#6 SERIES ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
"THE HOLY SPIRIT LOVES!"
TEXT: 1 Cor. 12:31b-13:13
INTRO: My first car was a 1964 Buick skylark that I bought from my father. It was a good car. When I got it however, I had it painted fire engine red with a large wide black sports stripe down the middle from front to back. I put two engine scoops on the hood to give it the appearance of power, and dual glass packs on the exhaust lines to make it sound powerful. It attracted a lot of attention ... and that was the idea, but underneath it was still the same old ugly green car that my dad had owned. Though it looked powerful and sounded powerful it had not really changed, it had the exact same engine in it and no real additional power; for all its new looks and sounds it was no different actually!
Without love the gifts of the Spirit are just the same as that car I had, the gifts might give the appearance of something spectacular, they might even help the church sound spectacular, but underneath there may be no more real power! While people can be attracted to the spectacular nature of the gifts of the Holy Spirit it is only when those gifts operate in a loving church that they really create great benefit! The most essential ministry of the Holy Spirit is that of love ... it is the very Fruit of the Holy Spirit according to Paul in Gal. 5:22 that is the essential power of the Gospel!
God help us to be not only a gifted church body but a loving one!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the central ministry of the Holy Spirit is the ministry of love. The church is called to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit as the foundation for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I. LOVE'S PRIORITY 1 Cor. 12:31b-13:3
A. Excellence 1 Cor. 12:31b
1. Paul's statement here "and now I will show you the most excellent way" is intended to guide this very gifted church into a healthy balance between gifts and love.
a. Without love the gifts were meaningless, that is the following argument in the text.
b. With love however the gifts will have greater meaning.
c. The "most excellent way" is the way of love ... the topic of the entire 13th chapter!
2. While the gifts are momentary and temporary love is fundamental to Christian life at all times.
3. Nothing is superior to love, it is the very foundation of God's nature and so this includes the Holy Spirit too.
a. What moved the hand of God to save us? It was His love! Jn. 3:16
b. The Fruit of the Spirit is superior to the gifts in term of impact; however the ideal is to have both, but gifts without the fruit is meaningless!
4. Nothing is more important than love, Jesus said this would be the hallmark of Christianity, it would be how the world would identify us as Christ’s disciples; "by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another." Jn 13:35
5. Love moves the heart more than anything!
ILLUS: YEARS AGO A WEALTHY MAN DIED APPARENTLY WITHOUT LEAVING A WILL, NONE WAS EVER FOUND. THEREFORE, THE LAW DICTATED THAT THE ESTATE WOULD HAVE TO BE DIVIDED UP AMONG THE SEVERAL SURVIVING COUSINS WHO WERE THE NEXT OF KIN. ALSO, BY LAW, THE DECEASED'S HOUSEHOLD GOODS AND OTHER ITEMS OF PERSONAL PROPERTY WERE TO BE CONVERTED TO CASH IN A PUBLIC AUCTION. DURING THE SALE, THE AUCTIONEER HELD UP A FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH BUT NO ONE BID ON IT, INCLUDING THE COUSINS. IT WAS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DEAD MAN'S SON; HE HAD DIED TRYING TO SAVE SOMEONE FROM DROWNING YEARS EARLIER. A WOMAN APPROACHED THE AUCTIONEER AND ASKED HIM IF SHE COULD BUY THE PHOTO FOR $1.00 SINCE SHE HAD VERY LITTLE. SHE EXPLAINED THAT THE PICTURE HAD GREAT MEANING FOR HER, SHE USED TO BE THE DEAD MAN'S SERVANT AT THE TIME HIS SON DIED IN THIS ACCIDENT AND SHE FELT A GREAT LOVE FOR THE BOY HAVING WORKED THERE SO MANY YEARS. HE AGREED TO SELL IT TO HER FOR $1.00 AND SHE TOOK IT HOME TO PLACE IN ON A TABLE BESIDE HER BED. SHE NOTICED WHEN SHE GOT HOME A BULGE IN THE BACK OF THE PHOTOGRAPH, AND UPON INVESTIGATING SHE FOUND THE MISSING WILL! THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WILL WERE QUITE SIMPLE AND TO THE POINT, IT SAID, "I GIVE AND BEQUEATH ALL MY POSSESSIONS TO THE PERSON WHO CARES ENOUGH FOR NY SON TO CHERISH THIS PHOTOGRAPH." HER LOVE FOR THE FATHER'S SON ALLOWED HER TO EXPERIENCE ALL THAT THE FATHER OWNED ... IT WAS LOVE THAT CHANGED HER LIFE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Extremes 1 Cor. 13:1-3
1. Paul now launches into the problem facing the very gifted church at Corinth, the great abundance of gifts and the great absence of love!
a. They were right to promote the gifts but not at the expense of love!
b. They used the gifts to promote spiritual pride instead of humility; the result was a very competitive church.
2. They were relying on only the gifts and were neglecting the dynamics of love.
a. Their witness would suffer in the community; all the gifts in the world would not win the lost!
b. God's love however would really draw people!
3. Nothing is more powerful than love!
ILLUS: A FIFTH GRADE TEACHER AT LAKE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA WAS TAUGHT BY A MR. ALTER. THERE WERE 14 BOYS IN HIS CLASS THAT WERE TOTALLY BALD - BUT ONLY ONE OF THOSE BOYS WERE BALD WITHOUT A CHOICE IN THE MATTER. THIS BOY, NAMED IAN O'GORMAN HAD UNDERGONE CHEMOTHERAPY FOR LYMPHOMA ... AND SO HE LOST ALL HIS HAIR. BEING A YOUNG BOY HE FELT SINGLED OUT AND ODD, SO THE OTHER 13 BOYS IN HIS CLASS DECIDED OUT OF LOVE FOR THEIR FRIEND THEY WOULD ALL HAVE THEIR HEADS SHAVED! ONE OF THE BOYS WAS REPORTED IN THE PAPER AS SAYING, "THE LAST THING IAN WOULD WANT IS TO NOT FIT IN, WE JUST WANTED TO MAKE HIM FEEL BETTER." IAN'S FATHER CHOCKED BACK THE TEARS AND SAID, IT'S HARD TO PUT WORDS TO!" – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. The healthiest churches are ones that are both loving and gifted! It is not possible to have a good church that is gifted and not loving however!
ILLUS: THERE MAY WELL BE MANY CHILDREN THIS CHRISTMAS THAT RECEIVE MANY GIFTS ... BUT IN SOME OF THOSE HOMES ALL THESE GIFTS WILL NOT MEAN MUCH BECAUSE THESE CHILDREN DON'T FEEL LOVED. CHILDREN WHO GROW UP WITHOUT LOVE, BUT SHOWERED WITH GIFTS AS A REPLACEMENT DO NOT GROW UP HEALTHY! GIFTS ALONE WILL NOT MAKE A CHILD FEEL SPECIAL OR WANTED. YOU CAN'T BUY LOVE, YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT! NO GIFT WILL REPLACE LOVE IN A CHILD'S HEART OR MIND, WHAT THEY NEED AND WANT MOST IS LOVE ... THEN THE GIFTS WILL BE SPECIAL! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. There is little room for interpreting Paul's comments here in any other way but directly! Even if the church had all the great gifts like tongues but had no love they would be making just noise!
a. The clanging gongs and cymbals were
(1. Dionysus was the god of revelry and ecstasy, the god of wine.
(2. Cybele was the god of nature.
b. Loud cymbals and gongs were banged on to call people to worship, but it was empty since they were only dead idols, it meant nothing!
6. Paul likens the Corinthian Christians who ignored love but emphasized the gifts with these empty practices of idolatry!
a. Without love they were not ministering in the gifts, they were just making garbled noise!
b. There can be no ministry without love!
7. Notice how Paul ends this verse 2, without love he says, "I am nothing," not "I have nothing."
a. They had bragged about the gifts they have but Paul says they are nothing without love.
b. Even the most powerful gifts are without meaning if they are absent of love!
8. Love is a priority in God's Church!
II. LOVE'S POWER 1 Cor. 13:4-13
A. Emptying 1 Cor. 13:4-7
1. Paul now begins to describe God's love ... the kind Corinthian believers needed in their church, the kind that all Christians need.
a. He starts by describing how patient love is, it is kind, does not envy ... it is not self-seeking!
b. God's love is emptying, putting aside personal desires for the other person’s benefit, seeking the other's best interest!
