Agonizomai: 1Cor 13:4-7 - Up and Out Thru the Overflow

Monday, August 11, 2008

1Cor 13:4-7 - Up and Out Thru the Overflow

4-7 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.

I cannot imagine a person less qualified to speak to the subject of having love than myself ... unless every other human being that was ever born, including all those who have been made saints by the grace of God are right alongside me. We are so quick to read here that we must do something in love, and we extrapolate from that that love is somehow generated by us for the actual act.

I don’t think that is what is being spoken of here. It doesn’t say "if I do not do it in love" but "if I have not love (when I do it)," which is an entirely different thing. It is not like I receive a spiritual gift from God that I then have to mix with a love from my own resources in order for it to be applied properly. If that is the case then woe is me. God is love, I’m not. Again, God is love. If I am to apply a spiritual gift in love whose love is at work? God’s or mine?

So if I find myself doing apart from love, and thereby missing the joy of knowing God at work in me, then I go to God and beseech Him for eyes to behold His love for me and for all the saints. I’m not speaking of a momentary mental picture of a cross, or a whipping, or even a remembrance of the theology of my justification - I’m speaking of falling at the feet of the Living Christ and clinging to His ankles until He presses down into my stone cold hardened heart the understanding and the acceptance of His love for me. This is how I "have love." Do I see the source? Do I believe He is the source? It’s not that Jesus loved me so I must copy Him and love others. That will end in dust. It is that I must so embrace the love of Christ for me and all His blood-bought children that the light of that love overflows my own being. Without that reality, all I have is pietism and busyness.

Hence the fruit of the Spirit of God in me is expressed in the love of Christ for me, realized by faith and manifested in the character of Christ. It is "Christ in me" and not me of myself. Christ is patient and kind and these things are brought forth in my soul through faith in Him because of His faithfulness. I myself, apart from Him, am testy and brutal. He is non-grasping and humble but I, apart from Him, am covetous and proud. He is deferent where I am insistent. He is peaceable and forgiving where I am irritable and resentful. He weeps over sin and insists He is the Truth where I, apart from Him, would revel in iniquity and clothe myself in deceit and lies. He shoulders all the burdens of all the saints, delivers faithfulness in superabundance, encourages us and also suffers all the failures of His people. Without Him, we would complain, we would be bereft of all faith and hope and we would finally quit.

But He does all these things in us. He sanctifies us. He upholds us. And all these things are expressions of His love for us. They are outpourings, manifestations, declarations and demonstrations of His love at work in us, His people. And we become the expression of His love for each other. We are means in the hands of God - vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory - and that glory is seen in the lives of the sanctified brotherhood of the church. So the whole point is that, in order for the gifts of the Spirit to be profitable to the kingdom of God they must be wrought in love by abiding in Christ - the Christ whose character is manifested in fruit of the Spirit.

The modern church - that is, the evangelical church of the last 50 years or so - has gone love crazy. They have majored in love (what kind of love is another matter) but minored in the other attributes of God. They have made man the subject rather than God. They will go a thousand miles on the statement that God is love, but barely stir an inch on the fact that He and His Word are truth. They will go gaga over God’s love for mankind and yawn at the chief end of man being to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. They see salvation as something God does primarily for man rather than something He does primarily for His own glory.

So passages like this one receive a great deal of attention. Passages like Romans chapter 9, however, are ignored or marginalized - and a rarely, if ever, preached upon. This says a very great deal about us, but it means that the sort of God we worship is a distortion of the truth. Some come close to idolatry by refusing to see Him as He reveals Himself in scripture - all of scripture. I bring this up to put the love of God in context of the passage, the book, the covenant and the whole Bible.

God is indeed love. His love for His church is from everlasting to everlasting. He went through hell to show it. But His love for us finds it’s impetus not in our loveliness, but solely in His Being. We are loved because He loved us and He did all that was necessary to seek, to save and to sanctify and glorify us. He did it. And He did it for His own glory, because His glory is the most important thing to Him. And because we have been made His - born again of His Spirit - then His glory is our own chief end - which glory is manifested in His church. His love in and for His people is the mark of His presence and the sign of His handiwork, and He is the more excellent way.


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