2006-07-26 / Religion

Sunday School Lesson

We are called to love one another
Rev. James Temples

1 Corinthians 13

In the Greek language, there are three major words that are translated by our English word "love"-"agape," "phileo," and "eros." In the classical literature-at the time of the writing of the New Testament-the first of these words did not have a great significance in that language. However, the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:21) gave a significant meaning, using this word to describe the love that God has for the fallen human race (John 3:16). This word came to mean "a self-giving love, not depending on feelings, nor the return from the object or person who is loved." The second word means "a fondness for." The third of these words is used in regard to sexual activity-this word is not used in Scripture.

As we read Scripture, it is important for us to know which word is used in the original text. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God, made this attitude-and fact-the distinguishing feature in the lives of those who follow Him-"By this shall all men (i.e., every one) know (to perceive; recognize) that ye are my disciples (learners), if (Note: the word is conditional) ye

have (possess) love (agape) one to another." John 13:35.

As the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the young church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), he taught concerning the "gifts" that were-and are-part of the life of the local "church" or "assembly." 1 Corinthians 12:811. However, it seems that many of the members of that congregation had begun to "specialize in the spectacular" in the many areas of ministry. They did not see themselves as part of the "body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27), but as "independent units" operating under their own direction. He declared that "yet (in addition) shew (exhibit; make known) I unto you a more excellent way (road; path)." 1 Corinthians 12:31b.

The first area that he addressed was that of the "verbal gifts." "Though (if) I speak with the tongues (languages) of men and of angels, and have (possess) not (Note: qualified negative) charity (agape: i, e., love), I am become as sounding (roaring) brass (copper; bronze), or a tinkling (clanging) cymbal (hollow basin or cup)." 1 Corinthians 13:1. He continued, "And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains (see Matthew 17:20), and have not charity (love), I am nothing (Note: absolute negative)." 1 Corinthians 13:2.

The writer of old turned their - and our - thoughts to "works of compassion." "And though I bestow all my goods (possessions; substance) to feed (to feed by putting small bits of food in the mouths of infants or small animals) the poor, and though I give my body to be burned (Note: this might be seen to be the 'ultimate personal sacrifice'), and have not charity (love), it profiteth (to advantage; to increase) me nothing (Note: absolute negative)." 1 Corinthians13: 3. As commendable as all of these personal actions might seem to the casual observer, the ultimate Judge observes things from the eternal perspective. 1 Corintians 3:12-15.

Paul then began a description of the kind of "love" that God has shown, and that must be shown by those whom God would use in His service. "Charity (love) suffereth long (i.e., has patience), and is kind (pleasing; gracious); charity envieth (to deprive another of what he has) not (Note: absolute negative); charity vaunteth not itself (i.e., does not boast not brag), is not puffed up (i.e., inflated), Doth not behave (act) itself unseemly (i.e., action unsuitable in time or place), seeketh (strive after) not her own, is not easily provoked (i.e., to sharpen; arouse to anger), thinketh (reckon up; calculating) no evil (bad); Rejoiceth (to feel joy or delight) not in iniquity (unrighteousness), but rejoiceth in (with) the truth; Beareth (persevere; keep off something that threatens) all things, believeth (to have faith in) all things, hopeth (favorable, confident expectation) all things, endureth (to bear up courageously) all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

As the apostle of old continued to write, he made a transition from the description of love to the permanence of love - "Charity (agape) never (not ever; at any time) faileth (drop away; drive out of one's course) ...." 1 Corinthians 13:8a. Later, the Apostle John wrote, "God is love." 1 John 4:8b. Since God is constant (Malachi 3:6), it is easy for one to understand that the love that He shows is, also, unchanging. See Romans 8:38, 39. This fact continues to give assurance to all who accept the divine provision.

The members of that Corinthian church seemed to have thought in terms of the "permanence" of human utterances. Those who had been the instruments of divine messages needed to understand that the ultimate source of all of these manifestations was God. Paul wrote," ... but whether (if) there be prophesies, they shall fail (render entirely useless); whether there be tongues (languages), they shall cease (come to an end); whether there be knowledge (to understand completely), it shall vanish away (fail; be idle)." 1 Corinthians 13:8b, c. The "human instrument" will pass from the scene of action, but the love of God will continue.

These early believers needed to recognize the fact of their "limited abilities." "For we know (perceive; recognize) in part (a portion of the 'whole'), and we prophesy in part." 1 Corinthians 13:9. This assessment seems hard for some individuals to accept. Our "lower nature" would have us to think that we "know everything" about some situation, therefore, we are in a position to

"pass judgment." At best, we only know "part" of the story. Eventually, there will be completeness. "But when (whenever) that which is perfect (complete; having reached its end) is come (to arrive at a place), then that which is in part shall be done away (to be entirely useless)." 1 Corinthians 13:10.

The apostle gave a personal example of the process of maturing that is necessary for all people. "When I was a child (babe), I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought (be of the mind; reasoned) as a child: but when (at which time) I became (to cause to be) a man (in contrast to an infant), I put away (to render useless) childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11. Do our spiritual actions reflect our number of "spiritual birthdays?"

All the "visions of glory" that might be part of the background of any believer does not give the "complete picture." "For we see through a glass (mirror) darkly (in a riddle; to hint obscurity); but then face to face, now we know in part; but then shall I know even as (according as) also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12. He continued, "And now abideth (remain) faith, hope (pleasing expectation), charity (love), these three, but the greatest of these is charity (love)." I Corinthains 13:13. Do you know this love in your life?

Rev. Temples can be contacted at P.O. Box 1569, Auburndale, Fla. 33823; 863-965-0157. Email: jctjet@ aol.com

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