The great and precious jewel of Love is held before the congregation for all to behold, and to adorn the Bride of Christ for life everlasting.
INTRODUCTION: Don’t Try to Pry the Diamond of Love Away
Christians often like to hear today’s passage from 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. It’s the great Love chapter of this letter–of the whole Bible one might even say–a truly precious and beautiful jewel in Holy Scripture.
When one proposes marriage in our day, traditionally the man will give the woman an engagement ring with a single, precious, and many faceted diamond. Few brides would happily surrender that diamond ring. They certainly wouldn’t allow anyone to pry it out of its setting! Perhaps they might allow a skilled jeweler, but not just anyone or everyone with a pair of pliers. Brides want people to see their ring and diamond, but keep it intact and always in their possession.
Sadly, people do take this precious jewel of 1 Cor. 13 completely out of its setting. Many want the great Love diamond, but not the ring and spiritual commitments that go with it. The true Bride of Christ, the Church, only wants it in its setting!
PART ONE: Love in The Spiritual Setting
A.) Before we look at this passage, let’s hear what the Corinthians just heard from the Lord’s Apostle in this letter. Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-31.
B.) What topics and challenges was Paul addressing just prior to this lengthy discourse on love?
C.) Let’s look ahead just a bit to see where he’s going with all this Love talk. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-5.
D.) Name Paul’s overarching goal, whether he talks about spiritual gifts or about employing them in love (see 1 Cor. 14:4-5)
PART TWO: The Structure of Paul’s Discourse on Christian Love
E.) Now let’s take a closer look at the Love diamond and read 1 Corinthians 13.
F.) Our ESV places these verses into how many paragraphs? __________
G.) Ancient Greek Bible manuscripts weren’t printed in the same way as our modern English versions. Things like Chapter Numbers and verses were added later to make finding and copying down passages easier (no printing presses or photocopiers in those days). Paragraphs and most punctuation marks (like commas, question marks, and exclamation points) were added much later, as the Bible was brought into other languages.
These added markings are necessary in our English language. They can be very helpful for our understanding, just like the little section headings or comments in a study Bible are meant to be helpful. When we confess we believe in the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture, we mean the Holy Spirit inspired the original words written by the original writer in the original ancient text–not necessarily these other things added by publishers and scholars as helps for better understanding in our own language and time.
H.) Our three English paragraphs in 1 Corinthians 13 seem very helpful for our understanding. Lutheran scholar and author Dr. Gregory Lockwood deals with them under these headings in his recent Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians:
• The Absolute Necessity of Love (13:1-3)
• Love in Action: The Character of Love (13:4-7)
• The Permanence of Love (13:8-13)
I.) Let’s walk through these verses and deal with your questions…
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
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.
PART THREE : Our Passage in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
J.) The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, 224-227 (Or Art. III, 103-106)
103] The adversaries corrupt very many passages, because they bring to them their own opinions, and do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. For what difficulty is there in this passage if we remove the interpretation which the adversaries, who do not understand what justification is or how it occurs [what faith is, what Christ is, or how a man is justified before God], out of their own mind attach to it? The Corinthians, being justified before, had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, just as is generally the case. Then dissensions [factions and sects] began to arise among them, as Paul indicates; they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them [to unity and] to offices of love. Although these are necessary, yet it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table, through which we have to do with man and not properly with God, justify us. But in justification we have to treat with God; His wrath must be appeased and conscience must be pacified with respect to God. None of these occur through the works of the Second Table [by love, but only by faith, which apprehends Christ and the promise of God. However, it is true that losing love involves losing the Spirit and faith. And thus Paul says: If I have not love, I am nothing. But, he does not add the affirmative statement, that love justifies in the sight of God].
K.) Do spiritual gifts cause justification, or follow after? Is love a fruit of faith?
104] But they object that love is preferred to faith and hope. For Paul says, 1 Cor. 13:13: The greatest of these is charity. Now, it is reasonable that the greatest and chief virtue should justify, 105] although Paul, in this passage, properly speaks of love towards one’s neighbor, and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has most fruits. Faith and hope have to do only with God; but love has infinite offices externally towards men. [Love goes forth upon earth among the people, and does much good, by consoling, teaching, instructing, helping, counseling privately and publicly.] Nevertheless, let us, indeed, grant to the adversaries that love towards God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue, because the chief commandment is this: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, Matt. 22:37. But how will they infer thence that love justifies? 106] The greatest virtue, they say, justifies. By no means. [It would be true if we had a gracious God because of our virtue. Now, it was proven above that we are accepted and justified for Christ’s sake, not because of our virtue; for our virtue is impure.] For just as even the greatest or first Law does not justify, so also the greatest virtue of the Law does not justify. [For as the Law and virtue is higher, and our ability to do the same proportionately lower, we are not righteous because of love.] But that virtue justifies which apprehends Christ, which communicates to us Christ’s merits, by which we receive grace and peace from God. But this virtue is faith. For as it has been often said, faith is not only knowledge, but much rather willing to receive or apprehend those things which are offered in the promise concerning Christ.
Thanks for reading or listening. Share with a friend of you like by the links down below: