The Body – PART 11
How To Put A One In Front Of That Zero.
11 May 14
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Busy, but not effective
Sacrificing, but not advancing
Labouring, but not building
Studying, but not passing
Investing, but not profiting
Dieting but not…
Talk about a time when you felt you were spinning your wheels. What did it feel like and how did you break out of the spin?
Text: 1 Corinthians 13
In our text, Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians that they are spinning their wheels. Yes, they are busy, yes, they are doing good things in some cases, maybe even great things, but it is all adding up to a big fat zero. Paul wants to encourage them to move in a better direction, to help them to get some traction and be healthy. In light of their least excellent way, Paul now shows them the most excellent way forward.
Question: What is the most excellent way?
1. NEVER SETTLE FOR JUST DOING THE RIGHT THING (V.1-3)
Check out the right things they are doing:
Tongues - on its own, could mean nothing more than speaking eloquently, but in this context it follows v. 12:28-30 and anticipates chapter 14. So “tongues of men” would refer to human speech inspired by the Spirit but unknown to the speaker. Tongues of angels would reflect an understanding that the tongues speaker was communicating in the dialect(s) of heaven
Prophecy - defined by 14:3
Fathom all mysteries and knowledge
Faith - He moves even beyond the charismata to great acts of sacrifice-. He is using hyperbole .
Give all I possess to the poor
Surrender my body to the flames
How does Paul demonstrate that even though they were doing the right thing (Paul does not condemn these actions), they are scoring zero? In the eyes of God, the act might (and will) benefit the receiver, but not the giver.
As a group, talk about times where you have seen the right thing being done, heard the right thing being said, but scored the whole event with a zero because the heart was wrong.
Has anyone ever ended up hurting you because, although they were saying or doing the right thing, their heart was not right? Have you ever done damage even though you said and did the right thing, BUT your heart was not right?
John Stott says, “Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love: love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth.” How do you bring the balance?
Essentially Paul is saying that our faith walk is not solely comprised of a “to DO” list, as illustrated by v1-3. Paul wants them to see that the deeper road to walk, the deeper work of the Spirit in our lives has to do with the “to BE” list. This is now where Paul goes.
2. COMMIT TO BEING THE RIGHT PERSON (V.4-7)
This is the most excellent way.
Who would you rather have on your team - a person who is committed to just doing the right thing or being the right person? Why? ( the former person might give you lip service and even do the right thing but their attitude stinks)
Note the contrast between a resounding gong and clanging symbol, and how Paul describes love in v4-7.
I am sure you could talk for some time on the key words that describe love in this text.
For our purposes, note the depth of this “love” word:
Old Testament - In the OT one of the words for love was “hesed” (pr. HEE sid, HEE sed), unselfish love, rendered sometimes “loyalty” (2 Sam 22:26 RSV), but more often “steadfast love” (Gen 39:21) or “kindness.” It is not an emotional response to beauty, merit, or kindness, but a moral attitude dedicated to another’s good, whether or not that other is lovable, worthy, or responsive – it comes from a deep place (see Deut. 7:7–9).
New Testament - The parallel word in the NT is “agape”(pr. ah GAH pay), which is what Paul talks about here. By far the most frequent word in the NT is agape, generally assumed to mean moral goodwill which proceeds from esteem, principle, or duty, rather than attraction or charm. Agape means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment and rejection; not rooted in affection or feeling but principle and a moral attitude.
When you move from just doing (1-3), to being (4-7), the knife cuts deeper. You move from make-up to heart surgery, from optics to internal transformation. Paul is pointing to this condition of the human heart that is lacking in the Corinthian context.
This is the sort of love that a human being can only express and share when he or she has been touched by God’s grace and enabled by God’s Spirit. It goes quite against natural human inclinations to love the unlovely or those who do not love in return. “Agape love, as V. P. Furnish has aptly said,
is not the sort of love that is dispatched like a heat-seeking missile that inherently is attracted to the ‘target.’ ”
These days, what is the toughest context for you to not necessarily do the right thing, but to be the right person?
What aspect of love is your greatest challenge and why?
What kind of community is necessary if people are going to go deeper and move from just doing, to actually being?
“The most excellent way” asks these tough kinds of questions and takes these long, hard looks at the heart.
Finally, note that when we choose to walk the most excellent way we make the most lasting impression and investment:
V8-13 How does this section demonstrate the superiority of love?
V8- Paul is not condemning these gifts but just showing how temporary they are.
V9,10 - see 1:7 to help understand what Paul is saying
Note the two analogies Paul uses to illustrate that behavior from one period is not appropriate for another.
V11- A child
V12- A mirror
Finally note v.13 - Paul is probably referencing a triad familiar to his original audience. Again he is demonstrating the supremacy and excellence of love.
Faith will become sight and hope will be fulfilled, but love will simply carry on, presumably amplified and purified into a perfect condition. It is the one attribute that is to bridge this age and the age to come.
So get this, love is what lasts and I would say is what makes the most lasting impression on those around us.
Many have said that you can put Jesus’ name in place of love and get a great description of Jesus. Yes, I agree and so would Paul. However, that is not Paul’s point. Paul’s point is that we should be able to put our name in place of “love”. That is the kind of person God wants us to be - a person that walks out “hesed” and “agape”, a person that allows the Spirit to do this deep work in our hearts. As we think of community we should be able to put Bethel Church in place of love.
May God grant to us all we need to reflect this matchless attribute in all our relationships. As we do we reflect the heart of God, for God is love!
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