26 Jun 2022

Spiritual Gifts & Love [1Corinthians 13]


God gives His people spiritual gifts to serve one another. Instead of doing so, many in the Corinthian church flaunted their more prominent spiritual gifts and despised others. So Paul now writes in 1Co 13 about love and how spiritual gifts are to be employed in love. Paul speaks about the priority of love. Like a husband who gives flowers to his wife but who is also cheating on her, spiritual gifts without love is useless.  He speaks about a portrait- love is not just lived in the realm of good intentions. Love is about having the right motivation. It is also bearing the right manifestations. In 15 descriptions, Paul helps us grasp what true love is. He then speaks about its permanence. Love is permanent, and contrasted with the impermanent spiritual gifts. So instead of lusting after spiritual gifts (the more prominent ones), pursue love instead, and serve one another.  


Sermon Transcript

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A very good morning once again to all of you. Thank you for joining us in our Second English Worship Service. And we are journeying through the book of 1st Corinthians, and we come now to this great chapter of love in chapter 13.

The words found in Chapter 13 are very popular, they are often quoted and preached upon in wedding ceremonies, and you may even find them on walls of many homes. But why chapter 13, why love in 1st Corinthians? Is it about a marriage? Is it about a wedding? Is it about BGR? No, it's not these things, but these words are found in a context of the church.

And for those who have been with us, you will realize that the church at ancient Corinth was a church that has been struggling with exactly the lack of love. They were a people who were fighting one with another, competing one with another. They were saying to themselves, "I belong to Paul and I belong to Apollos and I belong to Cephas." They were having this divisive mindset, so they were a church struggling with schisms.

They were also a church that was struggling with stumbling others. I mean, they did not think that this was anything important at all! So there were some who ate at idols' temples, because they knew that there was nothing there, but they disregarded the effects that they will have on other Christians, who may see them doing so. They did not love them enough to stop going to the idols' temples.

Then, we read about how they were selfish. The church at Corinth, they had this unhealthy practice, where the richer ones would gather together to feast and to eat first and leave nothing for the poorer brethren, who would joined them later. And with such attitude and behavior, they marginalized and despised the poor. They did not act out in love.

But more immediately, we looked at the problem of spiritual gifts, we read that in chapter 12 in verse 31. In our English Bible, it is translated, "But earnestly desire the higher gifts," as if this was a command Paul gave to the Corinthians to desire the more prominent or showy gifts.

But as I've explained in the Greek, it does not always have to be read in the imperative, like a command here. In other words, we are not saying, "You are to earnestly desire," but in the Greek it could go as the indicative, which is a statement of reality, which goes, "you are eagerly desiring". So is Paul ... is not commanding them to do exactly what he's warning them against.

Paul, however is describing them, "You guys in your pride, in your desire to compete one with another, coveting and lusting after the more prominent gifts." And so that again, shows up their lack of love one for another.

So Paul, in verse 31, says, "I will now show you a still more excellent way." Instead of lusting after showy gifts to show off and to flaunt, the better way is to serve one another in love. And that's where it leads us to in chapter 13, and we are going to look at "Spiritual Gifts & Love".

[1] The Priority of Love
We're covering the entire chapter here, but it's a simple outline that I hope you will remember. First of all, in verses 1-3, Paul establishes the priority of love.

He's saying, "There's nothing more important than for you to live lives of love. No point lusting after spiritual gifts, boasting after the more showing ... showy spiritual gifts, if you have no love."

There's a popular, reality cooking competition called, "Master Chef". And sometimes in that competition, they will be tasked to prepare a dish based on a specified ingredient. It could be pork, it could be chicken, it could be tomatoes, it could be fish. And they will assess you and judge you based on how well you cook this ingredient. That is the star, that is the focus!

At times, when the competition is so stressful, when the heat is on, the contestants somehow lose focus. They may do very well in a lot of things, but they may just mess up in the star ingredient. So during judging, you would see perhaps that the dish is beautifully plated. You would see that perhaps, the judges say, "The sauce is extremely tasty." You could say that the skills involved are very demanding, but when the star ingredient, let's say, fish is undercooked, the contestant will not win the competition, because the priority has to be a perfectly cooked fish.

That's what I think of, huh ... I think about food ah, but that's what I think of when I read verses 1 to 3. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." [1 Cor 13:1] The implication is very simple — you can do very well, you can be very gifted, you can be extremely capable of speaking all these languages, but if you have no love, you are nothing! You are actually just a nuisance, a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Now, Paul in this context, when he talks about tongues is speaking about the supernatural gift of speaking in different languages. Tongues, at self refers to the organ here, right here, but in this context, it refers to the ability to speak and more than that the ability to speak in different languages that you have not learned before. So, this is a spiritual gift.

But what is troubling perhaps, is this phrase, 'tongues of men, and of angels'. Question is, sidebar as it were, question is - Is there tongues of angels spoken of in the Bible? We all are familiar, perhaps with a passage like Acts, chapter 2, that when the early disciples, er ... apostles spoke in tongues, it was in known human languages - Parthians, Medes, Elamites. But what about tongues of angels, is there such a thing as an angelic language?

Well, this verse is difficult to be absolute, with regard to the tongues of angels. But I suggest to you, it probably is not saying that there is such a thing as angelic tongues. A few reasons.

One, when we read about the angels and how they communicate with men in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, we don't read of them speaking in a language that people do not know, they speak in a language that the people do know. And we don't read of angelic tongues anywhere else in the Bible. And as mentioned, whenever there are mentions of tongues, it's always in a language that is known on Earth, even though the speaker has never learned it before.

So most likely, Paul is not speaking of the possibility of you speaking in an angelic language, or him speaking in an angelic language, but he's speaking in an exaggerated form, it's what we call, a hyperbole, I'll explain that in a while.

He's speaking of it in an exaggerated form, just to make this point, that even if you could speak all kinds of languages, and he adds an intensifier there, 'angels', but if you have no love, you are nothing. Because he goes on to say, "If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I'm nothing." [1 Cor 13:2]

He uses the word, 'all' many times, three times here and one more time in verse 3 to overstate a point. Huh, and clearly, we understand this as a figure of speech and hyperbole, a language tool, a literary device.

When you want to say something, emphasize it very strongly, you sometimes exaggerate. Let me give you an example in even in our modern day language. "I'm so hungry, I can eat a cow." If you take me literally you will say, "You siow [crazy in Hokkien] ah! You're smaller than a cow, you want to eat a cow." "But no, no, no, no, no, please don't misunderstand me, when I say, "I'm so hungry, I can eat a cow, I'm exaggerating, just to make a point, I'm really very hungry."'

Maybe you have another way of saying, "I love you so much, I will go to the moon and back for you." "Hah, you mean you really will call Elon Musk and get him ... to get you on a space shuttle program ah? Wah!" "No, no, I don't mean that, dear. I'm just exaggerating, a ... an example to tell you, I'll do almost anything for you."

So Paul here says, "I even if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and have all knowledge," that is not possible by the way, as we will see later on, he's using hyperbole, to emphasize the absolute priority for love.

"If I give away all I have, and if I give, if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." [1 Cor 13:3] So, I think the point is absolutely clear - You can have the most delicious sauce, the most intricate skills, technical skills used in cooking, you can have the most beautiful plating, but if your fish is undercooked, you fail, you lose. So even if you could speak with all kinds of languages, and all kinds of prophecy and all kinds of knowledge, you have all these powerful, prominent spiritual gifts, but if you have no love, you lose in God's eyes. You fail! You are nothing!

I suppose this is something we all can easily identify with and understand, isn't it? Suppose your husband buys you a flower every day, but at the same time, you found out that he was cheating on you the whole duration. You will take this bunch of flowers and say, "Even if you gave me all the roses in the world, it is nothing!" And you threw ... throw all of that in the dustbin.

It is true, we can do all these things, we can be very gifted, a pastor can be very gifted, he can be very eloquent, he can know all the doctrines of the Bible, but if he has no love, he's nothing!

During the times of Jesus, there were plenty of people who looked the part, they memorized the Bible, they wear religious clothings, they fast, they tithe, they teach, but the Bible tells us, Jesus tells us, "Inwardly they are ravenous wolves. They devour widows' houses, they are nothing! They're worse than nothing! They are nuisance! They are danger!

So, why boast about your spiritual gifts? Because even if you're extremely gifted, but you have no love, you are nothing! So, if I ... let's look at ourselves, if I, even if I possess this and own that and I equipped with this, but I have no love, I'm nothing, I'm a nuisance!

So Paul says, "You guys are desiring, coveting, lusting after the more prominent gifts, let me show you a more excellent way. What you need today is a focus on love. That's priority!"

Now, these three verses highlight the extreme importance of the motivations of the heart, isn't it? It's not good enough for you to give up your body to die there or to sacrifice yourself. The motivation matters a lot. Why do you do what you do? Is it out of love? That's critical1

But just in case, we walk away thinking that love is merely about the motivation, that love is only about the thinking, that love is only about good intentions. Paul says, "There's more to it. Love is not lived out only in the realm of good intentions, there must be the manifestations, there must be the actions, there must be the look of love."

[2] The Portrait
So secondly, we see the portrait of love. He describes love, he shows us, shows us what love really looks like.

And he describes love in these words, it's rather long, I know, but they are very familiar. In fact, in the Chinese Ministry, we used to sing a Chinese song on love, I will not do that here. But it's appropriate to be sung as a song, because in the Greek it is written like a poem. It's poetic, it's like a song.

There are 15 characteristics of love listed here, I suppose those who are sharp, would have started counting them. And they are not easy to remember, if you remember all of them, all at one shot. But I suggest a way to remember them and that is to break them up into four parts. So, I like to give you four numbers today. You all laugh, it's because those ... Eh, that laughter from a kid does not sound quite right, but I give you four numbers, and I hope you don't go and buy 4D, but the four numbers here are - 2 8 1 4.

They are not the passcode to my locker or whatever, they are not what will win you the 4D, but they are numbers that I think help break this into different parts for ease of reference.

"First 2" refers to the overview of what love is, the passive aspect of being patient and the active aspect of being kind to others. [1 Cor 13:4a]

"8" refers to the eight negative attributes that should not be characterizing love or should not be paired together with love.
"Love does not envy; boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing." [1 Cor 13:4b-6a]

And and as you come to the last one, not rejoice at wrongdoing, you come to the flip side, the mirror image on the positive aspect, but, "Rejoices with the truth." [1 Cor 13:6b] That's why 2 8 1.

And then, the "last 4" as you could see, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. [1 Cor 13:7] That's what love looks like!

Now, let me just go a little bit deeper, so that and I'm not going to go into each and every word in great detail, the purpose here is to give you an overview. "First two" are important, I think they show as I've mentioned the passive aspect of love and the active aspect of love.

Love is patient. The word, 'patient' is well translated in the King James Bible, to be suffers long. Literally, that's what it is! Love suffers long, it's able to tahan [in Malay], it does not immediately hit out with vengeance, it does not take revenge easily. It is patient. It's able to suffer provocation, insults, hurts, and not fight out or hit out too quickly.

So, that's what love is! And I think mothers, you understand that, fathers, you understand that. Your children can do all kinds of terrible things, they can even be mean to you with what they say, "I don't like you and mom, I don't love you anymore," but you suffer long.

The active aspect is found in the word, 'kind,' the word, 'kind' or 'to be kind' is to bestow benevolent acts upon others. In other words, you do good to others, love suffers long, but love also actively does good to others. So this, I think is an overview of what love is, it absorbs injury and it does good to others.

With that, Paul then gives us more detail specifics, so that we can have a better picture of what love is. He says, "Love does not envy." The word, 'envy' literally in the Greek means to boil or to burn. It's to be hot and the idea here is to be hot with a kind of jealousy, over what others have. Real Love does not do that, real love does not want what others have that you do not want ... that you do not have, but that you would want others to have what you have. It's the complete opposite!

It is not given to envy, and it does not boast. The word, 'boast' here is translated well, literally it's boast or to vaunt or to flaunt, to brag about what you have. So, it does not make much about what you have, real love, but real love makes much about what others you want them to have.

"Love is not arrogant." The word, 'arrogant' here is the same word as you get puffed up. Remember in 1st Corinthians, chapter 8, "Knowledge puffs up". And that's the idea here you, you psst, psst, psst, you ... you ... you inflate yourself, you make yourself feel so big. Love is not arrogant, it's not puffed up!

You say, "What's the difference between boast and arrogant?" Well, probably both speaks about the speech that you offer or you give. And the word, 'arrogant' or 'puffed up' speaks about the attitude you have, an overly inflated view about oneself, and thereby I think in contrast, a ... a despising attitude towards others. That's not what love is. It is not arrogant and it is not rude.

The word, 'rude' is to mean behaving in an unseemly, unbecoming or inappropriate manner. So real love does not treat others disrespectfully or unbecomingly, but real love is respectful, treats others with respect, with courtesy.

"And it does not insist on its own way." It's well translated, it does not seek its own agenda.

"It is not irritable", the word there is to be easily provoked. So, you're not someone who flies off the handle easily. You don't fly into a rage of fury, once someone say something unkind, and you know how it is with all of us. We struggle with this, a quick temper.

Well, love is not irritable, it's not easily provoked, and. "It is not resentful." This word is interesting, because it is an accounting word, it's a word that means do not calculate wrong, does not account wrong.

Er, you know the joke, how a husband says, "You know, whenever I quarrel with my wife, she becomes historical." The friend says, "No, no, I think your English not so 'powderful'[in Singlish] ah!" You mean she does not get hysterical?" "No, I mean what I say, when I quarrel with my wife, she becomes historical, because she brings up all my wrongs in time-past against me." That's exactly the word, 'resentful', it keeps an account of all the wrongs. Love does not do that! Love forgives, love covers a multitude of sins.

"Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing." It is not undiscerning, it is not gullible, it does not celebrate sin, it does not celebrate evil. But instead 2 8 1, "It rejoices with the truth," it rejoices with the truth according to the Gospel.

And then Paul ends off with a finale here saying, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." When he says, "Bears all things," the word, 'bears' means to cover with silence. It's not quite bear, but it means to cover with silence, it does not make noise about what has gone wrong. It does not hold it against another person, it covers it up with silence. It absorbs the injury.

"It believes all things." Now, this again does not mean that one should be gullible or to be overly trusting, but it does mean that you're not someone who is overly suspicious. You give the best construction to the actions and the words of others.

I suppose again, parents, we ... we think like that towards our kids. We also hope all things, we don't give up on our kids, we don't give up on the people we love. We endure all things, we stand where we are, we remain where we are and we continue to love, and to do good and to absorb injury even in the face of opposition and difficulties.

So, here we have 2 8 1 4. Try it on your locks, uh, no, huh. But just a simple reminder, I am not sure if you're able to remember this, but I think this number has helped me and I hope. By the way, two times four equals to eight times one, or whatever, it's quite easy after a while to remember it.

So, whilst verses 1 to 3 focuses a lot about the motivation, verses 4 to 7 speaks a lot about the manifestations. That love is not mere thinking or mere good intentions, but it will be expressed in practical actions.

I want you to pause and imagine with me what it would be like for the Corinthians to read what Paul has just written here. Think about those who have been squabbling, saying, "I belong to Paul." Errr, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. Okay, huh, huh!

What about those who have been disregarding the thoughts and feelings of others who may be stumbled by them? Who says, "I know these things are okay." Love does not insist on its own way.

What about those who have been selfishly keeping to themselves enjoying a feast, and thereby marginalizing the poor? Love is patient and kind.

What about those who have been flaunting their spiritual gifts? I think it would have felt like a big tight slap across the face, because that's how I feel when I read these verses myself.

People always quote these verses in weddings, because that's the feeling we get when we talk about the subject of love. It's supposed to be warm and fuzzy and nice, but when I read these verses, it's anything but nice. I feel guilty, I feel like, "I'm so inadequate in so many way, because when I think about myself as a father or as a husband, or as a pastor, as a disciple of Jesus, I ... I don't live this consistently enough.

And I'm full of myself - I've envy, I've ... I've a puffed up mindset, I ... I don't absorb wrong well, I'm quick, I'm irritable when someone cuts me, I cut them straight away. Don't think one, you know! When someone's poooor, I also poooor! And when someone says unkind things, I ... I may retaliate in an unworthy manner, and so this is a difficult portrait, but nevertheless this is the portrait of what love looks like.

Well, the church, I hope in Corinth will take this to heart, and I hope the church today will take this to heart. But Paul is not yet done, he talks about the importance of love, you can cook a dish very, very well, but if your fish is undercooked, you fail.
You can be very, very, very gifted, but if you have no love, you are nothing.

And just in case you don't get it, love is not just what you think on the inside, it's also how you live out your life. There is a portrait.

[3] The Permanence of Love
Then finally, he talks about the permanence of love in chapter 13.

It's important for him to do so because he is saying, "I will show you a still more excellent way." [1 Cor 12:31] He's comparing, he's saying, "Instead of lusting over prominent spiritual gifts, you should lust and chase after love." Why? Because of the permanence of love.

The logic goes, "Love never ends." [1 Cor 13:8] In other words, love lasts forever. Sounds like what women would like to hear, diamonds are forever, but love lasts forever. By the way, diamonds don't last forever ah, just in case you think you can wear your diamonds and you go heaven, also a lot of diamonds with you. All gone, they don't ... they don't last to the next life, but love lasts forever. Love never ends.

And Paul deliberately compares it with the prominent miraculous spiritual gifts like prophecies, tongues and knowledge. So, his intention clearly is to highlight the permanence of love and to show up the impermanence of these showy spiritual gifts, or more prominent spiritual gifts. They will cease. They will pass away. They will not last forever.

He goes on to say, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part." [1 Cor 13:9] What this means is — even if you or we are gifted with prophecy and knowledge, it does not give you the whole picture. You don't see as clearly as you will see one day, because we know in part and we prophesy in part. So that's why I say in verses 1 to 3, it's a hyperbole because it's not possible for you to have all knowledge and all prophecy.

So Paul says, "Right now, the church is gifted with people with a gifting of knowledge and prophecy. Much as it is good, because it still helps you to know God and His will better, it is not going to give you the complete picture." "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but there will come a time, when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away," [1 Cor 13:10] because you will know fully.

So, spiritual gifts are useful for now, but understand that there are some limitations nonetheless, it will not allow you to have a complete picture. So the question is - When will I know completely? You will know completely, "When the perfect comes." [1 Cor 13:10] But the question then is - What is the perfect? What does Paul mean when he says, "When the perfect comes?"

Some people think that 'the perfect' here refers to the completion of the written Scriptures that we have today, the Bible. So, they believe that when the Bible was completed some 2000 years ago, that is the complete perfect. And they say, "With the completion of the Bible, therefore the miraculous spiritual gifts are no more given to the church." You get the logic?

Spiritual gifts are in ... or these miraculous spiritual gifts are in operation until the perfect comes, and they say, "The perfect here refers to the completion of the Bible, therefore from now ... from then onwards, there's no more miraculous spiritual gifts. There's no more tongues, or prophecy, or knowledge." That's one view.

Others think that 'the perfect' here refers to the maturing of the church, the maturity of the church. But that's again very hard, because we will never really be mature to the state of perfection in this lifetime. So again, it's very hard to say that when the church matures, we will know completely what God wants us to know.

But I think 'the perfect' here probably and most likely refers to the time we will meet with God, face to face. In other words, a time ushered in at the return of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Second Coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

I know this contextually, because in verse 12, it says, "Now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." [1 Cor 13:12] So there is a time where we will see God face to face, will know Him as He knows us and sees us. And I think that's probably the best way to look at what it means 'when the perfect comes'.

So, let me ask you a question - Do we believe in cessationism? I say, "What in the world is this cessationism?" Basically the word means stop, to cease, to stop. Do we believe in stop? What do you mean stop? Well, cessationism specifically in Christian lingo refers to the belief that the supernatural gifts or the miraculous gifts, like tongues and prophecy and knowledge have already stopped, when the Bible was complete.

So when you speak with cessationists, people who believe in cessationism, and you tell them that someone else is speaking in tongues today. They will tell you, "No, cannot be!" Why? "Because the perfect, the Bible is already come, and these supernatural gifts have ceased." You get what I'm saying?

So let me ask you - Do we believe in cessationism? Now, I ... I ... I won't say that this is a uniform statement that all of us have to agree. I ... I think okay, let's ask - Do I believe in cessationism? How many of you think, I believe in cessationism, raise your hands? One, a little kid, I don't know whether I can trust you or not leh? I ... I know love believes all things, but I ... I don't think it's about gullibility, alright.

So, do I believe in cessationism? How many think I do? One, two, two of you think I believe in cessationism, alright. How many of you think I don't believe in cessationism? I see about 20 hands, the rest all die one, ah!

Well, not fair question, because it's not asked in the right way, but do I ... do I believe in cessationism? My answer is yes. I believe it, but only when Jesus returns. Sng chow [in Hokkien] ah, cheat lah!

Ah, well, I write it this way, just to emphasize the point, spiritual gifts are not forever, we all get that, but these supernatural spiritual gifts can still possibly be in operation, and God could still give these gifts, He did not say He's ... He has stopped. But we must be careful that we do not then believe that everyone who claims to have these supernatural gifts actually have, because there are enough charlatans around, enough fakes around, that we should be discerning ourselves.

So yes, I believe that spiritual gifts, supernatural spiritual gifts, miraculous spiritual gifts will end one day when Jesus returns, but it could be available today. Now, let me emphasize this, I wrote it down, so that I could be absolutely clear and you will be absolutely clear. It does not mean that we are to then gullibly believe every claim of miraculous spiritual gifts today.

And I'm saying, "1st Corinthians 13 is not a proof text for the cessationism of ... or actually cessation of miraculous ... miraculous gifts today." Underscore, underline today, that's the main point, so I hope that is clear, because that would come into play when we look at 1st Corinthians 14 next week about tongues

But for now, let's take a step back, whilst we have looked at some issues on tongues, we want to get the big picture right on the theme, the main idea right on. Paul is saying, "Spiritual gifts that help us know God today will cease when the perfect comes, when Jesus returns. So, the permanence of love is more important than the impermanence of these miraculous spiritual gifts, choose the more excellent way." And that's his point!

Now, we are going to coming to an end soon. And Paul says, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child." [1 Cor 13:11] He's giving some examples now, he's talking about normal maturity or maturing of a human being.

"I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." [1 Cor 13:11] That is very simple and understandable for us, when we are young, people speak to us and we speak with people in a very childlike manner, but when we grew up, you don't do the same thing anymore, isn't it?

When I was younger, I did not like to bathe, I hate the water, it's cold, uncomfortable. So, my mom will make it fun by saying, "Come and pom pom, pom pom." And after a while I got, I believed her, I also want to pom pom, pom pom. I go in the water, splash, splash pom pom, pom pom. But I hope that when I grew up, I don't say to my wife, "I'm going to pom pom, pom pom." She says, "You're weird, what are you doing? You are grown up man, what pom pom?"

"When you are a man you give up childish ways." [1 Cor 13:11]
So Paul is saying, "When you're younger, when you're a child you use child appropriate things. When you're on earth, before you meet with Me face to face, I give you knowledge, I give you tongues, I give you prophecy, but when the mature comes, when the perfect comes, when you see Me face to face, don't say, "Pom pom, pom pom anymore." Simple logic! Simple example!

Now, he gives another example about a mirror, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face." [1 Cor 13:12] So during this time before we ... before Jesus comes, before we meet with Him face to face. We ... we don't know Him like we will, when we see them face to face. That's clear! Right now it's like looking into a mirror dimly.

You say, "Why mirrors so dim." "Mirror very good what, very clear what?" But you must understand, in those days, their mirror not like our mirror today, the technology was not there. The mirror was highly polished metal. I read that Corinth was well-known for their metal mirrors, not sure about that, but you get the point, the mirrors then are not like what we have.

Maybe if you watch enough Chinese period drama, you see the girls ah, preen themselves before their mirrors. The mirror all bronze and brass, actually very blur one, ah! Don't know how they can become so beautiful when the mirror so jialat [in Hokkien] But that's how it is, you look at a mirror dimly, not so clear, but one day you will see God face to face, High D resolution.

Then in those days, you do not need knowledge, spiritual gift of knowledge or tongues of prophecy, I mean, you're seeing God face to face. "So now we know in part, then I shall know fully, I shall see God face to face, even as I have been fully known." [1 Cor 13:12]

So, contrasting the impermanence of spiritual gifts and the permanence of love, Paul concludes, "So now faith, hope and love abides." [1 Cor 13:13] He threw in this triad, threw in faith and hope, because he often talks about these three virtues together. Perhaps it's added here to communicate that love is not just for the future, it's for now too, just like faith and hope ... hope in operation today in the life of a Christian.

"These three; but the greatest of these is love." [1 Cor 13:13]
Now, we must understand greatest here, probably is in a context of duration, because that's what he has been talking about — permanence and impermanence. So, love is that which lasts forever and faith and hope do not, faith and hope are very much needed now, but when Jesus comes and we see Him face to face, there's no more need for faith and hope.

The logic goes like this - We walk by faith and not by sight, there is a contrast between faith and sight. You believe in something, you have confidence in something, when you need to have confidence in something when you have not seen it before. But when you have seen it, faith now turns to sight, no more faith.

Hope is that confident expectation of all the good that has been promised in Jesus Christ, but when you are in heaven, there's no more hope or expectation, because now you're in the exact experience of it. So in a life that is to come, no more faith, no more need for hope, but love that lasts forever.

By the way, before I go on, just a contrast to ... or just a highlight, a sidebar again. You know what heaven will be like, it's not just about streets of gold or pearly gates, but it's a beautiful environment and milieu of everlasting love, and the knowledge of God. As Ephesians will say, "God will show us in the ages to come, the immeasurable ... immeasurable riches of His glory." That's what heaven will be like.

But again, let's come back, Paul launches this chapter with these words, 'desire .... you ... you guys earnestly desire the higher gifts, but I want to show you a more excellent way." In other words, quit desiring the greater, more prominent gifts as if that is the goal of life, but instead focus yourself in desiring to serve one another in love. That's it! That's what 1st Corinthians 13 is about!

Yes, the principles of love are, I think very applicable to a marriage, to children, to parents, whatever that may be, but it really is about how we need to serve one another in the body of Christ.

I pray that Gospel Light will be a church that is not just one that focuses and emphasizes doctrinal accuracy, orthopraxy, or orthodoxy, but that we would be a people who live out lives of love, and it's not just in the realm of good intentions. It's how we absorb injury, how we bear with one another, how we are meek, and controlled even in the midst of provocation. It's extremely difficult, but that's why the Spirit of God is given in us, that as we obey Him and walk in the Spirit, he will bear forth this amazing fruit of love.

I pray we will be a people who will be kind, to seek not our own ways, but to do good for others, to rejoice not in evil, but in truth, to lead people to the truth. That we will be a people that Jesus' words would apply, "By this, shall all men know, [we are Your] you are My disciples, if you have love one for another."

To all our friends who are here, the Bible is about love. Why? Because God is love, and God supremely demonstrated His love, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. You know something, God is patient with sinners, He's bearing with us, He's suffering long. We are provoking Him with our sins, day after day after day, but He has not yet wiped out this world.

But some 2,000 years ago, He did that which is extremely kind, while we were yet sinners, He sent His Son to die on a cross to bear away our sins. That is love! That in Christ, you and I can be forgiven of our sins, I pray that you will come to know God's love and believe in His Son.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

As we close, I like us to just meditate and contemplate on some of the things that we have spoken today. I speak first to my friends once again who are here with us for the first time, who may not know the Bible as well as you can be.

In a nutshell, Christianity is love, because it's not about you and I working and deserving something from God. Because the Bible has concluded that God is so holy and we are so sinful, that nothing we do is of value and worth, it is all contaminated by sin. But love is when we are still God's enemies, when we are sinners, He chose to give His Son to die on the cross to save you from your sin.

And I say to you, "The wisest thing any one of us can choose is to humble ourselves and to receive this love of God in Jesus Christ." Jesus came to save you from your sins. Why? Because God is love, and I pray that you will come to God because He loves you, and He shows that He loves you by giving His Son on the cross.

To my fellow brothers and sisters, today you may be going through hardships, and it's very easy for us to doubt and to question God in times of difficulty. It is! We all have been through that before. Right now, as you're going through hardship, I hope you will not be judging God's love based on your circumstance, but you will judge God based on the cross.

The Bible says, "For God demonstrated His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That is the ultimate proof of the love of God. Today, you may be tempted to doubt God, you may be tempted to murmur against God, you may be tempted to drift away from God, I say, "Please don't!" God loves you, I know that because He gave His Son for you. Trust God, even through your pain and difficulties, because He also said, "He works all things together for good to them that love God."

It does not appear to be good right now, but trust God it will be good and it is for good. And when we see God face to face, we would all praise Him and affirm, "Indeed, it was good." Don't judge God too early.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, maybe some of us today are seething in resentment, we are still dealing with anger and hatred and unforgiveness. Ask God today to show you his love, show you how much you are forgiven, how much you are loved, so that by His grace, you may bend this love and forgiveness outward to those around you. Ask God to help you walk in the Spirit, ask God to show you his love from the pages of the Bible. Ask God to help you grow and help others grow in your Christian community, to provoke one another to love and to good works, because even if you're gifted, even if you're faithfully serving, but if you have no love, we are nothing.

I pray today, Gospeliters, we will all take up our responsibilities, our stations of ministry, ask God to show us our spiritual gifts and get serving one another. Quit comparing, quit ... quit competing, but let's complement one another. Let's cooperate, let's collaborate, let's all serve one another, let's synergize for the glory of God. That's what church should be!

Love - what a great chapter, what a great God! Father, thank You again for Your Word, bless Your people as we meditate upon these things. May we know Your love and live our lives of love, for the sake of the Gospel. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.

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