26 Sep Quarter Four Lesson Ten
The Importance of Love
We come now to the last lesson on “the man”, that is, growing our inner person into the image of Jesus and maturing in faith; the next lesson will be the first of two lessons on ministering with Gospel Growth Ministries.
In previous lessons, we have discussed the need to grow in humility, patience, and graciousness (free of bitterness) and in this lesson we want to focus on the most important thing when ministering the gospel, which is love.
It is no exaggeration to say that the entire Bible is a collection of “love letters” from God to us. The Old Testament love letters deal with us in our sin and rebellion, and point forward to a time when the One Who loves us would redeem us and save us from our sin. The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are love letters that tell us that Jesus is the One Who came to right all wrongs, die on the cross to redeem us for Himself and forgive all our sins, and that He came to marry His bride and be with her forever. The rest of the New Testament love letters explain all that Jesus accomplished for us when He died and rose again, and teach us how to live as the Bride of Christ Who loves us and gave Himself for us. The final Book of love letters, the Book of Revelation, shows what eternal life with Jesus, our Loved One will be like in Heaven.
One significant chapter related to our topic of love is 1 Corinthians 13. This text defines what love is and stresses the importance of it. We are looking at this chapter because true growth in Christ-likeness is a growth in love, and if we want to minister the gospel to other people it must come from a heart of love. Please study through this passage of Scripture and answer the questions below:
“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. 2 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. 3 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NASB)
It can be very helpful to put the language of Scripture into the language of the subject of this quarter—that of growing into maturity. We will ask you to do this as we continue on, but to illustrate what we mean we will do the first verse here:
Here is the 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NASB)
Now here is how we might say it: if I am sharing my faith with people and I minister the gospel to them with eloquent speech and lofty language, but I do not have love in my heart, then I am merely an annoying sound in the ears of those to whom I am witnessing.
Question 1. Now it is your turn. Please re-write verse 2 using the language of this quarter’s lessons—that of growing into spiritual parenthood. Here is the verse 1 Corinthians 13:2, “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.”
Question 2. Now do the same thing with verse 3. Here is the verse 1 Corinthians 13:3, “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.”
This passage teaches us that having love for the people we minister to is the most important thing when wanting to see them come to Christ or grow in their faith. Without love we could speak eloquently, we could expound on the mystery of the gospel as it is hidden in the Old Testament, we could do all kinds of good works and evidence much self-sacrifice, yet find that it counts for nothing. Love is the most important thing when serving and ministering to others.
So then the question must be raised next, “What is love?” In this passage Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians 13, anticipates this question and answers it next:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)
Again it helps to put the Scriptures into the language we are using in quarter 4. Again we will do the first one:
Here is the verse: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)
Here is how we might say it: when I am ministering the gospel to others I must show patience toward them, being willing to wait on the Lord to work in their hearts. I must show them kindness and not be irritated with them if they don’t grow as quickly as I think they should. I must not boast in myself nor be prideful. If I am not kind, if I boast to them about my spiritual accomplishments and how well I am doing, it shows I am not interested in them but rather in myself, and then my ministry to them suffers and loses effectiveness.
Question 3. Now it is your turn. Please re-write verse 5 using the language of this quarter’s lessons—that of growing into spiritual parenthood. Here is the verse: “Love…does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,”
Question 4. Now do the same thing with verse 6. Here is the verse: “Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;”
Question 5. Finally, do the same thing with verse 7. Here is the verse: “Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Finally, Paul finishes 1 Corinthians 13 showing us that to grow into maturity means to grow in love:
“Love never fails; 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 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. 12 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. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NASB)
Question 6. According to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, how does Paul show that growing into maturity is really a growing in love?
1 Corinthians 13 has love as its main subject. It starts with a warning about serving and ministering without love, it then defines love, and finally states that the greatest of all the gifts of God is love. Interestingly and relevant to our studies, we note that right in the middle of this chapter Paul states that when he was a child he thought and acted like a child; that is, selfishly and without love, but when he grew into a man he did away with childish things and began loving others. Growing into spiritual maturity means growing in selfless love.