2. Love can change any situation, and it is not just a feeling, it is action!
ILLUS: A MINISTER AND NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST BY THE NAME OF GEORGE CRANE TELLS ABOUT ONE WIFE WHO CAME TO HIM FOR COUNSELING ABOUT HER MARRIAGE ... SHE HAD COME TO HATE HER HUSBAND. SHE SHARED HOW SHE HATED HIM SO MUCH THAT SHE WANTED TO DIVORCE HIM, BUT NOT JUST GET RID OF HIM, SHE WANTED TO HURT HIM AS MUCH AS SHE COULD IN THE PROCESS OF DIVORCING HIM! DR. CRANE SUGGESTED AN INGENIOUS PLAN THAT SEEMED QUITE STRANGE TO HER COMING FROM A MINISTER. HE SUGGESTED THE FOLLOWING: "GO HOME AND ACT AS IF YOU REALLY LOVE HIM, TELL HIM HOW MUCH HE MEANS TO YOU, PRAISE HIM FOR EVERY DECENT TRAIT YOU CAN, GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO BE AS KIND, CONSIDERATE, AND GENEROUS AS YOU CAN BE. SPARE NO EFFORT TO PLEASE HIM, MAKING HIM BELIEVE YOU LOVE HIM. AFTER YOU'VE CONVINCED HIM OF YOUR UNDYING LOVE AND THAT YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT HIM, THEN DROP THE BOMB THAT YOU ARE DIVORCING HIM. THAT WILL REALLY HURT HIM BIG TIME!" WITH A DELIGHTFUL REVENGE IN HER EYE SHE SAID, "BEAUTIFUL! WILL HE EVER BE SURPRISED!" SHE WENT HOME AND WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM DID EXACTLY AS THE PREACHER HAD TOLD HER! FOR 2 MONTHS SHE SHOWED HIM LOVE, KINDNESS, SHE LISTENED, SHE WAS GIVING OF HERSELF, SHE WAS SUPPORTIVE, SHE SHARED WITH HIM AND PRAISED HIM FOR EVERY DECENT THING SHE COULD IN HIM. AFTER SEVERAL MONTHS SHE NEVER RETURNED TO PASTOR CRANE, AND FEELING CONCERNED ABOUT HOW THINGS MIGHT HAVE GONE HE CALLED HER. SHE ANSWERED THE PHONE AND HE ASKED HER, "ARE YOU READY NOW TO GO THROUGH WITH THE DIVORCE?" HER RESPONSE WAS INTERESTING, SHE SAID, "DIVORCE! NEVER! ... I DISCOVERED I REALLY DO LOVE HIM." WHAT HAD HAPPENED IS THAT SHE HAD PUT INTO ACTION WHAT LOVE IS ... AND IT PRODUCED THE REAL THING! HER UNSELFISH ACTIONS HAD CREATED A NEW LOVE IN HER HEART THAT CHANGED HER ... AND HIM! THAT IS THE POWER OF REAL LOVE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. You will notice in this description by Paul concerning God's kind of love that there are no references to feelings or emotions, just actions! Paul tells us what love DOES, not how love FEELS!
4. In this list it is obvious that love does not seek its own way, it is self-emptying!
a. Unselfish love is hard to resist, it has great power!
b. That is why God is hard to resist, He sent His son to die for us, not to get something for Himself but to bring something to us!
c. When someone realizes the kind of love God has for them it is hard to resist that love!
B. Eternal 1 Cor. 13:8-10,13
1. Now Paul describes the enduring nature of love, it never ends!
a. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit that help the church now will not be necessary in heaven when the church is perfect!
b. However, even in perfection Love is still the foundational quality of life!
c. In this sense Paul states that love will go on even long after the gifts have ceased, and therefore it is obviously more important!
2. God's love can change things forever!
ILLUS: IN THE BOOK, "THE GRACE OF GIVING," STEPHEN OLFORD TELLS OF A BAPTIST MINISTER DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION BY THE NAME OF PETER MILLER. THIS BAPTIST MINISTER PETER MILLER HAD AN ARDENT ENEMY BY THE NAME OF MICHAEL WITTMAN, AN EVIL-MINDED SORT WHO DID ALL HE COULD TO OPPOSE AND HUMILIATE THE PASTOR. ONE DAY WITTMAN WAS ARRESTED FOR TREASON AND SENTENCED TO DIE. PETER MILLER THE PASTOR TRAVELED 70 MILES ON FOOT TO PHILADELPHIA TO PLEAD FOR THE LIFE OF HIS ENEMY. COMING BEFORE GENERAL WASHINGTON HE ASKED THAT WITTMAN BE PARDONED AND SET FREE. GENERAL WASHINGTON REPLIED, "NO PETER, I CANNOT GRANT YOU THE LIFE OF YOUR FRIEND." "MY FRIEND?" REPLIED THE OLD PASTOR, "HE'S THE BITTEREST ENEMY I HAVE, HE IS NOT MY FRIEND!" WASHINGTON EXCLAIMED, "WHAT! YOU'VE WALKED 70 MILES TO SAVE THE LIFE OF AN ENEMY? THAT PUTS THE MATTER IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT, I’LL GRANT YOU HIS PARDON," AND THE GENERAL DID! PETER MILLER TOOK WITTMAN BACK TO HIS HOME, NO LONGER AN ENEMY, BUT NOW A FRIEND ... LOVE HAD WON THE DAY! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Paul now explains that even in prophecy and the gifts which reveal things to us they never reveal everything fully! Even the gifts have limits, but love does what knowledge cannot do, there are no limits for love!
a. There have been very uneducated people who have been very successful in relationships because they understood the nature of love and gave it!
b. There have been very knowledgeable people too who have failed miserably in life and relationships because they have never understood the importance of love!
C. Evidence! 1 Cor. 13:11-12
1. Paul now describes that the nature of love matures us ... his statement that "When I became a man I put away childish things" indicates an act of will and cooperation on his part, the perfect tense in Greek indicates it was an act in a moment of time that to Paul was a final decision ... with results that NOW are observable!
a. Love cannot be just in words, it must be in action as well!
b. Love is taught not just with words, but by deeds!
ILLUS: IN THE CLARENDON SCHOOL IN ENGLAND, FOUNDED BY THE AUNT OF HAZEL AND PATRICIA ST. JOHN, THE STUDENTS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO TAKE SECONDS AT THE DINNER TABLE. HOWEVER, THE PERSON SITTING ON EITHER SIDE OF THEM COULD SERVE THEM ANOTHER HELPING. THEY DO THIS TO TEACH THEM TO NOT THINK OF THEMSELVES OR THEIR OWN NEEDS, BUT IN LOVE TO THINK OF OTHERS ... AND THIS MATURING PROCESS BEGINS WHEN WE ARE YOUNG IN SMALL WAYS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
2. Paul's point about "seeing a poor reflection in a mirror" has to do with how imperfect our understanding is about things ... and yet, how perfect love can be.
a. Mirrors were famous in Corinth but only the rich could afford the highly polished ones, most of the common people bought cheaper models that were made from metal that didn't have a high sheen to them, so the reflection cast from them was anything but perfect or good, they only got a poor reflection!
b. Gifts and knowledge only offered a murky glimpse of reality, but love conquers all!
c. Where words fail to communicate love, actions can!
ILLUS: IN CHINA SOME MISSIONARIES HAD ATTEMPTED TO MINISTER TO A LEPER COLONY. THEY WENT ONCE A MONTH AND TAUGHT ABOUT GOD'S LOVE FOR THESE LEPERS. THEY WOULD CLEARLY TEACH WHAT THE BIBLE TAUGHT ABOUT GOD'S LOVE AND SALVATION AND THEN THEY WOULD ATTEMPT TO QUESTION THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY UNDERSTOOD THE CONCEPTS. IN ONE SUCH ATTEMPT TO SEE IF THEY UNDERSTOOD GOD'S LOVE FOR THEM AS LEPERS ONE OF THE MISSIONARIES ASKED, "JUST HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE LORD JESUS LOVES YOU?" THEY WERE EXPECTING THE CORRECT THEOLOGICAL ANSWER WHEN INSTEAD THEY GOT, "BECAUSE OF YOU!" GOD'S LOVE RANG TRUE TO THEM BECAUSE THEY SAW EVIDENCE OF IT IN THESE MISSIONARIES WHO CAME FAITHFULLY TO MINISTER TO THEM! BECAUSE OF THEIR LOVE THEY SAW GOD'S LOVE! HOW THEOLOGICALLY CORRECT IS THIS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. The evidence of love in a church will help others receive the evidence of the gifts as well!
a. With love the gifts mean a great deal!
b. Without love they mean nothing!
4. Paul concludes the chapter by saying that of all the things that are important, the gifts, faith, hope... none is greater than love!
a. Don't ignore the gifts by any means ...
b. But be sure to follow after love, the “more excellent way!”
CONCLUSION: The Bible declares that "God is love," therefore a central attribute of the Holy Spirit is love. In Galatians 5:22 Paul goes so far as to say "LOVE" is the very fruit of the Holy Spirit! Nothing the Holy Spirit does therefore is done without love being at the core. Not even the gifts of the Holy Spirit are useful without love! The highest work of the Spirit ("the more excellent way" 1 Cor. 12:31b) is that of love. The Pentecostal church is one filled with love … and the gifts!