins of the Bible. We shouldn't be looking at others as an opportunity to make ourselves more important, nor should we put others less important so we can look better in comparison.

Love does not act unbecomingly
This is translated a lot of ways It really means to act in a way that is embarassing or shameful to those around one. This doesn't mean saying an uncomfortable truth, but basically acting as one acts when one is drunk. To act without regard to social norms, to act indecently, not caring how others feel about it.

It does not seek its own
This can mean one of two things in the context-- either seeing other people as just resource to get what one wants instead of people who have their own needs and concerns. Or it could mean insisting upon one's own way to the detriment of other people's way of thinking-- being demanding.

Is not provoked
When we act in love, we do not get instanly upset or angry at others, reacting harshly toward them. A good translation of this is, "It is not irritable".

Does not take account an injury
The term for "account" means to give it words, as in to write it down. It basically means, "doesn't hold a grudge".

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth
The term "rejoice" is often used to mean "have a party over". In this context, it means to be happy for another. So, in love, we grieve when someone else commits a sin or wrong. But when someone confesses their sin, admitting their wrong, we do get happy about that.

Bears all things
This also has two possible meanings. It could mean the opposite of "being provoked," putting up with people's irritating habits and sins. Or it could mean to take on other people's problems. When someone has a need, it is no longer their problem alone, but we take it on as our own.

Believes all things
As we said in our conversation, it does not mean that we believe every load of crap anyone gives us. But it does mean that we give them the benefit of the doubt.

Hopes all things
When we love, we don't assume that a person is destined to hell, nor that the worst will happen in their lives. Rather, we hope for the best, for repentance, for deliverance.

Endures all things
The term "endure" in a positive sense means to "hold one's ground". Not just to put up with people, but to stick with them, to not give up on them, to be faithful.

Love never fails.
This should literally be translated, "Love never falls," and it fits with the last two statments. Frankly, we don't give up on people. We remain faithful, hopeful, acting for thier benefit no matter what. Looking at what Paul says in the next statement, it also means that acts of love continue on past judgment, past regime changes, past changes of cultures, past changes of mores. Acting in the benefit of others is always a positive act, no matter what context you live in.

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 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
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. 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.

Paul is saying that the things that the Corinthians are focusing on-- miracles and prophecies and tongues are only significant in the time frame they are living in. Eventually, when Jesus returns, their significance will be little. When we have God before us, what need do we have of prophecy with its guessing game? And tongues will be unecessary, because we will be able to speak to God and hear from God clearly. So these things are just temporary, insignificant in the long view. Focusing on miracles is a sign of our immaturity as humans. Only when we hear God clearly can we do away with them, but that clarity is significant.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Of everything we do religiously, the only three things that endure past Jesus' coming is our faith, our hope and our love. Our faith, meaning our devoton to God and Jesus, because that is the basis of everything we will do in the future. Our hope, because that's what Jesus' coming is. When He comes, then our hope is realized and all of our actions based on that coming reality will be realized. But the greatest of the three is love. Why? Because according to Jesus' word, that is how we will be judged and rewarded. Not on our devotion to Jesus, not on our hope that He is returning-- but based on our acting in benevolence to those around us. If we fail to do this, then we will be sent to hell. If we succeed in meeting people's needs, at our own inconvenience, then we will obtain life with Him. (Matthew 25:31-46). So love is most important of the qualities we need to succeed in the future.

Alright. I think that's enough. And it's more than you askd for. At least I've got a good back up sermon if I need it.

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