There is only one place where we can see love both defined and displayed in all its beauty, and that is at the cross of Jesus Christ. At the cross, we truly learn and understand what love is, and see what it means for us to genuinely love others:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
Question 7. How does the cross define what true love is? How does the cross show us how to love? What are your thoughts?
Truly love did burn in the heart of Jesus and was the motive for all that He did including the ultimate expression of His love—His death on the cross. Friend, Jesus is the personification of 1 Corinthians 13. Everything He did, He did because of His love for us. Yes, it is true that He did everything in obedience to His Father, to honor God and fulfill the law of God. Yet, it is also true to say that He did all that He did because love for us burned so strong in His heart.
Take a moment and contemplate the depth and intensity of Jesus’ love for you as you read this next paragraph.
When Jesus sweat great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, wanting to be released from the pain of the cross yet also wanting to obey the will of God, you were on His heart. He in essence said, “I will go to the cross because I love you.” When a crown of thorns was placed on His head and He was stripped of all His clothes, His actions said, “I am going through this for you because I love you.” When they beat Him, furrowing His back like a farmer’s field, His endurance of the beatings indicated, “This is nothing in comparison to my love for you!” When they laid a heavy cross on His back and made Him carry it up a hill until He collapsed under the weight of it, His determination spoke, “I’d carry anything for you because I love you!” And when they nailed His hands and feet to a criminal’s cross, His torn and blood-soaked body said, “this is the extent to which I am going because I love you!” Finally, at the end, He cries out, “It is finished!” and bows His head, the weight of the world and the weight of your sins hanging heavily on Him, He gives up His spirit demonstrating, “I have loved you to the end, and I love you still.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB)
Oh, friend, our Jesus is love incarnate. Truly we can say, “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind and is not jealous; Jesus does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; Jesus does not seek His own, is not provoked, and Jesus does not take into account a wrong suffered, Jesus does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Question 8. As you contemplate the love of Jesus for you, the extent to which He suffered for you, what are your thoughts?
As you consider ministering to others and becoming a spiritual father or mother, praying that God would use you to be fruitful in ministry, it is imperative that you spend much time at the foot of the cross soaking in the love of Jesus for you. This is our greatest tool for effectiveness in ministry, for it is out of the overflow of God’s love in us that we can then go and love others.
By way of warning against ministering apart from love, notice Jesus’ statements to the church in Ephesus:
“‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” Revelation 2:2-5 (NASB)
Question 9. What was wrong with the Ephesian church? How is that a warning to you as you desire to grow and minister to others?
The Ephesian church had a lot going for them. They did good works. They had great discernment and so did not tolerate false teachers. They persevered and endured and did not grow weary.
But they had a real problem; they had lost their first love. Their hearts had grown cold and indifferent. They were just going through the motions not living and ministering in the love of Christ. This is the inevitable result of getting our eyes off of Jesus and the gospel.
In closing, please take a moment and read through the following Love Song by Third Day, and consider the words as if Jesus were talking directly to you:
I’ve heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done.
I’ve never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of Calvary
Just to be with you, I’d do anything
There’s no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I’d give everything
I would give my life away.
I’ve heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
But all of those dreams are an empty emotion
It can never be done
I’ve never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea
(Bridge) I know that you don’t understand
the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know that you don’t realize
how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again.
Just to be with you, I’ve done everything
There’s no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away.
Songwriter: Mac Powell, Music: Third Day
copyright: 1995 New Springs Publishing, Inc./Big Man Little Man Music/graydotsongs/ASCAP.
All Rights Administered by Brentwood – Benson Music Publishing, Inc.
Question 10. Please summarize the teaching of this lesson, and include any of your thoughts about it: